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Argonautika: JHS to present epic myth on stage

Alexandria Jefferson High School students, including (left to right) Aaron Halvorson, Spencer Vogel, Kyle Pietrowski, Sam Christenson, Cody Smith, Jimmy Pfeffer, Jesse Grottum, Manford Foster and Andrew Sheets, practice their one-act play, Scenes from Argonautika. They will perform for the public on Friday, January 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Discovery Middle School auditorium in Alexandria. (Contributed)

The Alexandria Jefferson High School (JHS) theater department is gearing up for its next challenge: to present an epic Greek myth, Argonautika, in less than 35 minutes.

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Scenes from Argonautika will perform at the Minnesota State High School League One Act Play subsection contest in Detroit Lakes on Thursday, January 30.

The public performance will take place on Friday, January 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Discovery Middle School auditorium in Alexandria. Free general admission tickets are available at the door.

Based upon two ancient versions of Jason and the Argonauts, Argonautika was developed by Tony-award winning director and playwright Mary Zimmerman for Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago in 2006.

Argonautika tells the story of Greek mythological hero Jason as he voyages across the sea in his ship, the Argo, with a band of sea warriors to obtain the Golden Fleece from evil King Aeetes of Colchis.

Along the way he encounters storms, sea monsters and dragons, but no obstacle can compare to when he falls in love with Aeetes’ daughter, Medea. His love for Medea, a sorceress, conflicts with his loyalty for his shipmates.

In the end, Jason must decide whether to risk the bond of his ship’s crew by bringing Medea on board the Argo or sacrifice his love for her by leaving her in Colchis.

Throughout the play, Jason is aided by Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, and Hera, the goddess of marriage.

One of the more difficult elements for director Jessica Chipman was paring down Zimmerman’s original script from two-and-a-half hours to less than 35 minutes for competition.

“We decided to focus on the story of Medea and Jason,” Chipman said.

Another challenge was creating special effects and creatures that appear in the story.

Students playing harpies – ugly, bird-like creatures – have been rehearsing on stilts with wings attached to their arms. A dragon is created as a large shadow puppet made up of four cast members as another manipulates a flashlight behind them.

Throughout the play, students become an arrow’s trajectory, a river and a 10-foot tree. For this reason, Chipman sought actors for the cast who showed acrobatic and gymnastic talent.

CAST AND CREW Jason - Jimmy Pfeffer

King Aeetes - Clayton Forester

Medea - Anna Peterson

Athena - Tori Long

Hera - Haley Wegner

Harpy, tree, river - Bailee Atchison

Aphrodite - Isabelle Hartokolis

Tiphys - Aaron Halvorson

Meleager - Kyle Pietrowski

Idmon - Sam Christenson

Apsyrtos - Manford Foster

Phineus - Tyler Carlson

Ensemble - Andrew Sheets, Cody Smith, Jesse Grottum, Kiara Krippner, Spencer Vogel

Stage manager - Gabe Clauson-Klepper

Technical crew - Jennie Eng, Katy Niemeyer

Technical director - Jay Chipman

Costume crew - Lynne Cosmano, Lona Neubarth