Myth-ogny: ‘Medusa’ show looks at female stereotypes

Myth-ogny: ‘Medusa’ show looks at female stereotypes
Warren Archer

She is the original nasty woman.

The mythical man-eater Medusa and a host of other female figures from antiquity will snake center stage in an all-women dance performance starting this weekend in Crown Heights. “Medusa Volution,” opening Feb. 8 at happylucky no. 1, will examine portrayals of the Greek mythological figure have over time, and how they have evolved alongside changing stereotypes of women, according to the show’s writer and director.

“We’re examining ‘What is the male gaze? What are those stories? Who was Medusa?’ ” said Sophie Amieva, who also portrays Medusa in the show.

According to the Roman poet Ovid, Medusa was once a human woman, but while worshipping in temple of Athena, she was ravished by the sea god Poseidon. As punishment for defiling the temple, Athena cursed Medusa with hair made of snakes and hideous visage that turns anyone that looks upon her to stone.

Amieva said that she will not don slithering tresses for the part, instead focusing on the double standard and unjust treatment that Medusa faced.

“Whether there’s consent or no consent, she gets punished. There’s no way out, really,” she said.

The performance will begin with a montage of clips from female-led horror films — including “The Ring” — in order to establish the traditional portrayal of Medusa, said Amieva. The Prospect Heights performer will then take the stage, using the Japanese dance form Butoh to portray Medusa on trial for her alleged crime.

In the show’s second part, six women wearing blank nametags will represent classic female archetypes — including the mother, the virgin, and the whore — and tell stories about their struggles. The roles are meant to embody the stereotypes that all women face, said Amieva, but their tales — some of which invoke female figures from mythology — put the women themselves in control of their stories.

“This is a chorus of women who could be anyone,” she said. “These stories are ways to say, ‘I can own my own body; I’m not angry all the time.’ ”

The director hopes that her show can help to counter reductive stories that portray women as one-note villains.

“The problem is not one story about a woman monster, the problem is the accumulation of those stories,” she said.

“Medusa Volution” at happylucky no. 1 (734 Nostrand Ave. between Prospect and Park places in Crown Heights, www.happyluckyno1.com). Feb. 8–24; Thu–Sat at 8 pm; Sun at 5 pm. $20.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.