‘Electricidad’: Classic Greek tragedy with Chicano take

ANGRY SISTERS—Ifigenia (Maribel Chavez) and her sister Electricidad (Emily Williams) swing macahuitl (Aztec combat weapons) at each other during an argument over the death of their father.CN/Glenn zucman.

By Jing Ye

The ELAC Theater Department presents “Electricidad,” a Chicano adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy “Electra” by Sophocles from 410 B.C.E.

The play was written by Chicano playwright and Pico Union native Luis Alfaro. This is the theater department’s first time showcasing his play, which was originally written by him 20 years ago. 

The play is directed by Cristina Frias, who was inspired by Alfaro’s work, saw the play staged for the first time in 2003. 

As a Chicana theater artist and educator, Frias appreciates the opportunity to blend ancient Greek storytelling with the vibrant culture of East Los Angeles neighborhoods. 

According to the playbill, “Electricidad” explores themes of generational violence, self-determination and redemption, while drawing on Aztec mythology and the fierce Azteca goddesses, Coatlicue and Coyolxāuhqui.

Frias said Assistant Director and Choreographer Julia Chavez played a pivotal role in the production, contributing with essential and invaluable insight. Chavez’s vision and creativity brought the characters and story to life with her attention to detail in choreography fight scenes and ensuring a safe environment for the cast.

The story follows Electricidad, a young woman who has just completed a period of intense mourning. Her father, the leader of a powerful gang, was murdered by his own wife Clemencia, who in her bid for power, awakened the spirit of revenge in Electricidad. 

This leads Electricidad and her devoted brother Orestes to carry out the grim act of matricide. 

However, Clemencia’s death cannot defeat the true enemy: the cycle of violence and hatred perpetuated by gang life.

Frias is a long time friend with the author Luis Alfaro. She said Alfaro’s adaptation transforms the setting from ancient Argos to contemporary East Los Angeles. This blends mythology with urban drama and allows the characters to deeply explore the emotional consequences of their decisions. She said the casting is predominantly female, bringing strength and power to the story.

Frias said that the production features an exceptional fight choreographer and intimacy coordinator, Ellen Arroyo. Arroyo worked closely with the cast to develop a physical language and style to stage violence safely and effectively. She also hand-crafted a detailed macuahuitl, a traditional combat weapon used by the Aztecs, which is featured on stage.

Frias’s directorial vision centers on finding and connecting to stories of forgiveness and redemption. 

“As an educator, I set up the story as a drama,” she said. “It’s profound and powerful.” 

Frias said the play promises to connect audiences to a tradition of storytelling that bridges the ancient and contemporary worlds, transforming lives through the power of theater. 

Attendees can expect to be captivated by the depth and complexity of the characters and the storyline, as well as the unique insights uncovered during rehearsals.

Performances are scheduled for April, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.

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