Aquila Theatre's Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives has been invited to perform a staged reading of Scenes From Ancient Greek Literature for the administration and members of Congress at the White House on November 16th 2011. Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives: Poetry-Drama-Dialogue is a major new national public program by Aquila Theatre of New York, supported by a prestigious Chairman's Special Award from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) aimed at bringing the veteran community and public together around the ancient works. This fascinating free public program of staged readings, lectures, reading groups and workshops is visiting 100 libraries, arts centers, museums, theatres and galleries across America from May 2010 to April 2013.
The NEH's Office of Congressional and White House Affairs invited Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives to showcase the National Endowment for the Humanities' efforts to provide programming for veterans and their families with a performance of a staged reading of Scenes From Ancient Greek Literature, read by a combination of actors from the Aquila Theatre Company and combat veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by a scholar-moderated "town-hall" style discussion with Dr. Peter Meineck at the White House from 1-3PM on November 16th, 2011. The reading will include scenes from Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Sophocles' Ajax, Euripides' Herakles and Homer's Odyssey.
Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives brings veterans together with the public to create a national conversation on what classic Greek works mean to people in America today. Ancient Greek theatre has been described as drama for combat veterans, by combat veterans, performed by combat veterans. These famous plays from 2,500 years ago still speak to us today and directly address issues of deep personal relevance to veterans their families.
At an Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives program in New York a Helicopter Gunner who served in Vietnam told us about how he shared the same feelings with Sophocles' great warrior Ajax who commits suicide after years of loyal service. A Marine Sergeant who had lost his leg in Iraq revealed that he felt his true home was back there with his unit and how he felt lost in America. In Mississippi we heard from the wife of a veteran who found comfort in hearing the words of a wife of an ancient warrior forced to deal with the effects of combat trauma and her family. In Nevada a young woman serving in the Navy told us about her grandfather who she revered, a WWII veteran who never spoke of his experiences until he learned she was joining the service and then he told her of the horrors he faced, and a young college student told of his experiences as a guard at a prison in Iraq. Greek tragedy did not shy away from revealing the cost of war and fully respecting the ordeals that warriors are forced to face and the trials that continue when they returned home. By bringing veterans and the public together to share these ancient stories we might in some small way begin to empathize with what our fighting men and women go through and in turn learn from them and reach a deeper understanding of what these great old plays meant and still mean to us today.
Speaking in the Wall Street Journal Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives project director Peter Meineck said "If you want to understand catharsis watch veterans watch a Greek play... I'd like thousands of people to feel like they've learned something about the Greeks, and to be empowered to go learn more... And I'd like to really invigorate libraries and arts centers, to let them see they can have serious high-end programs."
The three-year program consisting of scholar-led reading and film discussion groups, public lectures, workshops and staged readings of key scenes from Homer's Odyssey and Greek drama by Aquila Theatre followed by scholar moderated "town-hall" style discussions is free and open to the public, and is taking place from May 2010 to April 2013. At the end of the first year of programming the project had reached over 37,622 Americans in 23 locations in California, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio. Currently in the second year of the three-year project, the program is scheduled to reach this year approximately 75,000 Americans in 48 communities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington DC, and Wyoming. By the end of Year Three the program will have reached over 165,000 Americans in at least 100 communities around the country.
The Aquila Theatre Company has been touring productions of classical literature and related educational programs for nineteen years and presenting a regular season in New York for the past eleven. Aquila is deploying its extensive production and traveling resources in support of this program. The program works closely with libraries and arts centers to maximize publicity and audience sharing and provides access to specially designed web resources, free books for reading groups and collections, specially commissioned scholar essays and marketing materials such as banners, bookmarks, posters and flyers. By partnering with libraries, Aquila will gain access to new and underserved audiences for both its educational and theatrical work and increase its presence in the communities it visits. This program will allow the company to spend time developing teaching techniques with scholars and most importantly greatly advances Aquila's mission to bring the greatest works to the greatest number.
Peter Meineck founded Aquila in 1991 and has directed and/or produced over 60 productions in New York, London and internationally in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, the ancient Stadium at Delphi, Lincoln Center and the White House. He has written several literary adaptations for the stage and has published volumes of translations of Greek plays. Peter is a regular contributor to the humanities Journal Arion and has published several scholarly articles of Greek drama and Shakespeare. He was the recipient of the 2010 American Philological Association Prize for Scholarly Outreach for the national public program Page and Stage: The Power of the Iliad Today and is director of the National Endowment for the Humanities/Aquila Theatre Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives program. He has held teaching posts at Princeton and USC, was a fellow at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, and is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Studies at New York University. Peter recently completed a book on the visual dimension of ancient drama.