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SYLLECTA CLASSICA 19 (2008): 255-269 WILL ACT FOR CHANGE? PUTTING THE HISTORY BACK INTO PERFORMANCE HISTORY GONDA VAN STEEN, RESPONDENT The classics can console. But not enough. (Derek Walcott, Sea Grapes) It is an honor to be asked to respond to a set of thought-provoking articles on the subject of “Performing Ideology,” and thus to make a small contribution to the hard work that has gone into collecting, presenting, revising, and editing these papers. My gratitude goes to all of those who played a formative role in the long and intense process of producing this issue, and also to the many participants in the APA/CAMP Three-Year Colloquium, “Performing Ideology: Classicism, Modernity, and Social Context,” who helped to shape the panels through their participation, questions, and reactions. The theme of the colloquium’s first panel, “Classical Drama as Political Drama,” made “performing ideology” specific. Clearly, the theme was not set up to be a simple definition, nor was it intended as an equation, of classical drama being political drama. Rather, it was a suggestion meant to invite multiple responses. The selected panelists have delivered just that: multiplicity, from Aeschylus to Theodorakis, from Hecuba to Lysistrata, and from the crowded London playhouse to the overcrowded American big house. Without entering into a particularly detailed discussion of the diverse articles, let me add a mere few points for further inquiry. POLITICS OF THE SIXTIES – POLITICAL ANTIGONES AND OTHER TRAGIC HEROINES What is political drama? What does it mean to “perform ideology?” Thisiscertainlynottherightplacetoproduce—inevitablyinept—definitions 256 SYLLECTA CLASSICA 19 (2008) or characterizations. But allow me to draw some inferences from these and other recent studies and books, in which the choices may speak for themselves. An excellent starting point may be, for one, Dionysus Since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium, edited by Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh, and Amanda Wrigley (2004), a volume that has also been singled out by some of the contributors to this issue. Hall states in her introduction to this volume: This reawakening [of interest in Greek tragedy] was just one result of the seismic political and cultural shifts marking the end of the 1960s. Greek tragedy began to be performed on a quantitatively far greater scale, from more radical political perspectives, and in more adventurous performance styles than it had been before (2004, 1). Many academics see a committed return to classical theater and also a boom in politicized productions in the 1960s, or at the height of the Cold War—dare I say, the decade in which most of them were “political” themselves? The will or desire, then, to read classical drama as political drama seems to start in contemporary academics’ lifetime (give or take a few decades). Helene Foley and Erin Mee recently announced a new edited volume, titled Mobilizing “Antigone” on the Contemporary World Stage (Oxford, forthcoming 2010). This much-anticipated book will cover diverse aspects of the reception history of the (mainly) political Antigone—but starting with adaptations and productions from WWII onward.1 Going back to the mid-1940s-1960s procures excellent opportunities to call, for instance, the Antigone of Jean Anouilh a landmark of political drama. The play was first performed in Nazi-occupied Paris on 4 February 1944, and went on to a long, successful run. Anouilh’s is thus the first political Antigone from living memory and the precursor of many more. Here, the heroine as the anti-Nazi Resistance fighter made her first appearance–but more about her character shortly. Personally, I must have been just one of many western Europeans to study Anouilh’s Antigone in school in my impressionable youth, to learn French by read1 For a similar temporal breakdown of ancient drama cum modern politics, see Dillon and Wilmer (2005); Goff and M. Simpson (2007); McDonald and Walton (2002); McDonald (2003). Recent politics in ancient drama are covered by Rehm (2003); Sarkissian and Sipova (2007). VAN STEEN: HISTORY IN PERFORMANCE HISTORY 257 ing this Antigone, and thus to have it instilled in me that classical drama was and is political—all of that before I learned that classical drama could very well be “apolitical,” or at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5157
Print ISSN
1040-3612
Pages
pp. 255-269
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2021
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