Re-Imagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage

Re-Imagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage

Re-Imagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage

Re-Imagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage

Synopsis

This book explores the emergence of Greek tragedy on the American stage from the nineteenth century to the present. Despite the gap separating the world of classical Greece from our own, Greek tragedy has provided a fertile source for some of the most innovative American theater. Helene P. Foley shows how plays like Oedipus Rex and Medea have resonated deeply with contemporary concerns and controversies--over war, slavery, race, the status of women, religion, identity, and immigration. Although Greek tragedy was often initially embraced for its melodramatic possibilities, by the twentieth century it became a vehicle not only for major developments in the history of American theater and dance, but also for exploring critical tensions in American cultural and political life. Drawing on a wide range of sources--archival, video, interviews, and reviews-- Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage provides the most comprehensive treatment of the subject available.

Excerpt

A lover of Greek tragedy since I played Antigone in high school, a passionate theater buff, and a scholar of Greek drama, I began to think about this project from the time I moved to New York to teach in 1979. Starting in the late 1960s, but mushrooming from the 1980s to the present, Greek tragedy, both performances of the originals in translation and adaptations and new versions, began to make increasingly regular appearances on the New York stage. The same phenomenon on a smaller scale was taking place in other major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Haven, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Berkeley, Dallas, and Kansas City. My Greek drama in translation courses increasingly included more attention to modern productions, while our students at Barnard and Columbia were performing the plays in Greek almost annually. When the Berkeley Classics Department generously offered me the chance to give the Sather Classical Lectures, this project seemed made for me.

Scholarly study of both the ancient and modern performance and the reception of Greek tragedy has developed extensively as well, especially in Europe. In the United Kingdom, the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford, which includes links to other important websites and databases, has played a critical role in collecting data (www.apgrd.ox.ac.uk). Edith Hall, Oliver Taplin, Fiona MacIntosh, and their colleagues at Oxford and Lorna Hardwick at the Open University have served as catalysts and editors for a number of volumes mainly focusing on British, European, and African productions. Erin Mee and I have expanded the range of the series with our own Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage (2011). Efforts by many others in Europe, too numerous to mention . . .

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