Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group
Minor Latham Playhouse, April 2, 2015 (Run April 2-5, 2015)
Director/Choreographer – Rachel Herzog
Composer/Piano – Samuel Humphreys
Violin – Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt
Producers – Isabel Farias Velasco
Stage Managers – Maria Dimitropoulos
Assistant Stage Manager – Kelly Powers
Lighting Design – Elizabeth Schweitzer
Costume Design – Rachel Katz
Makeup Design – Kerry Joyce
Makeup Assistants – Kay Gabriel
Translation and Supertitles – Carina de Klerk
Poster Design – Lauren Green
Faculty Advisor – Helene Foley
Hermes – Eli Aizikowitz
Ion – Caleb Simone
Creusa – Elizabeth Heintges
Xuthus – Yujhán Claros
Old Man – Vikram Kumar
Messenger – Kay Gabriel
Prophetess – Simone Oppen
Athena – Victoria Schmidt-Scheuber
Chorus – Anna Conser, Elizabeth McNamara, Lina Nania, Nathan Levine, Verity Walsh
Dance Soloist – Chloe Hawkey
Even if the performances of the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group were half as good as they are, we’d have to be grateful to them for even attempting to perfom ancient theater in the original language as something more than an academic exercise. Since 1977, the Matthew Alan Kramer Fund has enabled Barnard and Columbia students to offer these productions with some resources for costumes, sets, etc., but the essential ingredient in their success (they usually sell out) is the passionate dedication and hard work of all involved—above all the student actors, who often rise to a level far beyond what we normally expect from even the most serious efforts of colleges and universities. Beyond youthful energy and enthusiasm, an impressive concentration of solid Greek, close, intelligent study of Euripides and his text, and, above all, theatrical talent brought this rarely performed—rarely even read—masterpiece to life.
Scholars of antiquity established a handful from hundreds of plays that were thought essential in the education of a Hellene, reducing Aeschylus’ and Sophocles’ oeuvre to seven, and Euripides’ to ten. Ever the maverick, even long after his demise, Euripides managed to slip in another eight or nine plays we know from Renaissance manuscripts which include one volume of a complete edition of his ninety-two to ninety-five plays, in alphabetical order. It is to this that we owe our text of Ion.
Ion has a place in Euripides’ work somewhat like Troilus and Cressida in Shakespeare’s—not totally obscure, but still hardly a household concept like Hamlet or Medea. The play doesn’t fit the Aristotelian mold of tragedy, and scholars have found that confusing, resorting to classifying it as a comedy,1 semi-comedy or a romance, like Euripides’ Helen, which dates from around the same point in his career. Our appreciation of Ion has grown considerably since the mid-twentieth century, because of the more open, relativistic, anti-canonical taste which his arisen over the past generation and because of a growth of scholarly interest in the body of local Attic myth that lies behind its subject—not because of a renaissance on the stage. Helene Foley, Professor of Greek at Barnard (Faculty advisor to the Ancient Drama Group) in her Sather Lectures, Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage, mentions only one straight production of Ion, by the Shakespeare Theare Company of Washington, DC in the spring of 2009.2 I once studied the play closely, drawn by its Romantic qualities: Euripides’ splendid lyrics and his evocation of remote antiquity and a primeval landscape, as well as the complex, layered web of irony which permeated Euripides’ treatment of patriotic Athenian myth. I was not the only one to see this irony everywhere and to draw the conclusion that Ion is a profoundly pessimistic play—not an unreasonable point of view for a time when the Vietnam War was not so far in the past. Today—although the condition of the United States and the world hardly inspires optimism—I see the play differently, after seeing it so touchingly performed.
Little in my previous study of the Ion prepared me for the moving family drama I saw on the Minor Latham stage. Everybody knows that trauma and rape are very much on students’ minds these days (giving occasion to a rather different kind of performance on the Columbia/Barnard campus), but, far from inspiring any content “read in” to the play, these issues and the feelings they arouse only enhanced themes that Euripides stressed in his view of the mixed human and divine family of ancient Greece. Apart from that, it is astonishing how simple and basic are the circumstances that create unhappiness for humans. The story begins with a childless couple—a lamentable, if not tragic situation for Greeks ancient and modern—and a youth who does not know who his parents are—also a painful situation, greatly compromising a person’s social status. Ion is a temple servant, a slave, but the slave of the great god Apollo, whom he reveres. He can find some consolation in his humble position, even without the social standing which would have been given him by even undistiguished parents. He is protected. In fact, quality of family is very much on his mind, causing him severe anxiety, both in the potential of his being low-born, as the illegimate product of a fling with a slave girl, and in its reality, as his supposed father, Xuthus, a foreign visitor to Athens who married the king’s daughter, delves into his past to explain Ion’s existence, previously unknown to him. Rachel Herzog’s direction and her actors were extraordinarily effective in conveying the unhappiness of Xuthus and Creusa and the bittersweet situation of Ion, as well as their seeking state of mind as lost souls. They are indeed lost and in suspension.
Xuthus and Creusa, the daughter of Erechtheus, the son of the earth-born founder of the dynasty, Cecrops, are at an impasse as far as continuing the line. While Ion is intimately bound to Apollo’s temple, they can approach the god only as postulants seeking a solution through the obscure prophecy of the Pythia, Apollo’s earthly voice. Hermes, who speaks the introduction, has already told us about Creusa’s rape by Apollo—a violent one—her concealment of it, and her exposure of the child in the cave where the god had inseminated her. She did not know that Apollo had told Hermes to bring the child to Delphi, where he would protect him.
From the beginning, the story unfolds as a concatenation of deceptions, delusions, and false conclusions, and at the end, one of the characters, Xuthus, is as misinformed as he was at the beginning—a deceived husband. The one instance when people speak the truth almost leads to disaster, that is, when the chorus of Creusa’s women servants ignore Xuthus’ death threat and tell her his interpretation of the Pythia’s oracle and what he intends to do about it. He has misunderstood the Pythia’s statement that the first person he sees on leaving her will be his son—but by gift, Apollo’s gift, not by his own seed. Upon hearing this, Creusa believes that she will be sidelined by Xuthus’ bastard and takes measures to protect herself, advised and abetted by a knavish servant who had tutored her father and is especially conscious of the family’s distinction and racial purity. She plans to have the servant put poison in the ritual wine that Xuthus and Ion will drink at the sacrifice celebrating his finding, but Apollo prevents this. Xuthus is about to kill Creusa and all her servants, but she claims sanctuary. Ion finds her and is about to kill her, but the truth comes out in an elaborate recognition scene—a very moving one, as played here. Following Athena’s confirmation of their relationship, Creusa and Ion accept each other as son and mother, and the future of Athens’ royalty and their descendants through Ion—the Ionians—is settled. The foreigner Xuthus, however, will be left under the delusion that Ion is his natural son, as he believed at first, lest he resort to any of the desperate acts impulsively set in motion by Creusa. The happy ending, based on divine revelation of the truth, is made fact by the expediency of Xuthus’ deception—a disquieting happy ending, but, at the performance, I responded happily to the denouement. I was convinced by the scene and rejoiced that the appealing mother and son did not kill each other and—less enthusiastically—that the legitimacy of the Athenian kings would expand over to Asia Minor through the descendants of Ion. Well before the time of the play’s production between 415 and 410 BC, at least some Greeks doubted the truth of this.
An elaborate plot this—one, it seems, Euripides invented out of meager scraps of Attic tradition. The political messages, the myth of the primordial Athenian kings, and the legitimacy they imparted to their subjects down the ages, as well as their hegemony, founded on blood relation, over the Ionians are primary, but the family situation, the relationships among Ion, Creusa, and Apollo are the human (“anthropotheistic,” in fact, for Euripides’ audience) form the material of which the drama is made. And this is what we respond to today, whether we are a student at Barnard or Columbia or a middle-aged male critic from further down the island. In emphasizing that, Rachel Herzog made a decision both savvy and sound. It was reinforced by some intelligently considered cuts, necessary to bring the play down to an audience-friendly ninety minutes, but she could have achieved the same emphases without any cuts—which is to say that her interpretation remained true to the text.
As presented here, the drama revolves around family issues: the desolation of childlessness, the anonymity (or lack of personhood) of growing up as a slave without a family, a possibly barren wife’s terror of her loss of security at the appearance of an illegitimate son and heir to the throne, the affinity between a threatened woman’s behavior and that of slaves, and the function of legitimacy and inheritance in the Athenian royal family’s establishment of the Attic people’s right to their land and eventually, through Ion, of the Ionian coastal cities of Asia Minor. This may strike you as a rather strange belief to come from Athens, the cradle of democracy, and in this production it seems convincing—largely because Elizabeth Heintges’ Creusa is such an appealing and sympathetic figure. The actress’s own particular sympathy for the character and her particular charisma wins us over to Creusa’ interests. We see her as an intelligent, honest woman of good breeding (the very best), apparent in her discreet costume, which blended ancient and modern signifiers of dress. (I couldn’t help remembering my esteemed teacher Emily Vermeule’s comment on the Attic Kore statues: “That’s what Athenian daddies set up for their daughters’ coming out.”) It is easy to forgive this Creusa for her murderous episode, encouraged by misinformation from the Old Man, but beyond that, it sets in a particularly interesting and challenging light. To cast her in a more negative light would be to take an easy solution to Creusa’s psychological makeup.
But back to that question of the early kings of Attica as the personifications of racial purity… This is an extremely unattractive notion to us today, and our distaste for it can stand in the way of understanding just what autochthony conjured up in the minds of late fifth-century Athenians—not that it anyone should take it as one of their more valuable contributions to western civilization. While Athenian culture had from Peisistratus through Pericles leant in the direction of the Olympian gods and other Panhellenic monuments like the Homeric epics—if Aeschylus and Sophocles are any indication—strange, seemingly primitive, traditions surfaced as the Peloponnesian War rolled on through its later episodes. There was an ancient belief that the Athenians were the only Greeks who, racially pure as autochthons, had never migrated from some other land, that they alone among the Greeks had an absolutely legitimate right to their land—and, according to Euripides, by descendance, through Ion, to the Ionians. These myths, of little interest outside of cult, as far as we know, to the Athenians during the ascendancy of their empire, enjoyed a renaissance in its decline, that is, during the 420s BC. (I can’t help drawing a parallel between that and some Americans’ obession with evangelical fundamentalism in the current decline of their country.) Over the course of this protracted war, there was a atmosphere conducive to jingoism and greed, as Thucydides tells us, while Aristophanes and Euripides express the Athenians’ malaise.
The basic story is that the first Athenian King, Cecrops, emerged from the earth of Attica, with a human torso and a serpentine lower body. Similar origins were ascribed to his successors, Erichthonios and Erechtheus. These kings were called authochthones, born from the land itself. In Ion Euripides describes artworks, the identifiers of Ion, ancient artefacts in the eyes of his audience, which may well have been the main way in which the knowledge of the authochthonous heroes of Attica was preserved. But no fundamentalism for the Athenians! When, in the last quarter of the Fifth Century BC, the time came for a renewal of interest, the sophists appropriated the topic, and the issues of authochthony and the early history of Athens emerged in a highly rationalized form. Euripides had already staged the subject in 424 BC in his Erechtheus, but by the time of the Ion, Athens’ imperial power and moral authority had declined to a nadir. The oligarchic coups were imminent; it is even possible the play was produced under the Four Hundred. Ion is, on the surface, a patriotic play, as the production shows, but with a critical difference. Euripides’ imaginative recreation of early times, the wonder of Delphi, and the marvels of primitive local myth, is entrancing, but when one realizes that the oracle had been hostile to Athens during the wars, Euripides’ vision of Delphi and the problematic role of Apollo in the play create a complex set of issues. Apollo’s rape of Creusa is viewed negatively in general by the characters. The Old Man, as questionable as his judgment is, proposes burning his temple. When Apollo finally intervenes, he avoids appearing himself, “lest the blame of earlier events come in the middle,” and Athena appears in his place to speak for him.
In the play, as George Walsh has observed,3 gegenes (“earth-born”.) is equivalent to eugenes (“well-born”), and, as I have said, eugeneia is a matter of deep concern—even obsession, in Ion’s case—to the characters in the play. Euripides had a political message for his fellow-citizens. This fits most convincingly, I believe, into the context of the revolt of Athens’ Ionian allies beginning in 412 B.C. This was a sporadic rebellion, in which particular Ionian cities adopted different policies at different times, depending on the presence of Athenian, Spartan, or Persian fleets in their area, established attitudes towards Athens, the ascendancy of a particular faction within the city, and monetary advantage. 4 Euripides could have written at any stage of the revolt, as advice to Athenians to treat the Ionians as kin and to the Ionians to view the Athenians, less as ruthless oppressors and more as an older line of ancestry, from which they are descended. There is undeniably a substantial element of propaganda in the play, especially towards the Ionians in the audience, whoever deftly Euripides undercut it. It is unlikely that the play would have carried much weight with these Ionians, who would have been more concerned with the practical dilemmas confronting them, but, as an attempt to bring the question of loyalty to Athens away from expediency into the realm of myth, piety, and eugeneia, the Ion represents a serious effort to claim the moral high ground for Athens. It also supported the liberalization of citizenship, another issue that was in the air. The play’s patriotic finale would have sugar-coated the message for Athenians and helped the playwright in winning the favor of the audience. One thinks of Shostakovich and the Soviet authorities. None of this undermines the power of the play to move us on a human level, as the Barnard production showed with such power.
This politically inspired mythology encases the situation of Creusa and the son she has abandoned and found again. Apollo has used her to his own ends, and these ends save her and her son, securing that odd Euripidean “happy ending.” Apollo’s will intended Ion to be the ancestor of the Ionians. Human understanding cannot comprehend it, much less effect a salutary denouement through individual or collective will. The deception of Xuthus is as essential to the divine plan as the revelation of the truth to Creusa and Ion. Euripides’ human world, even when things work out for the good—which seems to be at least one level of the play’s import—works on compromise and expediency, with some people in the light and some in the dark…but the mother did not kill her son, thanks to his divine father’s intervention, and the son did not kill his mother. They reconcile and can look forward to a common future together. Although its true nature will remain as much a secret to Xuthus, as the descent of the Ionians was to Euripides’ contemporaries, authochthonous succession will establish a blood bond between Athenians and Ionians. Euripides may have offered this notion in a critical spirit, but the survival of two sympathetic characters, at least as portrayed at Barnard, may have sufficed to incline the audience to suspend disbelief.
Rachel Herzog and her collaborators were surely right to exercise this mild shifting of priorities of detail (not spirit, since Euripides stresses that family relationships are the foundation of the cohesion and identity of a people), which by no means obscures the full range of issues explored in the play, since it was necessary to involve a modern American audience—even one with a strong contingent of scholars among them. The Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group are not interested in going through an academically beneficial exercise. Their goal is to produce ancient drama as real theater. Hence, a thorough, intelligent study of the Greek text and excellent Erasmian diction—both very much in evidence—were not enough. Some impressive theatrical talents joined together to create the all-absorbing illusion that can take hold of us in a successful production. I have heard that the collaboration within the Group went beyond the tasks or roles billed in the program—including faculty Advisor Helene Foley and, among others, Victoria Schmidt-Scheuber, who appeared on stage as Athena—but it seems reasonable enough to direct one’s admiration toward Rachel Herzog, a Barnard senior classicist, whose directorial contribution began with the creation of an acting text. The cuts she chose, although considerable, were thoughtfully and intelligently pondered, letting the main thrust and themes come through, as if the excisions were much less extensive. This in itself was a model of balance and understanding. The high quality of the individual performances vouched not only for the singular gifts of the actors, but for Herzog’s ability to bring out the best from a range of differing levels of experience, if not theatrical flair. (quite a few of the participants had worked on last year’s splendid Choephoroi.) Add to this her experience as a dancer and choreographer, which led her to introduce a single dancer, Chloe Hawkey, as a silent leader of the chorus and occasional lone witness and silent commentator through movement. Ms. Hawkey’s elegant mastery of her limbs was self-evident, but Herzog’s direction put her consistently in the right place at the right time and assured that her dances were consistently germane and expressive. Ms. Hawkey is tall and large-boned, and she used this to great advantage in conveying the gravity of her role through a certain natural monumentality.
One special feat in translating the fruits of scholarship into compelling theater has to do with Greek piety and religion. In the play it is vividly clear that Delphi attracted tourists in ancient times as much as it does today. More often than not, these were pious tourists who have come in quest of an oracle or to thank Apollo for a helpful solution to some past dilemma. As when the faithful visit the Vatican today, visitors experienced a mixture of awe at the beauty of the site, the buildings, and the art—much of it donated by grateful visitors—and a different kind of awe sprung from devotion to an especially prestigious divinity. Euripides excelled himself in scene-setting, atmosphere, and in expressing this mixture of feelings in the visitors. He also ironizes Apollo and the seat of his cult, when we learn that so much of Ion’s daily life is occupied with cleaning bird-droppings off the grand monuments and in chasing the flocks away. From Xuthus we also learn that a male visitor’s experience might include a bender and a tumble with a prostitute. Apollo was not among the more established Olympians at Athens, and the city had had its share of conflicts with the oracle over the course of the Peloponnesian War. In general Attic tragedy is not kind to oracles and prophets. Scepticism and piety are likely to have balanced each other out in the minds of Euripides’ audience. This all came across perfectly under Herzog’s direction—a telling sign of the serious study and lively imagination that went into this production.
What drew the audience deeply into the marrow of the action, however, were the two extraordinary performances by Elizabeth Heintges as Creusa and Caleb Simone, a first-year graduate student in Classics at Columbia, as Ion. Simone was able to project Ion’s naive trust in Apollo and expectation of correct morals among humans, as well as his divine protector. He won our sympathy by showing us Ion’s vulnerability and making us see the young man’s undeniable priggishness in that light. Moral values fly in and out of his grasp like straw in a high wind. We can only sympathize, even when he pronounces a judgment on his mother which few in the Barnard audience, I’m sure, would want any human to exercise on another. In creating his character, Simone showed a canny sense of posture, body language, and movement, as well as a fine psychological sense. There was a poignant feeling of incompletion about this Ion, not only because of his youth and his protected existence as a temple slave, but because of two factors affecting his life: while we moderns feel the psychological effect of growing up without knowing one’s parents, the ancient Greeks would have responded strongly to his external disadvantages.
Euripides’ characters are famously fraught with contradictions—surely one of the most compelling reasons we find his plays so fascinating today—and few would dispute that this reaches a peak in his leading women. His insight and his art in characters like Medea, Elektra—and Creusa have kept generations absorbed in his human material and have been electric in provoking arguments. The Athenian queen, childless as she is and haunted by her memories of her rape by Apollo and its aftermath, is as incomplete as her slave son. They will eventually make each other whole, but only after almost murdering one another. Creusa is of the finest breeding imaginable, but, during the course of the action, her security crumbles, as she imagines herself as the childless wife in a household now dominated by her husband’s illegitimate son. In this she is reduced to a nullity as a woman. Her emotionality—a female trait for Euripides and his contemporaries—makes her susceptible to bad advice, and she allows herself to be influenced and conspires with a slave. At this point the queen is entirely at home with slavish thinking. We have already heard about how she concealed her rape by Apollo, her pregnancy, and exposed the god’s son. Secrecy and deception are understandable expedients for a teenage girl or young woman in a traditional society. Infanticide goes further—and it is also her first action against the will of Apollo, which he circumvented as deftly as he did her later attempt to poison the same son. Elizabeth Heintges wisely chose to ground the character in her origins and her best nature. We see her as a mature, poised, beautiful, but very unhappy woman of high social standing, and she wins our sympathy, which for me remained fundamentally unshaken throughout her sequence of rash actions. It is worth remarking how assuredly the young actors projected the age of their characters. The story of her exposure of the infant Ion has undercut this somewhat and presents Creusa as a woman with a dark past virtually from the beginning. The vulnerability Heintges so attractively imparted to her character brought us into her psyche and enabled us to see events as she did. Her handling of Creusa’s most emotional outbursts was perfect—intense in expression, but within the realm of human behavior as we know it. (The archaizing emoting of contemporary Greek actors, by contrast, does not export well, and can raise more laughs than tears with northen European and American audiences.) As Creusa descends into the plotting of evil deeds, Heintges’ manner waxed melodramatic, but her spirited execution kept us with her. Her attractive voice and excellent, clear, expressive Greek, which showed how deeply she had studied the text leant her work further refinement. I can only express my admiration for this many-sided but well-founded, skilful and subtle characterization of one of Euripides’ most complex characters.
Yujhán Claros, a graduate student in Classics at Columbia, treated Xuthus as a thoughtful, decent man of warm feeling, whose concerns could encompass both his happiness in finding a son as well as some regret about the youthful excesses which led to his conception, most likely with a slave girl and in an inebriated state. We see and hear a good deal from Xuthus in the first half of the play; then he vanishes—an inevitable result of the conventional limitation to three actors—but Claros made a strong impression, and it lingered to the end.
Vikram Kumar, a Columbia senior in Classics, gave weight and darkness to his portrayal of the old family retainer, a person steeped in traditional beliefs who acts more readily than he thinks.
Kay Gabriel, a Columbia graduate in Classics, now in the Ph.D. program at Princeton, was intense and haunting in her narrative of the strange, horrific events when Ion and Xuthus narrowly escape poisoning.
Simone Oppen made a vivid impression as a quite sane and authoritative Pythia (Prophetess).
There remain two gods, Eli Aizikowitz’s almost over-the-top, but very amusing Hermes, who started the play off, as Apollo’s disreputable kid brother, and Victoria Schmidt-Scheuber’s exotic, eloquent Athena, who stands in to mediate between the elusive Apollo and the Athenians.
All strong performances!
The chorus—Anna Conser, Elizabeth McNamara, Lina Nania, Nathan Levine, and Verity Walsh—could perhaps have used a bit more rehearsal with the music they had to sing. Their diction was not always clear. On the other hand, their commitment and concentration made their contribution expressive and absorbing. Not trained dancers, they bravely followed Chloe Hawkey’s lead in their simple, but appropriate and expressive movements.
Samuel Humphreys’s music, played expressively by himself at the piano and Isabella Ruyter-Harcourt on violin, was less ambitious than the music for last year’s Choephoroi, especially in its treatment of ancient Greek metrical systems, but it was very effective in supporting the melancholy, anxious, searching mood of the opening scene. Throughout the play the music fittingly supported the scenes without being too obtrusive or, above all, drowning out the all-important verse.
Stage design was extremely simple: a few chairs, a chest for an altar, a few props, and costumes were only slightly more elaborate, basically modern everyday clothing, with a cloak or tunic to suggest antiquity. Creusa’s blue dress was the most elaborate costume, basically modern, with enough flowing, gauzy drapery to suggest ancient Hellas. Ion’s tunic was the most consistently antique. The Old Man and Xuthus wore street trousers and shoes beneath their cloaks—which I thought quite effective as a reminder that the actors, as Barnard or Columbia students, were citizen actors like the Athenians who premiered Ion.
Beyond the pleasure and enlightenment of seeing a rare work performed so effectively, there are many corollaries to be happy about. It is gratifying, even inspiring, to see undergraduates and above all graduate students devoting time and effort to bringing a Greek or Roman play to the stage. This is not common among North American Classics departments, but it should be. There is a unique insight into drama that only memorizing a part and acting it on stage can provide, and those who participated will benefit vastly from this. So will the students of the grad students, when they take up their teaching careers, and it will greatly enrich Classics programs elsewhere, if they carry Helene Foley’s work in promoting this along with them. In addition, I hope that all will continue to work in theater, as acting students and in the profession, to the best of their inclinations and skills. At the very least it will benefit them psychologically and in other artistic or intellectual pursuits.
Also, New Yorkers see very little theater in foreign languages, although there is a thriving culture of theater in Spanish in the city, and Nigel Redden has done splendid work in bringing theatrical companies from France, Poland, and Hungary to New York for his Lincoln Center Festival…but that is only for a few weeks out of the year. BAM and St. Anne’s Warehouse have brought major foreign language troupes to Brooklyn. The Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group have made a contribution as significant as any with such outstanding productions in excellent ancient Greek, with well-crafted supertitles. I gather there is some interest in expanding their audience. It would only be beneficial for more people outside the Barnard-Columbia and Classical communities to see their work.
Now on to BAM, for a modern family drama, Ibsen’s Ghosts!
And thanks to Joe Ritter for his generosity with information about the production and its participants, and, above all, his superb photographs of the show.
Last year’s tragedy, Aeschylus’ Choephoroi, directed by Anna Conser and Simone Oppen, recently appeared on YouTube, with some members of Ion‘s cast. Here it is.
- See Knox, Bernard, “Euripidean Comedy,” Word and Action, Essays on the Ancient Theater, Baltimore and London, 1979, pp. 250-74; Saxonhouse, Arlene W., “Myths and the origins of cities: reflections in the autochthony theme in Euripides’ Ion,” Greek tragedy and political theory, ed, Peter J. Euben, Berkeley, 1986, pp. 252-273; Zacharia, Katerina, Converging Truths, Euripides’ Ion and the Athenian Quest for Self-Definition, Leiden and Boston, 2003, passim. ↩
- Foley, Helene, Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage, pp. 229f. ↩
- Walsh, George B., “The Rhetoric of Birthright and Race in Euripides’ Ion,” Hermes, 106, 2 (1978), pp. 301-315. ↩
- Westlake, H. D., “Ionians in the Ionian War,” The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (1979), pp. 9-44. ↩
This superb production and the enthusiastic response of the capacity audiences for all three performances—a long standing ovation—can go a long way to remedy whatever embarrassment the callow and tedious op-ed in the Columbia Spectator may have caused. Apollo’s brutal rape of Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, related by Euripides without excuses, can only have resonated with events and issues which are very much in the forefront on the Barnard/Columbia campus. The director, Rachel Herzog, and her cast handled this seriously, obviously with a sense of its topicality, but without distorting Euripides intentions in any way. His plays are themselves topical. These artists and their audience can clearly take their mythology and classical literature neat. The stage is a dangerous place, and also the classroom—at least it should be. Intellectual and moral courage is one thing students should learn in higher education. The idea that a professor should do contortions to make her students feel safe in class is ludicrous. So three bravos to the Barnard/Columbia Ancient Drama Group!