Anne Beck: The Greek Play- Still Relevant After All These Years?

Feb 28, 2018 by

An Interview with Anne Beck: The Greek Play- Still Relevant After All These Years?

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Anne, why are the Greek plays still relevant after all these centuries?

I think because of the big themes found in Greek drama. In Sophocles’ Antigone as in Oedipus the King, the play explores the idea that immorality is corrosive, that it bleeds and can infect all. In a sense one sees there is no individual pathology, but one that is shared by all of society. Also, the play underscores the division between human law and divine law; though human beings are great,they are not infallible. And the laws of the divine are often inscrutable. This does not mean to throw up one’s hands and give up, but to try and do what one can to the best of one’s abilities and talents. And yet with humility,accepting that one is not infallible. The infallibility of human beings is a major theme.

2) What are some of the challenges of performing a Greek play in this day and age?

Well, I think it can be off-putting for an audience to think about these things; the entertainment though beguiling, is not light. And because the plays are in verse they take a bit of effort to enjoy and to comprehend.

3) What lessons do you see in say the play Antigone, that are salient today ?

The need to listen, compromise, and to be able to change one’s mind. Though Creon in the play has many good points to defend his position, his motivation is personal. He cannot compromise because he refuses to give up his power despite the fact those he loves attempt to change his mind.

4) Your performers- what concerns do they have in terms of performing one of the characters?

I think [and they are right] they worry about the character being too remote from themselves. PS—I will ask them. This is a good question.

5) Do you change the language to make it more understandable for contemporary audiences?

No. I have made a few cuts to some of the choral odes because the allusions were too obscure but I didn’t change the language.

6) In terms of a Greek play as opposed to a Neil Simon play- what are the concerns and challenges?

Challenge: to keep it entertaining! We have a chorus that speak in unison and move lyrically. That helps. The play Antigone is short; we perform without an intermission. The play runs just over an hour: 63 minutes. Also, there are 15 actors; over 26 scenes—lots of exits and entrances that helps keep the pace swift; and the style is “Greek” that is chitons; sandals; tunics; woven head pieces, etc.

7) What is a typical audience reaction to a Greek play as opposed to say, a musical ?

Quiet! Though there are some laughs early on with the character of the Watchman, the reaction is more of listening and watching and thinking.

8) Why in your mind is it important to keep the Greek plays alive and continue to perform them?

Well, it is a true celebration of what the theatre can do: the theatre is about actor and audience; Greek drama strips things down to those basic ingredients.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

Our production includes 6 freshmen and 1 international student from Spain. It is so neat to see their freshness on stage. Our production of Antigone opens Thurs. March 1, 7pm and runs Fri. and Sat. March 2 and 3, 7pm; Sun. March 4, 2pm.

Thank you for asking me these questions. Please get back to me if anything is unclear or confusing.

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