UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The (not so) classical productions of Peter Sellars : Ajax, Persians and Children of Heracles Kallos, Marios


Peter Sellars’ reperformances of the plays belonging to the ancient Geek canon have always been controversial. Ηis radical choices regarding the performance elements, affected by and directly referencing the sociopolitical context of the time when they were staged, provide important evidence for both understanding the afterlife of classical texts on the modern stage, but also the development of Sellars as a director. More specifically, in the productions of Sophocles’ Ajax (1986), Aeschylus’ Persians (1993) and Euripides’ Children of Herakles (2003), Sellars explores how the ancient Greek tragedies can be staged in such a way as to open channels of communication and how the theatrical space can become an arena of debate, in hopes of creating an active audience, similar to that of fifth century BC Athens, where societal issues could be discussed through performative means. Drawing on reception and performance theories, reviews of the performances, interviews with Sellars and an overview of the sociopolitical context of when the three tragedies were staged, both in antiquity and the contemporary world, this thesis will explore these productions through different methodological lenses, arguing that by applying multiple methodologies we can better understand the productions and their audience reception, as well as the larger theatrical and cultural context in which they were produced. By exploring Sellars’ directorial choices, I will argue that it is not simply about how ancient plays are being reused and restaged, but also what information they can provide us regarding significant trends in contemporary American theatre during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

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