Adapting Ancient Greek Drama in the Modern World

By Emma Cole and Rosa Andújar

The Adapting Ancient Greek Drama in the Modern World project consisted of a workshop series, delivered to a range of demographics from the wider community including aspiring playwrights, secondary school teachers, and school students. It involved teaching participants about the adaptation of ancient drama for contemporary film and theatre, and guiding attendees towards authoring their own adaptations. The programme was based around Emma and Rosa’s research into classical performance reception, and aimed to foster interprofessional relationships with different organisations and to encourage creative engagements with antiquity.

In 2014 the workshop was run five times, in a variety of forms. The final installment, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in December, represents the most developed form of the project, and was a full-day event for aspiring playwrights on the Repertory’s playwriting programmes: The Foundry and Write Away. The workshop consisted of an overview of ancient drama, and a panel discussion between professional playwrights and academics that work on tragedy. This was followed by a practical afternoon of writing activities led by playwrights who have adapted ancient tragedy for professional theatre, including Caroline Bird, Ché Walker, and Rosanna Lowe. We hope that running these workshops will encourage collaborative practice between academics and theatre practitioners in the adaptation of Greek drama, and will lead to the creation of further works of classical reception. We also hope that these workshops will feed back into our own research, and that perhaps theatre industry professionals may provide insight into the dramaturgical dynamics of tragedy that are overlooked by scholars.

Rosa Andújar is the A. G. Leventis Research Fellow in Greek in the Department of Greek & Latin, University College London.  Her research focuses on Greek tragedy and its modern afterlife in Latin America.  Rosa is currently working on two books:  the first, Playing the Chorus: Greek Tragedy Beyond the Choral Ode, provides an account of the varied and experimental ways in which actors and choruses interact in Athenian tragedy, and, the second, Tragedy and Revolución, explores revolutionary re-imaginings of Greek drama in the 20th c. Spanish-speaking Caribbean.  At UCL she is also the academic adviser for the annual UCL Classical Play, which is performed in the Bloomsbury Theatre.  Rosa has previously served as consultant to various productions of Greek drama on both sides of the Atlantic. For more details see: Performance Classicists.

Emma Cole is a PhD candidate at University College London, where she is working on the reception of Greek and Roman tragedy in postdramatic theatre. She has taught ancient Greek, politics, and literary theory in the Department of Greek and Latin at UCL, and has a forthcoming publication in the Classical Receptions Journal on Katie Mitchell's Women of Troy (2015). In addition to the above public engagement activities she co-convened the Gate Theatre/UCL Theatre Translation Forum, and has also served as an academic advisor and dramaturg on a number of Greek tragedy productions in the United Kingdom and Australia.