News Archive

Greek Play Brings History, Drama to Life

Outdoor Greek theatre provides realistic and unique setting for performance

10/8/2008 8:59:55 AM


LYNCHBURG — Randolph College will offer the community the chance to experience an authentic Greek play Oct. 10-12 at 4 p.m. in the Dell, the school’s Greek theatre.

“The Greek Play provides direct contact with the ancient world, an immediate experience of literature, and vibrant evidence of the ongoing power of drama,” said Amy R. Cohen, classics professor and director of the play.

Elektra tells the story (told also by Aeschylus and Euripides) of the revenge that Orestes and Elektra take on their mother Klytemnestra for her murder of their father Agamemnon. In this version, their mission is accomplished by a cruel deception, and Sophocles challenges nearly all expectations: the evil of Klytemnestra, the callousness of Aegisthus, the virtue of Orestes, and the righteousness of Elektra.

Elektra will feature Randolph’s first coed Greek play cast. In previous productions, women played both male and female parts. The current production will inaugurate the era of gender-blind casting, and it features original music by Chris Cohen, original choreography by dance major Sarah Blane, ’09, and music direction by Randall Speer.

The play is a longstanding tradition at the college. Mabel K. Whiteside, professor of Greek, began the Randolph-Macon Woman's College tradition in 1909 by producing Euripides' Alcestis in Greek. She led her students in an annual production of a Greek play from then until her retirement in 1954. Although there were a few interruptions in the annual schedule, the school saw 40 Greek plays in 45 years, including her last production, Aeschylus's trilogy The Oresteia . This was the first time the trilogy had been staged as a whole in Greek in the new world. The Dell was built to honor Whiteside and her unparalleled series of productions.

Cohen and her students revived the tradition with the production of Sophocles' Antigon e in 2000, and Elektra is their sixth production.

The renewed series produces the plays in English. In reviving the College tradition, the Randolph College Greek Play adheres to most of the original conventions that governed theatre in the time of the great tragedians, believing that the best plays will emerge from the conditions for which they were written. The plays are performed in an outdoor Greek theatre, which allows the plays to be performed in daylight for an audience seated in a semi-circle around the performers.

The Randolph College Greek Play adheres to other ancient conventions as well: three actors play all the roles; the Chorus–which sings and dances–remains on stage for most of the play; and the performers all wear masks. “Our goal is to present ancient drama under ancient conventions on a regular basis,” Cohen said. “In doing so, we hope not only to entertain the Randolph College and Lynchburg communities, but also to educate our audiences and friends about the history of theatre.”

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations