Karen Slack on playing the murdering mother Medea

Karen Slack as Medea. Photo by RDG Photography

Karen Slack as Medea. Photo by RDG Photography.

When she was 17, Karen Slack watched Diana Rigg star in Medea on Broadway, and she knew right away she wanted to play the role when she was old enough. Now, she’s getting the chance. Slack stars in The Edge Theatre Company’s production of the Greek tragedy through Feb. 14 in Lakewood. It’s a play that fits perfectly with Slack’s love of Greek mythology. 

Euripides’ play is based on the myth of Jason and Medea, which was first performed in 431 BC. Medea finds her position in the Greek world threatened when her husband leaves her for a Greek princess. Medea takes out her vengeance by killing Jason’s new wife, as well as her own children.

As a mother herself, Slack said it’s difficult to even think about harming her own child. The role has been hard for her to play, but without her daughter, Slack said her perspective on Medea would be different, and that she wouldn’t have realized the depth of conflict she has found. Portraying such a powerful woman can be emotionally exhausting, she said … but wonderful.

Medea in The Edge Theatre Company’s Medea


High school:
Denver North High School
American Academy of Dramatic Arts

Karen Slack in Curious Theatre's 2008 'Nine Parts of Desire.' What was a role that changed your life? Playing Frida Kahlo in Painted Bread. She and I have a lot of similarities – fortunately polio is not one of them. But we do have a lot in common, and she really reinforced a lot of my strengths, which is a beautiful thing. I’ve also done two one-woman shows that have been life-changing. I did one called The Syringa Tree, which was about apartheid in South Africa. The other was Nine Parts of Desire (pictured at right), which was about nine different Iraqi women. All of these have politically and personally affected me.

Why are you an actor? I love examining this human experience from all different aspects. I like knowing where people come from, and how that informs their decision-making, and who they are emotionally and physically. I just think there’s so much to learn as a human, and I don’t know if I could have learned enough just being Karen. I feel like I’ve learned so much more by inhabiting different people throughout my career than I could have just being me. I just have a real thirst for knowledge about the human experience. Every play you do also comes with research, so you’re learning about Greek mythology, the Quran or apartheid in South Africa. I just find all of that to be completely fascinating. The more I can lend breath to that, I feel like the more I’m living.

What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t an actor? I would most likely be a chef because I do catering on the side. (GarlicAndLove.Com) I think I would invest a little more time and energy in that capacity if I couldn’t act for any reason – which I hope never, ever happens.

Ideal scene partner: Daniel Day-Lewis has always really intrigued me; I think he’s a great actor. Cate Blanchett is another one. Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich: The list could go on and on.

Why does Medea still matter? Because it was written so very long ago and still has so many pertinent and timely things to say. I think it’‘s a feminist play at its roots, which is why it was not accepted very kindly in ancient Greece. The men didn’t think it was all that great. I think it was really ballsy of Euripides to write a play like this about an incredibly strong woman. It’s debatable about whether or not she wins in the end, which I think is good too. It still brings up a lot of things we’re still struggling with. There’s still a lot of inequality that takes place on a regular basis between men and women in our society. It’s fascinating to me that something written so incredibly long ago still has such pertinence, importance and timeliness in 2016. To me, that’s genius.

What do you hope the audience gets out of it? I hope they see the correlation between ancient Greece and today. The whole thing is just devastating. But I also hope they feel conflicted about how they feel about all of the characters. I don’t think any of them are cut and dry, at least I certainly hope not because that wasn’t my hope within my portrayal. I don’t want people to dislike Medea just because they automatically think she’s the villain. My hope is they find the human within her and maybe find some conflict within themselves, within finding the human within her. So for me, I hope they leave moved and conflicted.

Medea: Ticket information
Presented by The Edge Theatre Company
Jan. 15-Feb. 14
1560 Teller St, Lakewood
303-232-0363 or The Edge Theatre’s website
Featuring Karen Slack, Drew Horwitz (Jason), Rick Yaconis (Creon), Mark Collins (Aegeus), C. Kelly Leo (Nurse), Jim Valone (Tutor), Drew Hirschboeck (Messenger) and Maggy Stacy, Kelly Uhlenhopp, Lauren Bahlman (Women of Corinth).​

Karen Slack as Medea and Drew Horwitz as Jason. Photo by RDG Photography. Karen Slack as Medea and Drew Horwitz as Jason. Horwitz recently appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company’s ‘As You Like It.’ Photo by RDG Photography.

More from Olivia Jansen:
Paige Price: From Broadway to Aspen to CuriousTheatre’s Sex with Strangers

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