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Dionysia's Great Greeks

Dionysia 2011, the signature annual event from the Center for Creative Work (CCW), begins on Friday, April 8th and features Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

Following the success of Dionysia 2010 last March, which brought almost 600 people to campus, this year’s celebration features many of the same events: an Ekphrastic art show, a pre-show Agora, and a special rooftop performance at Khon’s in Midtown.

With this year’s production of Agamemnon joining previous years’ productions of Euripides’ The Children of Herakles and Sophocles’ Electra, CCW has now produced a surviving play from each of the three great Greek tragedians. As in previous years, this year’s play features a fresh translation made by Honors professor John Harvey, director of the Center for Creative Work. The result is something even more violent and shocking than your normal translation.

“Even when we had our first cast reading, just reading the words off the page for the first time, it was absolutely invigorating,” said Jana Trojanowski, the stage manager. 

Students, parents, friends, and alumni are invited to share food and drink during Friday’s pre-show Agora, which is modeled on the Dionysiac festivities of ancient Athens. Like the Athenians, attendees join in a procession from the Honors Commons to the Wortham Theatre for Friday’s show. 

“Alumni can see how the Honors College has evolved into a dynamic creator and promoter of the arts,” said Dr. John Harvey. “Alumni can also witness how the Human Situation has created a full experience—from reading a Greek tragedy in the fall to enjoying not only one but three performances based on that tragedy in the spring.”

In addition to Agamemnon, this year’s Dionysia includes two other productions influenced and inspired by CCW’s production. Brandy Holmes presented Yes, Cassandra at the Interstate Fringe Festival in New Orleans on March 18-19, and Divergence Music & Arts will produce a world-premier opera dance theater production called Klytemnestra: The Original Subversive Female. Both Holmes and Misha Penton (Divergence Vocal Theater’s artistic director) expand on their Agamemnon roles (Kasandra and Klytaimestra, respectively) in the productions they’ve created. Said Holmes, “It’s a different cut, but from the same cow.” 

Through the Dionysia, Honors students bring their knowledge of the Greeks to the larger community. “For most humans on the planet, seeing a Greek tragedy is rare,” Dr. Harvey said. “But for Honors College students and alumni, it’s the norm.” Holmes concurred: “The Honors College students have thrown themselves into this process in ways some professionals are too scared to try. Beyond the fact of their vast knowledge of Greek literature, this kind of work requires a certain level of emotional awareness in order to make bold choices. They’ve really stepped up to the plate.”