"THIRD WATCH" ACTRESS SAUNDRA McCLAIN
TO DIRECT ELECTRA AT QUEENS COLLEGE
FLUSHING, NY, October 31, 2003 – Beginning on Friday, November 7 at 8 p.m., the Queens College department of Drama, Theatre and Dance will present eight performances of Sophocles’ tragedy Electra, directed by the actress Saundra McClain. She is seen currently in the role of Nurse Proctor on the NBC television series "Third Watch."
McClain’s production of Electra is based on a highly acclaimed adaptation by poet, classicist, and MacArthur Fellow Anne Carson. "The language is accessible and actable as opposed to being a literal translation," says McClain. Although it maintains a "poetic flow," she adds, the speech sounds natural and contemporary.
Indeed, she believes that Electra—"a crooked tale of matricide and patricide, male and female energy"—has a very contemporary message. "I wanted to take the cobwebs off the piece. I’m playing around with taboos and breaking a lot of rules," she says.
McClain approached staging the play in the same free spirit. Certain elements, such as the Furies, barely appeared in Sophocles’ Electra but are central, in her view, to the story, and therefore they are stronger figures in her production. She also staged the chariot race which, she says, is "often cut" but she "tried to bring it to life through dance."
Scene from the Queens College production of Electra, directed by Saundra McLain.
Credit: Nancy Bareis
McClain, who has over 30 years experience in all aspects of theatre, including directing, previously guest starred in such television dramas as "Law and Order" and "LA Law." Her Broadway theatre credits include For Colored Girls. . ., Bubbling Brown Sugar and, playing opposite Gregory Hines, Comin’ Uptown. Off-Broadway she has appeared in diverse plays, including Stop-Kiss, The Colored Museum, and Pericles. In addition she has performed regionally and internationally in plays and musicals from Much Ado about Nothing to Look Homeward, Angel, The Marian Anderson Story, and Porgy and Bess.
McClain, who is an adjunct professor in the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance, has directed numerous plays and musicals around the country, including Death of a Salesman, Antigone, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, and The Women of Plums at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Her production this year of Ain’t Misbehavin’ won the Connecticut Drama Critics Award for Best Musical.
"I love the students, and I love Queens College!" she says, especially because of its unusual ethnic diversity. In her acting class, for instance, out of 32 students, all but two speak a second or even third language. "As much as I’m teaching, I’m also learning," she says.
Electra will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., November 7, 8, 14, and 15; Sundays at 3 p.m., November 9 and 16; and Thursday at 7 p.m., November 13. A special high school performance will be given on Friday, November 14, at 10 a.m., to be followed by a question-and-answer session. Tickets, which cost $13 and $10 for seniors, can be reserved by calling the box office at 718-997-2788. Electra will be acted in the Queens College Performance Space in M-11, Rathaus Hall. Queens College is located at 65-30 Kissena Boulevard in Flushing.