Logos and Art:    

Ideological Parameters in Reactions to Performances of Ancient Greek Drama at the End of the Twentieth Century

After the Festival of Epidaurus' promotion of conservative productions for the last fifty years, now is the time for openminded theatergoers to seek new, challenging interpretations of ancient works.


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Ideological Parameters in Reactions to Performances of Ancient Greek Drama at the End of the Twentieth Century

My presentation has to deal with the Festival of Epidaurus that since 1955 has been considered as one of the most significant theatrical spaces for the productions of ancient Greek drama. But before approaching the subject of my paper I would like to give a small introduction to the history of this festival in order to situate more clearly the problems connected to the approach towards the performances of Epidaurus from spectators and critics during the last years of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. The use of the theatre in Epidaurus is interconnected with the widening interest in the reuse of ancient Greek theatres, which became one of the most significant issues of the period before the Second World War.[1]

Reusing Ancient Theatres: A Good Old Idea

The use of ancient Greek theatres for performances of tragedies emerged as a clear desire in European theatre practice as early as the end of the nineteenth century. Their acceptance was promoted by the production of Oedipus Rex by Mounet-Sully in the theatre at Orange in 1888 in the framework of the movement for open air theatres in France ( les théâtres en plein air ) and Italy, where it finally resulted also in creating the INDA (Istituto Nazionale del Drama Antico), dedicated to the production of ancient drama at the Greek theatre of Syracuse.[2] In modern Greek theatre life, the most comprehensive attempt to use an ancient theatre came with the first Delphic Festival of 1927, and after the second Festival in 1930 a particularly astute theatre critic proposed the use of the theatre at Epidaurus for these performances.[3] The Delphic performances led to a re-evaluation of stage practice: the performance of ancient Greek drama now became the focus of intellectual inquiry, and claimed a special place in Greek theatre practice. There were many new demands.Aside from the debate on the issue of open-air performances, and more particularly on the use of ancient theatres for these performances, [4] almost every element of staging now became a major concern. These issues, which included specific elements like dancing, settings, and pronunciation, as well as the contemporary appeal of ancient drama, enriched the discussion with many theoretical and practical arguments. Already for his first production of SophoclesElectra , in 1936, the director of the National Theatre of Greece, Dimitris Rondiris, chose to use the Heródion in Athens.[5] This production was repeated in the same theatre the following year, and on September 10, 1938, it formally inaugurated the use of the Epidaurus theatre, before an audience transported from Athens by the Greek Hiking Society.[6] Dimitri Rondiris, with his interpretation of tragedy according to its own particular style, also meant the recognition of its inherent “ritualistic nature” and the acceptance of the need for “passionate and bulky chorus movements” in order to maintain tragedy’s “celebratory character,” which, alone, could “express tragedy’s religious and deeply humanitarian spirit.” [7] The manifestations of such a view on stage led to a demand for the use of the theatre for such performances; in reality, the new demand was for the return of these texts to the place for which they were supposedly originally composed. Epidaurus had been considered by Rondiris as the ideal place for developing this ideologically charged idea, which did not have any real foundation in any archaeological finding.[8] In 1938 Electra was the first modern performance of an ancient drama given there by a professional company, and its tremendous success significantly promoted the issue: [9] the government decided to rebuild the right side of the koilon , which had collapsed, and it was only a matter of time before the actual decision was made to use the theatre for systematic performances of ancient drama.[10] Due to the events of World War II, the Greek Civil War ( 1946–1949), and the events that followed, the Festival at Epidaurus opened officially in 1954–1955.

Creating a Festival

The first event of the Festival at the Theatre of Epidaurus was to be the performance of EuripidesHippolytos , directed by D. Rondiris with the National Theatre in 1954, followed by the Festival’s official opening in the summer of 1955. This same year the Athens Festival, based in the Roman Theatre of Herodes Atticus under the Acropolis, was also launched.

These first 50 years tend to be characterised by a certain degree of inconsistency (or contradiction). The first 20 years, during which the theatre at Epidaurus was used exclusively by the National Theatre, it went through a period of relative bewilderment where, within the particular political and social environment of post-Civil War Greece, the performances, though aimed towards a large audience, sought to confirm the importance of the first National “scene”/theatre and its main actors.

The character of a space of cultural competition and theatrical questioning that Dimitris Rondiris wanted to set for the festival would gradually become of secondary importance. Epidaurus became the space par excellence for the presentation of a “formal” position towards ancient Greek drama, establishing the belief, of a dominant conservative part of the audience and artistic society, that the performance constituted a privileged, if not implicit, set of Greek artistic expressions.

At the same time, the aim towards a wider public resulted in the emergence of important actors: the Epidaurus Festival constituted a stage for vendettas. From the productions presented there until the time of the dictatorship, the most famous was the performance of Maria Callas, though the acting of Katina Paxinou made a great impact while she was in the cast of the National Theatre.

The 1960s and 70s saw the most important changes in the theatre around Europe. For Epidaurus, however, this was a period of retrogression. During the military dictatorship ( 1967–1974), the festival would retain its conservative character by placing greater emphasis on the National “appeal” of the events; this was further accentuated by the weaker presence of important actors. In this sense the 60s could be easily referred to as a “lost” decade: instead of promoting the necessary changes and innovations that would keep the interest of the audience alive, the festival became a synonym for routine.

The fall of the dictatorship in 1974 found the festival without its former glory, the National Theatre having lost a lot of its own prestige, both severely weakened in the eyes of a questioning Greek audience, having lost a great number of its spectators, and with a clear scope towards tourist productions. The mid-70s brought about a new beginning in the operation of the Festival. The acceptance of other companies, as for example the until-then-considered-heretic Art Theatre of Karolos Koun, brought to the Epidaurian Theatre a new wave of spectators. We have to consider that this widespread diffusion of interest towards ancient Greek drama throughout such a diverse audience was the end product of the breaking of the monopoly of the National Theatre after 1975–1976.[11] This development, brought about by significant pressure from the audience, who considered the National Theatre as just another tedious and insolvent National organisation, was the only conscious effort to renovate the festival, probably the only choice of political strategy made by its administration. However, it was not enough for a drastic change of image, and soon, after about a decade, the institution would face the same problems.

New Functions in Old Style

Until 1974 things were rather simple and clear-cut: classical Greek drama and the ancient theatre of Epidaurus fell within the purview of the National Theatre.[12] It was at Epidaurus that “blue chip” performances were staged: star actors, established directors, and traditional translations. Plays were generally produced according to an established viewpoint, quite monumental and much influenced by the so-called “tradition” created by Dimitris Rondiris. That viewpoint could also be seen in other, non-theatrical Modern Greek forms of expression.In general we can assume that this viewpoint confirmed the official Modern Greek historical schema that “saw Greekness as having three faces, and saw the middle one, the Byzantine, as equal in brilliance and glory to the ancient one … It did not permeate into peoples’ consciousness, and scarcely penetrated their mindset: there, the place of honour was jealously held by the ancients.” [13]

The opposing theatrical camp, that of Karolos Koun’s Art Theatre (Theatro Technis), had to be content with the use of Herodes Atticus' Odeon for the performances of classical Greek drama it produced. This theatre was somewhat more humble in the national consciousness, as it was not really an ancient Greek theatre, having been built much later in Roman times. Furthermore, the Theatro Technis was still under a cloud because of the scandal of its 1959 production of AristophanesThe Birds , [14] and its presence even at the Odeon was not to be taken for granted. With the fall of the Colonels’ junta in 1974 and the return to democracy, things changed radically: in 1975 the Theatro Technis was allowed entry into the holy of holies, Epidaurus, and indeed with the heretical 1959 production, which with the passing of time had become enveloped in the lustre of myth and had become legendary, as the longest-running Greek play performed in post-war Greece.[15] Indeed, the Theatro Technis opened the way to Epidaurus for many other theatre groups (such as Spyros A. Evangelatos’ Amphi-Theatre, the State Theatre of Northern Greece, and the Cyprus Theatrical Organisation; later on the Municipal Provincial Theatres were accepted and even individual theatrical stars and their companies). Access to the Epidaurus Festival by other companies was not simply an administrative correction of an old injustice, nor did it herald the end of the post-Civil War establishment’s obstinate fixation, according to which all intellectuals, of all kinds, were en masse prone to subversive ideas. This was the threshold of a new era for Greek theatre, which was now (or which should have been) characterised by an inclination for reassessment: new audiences came to Epidaurus, as did many new directors and actors. The omnipotence of the point of view on how to produce ancient drama as expressed by the National Theatre, with its attendant formality and the monumentality of its productions, now coexisted (or should have) on equal terms with other viewpoints.[16] The theatre was to benefit from the thaw ensuing from the return to democracy. The abolition of censorship liberated onstage expression for the first time in modern Greek history. The theatre (should have) developed smoothly, and the exchange of views on the theatre should have been informed by the criticism arising from actual onstage performances of theatrical works.

It is (or should be) considered absolutely legitimate, indeed it should be taken for granted, that the debate springing from performances—doubting, accepting, or rejecting them—relates the text to prevailing ideological positions. Briefly, one’s attitude to a performance should evaluate, question, and debate the relationship between classical drama and contemporary dilemmas, what role a theatrical event plays in shaping the consciousness of contemporary audiences.Year by year, however, things suffered a reversal, and although there are currently views in the press that are radically different from the ones that follow, what once seemed to dominate makes us increasingly realise that we are now, early in the twenty-first century, living through a new “turn to antiquity.” [17] That is to say, we have gradually moved from critiquing productions to a new version of “ archaeolatreia ,” or ancestor worship, such as to produce an inclination to control every aspect of theatrical productions.

One could argue that views that require the existence of pre-emptive censorship belong firmly to the past, and that the urge to create such mechanisms is quaint. Indeed, the following text makes one laugh (or should, at any rate):
… Is it so hard for us to understand that we of this nation are the custodians of certain values (which are an integral part of it) which our nation has bequeathed to the whole of humanity? Is it so hard for some to realise that every quest for innovation in culture (modernism), and even trends towards something novel (post-modernism), may find fertile ground and may be cultivated in any field other than ancient drama? So has the time perhaps come for the central government to take a purifying initiative and establish a “Protection of Ancient Drama Authority”, which would support, at least within the borders of Greece, the archetypes of art created by Dionysus?[18]
The viewpoint, reminiscent of similar ideas expressed by Greek critics during the nineteenth century, expressed by the writer of the article in 2005—a spectator of the performances in Epidaurus who had been given space in one of the most important newspapers—is not unprecedented, and in no case should it be taken as the position of the newspaper as a whole, as the majority of its journalists seem to hold the opposite point of view. In another newspaper, a prominent actor who performed in Epidaurus expresses the following ideas:
Just as the archaeological service does not permit anyone to take home even a pebble from the Parthenon, just as it protects such monuments—and a good thing, too, as we earn a living by exploiting them—so must ancient dramas be protected.[19]

A short while ago, in a public debate with the then directors of the Epidaurus Festival, a less severe but similar point of view was expressed: perhaps productions for Epidaurus should be tried out first elsewhere (a kind of pre-festival), and, having been judged worthy, they should only then have access to the ancient theatre.[20] Other interesting views have been expressed about the theatre itself. I have gleaned two indicative points of view: “This theatre is in our very DNA,” and “The sound of performances in Epidaurus must be Greek.Whenever I have attended [this theatre] and heard foreign languages, they sound dissonant.” [21] One might consider such statements simply as advertisements or the promotion of leading actors or performances, that they are a part of a superficial journalistic investigation in which the interviewee attempts to impress readers with a laconic statement, if one did not later, elsewhere, come across criticism concerning the Persians directed by Theodoros Terzopoulos, which included Greek and Turkish actors, speaking both languages. After a description of the plot the critic concludes:
… That is what Aeschylus wrote. And all of this, naturally, in the Greek of his times. What, however, did we just hear in an Epidaurus performance? We heard some Greek and quite a lot of Turkish (as opposed to Persian) … what were they doing in Epidaurus? What did Epidaurus ever do to deserve having to listen to the Turkish language, incomprehensible to Greek audiences? And just who exactly was it that sanctioned this? Did they have no idea how Aeschylus’ work would sound? And did it not occur t o them that this was impermissible?… was perhaps Aeschylus of Eleusis a native speaker of Turkish and we simply did not know?” [22]

Another article, in a newspaper with much smaller circulation, is perhaps more indicative, as it expresses passionately ideas that cannot be so easily published in a national newspaper.Discovering conspiracy theories against “Hellenism” lurking behind the performance of Matthias Langhoff in the Backhae the writer calls for the reaction of the Greeks against “eternal enemies.” [23] This brings to mind coffee-house discussions on classical culture which contain an annoying xenophobia mixed with anti-Semitism and incomprehensible, but always skulking, conspiracy theories.

How have we reached this point? Habitués of the theatre over the past 25 years have retained in their minds some of the great scandals, which of course theatre professionals bear the scars personally.The first scandal was in a National Theatre of Northern Greece production of Alcestes , directed by Yiannis Houvardas in 1984; [24] the next a National Theatre production of The Ecclesiazusae , directed by Yiannis Margarites in 1987; and, of course, the biggest of the scandals occurred during the Karezi- Kazakos company’s performances in the 1989 production of Oedipus Rex at Epidaurus, directed by the Georgian Robert Sturua, when an actress playing the messenger lit a cigarette while describing the suicide of Iocasta and the blinding of Oedipus.[25]

Perspectives and New Challenges

From the 1990s to 2006, the attacks on irreverent productions have become more frequent and more vehement (whereas, in contrast, commercial productions with star leads have remained untouched by enemy fire, being always considered as important achievements of high acting). Practically speaking, every director knows that he or she has to work within certain boundaries, and that if they transgress they risk their artistic futures. That is, they know that they are in danger of voluntarily surrendering their work as a kind of hostage. Since the 1990s, the idea that ancient Greek drama is a grave, national issue seems to have been gaining ground.Every production seems to either confirm or cast doubts on the stereotypes upon which modern Greek consciousness is founded: [26] whenever a production caters to these stereotypes, or at least lets sleeping dogs lie, and when the production conforms—frequently as a faded version of a glorious and beautified past as presented on stage—it is self-evidently good; if, on the other hand, it passes judgement on the stereotypes, or clearly has reservations, or even attempts to be original through artistic license by presenting an image that is different from the traditional one, the production is accused of showing ignorance or bad taste, and ultimately of irreverence. Criticism begins from an aesthetic point of view that arises from how the ancient texts are presented and, gradually, as part of a broader non-theatrical debate, becomes associated with our national identity. Ultimately, performances are not judged as independent offerings to a contemporary audience, but as indicators of their creators’ respect for our soothing certainties. The ancients set the boundaries of our national pride; therefore, calling for the intervention of a government body is also a demand to curb all different views that are expressed in theatrical productions.[27] According to the prevailing viewpoint, ancient texts have their own yardsticks that exempt them from all other achievements of human creativity, as if all those other achievements of world dramaturgy do not each have their own yardsticks. Ancient texts are classified as being part of some higher culture that belongs solely to us, and therefore, only we are the ideal stewards; it is as if they do not belong to humanity as a whole.

The issue is, perhaps, simpler. The views lightly expressed by those in the theatre, which they have published impertinently in newspapers, and are perhaps cited here even more impertinently, are based on a couple of simple questions. Are these texts sacred? If so, can ancient texts be listed like buildings, considered as monuments?[28]

Hopefully this is not the only way to approach ancient drama in contemporary Greek society. During the past two years the choices of performances have begun to include many of the new generation of European and Greek directors who have appeared since the 1980s. Performing to the Athenian public and the public at Epidaurus, they have already offered new perspectives: on one hand, although the ancient theatre at Epidaurus is a difficult theatrical space due to its size and the technical specifications needed to protect its condition as an ancient monument, it has been proved that presenting only monumental “traditional” productions can no longer be the only solution, and, on the other hand, the discussion about producing ancient drama today—modifying old solutions, criticizing the stereotypes, and changing our perspective on how to see the ancient texts in a new light—is a necessity.[29] The recent renewal of the Epidaurus Festival has uncovered the limitations of the Greek critical discourse, resulting in an intense controversy between a conservative and suspicious part of the public and a new generation of theatre artists. A clear-cut separation has been drawn: critics who advocate for conventional productions, view foreign or innovative approaches with distrust, and remain entrenched against the new tendencies, facing a less homogeneous group of receivers, spectators, and artists. These receivers do not reject the unknown and the new, and even feel more comfortable with dialogue and the moderate or even radical staging of ancient drama.

To the question of whether ancient texts are sacred, the history of theatre provided an answer years ago. The texts are in no danger from performances, and they will survive thanks to the protection of libraries, which cannot, however, always protect them from oblivion. It is in performing these texts that they survive, exist in the present, and remain relevant. The history of directing all over the world has been rooted in rebellion against the immobility of texts, in the attraction of reading texts from a new perspective. It is from a critical stance towards the past that every development and debate has arisen. Ancient drama constitutes a basic indicator of the image that we construct of ourselves. Moreover, it is in the theatre that one sees a society’s level of maturity, in the relationship of the audience with democratic processes, or in other words, with dialogue and debate.

The 50-year history of the Epidaurus Festival has confirmed the stereotypes and nourished the growing of a new conservatism. This social role of the festival overshadows its artistic importance. So a new challenge comes forward: the challenge to prove through new artistic expression that it is possible to change pre-fabricated ideas and contribute to the openness of dialogue and thus give a new social role to the Festival at Epidaurus.

On Heritage, Illegality, and other Constructions

During the last years of the twentieth century and more violently at the beginning of the twenty-first we have come to realize that dialogues have begun to resemble trials more and more. Those who hold forth in public—self-appointed prosecutors on television or in print—seek to find where to place responsibility for misdemeanours of varying gravity, and urge the authorities to intervene (and at times the latter respond to their vociferous demands). But let us remember the basics: dialogue does not take place by invoking punishment; punishment is meted out following some sort of institutionalised process, which in turn is subject to the principle of the rule of law; in its turn, there can be no rule of law without democracy, and there can be no democracy without free dialogue. This circularity may recall the archetypical snake eating its tail, but let us not go into snakes, their tails or their eggs. In a nutshell, the manner in which we carry on a dialogue, our argument, reveals our own personal relationship to democracy. Put more simply, it has to do with the right to free expression, which is the only guarantee for the unhindered exchange of ideas—a topic on which much ink has been spilled, and much time squandered.

Lately, a special category of citizens, those who work in the theatre, have been tried, accused of perverting texts. This is Greece—and it isn’t the first time. In August 1959, the authorities banned perhaps the most important staging of a work of Aristophanes in the twentieth century: The Birds directed by Karolos Koun.The press wrote, “The perverted production of The Birds has been banned.” [30] In 1975, this production crowned the period in which democracy was restored. The restoration of democracy was also marked by the manner in which the Epidaurus festival was rejuvenated: it welcomed the Art Theatre with that “perverted” production of The Birds . What happened?Did democracy lend its support to perversion , and retroactively go against the decision of its own executive authority, [31] or did it just take 15 years to realise that The Birds had not been perverted?

One hundred years after the birth of Karolos Koun, and almost 50 years after that historic production, once a year, we still discuss the perversion of ancient texts. Now, however, having gone a step further, we seek to have them declared objects of conservation , and to condemn altered texts as illegal .[32] Perhaps we should create an archive with all the texts and allow them to rest there in peace, untouched, by the “ morale de l’archive ( L’idéal de l’archive: la douce égalité qui règne dans une immense fausse commune ).” [33] Of course, one would have to create an organisation to supervise this archive: something like the Ancient Drama Protection Authority.[34] Things, however, are not that simple, as we have now come to understand that it is not only our “own antiquities” that are in danger, [35] but also other masterpieces of world theatre. Perhaps later we should start thinking about whether we should declare all plays that have appeared on stage somewhere in the world as heritage objects, not just the masterpieces, but all of them. But when all is said and done, who is to be the judge of what will be included in the archive, as, with the passage of time, the archive will be called upon to include new works by authors who want to protect their precious plays from the possible arbitrariness of posterity. Less important works will gradually be included among the heritage works, as will insignificant and poor works—the kind that we would like to lambaste with witty critique. In the end, we might accept all written works, something that seems to follow logically from the premise that one must respect all the products of human thought, and the ideal of equality which stems from democracy. Such an Authority would have to intervene with illegal texts or destroy them whenever they tried to make themselves heard. As an aside, I would like to remind the reader that all this is being discussed in a country that is full of illegalities, both in terms of its physical and intellectual environment. This is perhaps why these subjects are being discussed here and now. We need to tidy things up and put them in order.

Let us be serious. These thoughts lead to undesirable conclusions, as frequently occurs when, in formulating one argument, we follow it to its logical conclusion and accept the resulting consequences. Let us not forget that philosophy has often taken dangerous turns. We must return to the question of being faithful or arbitrary in terms of the stage presentation of any play in order to ask ourselves whether or not we can talk about heritage pieces.

The question of faithfulness or arbitrariness in presenting any text is as old as the theatre itself. The last time there was a heated debate was when Ibsen’s Nora ( A Doll’s House ), directed by Ostermeier, was performed in Athens as part of the Festival. The critics’ ire at the perversion of the text was caused by the fact that the director changed the ending of the work: instead of Nora leaving her husband, as Ibsen had written the play, indicated in the text with the banging of the door, in Ostermeier’s production, she shoots her husband. Did none of those who were enraged at this think that when Ibsen wrote the work, he wanted to provoke? Did no one think that 130 years after the play was written, a woman leaving her husband would not raise any eyebrows? Did no one know (as they should have) that Ibsen grew angry whenever his play was performed with the ending changed (Nora staying at home) so as not to shock the audience? Did it not dawn on the critics that Ostermeier’s reading of the play focused on the social issue that motivated the author to write this play? The right of women to choose the life they wish to lead is a basic theme in the play, and having Nora shoot her husband provokes the audience and makes the play more current; it is more interesting than if a performance followed the resolution provided by the printed text.[36] Ostermeier’s solution was, of course, not an illegal , arbitrary readjustment of the original play to current attitudes. It stated something more. This is the attitude on which every restaging of an older work stands. Plays are not produced today because they are generally and vaguely important, or because we feel that they are masterpieces (although there are many important works, and naturally there are also masterpieces among them). There is a basic reason why we deal with older texts, and this is the only reason that can justify producing them: these works continue to be played because they have something to say to us today. It is the relevance to today that directors seek, or rather, should seek, as the theatre has the unique ability to present the past to us as if it were today. This is a challenge that has occupied all directors from the dawn of the directors’ century until now. For the twenty-first century, it goes without saying that every play has a different meaning for every different audience, or at every historical moment it is performed on a stage.[37]

At this point, it is difficult to resist a parenthesis. Some years ago, Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle was produced for the theatre. The text and the author’s intentions are only comprehensible when the introductory and final scenes are played, as they present the dispute between the members of two communes over an area of the farm—one group claims ownership, maintaining that the land was an ancestral bequest, the other group sees the land lying fallow and claims ownership because they are cultivating it. The recent Greek production ignored this scene.[38] There was no vehement criticism in the reviews about a perversion of the text. One wonders why? To answer that Brecht’s plays are not entitled to protection from perversion would be to belittle the great German playwright.[39] To answer that political conditions are now different than when the play was written does not prevent us from seeing this perversion . Perhaps the silence has to do with the critics’ desire to go along with the prevailing ideology and thus support it? One could use many examples to illustrate that, for some critics, there are double standards—the standards shift so that there is no danger to the reviewer or his role in holding forth expertly on any discussion about the theatre. But such a digression would take us far from the subject at hand, to which we must now return.

The answer to the original question about being faithful to a text or arbitrary is not a simple one. Though hints may appear in this paper, there is only one certainty: theatre criticism has decided to take a stance on an issue that has been debated heatedly for a long time. The dispute is that between playwrights and directors, and it has determined developments in the twentieth century, just as the differences between playwrights and actors were heated in the nineteenth century. And not just that: there is also the desperate disappointment of any reader who sees a beloved text come to life on the stage, but does not recognise what he imagined as he read the work in his leisure time or during a sleepless night. And let us not forget that in the modern world, before we become spectators at a theatre, we are all readers—we all learn to read from a young age, before anyone has taught us how to be a member of an audience. It would be strange, therefore, if in the entire history of the theatre no one had attempted to answer this question—just as strange as being interested in the theatre and not knowing, whether or not intentionally, the different answers that have been given to this question, yet carelessly classifying stage performances as faithful or arbitrary .

Common sense accepts that the text is only one part of the complex events that constitute a performance, and one does not need the contributions of the contemporary theory of theatre [40] to be certain of one thing: that every production adds meanings to the text that appears on the stage, and, conversely, that every performance neglects meanings that exist in the text. One need not be a theatre expert or a critic to understand that we never just hear a text being recited on stage; we see one of many possible versions of a work—that specific version generated from the inspiration of the production’s creators or the special characteristics of its actors. In the same way, when we see a living room on stage, we do not see a living room, but one of the possible living rooms that might make us understand that what we are looking at on stage is a living room.[41] In this light, the commonplace observation that “Theatre is Discourse” presupposes that we understand the meaning of the word Discourse as it relates to the theatre. The issue is complex, and the naive habit of thinking of theatrical Discourse as one and the same as the text is as constricting as the naiveté that identifies any readable text with what was understood while reading it. Briefly, the famous maxim by Jacques Copeau, “There is only one way to direct a play.And that is always written into the text,” [42] does not seem to be accepted these days. Accepting it would lead us to a self-evident conclusion: the desire to create an archive of heritage productions that would be the only plays performed. Moreover, we must realise that this idea gives rise to vehement outcries that directors pervert texts, which is unacceptable to those who are aware of the following elementary fact: during the complex procedure of producing a play, the text is always changed to adapt to an endless series of problems that begin with an actor’s inability to speak a certain line and continue all the way to the particular moment that is chosen to present the work. Consequently, all of these greater or lesser alterations change the meanings the viewer receives. The need for these changes must seem obvious when the play is not considered to be of great literary value, but changes cannot be allowed in a text which, in the view of the critics, must be proclaimed a heritage text, because then every new production would reduce its great value. It would seem reasonable to discuss this in 2008 if the issue had not already been discussed as far back as 1905. In his On the Art of the Theatre , Edward Gordon Craig wrote:
…Had the plays been made to be seen, we should find them incomplete when we read them. Now, no one will say that they find Hamlet dull or incomplete when they read it, yet there are many who will feel very sorry after witnessing a performance of the play, saying, “No, that is not Shakespeare’s Hamlet .” When no further addition can be made so as to better a work of art, it can be spoken of as “finished”—it is complete. Hamlet was finished—was complete—when Shakespeare wrote the last word of his blank verse, and for us to add to it by gesture, scene, costume, or dance, is to hint that it is incomplete and needs these additions.[43]

All of these stage acts that Craig insists are necessary to play Hamlet are not in the text (a play that would undoubtedly be among the heritage texts), but must be supplied by the creators of the production. In order to perform a masterpiece like Hamlet well, we must invent additions which do not exist in the text. Though Craig’s ideas would develop throughout the twentieth century and lead viewers (both simple and expert) and critics to deal with every performance by trying to understand how the director of the play had interpreted it, it remains evident that, without additions to the text, that is, without the added meanings, a masterpiece cannot become clear, comprehensible, and enjoyable for the viewers. This interesting contradiction is in the nature of the stage event.

At this point, the issue of the stage act, or theatricality, arises. Here, we should remember the ideas of Roland Barthes: “Qu’est ce que la théâtralité?C’est le théâtre moins le texte, c’est une épaisseur de signes et de sensations qui s’édifie sur la scène à partir de l’ argument écrit, c’est cette sorte de perception œcuménique des artifices sensuels, gestes, tons, distances, substances, lumières qui submerge le texte sous la plénitude de son langage extérieur.” [44] This, finally, is what allows the viewer to enjoy a performance event. Briefly put, a performance, every performance, should not be seen exclusively in light of our pre-existing knowledge of it; should not be judged based on how it fits in with our knowledge; does not fall under the terms of right or wrong. On the contrary, our enjoyment or condemnation of a performance begins when we leave our knowledge of a text aside, to some extent, and try to understand what the performance and its creators are trying to show us. There is only one necessary condition: to accept the independent existence of what is being played out on stage as an integral work of art that relies absolutely on the stage act. This is what we are called upon to judge, not whether the creators follow our own reading of the text.This is always possible, provided that, as systematic viewers (and critics are such viewers), we have in mind the dangers that lurk if we forget that “…le fait théâtral, transcende, modifie et bouleverse ce savoir.” [45]

There is something more we must not forget: that which is a deadly sin for an academic work is frequently a source of artistic inspiration.[46] This does not mean, of course, that any performance, whether faithful or arbitrary, pleasant or unpleasant, should not always be judged with the same critical attitude.[47] The performance that is distinguished for its timidity and hesitation, for its insecure conservatism, is no different, as far as criticism is concerned, than the one that attempts a substantial or arrogantly provocative approach: that is, they are judged by the result and not by some predetermined certainty; they are judged by the internal criteria that we must ascertain from the arguments that support any performance, and not by our own external ones. Otherwise, we would have to judge criticism itself by similar external criteria.

We must not forget, however, that in order for any criticism to be valid, it must be self-critical and must be aware of another important fact. As George Steiner put it, even when there is a mask of apparent lightness, actions based on the written word always have to do with power. The control exercised by the clergy, politicians, and the law on the illiterate or semi-literate expresses this absolute, fundamental truth. The authority underlying a text, as well as the manipulation and exclusive use of the written word by the scholarly elite, is a manifestation of power.[48]

Perhaps from this point of view, we must ask not only about performances, but about the manner in which power and the language of power express themselves—that language that takes for granted that it can speak in the name of others, the public or the people. Just as the production of The Birds was forbidden in 1959 by authorities in the name of the people, so today we condemn certain productions in the name of the people, for the people. The productions that are condemned are those that question the correctness of our vi ews, that upset us because they go against the stereotypes with which authority (both good and bad) has imbued us, and which we in turn pass on to the youth. Other productions—the long, unremarkable ones that present work with which we are all too familiar, those that are timidly respectful and pseudo-intellectual, that do not offend “public opinion”—do not bother us. At such performances we do not cry out. Rather, we sleep, we point to the quality of the acting, and then we go to dinner. For the performances that do not keep in mind that the Epidaurus theatre is a “popular” theatre, regardless of whether the production is a good or bad one—that is, interesting or not—for those that do not let us enjoy our self-satisfied image of the play, for the performances that arouse us, make us question, and prod us, we jeer and cry and shout and seek who is responsible for the outrage; we talk of foreign plots and misuse of public money; we transform our inability to activate executive authority into intellectual terrorism.[49] We take the law into our own hands as the chosen of the people. Why, when all is said and done, give the theatre the right to speak to us however it wants to if it has no intention of flattering us? Why should it exist if it comes into conflict with authority?

What a strange contradiction: the theatre has always developed while in conflict with authority—all forms of authority. That is the spirit in which all innovators of world theatre have expressed themselves during all periods of the theatre’s history. In times of peace, the theatre came into conflict with intellectual authority, and in times of trouble, it came into conflict with real authority—what we call the establishment. And this is because there have always been those who do not wish the theatre to speak freely, but to speak only to them. In difficult times, they invoke the name of the “people” and “tradition,” they call upon legal arguments—regardless of their legitimacy—they call upon those who interpret the law and the executors of decisions. In times of calm, in a state of democracy where every voice, even the speech of the legal experts, is monitored for its legitimacy, things are less stormy. “Tradition” is invoked, as are the “people” and sacred cows, but fortunately for the theatre there are no repercussions, no matter how some may continue to shout inside the theatre and outside, in the press, on television, and in cafes.

Open-minded Theatregoers, the Plebeians, and the Calm Audience

It is generally accepted as insignificant, however, that the directors who raised the ire of the public were only foreign directors.[51] In general, the productions of foreigners are regarded as “heretical,” that is, “different,” and for this reason they cause reaction among Epidaurus audiences. Let us forget for a moment that it is these experimental foreigners who raise the ire of audiences, and let us try to forget how unreasonable it is today, in the twenty-first century, to react to anything different by shouting and jeering.Let us attempt to understand why some, evidently “Aristotelian,” [52] spectators, who belong to the “plebeian public,” [53] that is, “a mass theatre that is undifferentiated as to class shout and jeer.” [54] Let us simply ask ourselves if there may be those who goad the public and reveal the arbitrariness of the artists, [55] thus imposing a point of view that stresses the importance of a “tradition” which is almost an epic endeavour with its own myths.And let us try to understand why there are some who put up with such people, and if the theatregoers who are not bothered by such endeavours are really the “adulterated audiences.” [56] In a nutshell, has the time come to try to understand where we are going, and to really think about where the blind are leading us?

Other articles may have dealt with the fact that every year in Epidaurus, Greek theatregoers become dilettante Classics experts. We all recall, now distorted by time, the things we learned in junior high and high school (from an educational system that we all criticise), while our minds were on lunch period, and a hapless language teacher was forced to teach us. We recall everything we learned by rote, so that we could get our high school diplomas, so that we could go to some second-class college to get a darned degree. Over drinks with friends, after attending the theatre, full of pomposity we discuss Aristotle, analyse Aeschylus, frequently highlighting the theological element of the work that differentiates it from Euripidean innovations, the stature of the tragic hero, the shape and form of classical drama and its teachings. Everyone who goes to Epidaurus at least once a year remembers the great tradition of teachers in this field who created the so-called golden age of the National Theatre, about whom they speak with the certainty of an eye-witnesses; [57] they bemoan the illiterate and disrespectful—to the point of being anti-Greek—directors; [58] they generalise their views and link them to the broader social situation on a national and international level, and finally reveal the constant underhanded attacks of  all the enemies of Hellenism, from Fallmerayer to Kissinger to Almunia, from the Pope and the Uniates to masonry and international Zionism—that is, all those dangers that the Greek-Christian ideal has survived throughout the ages.[59]

One reaches the inescapable conclusion that it is not permitted to “twist” texts when plays are performed in Epidaurus.[60] If, of course, the plays are performed elsewhere, in any other theatre, it is open to discussion, but “not in Epidaurus.” [61] Not because the place is sacred—that is a false assertion that post-modern and naive theoreticians have constructed, and they have fallen into a trap: in Epidaurus, plays must avoid experimentation, that is, they must “respect the laws of the site, as Epidaurus is the natural place for which tragedies were written.” Thus, and given that the site is not sacred, but “sacred is the art practised there,” [62] one must seek that ritual element which is a necessary part of the performance. There is no doubt that the ritual element is “compatible” with the religious: “for anyone who has an elementary knowledge of antiquity and has read even two lines of Vernant, Nietzsche, or Renan, the following is familiar: for ancient Greeks, society and religion were inextricably linked.Therefore, the thymele [altar] to Dionysus at Epidaurus was like the altar in our own churches.” [63] This justifies the vehement reactions of certain members of the audience, who, seeing the actors in Gotscheff’s production of The Persians step on the altar and perform their roles from there, shouted for the actors to move from that spot [64] and disobey the instructions issued by the “Hainer-Mülleresque idiosyncrasy of the German-Bulgarian director.” [65]

All of the names and views that have been used up to now, in the form of quotes, have come from articles published in established Athenian dailies in the short time that followed the National Theatre’s appearance at Epidaurus, that is, between August 2 and August 20, 2009. Therefore, we must believe that they are responsible opinions; that is, they are signed by authors who take responsibility for their words and are aware of their ideological weight, gravity, aware of the responsibility they have in shaping contemporary Greek attitudes.

This leads one to wonder what hasn’t made it to the serious newspapers; that is, what has been written in the marginal or local press, what has been written on websites, and, naturally, what has been said in cafes and bars. In other words, one must wonder to what extent all these extreme statements, which bring to mind the chauvinism of extreme right-wing organisations, are written to bring readers to accept and adopt such views, or if they are written without their authors being aware of what their words mean ideologically or politically, or, even worse, if they are truly expressing the views of modern Greeks—if they truly express the real views of the chance so-called “average Greek spectator.” One must wonder if these views express the indeterminate, unknown group of people who are “undifferentiated as to class,” the group of people who attend the theatre but whose views are not heard, even though they are the majority. Perhaps this is why those who regard themselves as representatives of the “ordinary spectator,” critics or journalists writing in the name of the “simple people,” undertake to present the arguments of this large group of disenfranchised citizens. Or are they merely those who utter the first cries against the sacrilegious, and then are followed by the “people?” Who knows—those who are following may be as blind as those who are leading.

There are, of course, other spectators: those who do not become disturbed by disrespectful productions, who do not react vehemently, but applaud coolly, or warmly, or not at all. Their attitude to the texts of the plays is in line with contemporary ideas—that is, whether and how the plays can be suitable for a theatrical production, or even whether there is a greater danger in making these plays museum pieces by sticking rigidly to “tradition” than in treating them in novel ways as an attempt to approach the ancients.[66] These are the spectators who do not regard choosing a work to produce as being self-evident, but seek the internal logic, the hidden reasons behind a production, what moves a production’s creators to present it. These are the members of the audience who wonder about the repetitious, stereotypical productions, about the truth of things, about whether the dissemination of stereotypes contributes to a process of ossification, where logic bows to hyperbole, where an argument is so incoherent that it no longer has any basis in reality.[67] These are the theatregoers who see the theatre as a place in which dialogue can take place, and as a place of tolerance; they go to the theatre to try to challenge their certainties, to listen and to learn, to do what has always been the task of an audience. They constitute the “calm audience” which during a performance may change its views, which, even if it does not shout, nevertheless realizes that a performance does not come to an end in the actual building, but out there somewhere, in society.[68] These are the theatregoers who like texts that have been tinkered with, productions that have been altered in some way: they are the open-minded theatregoers.[69] They stand in stark contrast to those who “agree unconsciously with Aristotle,” and believe that, three thousand years after the ancient Greeks, there have been others to come up with ideas. They believe that not all of these ideas necessarily belong in the rubbish heap. And they do not care if the ideas they encounter were those of their ancestors, or even whose ancestors’ ideas they were.


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Note 1
This introduction is mainly taken from my paper presented in the Working Group of FIRT Theatrical Event in a meeting in June 2004 organized and hosted by
Henri Schoenmakers. See also Mavromoustakos 2008 and 2009.

Note 2
Syracuse and the INDA, see Calza 1914, Col. XIV E 19/98; Donato-Pettini 1921, Col. XIV E 19/100; Di Benedetto and Medda 1997.

Note 3
Gabriel Boissy, in an article published in the newspaper To Ethnos on 3.5.1930. He is taking his stance in the debate raging among Greek intellectuals at that time on the subject of whether the Hiketides and Prometheus Bound productions should be repeated in different surroundings. Boissy, himself a translator of Oedipus Rex , had, since the nineteenth century, been an enthusiastic supporter of the use of ancient theatres, moved by Mounet-Sully’s performance of Oedipus Rex in Orange in 1894, and expressed his views in numerous articles and in Boissy 1907 (see p. 72). See also Villiers 1977:24; Sideris 1976:404, 408.

Note 4
A debate initiated by the open-air performance of
Mounet-Sully; see Sideris 1976:35–42; Mavromoustakos 1994:43–52.

Note 5
See Iliadi, Mavromoustakos, and Theodoropoulou 1992:163–185.

Note 6
Op. cit . 168–169.

Note 7
See Kostas Gerogousopoulos, in the newspaper To Vima , July 1, 1986. The phrases by
Rondiris are from the unpublished translation of interviews he gave to Robert Michel in the U.S., March 9, May 4, and June 1, 1986.

Note 8
Neither the fact that the theatre of
Epidaurus had been constructed in the fourth century BCE, that is, a century after these texts had been written, nor the fact that there is no concrete evidence that any ancient drama was performed in Epidaurus in ancient times has ever been discussed.

Note 9
See the relevant report in the newspaper Eleftheron Vima 1, September 14, 1938.

Note 10
We should note here that, in 1937, the ‘Ancient Theatre Society’ of the University of Sorbonne (one of its founding members was
Roland Barthes) had come to Greece for a visit, and during an excursion to the Argolid the members of this student company went to see the theatre of Epidaurus. Once there, quite spontaneously and without preparation, with no music, the amateur actors performed Persai to the amazement of some villagers passing by the theatre while returning home. The account of this performance is included in Burgaud 1981. See the annals of the conference, edited by the European Cultural Center of Delphi in 1984, p. 67–83.

Note 11
It should be noted, however, that the Festival of
Epidaurus constituted the motive for a large increase in the production of performances of ancient Greek drama. Of the approximately 1000 productions that have been documented since the Foundation of the Greek State until today, over 400 were performed at the Epidaurian Theatre, and at least another 200 were produced with this particular theatre in mind.

Note 12
This part of the paper is mainly a translation of Mavromoustakos 2007. Some additions have been made for the conference “ Staging Festivity, Figurationen des Theatralen in Europa ” organized by the Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Freie Universität
Berlin, Berlin, 6–8 March 2008.

Note 13
Politis 2003:106.

Note 14
The performance had been forbidden by the authorities after it premiered in the
Herodes Atticus Theatre in Athens, and was considered infamous, distorting Aristophanes and blessing the religious feelings of the public. See the Athenian press between 30 August and 4 September 1959 where the words “Distortion” and “Blasphemy” are used in most of the titles. In 1962 the performance was attributed the greater distinction as the winner of the first prize of the Festival des Nations in Paris. Since then it has been repeated continuously (1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1997, and 2008 at a new revival at the National Grand Theatre in Beijing) in international tours of Karolos Koun group ( UK, Germany, Russia, Poland, Austria, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, and Cyprus), and in other Greek Festivals. For an interesting presentation of this performance and the whole of the aristophanic productions in modern Greece, see Van Steen 2000.

Note 15
Following its triumphant tour abroad, this production of The Birds continued to be revived until 1998, along with 1965 The Persians which—coincidence?—was also a Theatro Technis production.

Note 16
The discussion that follows should perhaps already have been written and is due to a conversation in the Elpenor Bookshop between myself and
Stefanos Pesmazoglou. What prompted the discussion was a conversation that had been organised for Greek audiences between the German director Peter Stein after the screening of the historic film version of Oresteia presented in the 1980s (the talk took place on 26 October 2003 as part of the “Cinemythology,” events organised by the Thessaloniki Film Festival in collaboration with the Goethe Institute and the European Network of Research and Documentation of Performances of Ancient Greek Drama under the aegis of the Cultural Olympiad). Two different points of view were expressed by the audience: the view of the polite members of the audience who thanked a foreign director for treating Greek texts and promoting the grandeur of Greek culture, and the other view of the “angry young men,” who were enraged that part of the text was not included in the cinematic version of the production and accused the director, on the one hand, of irreverence and those who liked the film, on the other hand, of being anti-Greek. For the record, it must be noted that more than any other director, Greek or foreign, Peter Stein is careful to consult all literary and theatre sources before treating any text, whether a classical Greek drama or not. For Stein, this whole painful process takes a long time and arises from his firm belief that an in-depth study of the text is an absolute must before one undertakes the task of directing.

Note 17
I have borrowed the phrase from Demaras 1968:263.

Note 18
Katsibardis 2005.

Note 19
“Vivliodromio” 13.14.2005, insert in Ta Nea newspaper, an interview of the star-actor
Kostas Kazakos by Georgos Sariyiannis.

Note 20
See M. Vl.: “ Όχι πειραματισμοί… ” [No Experimentation…] , Eleftherotypia , May 16, 2005.

Note 21
From statements made by performers and directors in the Paper magazine insert of the Imerisia newspaper June 24, 2006, Tribute to
Epidaurus, Ioanna Blatsou, editor. Naturally these are not the only views. The same text contains the following radical point of view about performances where the actors have happened to step on the thymele [the altar dedicated to Dionysus] of the theatre: “Do you dare step on the graves of your ancestors? Do you dare tread on the holy altar? How can you then tread on the thymele ?”

Note 22
Christides 2006. The review of this production prompted three letters of disagreement, written by important playwright
Marios Pontikas, journalist Aris Skiadopoulos, and a reader of the newspaper, Vangelis Sarakinos, in Eleftherotypia , July 7, 2006.

Note 23
In this article, the writer identifies and condemns an international conspiracy invented by
Henry Kissinger, who influenced the whole of Europe: “… in Europe there is a tremendous effort (in light of the coming unification) to prove that the foundation of European civilisation is not ancient Greece, but Jewish!! Meanwhile, they are trying to denigrate anything to do with modern Greek culture, and to present us as the uneducated bad boys of Europe … And what a coincidence (?) Mr. Matthias Langhoff is a German Jew … And for those who still have doubts, let me cite for you an excerpt from a speech by the notorious Henry Kissinger, the German Jewish doyen of American diplomacy: ‘The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: perhaps then we can force them to conform.’ … And still, no one has yet resigned from the National Theatre of Northern Greece, and the state sees nothing, and we are ready for total submission … or are we?” See Michaelides 1997.

Note 24
See indicatively Synodinou 1984. The performance was presented in a luxurious modern dancing room and the actors were dressed in black tie and official black dress.

Note 25
She played the messenger in the production.

Note 26
A study by the University of
Macedonia in Northern Greece based on a sample of university students is interesting: Is Greece the cradle of civilisation? Yes, 78.9 percent; Did all the sciences begin in Greece? Yes, 60.3 percent; Is the Greek flag the greatest? Yes, 53.6 percent; Is Greek culture better than all others? Yes, 47.4 percent.

Note 27
Among these is the condemnation by the Greek Playwrights’ Society of the production of National Theatre’s Medea directed by
Stathis Livathenos at Epidaurus in 2003.

Note 28
I borrow this expression from Georgousopoulos 2004: “The so-called cultural heritage is limited in material objects, cultural residues, surviving elements. Depending on the specialisation of its collection, a museum gathers even fragments and every-day utensils to preserve, study, and classify them. Written documents, mainly written testimonies, on the other hand, are kept in libraries and archives. Of course, corrupting them or interpreting them at will, disregarding their essence, is not allowed. Yet texts, especially these texts which require hermeneutic agency in order to communicate their meaning, are unprotected. In the last few years they have suffered the dismantling rage of postmodernism. Nevertheless, postmodernism, which began in architecture, did not alter cultural monuments (at least only rarely and not without rousing criticism and reactions).”

Note 29
On developments in modern productions of ancient Greek drama, see Fischer-Lichte and Dreyer 2007.

Note 30
The announcement by the Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office stated that, as per
Konstantinos Tsatsos’s orders, the performance of 30 August was cancelled because the work “imperfectly conceived, constitutes a distortion of the spirit of the classical text” and some scenes “offended the people’s religious feelings.” See Athens newspapers, 30 August 1959 and later. In the headlines, the most frequently used words were: blasphemy , desecration , misapprehension , perversion , distortion , etc. More recent articles published in anticipation of the play’s revival for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008: Hatzioannou 2008, Marinou 2007, and Sykka 2007.

Note 31
Coincidences are frequently amusing:
Konstantinos Tsatsos was elected President of the Hellenic Republic on 20 June 1975, and The Birds was performed in Epidaurus on 16 and 17 August 1975.

Note 32
See Georgousopoulos 2004 and 2008a.

Note 33
Kundera 2005:120, “Folio” No 4458.

Note 34
Someone has actually stated such a demand! See supra Katsibardis 2005.

Note 35
There is such a plethora, one does not know where to begin.

Note 36
And an ironic aside: At the play’s premier in
Germany in 1880, Ibsen was forced to change the ending and make it milder. This ending was written by Ibsen, no matter that he was not happy with it. Should the ending, imposed on the author and more powerful than the original one—as the newer version should logically prevail over the older one—have been used in subsequent performances? It is well known that the ending of A Doll’s House was frequently cut in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries so as not to disturb conservative audiences.

Note 37
Among the endless examples from the history of the theatre, let us recall a performance of
Gogol’s The Inspector General by Meyerhold’s theatre in 1926, or, if we wish to look to our own post-War era, let us just think of the different political meanings ascribed by audiences in the countries of existing socialism, or in Greece under the Colonels’ dictatorship, to Ionesco’s plays; meanings Ionesco himself had not imagined.

Note 38
As was the case when
Karolos Koun directed the play in 1956 for obvious political reasons.

Note 39
Brecht’s followers have often been accused of over-protecting his texts, frequently by the same freedom-of-speech advocates who seek to protect the texts of plays.

Note 40
See indicatively Lehmann 1999.

Note 41
If we do not take the above as given, we must reject those disciplines that developed to deal with problems such as, for example, theatre studies. It would mean that we were not interested in the analytical approaches of literature and linguistics, or even history as a discrete discipline. Generally, we would need to disregard any academic approach, as all wisdom is contained in aphorisms.

Note 42
Copeau 1926:421.

Note 43
Craig 1958:143.

Note 44
“It is theatre without the text, it is this depth of signs and feelings that emerges from the stage emanating from a written argument, the universal acceptance and interpretation of all the effects of the bodies, the voices, the colours, the lights, the sounds that submerge the text.” See Barthes 2002:123.

Note 45
Bernard Dort made the following statement at a discussion on theatre education organised by the Gennevilliers Theatre in autumn 1983: “Le théâtre est un savoir. Il y a un savoir du théâtre. Un savoir qu’il faut savoir. Mais en même temps le fait théâtral, transcende, modifie et bouleverse ce savoir.” Proceedings can be found in Théâtre/Public .

Note 46
Stanford 1968:1–8, based on the metamorphoses of the Homeric hero, notes that reviving Homeric characters, particularly on stage, rarely satisfies any demanding viewer. The new adventures attributed to the traditional heroes, the new qualities their creators imbue them with, are frequently felt to be a sort of rape of the original. Every time we see on stage a hero from a classical myth, whether the stage version of an ancient text, or a modern work, we are in danger of comparing the newer work with the idea we have formed in our own mind. The more that idea is backed up by the texts and on knowledge of the myth, the easier it is to reject the new, altered figure, and more difficult to accept it. This is the moment when we discover the author’s ignorance of the hero. We identify his carelessness, see his inability to capture all the hero’s dimensions, and we accuse him of dealing with the hero in a fragmented manner, for being incomplete and biased. We should not forget that ignorance, misunderstanding or carelessness, and arbitrariness, which constitute the deadly sin of any academic approach, are those elements that will allow the creative spirit of an author to imbue new values into a traditional myth.

Note 47
See indicatively the sober argument made by Demaras 1981:247–264. See further Dort 1982.

Note 48
Με όλους τους τρόπους, ακόμη και υπό το προσωπείο μιας φαινομενικής ελαφρότητας, οι πράξεις που ανασύρονται από τον γραπτό λόγο, σαν να είναι έγκλειστες μέσα σε βιβλία, αναφέρονται σε σχέσεις εξουσίας. Ο δεσποτισμός που ασκείται από τον κλήρο, την πολιτική, το νόμο πάνω στους αναλφάβητους ή τους ημιμαθείς εκφράζει αυτή την απόλυτη θεμελιώδη αλήθεια. Η εμπλοκή της ισχύος στο κείμενο, η χειραγώγηση και η αποκλειστική χρήση αυτών των κειμένων από μια αφρόκρεμα λογίων είναι ενδείξεις εξουσίας .” See Steiner 2008:14–15.

Note 49
A small digression is necessary here. The majority of performances that offend are those directed by noteworthy foreign directors. This is perhaps due to the fact that foreigners generally function “making no bones about their hatred for Classical simplicity.” (I have taken this statement from Georgousopoulos 2008b, on the set design in
Epidaurus. The reviewer suggests that sets not be used in ancient theatres, except for the strictly necessary items (thrones, altars, etc.) and goes on to say: “…the truth is that set designers, mainly foreign ones, cover the monument with monsters, making no bones…”; or perhaps this view prevails: “…a modern Greek conspiracy takes over that would have it: they’re ours (theatres, plays, etc.). If the barbarians lay a hand, we can set them alight and burn them,” as Fais 2008 writes after the outcries of part of the audience at Epidaurus after a performance of Medea directed by Anatoli Vasiliev. Naturally, the issue is much more serious than can be discussed in a footnote. For one of the many approaches to the subject of national pride and ancient drama, and the reactions of critics and the audience, see Mavromoustakos 2007a and, more fully, 2007b.

Note 51
Let us try to forget the leading actor who once said: “The sound of performances in
Epidaurus must be Greek. Whenever I’ve attended the theatre and a foreign language has been used, the sound is dissonant.” This quote by a leading man can be found in the Paper Magazine supplement of the Athens daily, Imerisia , June 24, 2006 (“Tribute to Epidaurus”, ed. I. Blatsou). Let us even try to forget Georgousopoulos 2008b, on the set design at Epidaurus: “…the truth is that set designers, mainly foreign ones, cover the monument with monsters, making no bones about their hatred for Classical simplicity…,” and let us regard as slightly more credible the writer’s more recent words: “It is a mistake to write or whisper that the audiences hoot and jeer foreign directors” (Georgousopoulos 2009:34).

Note 52
Georgousopoulos 2009: “The people who attend the performances in
Epidaurus agree unconsciously, but steadily, with Aristotle…” (34).

Note 53
Georgousopoulos 2009: “
Epidaurus is a theatre for ordinary people – it is not a place for experimentation with adulterated audiences and adulterated performances” (34).

Note 54
“It is natural that some performances bring out catcalls at
Epidaurus, because it cannot stomach everything. Its public is a mass one that is undifferentiated as to class,” from Lianis, Georgousopoulos, and Varveris 2009:20–21.

Note 55
The examples of reviews written over the last few years are very many, and for that reason I do not think it necessary to quote many. However, I believe that theatre critics must think about their reason for existing: theatre review is not an analysis of drama, but an attempt to understand the stage act. In other words, one who reads a review does not read it to comprehend what the direction would have been like if the reviewer, as the only person who truly understood the text, had directed the work, but to try to understand what the creator was trying to say to the audience.   

Note 56
Georgousopoulos 2009 n23.

Note 57
According to this point of view, only the National Theatre had a tradition that linked it to the theatre at
Epidaurus. See Lianis, Georgousopoulos, and Varveris 2009. In any case, the so-called Golden Age fell during the period between 1955 and the fall of democracy in 1967, a fact that allows us to ask ourselves how many of today’s theatregoers have memories of it.

Note 58
Out of the many names by which not just one director, but many, have been called, we could make up the following formulation: A historically/theatrically illiterate director, an idiot, a destroyer, a carpetbagger, a dullard, who hates, mocks, vulgarizes, violates, defecates on the texts, with a contemptible translation.

Note 59
We do not only hear such views in bars and cafes—such views are aired in readers’ letters to newspapers and in articles with a byline, in publications where one does not expect to see them. I wonder what the following statement means, and to what ideological position it points: “Classical Greek antiquity is subject to maniacal attacks from all over the world; it’s not just two or three sculptures, but Hellenism as a whole. And the attacks are at the roots of Hellenism,” and further down: “The coupling of Hellenism and Christianity which followed was the greatest revolution in human history, that which shaped modern European culture.” See Diamantis 2009, where the examples come from articles that followed
Dimiter Gotscheff’s production of The Persians . Anyone wishing to go further back in time can read similar viewpoints in many other publications, some of quality, others more marginal. (See, for example: Michaelides 1997 and Katsibardis 2005; in the letters to the editor page of Kathimerini , the views of theatregoers echo the views of the critics in the Athens dailies and in magazines).

Note 60
As to the accusations of twisting, debasing, ruining the text, and all other similar accusations, there is no need for specific quotes.

Note 61
Gotscheff, Vasiliev, Stuhrua e tutti quanti , artists who are admirable for all their knowledge and all they have managed to achieve, can do what they wish with classical drama wherever they want. But not with the National Theatre as an accomplice, and, naturally, not in Epidaurus.” See the letter to the editor in Kathemerini , August 3, 2009. After reminiscing about the glorious period of Aemilios Hourmouzios, the writer obliquely posits another issue: the matter of citizens having the right to demand that the National Theatre respect the taxpayer’s money.

Note 62
See the two quotes from Lianis, Georgousopoulos, and Varveris 2009.

Note 63
Yet again from Diamantis (2009), for whom reading two lines of these authors evidently constitutes proof of the highest level of education. I would add that that the link between society and religion is an element in contemporary
Greece; that is, according to Diamantis, one could conclude that the modern relationship between church and state is linked to the long history of Hellenism as it was bequeathed to us by our ancient ancestors (and I begin to suspect that Diamantis is writing to amuse his readers).

Note 64
See the reviews from the performance of Saturday, August 8, 2009. I will here need to remind the reader of a Greek director’s rhetorical question: “Do you stand on the grave of your ancestors? Do you stand on the Holy Altar? How then do you stand on the thymele ?” which was quoted in a tribute to
Epidaurus in Imerisia , June 24, 2006. Yiannis Varveris (Lianis, Georgousopoulos, and Varveri s 2009) was clearer on the subject: he used as examples of respect to the thymele both Demetris Ronteres and Karolos Koun, indicating that a respect for traditions has nothing to do with taking a fresher look at ancient drama. See also the ironic comment on these reactions in Sarigiannis 2009. Now, why the audience didn’t jeer actors who stood on the thymele in the past, we do not know. It is fortunate though, as even Alexis Minotis placed the olive tree of Colonus, by which blind Oedipus stood, on the thymele .

Note 65
In any case, in a mark of so-called “respect,” the audience applauded the actors and their work enthusiastically at both performances, but catcalls were delivered to the director. See the relevant newspaper articles.

Note 66
On this subject, see Lehmann 1999.

Note 67
On this subject, see indicatively Politis 2000.

Note 68
See Benjamin 1978.

Note 69
All those whose historical and intellectual roots lay in forms of degenerate art ( Entartete Kunst ), such as, for example, the works of
Brecht, Klee, and many others.