Another 'Night of the Living Dead Languages' is being put on ... this time at UC Davis:
The Classical Studies Association of UC Davis will resurrect the Greek and Latin languages Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Winters Community Center.
In Dramatic Antiquity: An Evening of Classical Theatre, 20 students studying classical civilization will perform scenes chosen from tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides in Greek, and scenes from comedians Seneca and Lucian in Latin. Also, students will recite chosen works from Roman poets Ovid, Horace and Catullus.
The students are quick to note that the plays are relevant, even if most were written over 2,000 years ago.
"We deal with all these issues today," said director Joel Renter, a junior majoring in classic civilization. "They are timeless. That's what makes them classic."
According to the students involved, the ancient works resonate more than modern artwork because of their pathos and truth. Unlike most movies, there are no villains in Greek tragedy. Every character acts with the belief that what he or she is doing is the best action.
"The ancient Greeks and Romans were really exploring man's condition," Renter said. "Now, oftentimes theatre and movies are set up for performance, spectacle or shock-value."
Although the comedy pieces were written millennia ago, they will not be without humor. Senior classical civilization majors Grianne Grant and Kyle Felder perform a scene from Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead in which Hermes, the messenger god, tries to tax Charon, the boatman who ferries the dead in the underworld.
"Lucian is absolutely funny; it could have been written last week," Grant said. "Two things have been funny throughout history - death and taxes."
Theater companies rarely reproduce classical works in their original languages and with original set designs and costumes. As little of the actual action happens onstage, the language must carry the drama.
Greek tragedy was written in poetry, and performing the works in the original language allows the audience to hear the tone and rhythm, which cannot come through in the English translations.
Whether or not they understand a word of Greek or Latin, the audience members experience the same action as the Greek audience. Also, the audience may read the supertitles to follow the speech.
Grant said that bringing the works to life, rather than analyzing them in a classroom, has been one of the best parts of the production. But flooring the crowds of professors and students at the CSA conference, who had never before seen anything like this performance but knew the works verbatim, has been the best part for Grant. [California Aggie]