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Graduate Spotlight: Bella Poynton’s play MEDUSA UNDONE to be staged at Otherworld Theatre this spring.

Otherworld Theatre, a Chicago based company, will be staging Medusa Undone by Bella Poynton, a Theatre and Performance PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo. According to Poynton, this is the third play of hers produced by Otherworld Theatre. “In many ways they are an artistic home away from home,” said Poynton.

Medusa Undone offers a rare glimpse at the backstory of the well-known mythological Gorgon.  Medusa, a mortal woman serving as a priestess for Athena, was cursed and cast out for having been raped by Poseidon. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, war, and justice, succumbs to jealousy when the god of the sea Poseidon takes an interest in the beautiful young priestess and eventually assaults her in Athena’s Temple. Poseidon goes on unpunished and guiltless, feeling he was entitled to Medusa’s virginity, and abandons Medusa to face Athena’s fury. Instead of becoming a champion for her devoted priestess, the vengeful goddess curses Medusa, who becomes the snake-haired monster of myth. Poynton’s tragic script illuminates the culture of victim-blaming that is still prevalent today. “I think by bringing this story to the forefront, and reclaiming Medusa as a survivor instead of this evil figure, we can maybe start to reexamine these narratives,” said Poynton.

According to Poynton, she was inspired to write Medusa Undone in 2012 after hearing a disturbing quote from a U.S. Congressman about sexual assault and a women’s ability to “shut it down”. “Now remember, this was years before the #MeToo movement, but I believe it was one of the proto-incidents that made women sit up and say—’Hey, hold on—what’s going on here? This isn’t normal. Who are these men running our government?’  I think the play has always been relevant, but now, with the #MeToo movement, there has definitely been more interest in the piece.”

In January 2019, Medusa Undone was produced by local theatre group Post-Industrial Productions of Buffalo at the New Phoenix Theatre, and received many positive reviews for the script and staging. The WNY premiere was directed by Maura Nolan Coseglia, starring Diane DiBernardo, Paige Allison Donitelli, Becky Globus, Brett Klaczyk, and Anna Krempholtz.

Poynton is excited about the staging of this production at Otherworld Theatre. “I was able to make some important changes to the script during the Buffalo production, and I am looking forward to seeing those changes in action in Chicago.”

Medusa Undone will be presented at Otherworld Theatre April 13th through May 19th, 2019 as part of “The Greeks”, the company’s spring mainstage repertory series. In addition, the company will be staging a play called Corona by Elizabeth A.M. Keel. Details can be found on the company’s website. In addition, Poynton’s own theatre company, The Navigators, will be doing a co-production of new play called Shelter by Jack Horton Gilbert with Otherworld Theatre in July.