Greek Theatre Course Director Paul O’Mahony writes about the genesis of our new course.
When the world went into lockdown in March 2020 I was supposed to be in Mexico running workshops for BADA. Luckily for me the workshops were cancelled the day before I was due to leave, and I was spared the challenge of returning home when everything suddenly shut down. Many others were not so fortunate. Stuck at home I watched as various touring jobs which I had ahead of me were cancelled or postponed.
I felt a great need to respond creatively, so I contacted the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC
. The CHS is a Harvard-run institution promoting study of the ancient world – probably the foremost of its kind in the English-Speaking world. I have twice been a visiting artist there, researching theatre projects in 2017 and 2019. My email in March 2020 was to suggest we start an online group performing Greek tragedies every week. My intention was to create a community at a time when we were all separated, and to explore what these plays had to say about the world in which we live today. The CHS were more than willing to help, and so we launched our first episode the following week
(with Dean Eunice Roberts performing as Helen of Troy). Encouraged by the experience and the response it received, we decided to read every extant tragedy in consecutive weeks throughout 2020. 40 weeks later I had worked with 80 artists around the world to read all the tragedies, plus some comedy and poetry for good measure. Several more members of the BADA family became involved – including faculty and former students – plus academics from leading institutions worldwide. All of us were amazed by how much the plays spoke to our own real-time experiences, and how they continued to resonate with the most important issues of the day including the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, leadership, democracy, identity, citizenship and migration..
The series has had many knock-on effects for my working life, leading to collaborations with several US universities and arts organisations, and it also led to the creation of BADA’s new Greek Theatre Program.
My passion for these plays has never been fiercer than now, and I’m beyond thrilled that we’re able to offer this course. It brings together incredible people who have been part of Reading Greek Tragedy Online
, including Argyris Xafis from the National Theatre of Greece, Fiona Macintosh (the director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University), and guest speakers such as Claire Catenaccio from Georgetown and Oliver Taplin from Oxford. As well as the opportunity to learn alongside these brilliant minds – and to study and perform these extraordinary plays – there is a panoply of memories waiting to be made for students on this course.