When Grace Siplon, the co-founder and artistic director of the Blue Box Theatre Company, was reading modern rewrites of classic literature she recognized a pattern — Helen of Troy almost never received sympathy.
According to Greek legend, Helen left her marriage to flee to Troy, contributing to the start of the Trojan War that was chronicled by Homer's "Odyssey."
Determined to retell the classic story from a feminist lens, Blue Box’s "Helen Of" examines why female public figures are often susceptible to scrutiny through a new humorous interpretation of Helen of Troy.
Founded in early 2023, each Blue Box Theatre Company season includes a reimagined production, an original script, an adaptation and an in-house celebration of the company members, according to its website. "Helen Of" is the company's first adaptation.
"Helen Of" is a devised play, meaning all ensemble members co-write, direct and act in the production. The ensemble’s six members crafted a collection of connected vignettes, or mini stories, painting Helen in a new light with recurring themes and characters.
Siplon said her piece in the production draws on ideas of reincarnation from ancient Greek culture and depicts Helen being reborn throughout time.
“So the idea of famous women throughout history being reincarnations of Helen of Troy, and kind of doomed to repeat her similar storyline throughout time," she said. "We have one of Henry VIII’s wives being another Helen and we have Princess Diana being another Helen and these repeated storylines — the curse of beauty.”
Ensemble member Grace Derenne, who was a classics major in college, wanted to focus on how the reception of Helen’s story is entirely subjective in her writing for the play.
She said the story of Helen of Troy has been retold over and over throughout history by different artists and writers and now, Blue Box. So, she said, using her expertise to create their new version was the best part of the process.