Classics in the Quad 2022

Classics in the Quad 2022

actor sitting on library steps railing in costume for classics in the quadClassics in the Quad is an annual King’s Theatrical Society tradition where an ancient Greek drama is performed on the steps of the library at the start of the school year. The play typically favours casting first-year students, but it is by no means unusual to have older students perform as well. This year’s Classics was The Bacchae, an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides in early 5th century B.C.E., directed by Elsy Rytter and Gabrielle Milner.

The Bacchae tells the story of how Dionysus (Thunder Defayette) established his divine nature as fact within Greece. After having spent the early years of his life travelling throughout Asia Minor, the god returns to his home, the city of Thebes, to find his name is no longer honoured in the great city. This is because his mother’s sisters (Jenna Olsen, Rowan Helmer) are spreading lies about his mother, saying that she had lied about her relationship with Zeus and for this was killed by him. Dionysus punishes these women and the entire city of Thebes by driving all the women of the land to nearby Mt. Cithaeron where they partake in bacchic rituals and praise the son of Zeus as their master. The young King Pentheus (E Unland Spencer) continues to deny Dionysus’ godhood, and for this crime he is punished by death at the hands of his deranged mother, Agave (Gabrielle Milner).

Classics in the Quad actor delivering speech to audience sitting on grassWhat I appreciated about being in this production of The Bacchae was the chance to perform a classic Greek drama for an audience who didn’t know much about the show going into it. I consider Classics in the Quad a very accessible way to watch a play like this, because everything has been rehearsed with the knowledge that the audience might not know every detail of the piece. As an actor, you need to really understand what you’re saying so you can convey it properly even if the sentence structure is different to conversational language today, and I hope that came across.

Delayed by a week due to Hurricane Fiona, which hit Halifax during the first week of rehearsals, the show was performed on October 27th in a crowded Quad filled with an audience of attendees new to the tradition as well as those who had seen Classics in the Quad before. Although it was colder than expected by the end of the play (and I think everyone was wishing they had brought an extra layer), no audience member left until the last line was spoken by the chorus’ lips.

Actor delivering speech at Classics in the Quad with library in background and audience in foreground

It was heartening to receive so many compliments from people who clearly could not wait to get back inside, but who also couldn’t leave without expressing how much they enjoyed the play.

The set was stripped-back—with no more than ivy wrapped around the handrails of the library steps—but despite the simplicity it added to the feeling that our performance space was somewhere special. Costumes were similarly special; modern yet evocative of what people and performers would have worn in the early 5th century B.C.E.

As a first-year student I am unable to offer any comparisons to previous Classics in the Quad years, but I can say that what we did felt truly great to us. I have no doubt that the story of the Bacchae will stick with me like a bird “trapped in the sweetest snare” (The Bacchae, 957).

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