Classics Students Present a Modern Take on Ancient Comedy
Students in Assistant Professor of Classics Anne Feltovich’s Ancient Comedy course recently began the performances of their final projects: short original plays in the style of the great Ancient Greek and Roman comedians.
The performances, which run through the end of the semester in the Fillius Events Barn, are the capstone project on a semester spent reading and analyzing Ancient plays from authors such as Aristophanes, Plautus and Terence. The students were encouraged to adapt Ancient theatrical traditions such as the use of a chorus or comic phalli into their plays, which are typically set in the modern day.
Feltovich, who has been teaching the class for years, has seen everything from parodies of modern rom-coms to a full re-imagining of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the Ancient choral style reflected in students’ final performances.
“I thought that [this project] was a really good way for students to show that they understood the concepts of Ancient comedy so well that they can interpret them and reproduce them in a modern context, that would provide for the modern audience the same sort of experience that the Ancient plays would have provided for the Ancient audience,” Feltovich said. “It seems like a good way to force people to put everything that they’ve learned together, interpret it, and show what they’ve discovered.”
Though the students are not expected to be off-book for their performances, in the past many performance groups have opted to use costumes, props and live music to create a more cohesive experience for their final projects.
“We can use these plays to determine what is not a cultural truth but is rather a cultural choice or a cultural assumption,” Feltovich explained on the reasoning behind the decision to include this project in the course. “Then, if you get really good at examining that for other cultures, you can then use that to get better at examining your own culture, and understanding what in your own culture is a choice, and what does that cultural choice mean? How can we change those cultural choices?”