BYU student presents adaptation of 17th century classic

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    By Hilarie Laukat

    Men grace the stage in wigs and tights. Swagger and grace douse their mannerisms. These characters might not seem to embody the reality of today, but audiences may leave an upcoming production of ?Berenice? thinking otherwise.

    This presentation, an original adaptation of Racine?s ?Berenice,? was written by BYU senior Matthew Greene through the eyes of Racine himself. Greene, who also plays the role of Racine in the show, will perform with the rest of the company in the Margetts Arena Theatre at 7:30 p.m. tonight through March 21, nightly except Sundays and Mondays with a matinee on Saturday, March 14 at 2 p.m.

    Tickets are $15, or $11 with a student ID, via the Harris Fine Arts Center Ticket Office, online at byuarts.com or over the phone at (801) 422-4322. Discount tickets will be available for the first two performances, tonight and Thursday.

    The department?s coordinator over BA and MA programs in theatre arts studies, Megan Sanborn Jones, said she found herself realizing how attractive and realistic characters from another century can be, despite their differing customs from those of today. Jones is one of the co-directors of ?Berenice.? She predicted the show would delight, entertain and connect with audience members.

    ?This is a period piece ? set very much in the 17th century French style, but it touches on contemporary issues and parallels with modern ideals,? Jones said. ?I think audiences will be surprised how much they care.?

    The original play, written by 17th century playwright Jean Racine, centers around a love triangle of sorts between the Palestinian queen Berenice, Antiochus and his friend Titus. The timeless, passionate themes of the story still resonate with many today, but flowery language and unfamiliar customs often tire the interest of potential audience members. Greene?s adaptation, employing a more current use of language, draws in another love story ? one between Racine and his mistress, Du Parc ? along with the prospect of a more contemporary audience.

    ?It?s half about Berenice and half about Racine in his struggles while writing the original play, so there is this wonderful frame story,? said Kym Mellen, co-director of ?Berenice? and visiting professor on the acting faculty. ?There is so much passion and reality woven through both stories ? you can see the process of creation, how art reflects life and how we all go through similar struggles.?

    As the living playwright performing the role of the original playwright, Greene has spent the past several months developing and coming to know these characters and their struggles.

    ?I didn?t have a very hard time connecting with the script,? Greene said. ?I based Racine?s struggle loosely on some things I was going through in my life ? I actually think it will be something all of us can relate to.?

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