Courtesy of KG Montes
Last weekend, KG Montes ’22 presented an original radio play called “Kore” — an adaptation of the Greek myth narrated from the perspective of Persephone, who is also called Kore. The show explores the issue of generational trauma and tackles the experience of dealing with the effects of violence as a Black woman.
“Kore” tells the story of Persephone’s journey from a sheltered innocent maiden to queen of the underworld. Throughout the show, Persephone and her mother, Demeter, struggle to cope with the aftermath of experiencing the male gods’ violence. The play focuses on how their generational trauma shapes their characters and changes their lives.
“I wanted to do a retelling of a well-known story from a female perspective,” Montes said. “The original myth has no mention of how Persephone recovered from being kidnapped, how this traumatic event affected her and who she became because of that. Instead, it went like, a girl got kidnapped but turned out all cool in the end. There’s no way it was ‘all cool.’”
In her adaptation, Montes specifically casted BIPOC women for the lead roles to draw attention to the issue of “white violence on Black bodies.” According to Noelle Mercer ’22, who played the role of Kore, the play turns away from “a strong Black woman” trope that risks to “desensitize” the audience of seeing Black women in pain. Instead, the show gives an honest perspective on their experiences of grief, trauma and pain.
After a difficult experience of her own, Montes came up with an idea for the play during her first year at Yale. In her sophomore playwriting class, she finished the first draft of “Kore” and later rewrote it several times. Last spring, she contacted Cleopatra Mavhunga ’23 to direct the production. Together, they chose the format of a radio play and held the virtual auditions in September.
“We quickly realized that the show’s mythical setting was too complicated to even try staging over Zoom with a visual live component,” Mavhunga said. “The audience will not believe a bedroom in Minneapolis is the underworld — that’s just not going to happen. So, we settled for a radio play.”
The switch to an audio format saved time from set and costume design, allowing the team to focus more on the story development and character interactions. According to Mavhunga, having no video lets the audience create a more “elaborate, vivid and imaginative picture” in their head than any set can possibly do.
The transition to Zoom also brought its challenges, such as accommodating actors in different time zones and staging partner scenes with no video and frequent sound delays.
Nevertheless, the team did their best to compensate for those organizational challenges. The rehearsals started last fall to give time to prepare for releasing the final radio play this April.
“It was an incredible learning experience for us as actors,” Mercer said. “We learned how to create in a virtual medium, use solely our voices for conveying emotions to the viewer and enkindle chemistry with a stage partner without seeing their face right in front of us. It wasn’t easy but was definitely worth it.”
As a result of this long preparation process, the team produced a show that can resonate with women of color, as it explores the ways in which Black womanhood is subjected to the generational cycles of violence and trauma and how it “pushes through that,” according to Mercer.
“Many like to view Black women as superheroes who can do anything,” Montes said. “Well, yes, it’s true. But we’re also human, if you cut us, we bleed. We can’t be expected to bear the weight of the world not taking some time to grieve. The trauma doesn’t just make you stronger; it also hurts a lot. I hope that our play will remind the audience of that.”
“Kore” will also be released on Spotify in the podcast format.