NEW YORK – The A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at New York University (NYU) presented a lecture by renowned director Katerina Evangelatos at NYU’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center on April 22. Entitled “Staging Greek Tragedy in the 21st Century: The Case of Euripides’ Alcestis,” the fascinating lecture was presented in collaboration with The Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History and held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in New York.
Dr. Liana Theodoratou, Director of the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU and Director of NYU in Athens, gave the welcoming remarks, thanking all those present, including Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras and Stefanos Geroulanos, Associate Professor of European Intellectual History at NYU, Director of the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and member of the Advisory Board of The Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History.
Recounting her experience directing Alcestis at the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, Evangelatos first outlined the plot for those unfamiliar with the play which she pointed out is characterized by ambiguity throughout. She noted that the play, difficult to categorize because it includes comic and tragic elements, has challenged scholars for centuries. Philoxenia is also an important theme in Alcestis while irony is also central to the piece, Evangelatos said, noting that the play is full of “bitter irony” and “Euripides’ irony is pitiless.”
Full of puzzles, the play has no solution. The comic aspects elicit laughter, but “the laughter dies on your lips, you feel you shouldn’t be laughing,” she said, adding that “it’s an odd play… a cynical, radical play.”
Having set the play in the 1960’s and 70’s during the oppressive military junta, Evangelatos noted that the costumes from the time period were used but the set was minimalist. She pointed out that taking risks is vital when presenting ancient plays since they are timeless because the truths they reveal are eternal. You have to believe in the play, Evangelatos said, adding that many contemporary elements are hidden in the text. The production at Epidaurus used Euripides’ pure text, translated into Modern Greek, she noted, never adding to it. They spent 3-4 months, 6-7 hours a day working with the actors on speech and movement and choreography.
Video from Alcestis at Epidaurus highlighted the powerful effect of the bold choices Evangelatos made in her direction of the play. She pointed out that audiences at Epidaurus can be resistant to innovative productions of ancient plays, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.
When asked what is next for her following her residency at NYU, she told The National Herald that she will direct a site specific Hamlet to be performed in Athens.
Evangelatos is an award-winning theater director and a graduate of the Hellenic National Drama School, with a MA in Theater Directing with Distinction from the famous Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS) in Moscow and from Middlesex University in London. She has directed acclaimed productions for the National Theater of Greece, the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, the Greek National Opera, the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, the Perm Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theater in Russia and the Staatstheater Augsburg in Germany. These include Euripides’ Alcestis and Rhesus, Brecht’s Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (The Good Person of Szechuan), Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, Goethe’s Faust, Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Der goldene Drache and Idomeneus, Ivan Vyrypaev’s Illusions, Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, Buchner’s Woyzeck, and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.
Evangelatos will be in residence at the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU April 15-May 2, generously supported by the Office of the Provost.