Playing Talthybius

Playing Talthybius

Having the opportunity to play Talthybius has been an absolute joy. As the Herald of the Greeks, he is put in the tough position of being the one to deliver some really, really bad news to the women of Troy in their darkest hour, inevitably making every situation he walks into in the play even worse.

On the one hand, he could be played as a stoic, a flinty eyed soldier to whom the emotional turmoil of the women means nothing, simply a object of hatred and disgust to the women. However, Ameer, Tina, and I quickly decided that there’s a lot more going on with him than that. In the text, it’s clear that Talthybius has at least some empathy with the women. In his initial meeting with Hecuba and the Chorus, while he initially delivers his news sternly and with a sense of strict duty, he shows, at the very least, some distaste for the news he has to deliver, and I felt that there was a lot of opportunity during Cassandra’s catechism for a chord to be struck in him with what the (supposedly) mad prophetess has to say about the Greeks. He likewise shows doubt towards the character of his master, Agamemnon, in his love of Cassandra (This son of Atreus, of all kings/ most mighty, hath so bowed him to the love/ of this mad maid,”). Later on, when he comes face to face with Andromache, it’s clear that the news he has to deliver is extremely difficult (“I know not how to tell thee plain!”) for him to bring out into the open.

As such, we decided early in the development of the character that he himself is a family man, a choice which creates much more possibility for the plight of the Trojan Women and the central tragic moment of the play to resonate with him. What would he do if this were his family? His children? How does he feel being a complicit part of the tragic events brought on by the Greeks? As a father myself, bringing this aspect to the character has certainly had a dimension of catharsis for me.

He’s the sort of character that actors love because there is a lot of possibility for emotional depth and complexity (as well as simply getting to deliver some really beautiful speeches and share some really intense moments with some other great characters). Sharing some of Euripides’ moments with the likes of Bridget Farias Gates, Becky Musser, and Laura Ray, not to mention one of the finest Chorus groups I’ve ever seen in any play, has been nothing short of momentous for me as an actor, and I’m chomping at the bit for opening night. It’s a truly beautiful play that is incredibly relevant in today’s world (there was recently a production put on by a group of Syrian refugee women.) It’s an amazing cast, an extraordinary story, and a magical stage on which to set it. I surely hope to see you there, while the breeze off the lake whips and sputters the torches of the Curtain stage, like an Aegean sea wind, gnawing at the flames flung into the heart of Troy.

The Trojan Women, by Euripides opens Friday, July 9th. Tickets are available online and at the door.

­-Steve Cook