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5 Things to Know: Fresno State’s ‘Electricidad’ updates a classic Greek tragedy to the streets of East L.A.

Gina Sandi-Diaz directs Fresno State’s new production of “Electricidad,” written by Luis Alfaro. It’s now in its opening weekend and continues through April 2.

Here are Five Things to Know About the Show:


1.

You don’t have to be a scholar of Sophocles to understand and appreciate the play.

“Electricidad” is based on the Greek play “Electra,” written by Sophocles, is set in East L.A. and is a present-day retelling of the story in modern, accessible terms. Alfaro’s version follows the broad outlines of the original play, including matricide (the killing of one’s mother), a focus on the blindness of rage, and the cost of forgiveness.

But Fresno State director Gina Sandi-Diaz says not to worry if you don’t know the details of “Electra.”

“I think the story does a great job of respecting the structure of the Greek myth. But the Greek elements of it are not as important because we’re really talking here about Chicano culture,” she says.

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2.

Just like any Greek tragedy, you’ll experience what’s called the “classical unities.”

That means there’s unity of place (the play takes place in one setting), unity of action (it follows one principal action and doesn’t digress into subplots) and unity of time (it takes place within one 24-hour period.

What’s more, characters make important decisions and then stand by them. When Electricidad’s father, the leader of a powerful gang, is killed by her mother, the mother has her reasons and doesn’t back down. As Electricidad hurtles toward a showdown, she has to decide if her mother is in the wrong and should have to pay for it – and then will have to stand by that decision as well.


3.

There’s a Greek chorus but in modern form.

In “Electricidad,” the chorus responsibilities are handled by three gossipy neighbor ladies.

While they speak in dialogue to each other, they do speak in rhyme, a nod to the play’s Greek structure.


4.

As director, Sandi-Diaz wanted to highlight the mystical elements of the script. It’s present in the set, costume and sound design.

“One of the things that this play does so well is connect a specific expression of Chicano culture in connection to something greater than themselves – this whole idea that they think that they are descended from Aztec warriors,” she says. “So we highlighted that in the play. By the end, we’re not seeing it as East L.A. we’re seeing it as this world that could be our world, but has some elements of magic.”


5.

“Electricidad” is a Fresno State premiere.

Alfaro wrote it in 2005, and it’s one of a trio of plays by him based on Greek tragedies. (Sandi-Diaz hopes to eventually produce all three at Fresno State.) She encourages theatergoers to take a chance on a work adapted from a story that is thousands of years old.

“I think it’s a masterpiece in terms of how it’s written and that highlights Chicano culture,” she says. “It also represents a kind of culture that is traditionally marginalized and only seen as criminal. It adds poetry to that world and incredibly sensitive characters to that world.”


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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