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Sophocles' 'Electra' set at Cameron

Greece and Japan may be far from each other on the map, but the countries' forms of theater couldn't be closer in subjects.

According to Deidre Onishi, assistant professor in the Cameron University Art, Music and Theatre Arts Department, Greek theater and the Japanese theaters of Kabuki and Noh all delve into deep emotions.

"Emotions that hopefully people don't normally have to feel, so they're not pleasant emotions, they're unpleasant emotions," Onishi said.

Cameron University's Art, Music and Theatre Arts Department will combine the Greek and Japanese theater traditions during its production of Sophocles' "Electra," a Greek tragedy centered on the revenge Electra and her brother Orestes seek on their mother and stepfather for the murder of their father. Filled with betrayal, murder and revenge, the weight of the tragedy's story is displayed not only through the script, but also through the presentation in a combination of Japanese Kabuki and Noh.

"It's more like what we're doing is taking a little bit and pieces and essences of the theaters rather than taking the full," Onishi said.

The stage, created by Judd Vermillion, will be set with levels like Noh theater, according to Onishi; the costumes, designed by Eric Abbot and Emily Whatley, will have long sleeves, like kimonos; and the characters' makeup, designed by Kelsey Hood, will be done in Kabuki style. Cameron's production of "Electra" will also feature a musician on stage, as in the Noh style, performing with a self-made music station that includes a hollowed-out fire hydrant, a pipe with some plastic on it, some other sawed-off pipes, a guitar string, a recorder, a kazoo and wood blocks.

"None of the Western instruments have the right sound," Onishi said. "So we had talked about using a double base or a cello, but that has too pure a sound and too identifiable a sound. So this way he has all of these things that make sounds and you can't really tell what it is. And so it's much more mystical, so it's much more appropriate for the tragedy."

When Onishi read the script for "Electra," she noticed its rhythm was similar to traditional Noh theater. Onishi said it's not typical for "Electra" to be performed in Japanese style, but she's not the first one to think of it.

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