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Reviewed by:
  • Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage ed. by Rosa Andújar and Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos
  • Trevor Boffone
Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage. Edited by Rosa Andújar and Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos. Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. Hardback $135.00, Paper $39.95. 296 pages.

When one considers classical Greek and Roman theatre, Latin America might not immediately spring to mind. After all, the Americas are geographically and temporally a world away from the likes of Aristophanes, Euripides, and Sophocles. As Rosa Andújar and Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos’s edited collection Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage reveals, however, there is far more to this relationship than meets the eye. In fact, throughout the twentieth century and well into the present, Latin American dramatists have turned to the classics to make sense of sociopolitical struggles. Highlighting the afterlife of classical Greek and Roman theatre throughout the Americas, the collection offers a critical intervention not only into studies of theatre in the Hemispheric Americas but also into studies of ancient theatre.

The book’s introduction offers a brief history of Greco-Roman classics in Latin America. At every turn, the book reiterates how Greco-Roman influence throughout Latin America is not monolithic. To demonstrate this, chapters explore how Latin American dramatists rewrite classic theatre to speak to sociopolitical issues relevant to specific communities and time periods. Authors consider how these sociopolitical issues are transhistoric and transnational, which informs how Greco-Roman drama is received in distinct eras and countries throughout the Americas. Each chapter focuses on one or two plays to underscore the playwright’s motivations and processes for engaging with ancient European myths, thus revealing how theatre-making can be a tool for social change. Although Latin America is understudied in both classical theatre studies and theatre studies writ large, case studies in Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage demonstrate how Latin American dramatists have frequently turned to the classics as sources for adaptations through which to speak to current events. The book questions how Greco-Roman dramaturgy converges with issues such as race, religion, gender, and Indigenous sovereignty in ways that are applicable to specific regions.

Greco-Roman legacies in the Americas vary “depending on the location in question and the European nation by which it was colonized” (4). As such, there is neither a singular definition of Latin American culture nor a singular Latin American method of adapting the classics. The strategies of playwrights responding to the Pinochet regime in Chile, for instance, are distinct from how dramatists on the US-Mexico border comment on the femicides in Juárez. Although these playwrights might be linked through geography (at best), each brings their specific cultural specificities and sociopolitical realities to the task of adapting classical theatre to comment on their community.

Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage is divided into three sections, each representing a different region: (1) the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay), [End Page 75] (2) Brazil, and (3) the Caribbean and North America. While each section is culturally and regionally specific, the ability of ancient theatre to speak to the present serves as a throughline. For example, in chapter 4, Irmtrud König focuses on how Juan Radrigán’s Medea Mapuche (2000) situates Euripides’s play within Chile’s Mapuche community to highlight their continued marginalization following Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Radrigán connects Chilean history with Greek drama to comment on the social exclusion of and discrimination against the Mapuche. As Radrigán posits, the play speaks to the possible revenge of peoples who have been wronged; in this case, the genocide and subsequent marginalization of the Mapuche people by the Spanish fosters a desire for revenge in the former.

In a similar vein, in chapter 9, Seth A. Jeppesen proposes that Sophocles’s Antigone is fundamental to exploring the sociopolitical upheaval in twentieth-century Brazil. Jeppesen examines Jorge Andrade’s 1958 play Pedreira das Almas (Quarry of Souls) to underscore the relationship between personal freedoms and the unchecked power of the State. Much as Antigone was in ancient Greece, Andrade’s play has come to be seen as a piece...