Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece

altProfessor Gonda Van Steen from the University of Florida will give a very interesting lecture entitled Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece, on Wednesday 1 July, at the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture. This is a special lecture of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne.

Professor Gonda Van Steen studies the treatment of Aristophanes’ comedies in Greece of the past two centuries. Of course, the playwright is notorious for his bold political and sexual humour, which is why it took so much longer for his work (a total of eleven comedies) to be rediscovered in modern Greece. While classical tragedy served the purposes of post-revolutionary nation-building, Aristophanes’ comedies seemed to detract from that ideal.

For decades, his plays were reduced to reading plays only; the first productions were not staged until 1868. After that, however, and aided by the Demoticist movement, Aristophanes’ comedies were rapidly rediscovered. By the early twentieth century his bold “women’s plays” were all the rage.

By the 1930s, Karolos Koun was rediscovering Aristophanes’ comedies with a small group of Athens College students. Among them was a later pioneer in Aristophanic productions, who staged his plays with the Greek National Theater from the mid-1950s on: Alexis Solomos.

Nobody foresaw the nation-wide scandal, though, that Koun’s 1959 production of Aristophanes’ Birds would cause. Setbacks and acts of censorship continued to affect the Greek revival of Aristophanes until the mid-1970s. Since then, however, “everything goes” and many theater companies have used (and at times abused) Aristophanes to launch themselves onto the active but very competitive Athenian theater scene.

Professor Gonda Van Steen holds the Cassas Chair in Greek Studies at the University of Florida. She is the author of four books: Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece (2000); Liberating Hellenism from the Ottoman Empire (2010); Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands (2011); and Stage of Emergency: Theater and Public Performance under the Greek Military Dictatorship of 1967-1974 (2015).

The Greek Community of Melbourne and the organising Committee of the Seminars wish to thank the sponsors of the lecture: Mr George Kapnias and Mr Nikos Dimopoulos

When: Wednesday, 1 July, 7.00pm
Where: Greek Centre, Mezzanine Level, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Language: English Entry: Free