The Interview: Actress Leah Gabriel Tackles Titan Theatre Company’s Medea
By Michael Raver
In the classical cannon, there are some roles that instill a very specific kind of excitement and dread in the actors asked to play them. The kind that makes the breath short and the heart pound. Excitement swirls in the pit of the stomach as the imagination explodes like a firework. Daydreams and sleeping ones abounding. The titular role in the Greek tragedy, Medea, is among these. A jilted lover seeking retribution from the man who deceived her, Titan Theatre Company’s sleek new production comes from an original translation and adaptation by Nefeli Vasiliadou and Titan Artistic Director Lenny Banovez of Euripedes controversial tale.
Australian actress Leah Gabriel has taken on the immense task of bringing the title character to life, along with all of the hurdles that come with it. Having moved stateside from Melbourne in 2008, she celebrates her ten year anniversary as a New Yorker this year, making the occasion with perhaps the most demanding role she’s ever faced as an actor.
MR: How did the role come to you?
Leah Gabriel: Via text message! I’m a resident actor with Titan Theatre Company and I received a text from Lenny Banovez, the AD, saying ‘Wanna play Medea?’ My first response was ‘that is a huge question for a tiny text message.’
MR: Was this a play you’d been after for a while?
LG: I had honestly never considered playing Medea. When faced with it, the task is daunting to say the least. But discovering her has been incredible – she is a passionate, intelligent, powerful and ferocious woman.
MR: Did you have any preconceptions about her before rehearsal started that have changed now that you’ve spent time with the character?
LG: Well, my outside perspective of Medea is a woman who has been wronged and is on a mission for revenge who then deals a punishment that far outweighs the crime. But from the inside, she has a single goal, and is willing to do literally anything to achieve it, even at the most horrifying personal expense. She is willing to sacrifice all and suffer unfathomable pain in order to balance the scales.
MR: Have you noticed anything specifically about your approach to rehearsing and performing in regards to being an Australian among a group of Americans?
LG: I think my approach to the work is probably not that different, but having spent large parts of my life living far away from my family, I can identify with this element of Medea’s predicament.
MR: What has been the most challenging part about playing her?
LG: Overcoming fear! This play is the ultimate acting work-out. It not only tests you vocally and physically, but asks for all of your humanity, all the awful, painful, shameful parts that we like to keep hidden. Medea is fearless and she needs me to be to be fearless too. I’m thankful to her for teaching me about that.
MR:Why is the play is still relevant?
LG: Medea is angry, deeply hurt and betrayed. She is told to stop crying, to stop her public outcries, that her grief is too much, that she should feel happy for her husband and his new and improved alliance. I don’t think it could be more relevant.
MR: What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing Medea?
LG: When I watch Greek Tragedy, I am reminded of what humans are capable of achieving versus what we choose to achieve…the moment of choice that turns into action that cannot be undone. I think this is a fascinating part of our humanity, and Medea pushes it to the extreme, so that we don’t have to. I hope people might walk away with a renewed perspective, and probably some level of relief! Perhaps life in the present will seem just a little warmer, more welcoming and comforting than it did before.
Medea opens February 16th and plays a limited engagement through February 25th
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.titantheatrecompany.com
As an actor, Michael Raver has performed at Lincoln Center, The Pearl Theatre Company, Tony Randall’s National Actor’s Theatre, regional theaters across the country and in film and television. As a writer, his adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray was produced by Sonnet Repertory Theatre at the Signature Theatre Center in 2012. A reading of his pre-WWII adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull, featuring Judy Kaye, was presented by the Pearl Theatre Company. His play, Fire on Babylon, was nominated for The Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Foundation Award for Playwriting, as well as being named a semifinalist for The O’Neill Conference in 2015. Babylon went on to receive two workshops in 2016, first at Great River Shakespeare Festival and then at The Fresh Fruit Festival in New York, where it went on to win Best Actor (Jeffrey Hayenga) and Best Director (Paul Mason Barnes) Awards from All Out Arts. His short play, Evening, was a two-time finalist for Red Bull’s New Play Festival. Quiet Electricity was named a semifinalist at The O’Neill Conference in 2017. His work has been presented by The Pearl Theatre Company, Sonnet Repertory Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, The Martha Graham Company, Playhouse on Park and many others. He served as a judge for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction for three years and regularly contributes cultural arts journalism for Classical TV, NYC Monthly, Hamptons Monthly, Playbill, Dance Magazine, CoolHunting.com, The Huffington Post, Art 511 Magazine and Nature’s Post.