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Culture

Shakespeare’s Greek Connections

April 23rd marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. The immortal Bard wrote some of the most remarkable works in the English language. His enduring legacy is alive and well in the words and phrases he invented that have become a part of everyday speech.

On the surface, it may appear that Shakespeare has no connection with Greece or the Greek language, though Greek and Latin were part of the young Shakespeare’s school curriculum.

He had “small Latin and less Greek,” wrote his friend the poet Ben Jonson in the introduction to the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare’s work compiled after his death. It was Shakespeare who gave us the sometimes exasperating (for Greek speakers) phrase “It’s all Greek to me.”

Shakespeare’s birthday April 23, is also St. George’s Day, and St. George is the patron saint of Greece, and England, too. Shakespeare, an incredibly well-read if not very well-educated man, found inspiration in classical Greece, Greek names and drama.

Recent scholarship suggests that he knew much more Greek than Jonson suggested. He set three of his plays in Athens, Timon of Athens, Two Noble Kinsmen, and the often revived A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will be produced by Demetri Kofinas, Executive Director of Offline Productions, and directed by Alexis Confer this June.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most recent Shakespeare adaptation by the team that produced an entertaining production of Twelfth Night in November 2015. The company’s dedication to producing classic plays updated with modern and experimental theatre elements is quickly building the reputation of Offline as a noteworthy off-Broadway theatre company.

The cast and company of multidisciplinary talents, actors, musicians, comedians, have made Shakespeare accessible to all with their interactive shows. Kofinas’ father hails from Thessaly and his mother from Evia, and though his family moved around a lot when he was a child, Greece has always been home for him.

When asked why the company has done three Shakespeare productions in a row, Kofinas said, “His works tell us a great deal about who we are at our core. The same is true of the Greek poets and tragedians. They were giants of humanity.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is scheduled to open on June 9 running through June 26 at the historic Theatre 80 at St. Mark’s in New York’s East Village. Ticket purchasing instructions and more information are available on the Offline Productions website.

The fanciful play is about to go into rehearsals with a strong cast and another Greek connection, acting and voice teacher, Judy Hages. Kofinas and two of the cast members studied under the master teacher who has over 35 years of experience training actors and singers.

Born in the United States to Cretan parents, Hages began performing from childhood. As Judy Zabetakis, she was listed in the early 1970s in the publication Outstanding Young Women in America.

Since then, Hages has trained numerous performers, including Kofinas and two of the performers in the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kelsey Usher, who plays Mustardseed, and musician Dan Summers.

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