The Research Theatre of Classical Drama

January 2021
When I became Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Greece nearly a year and a half ago, one of my first announcements concerned the need to create a Research Theatre focusing on classical drama. That dream, now a reality, is what I want to talk to you about now. The Research Theatre of Classical Drama is the basis for a new vision on the part of the National Theatre of Greece. it is a new “investment” – intellectually, artistically, and in other ways – that is very close to my heart as Artistic Director of the NTG.

In a sense, one might say that the Research Theatre of Classical Drama is a new version of the NTG’s Experimental Theatre, which has done so much great work in the past, but it differs in terms of its purpose and operation. These changes are consistent on the one hand with the new course on which the NTG is embarking, a new strategy that involves exploiting fresh opportunities for artistic development but also the valuable historical tradition of the NTG. On the other hand, they do not deviate from the founding principles that define the artistic direction and, of course, the cultural mission of Greece’s leading theatrical organisation.

My wish is that the Research Theatre of Classical Drama should be more than just a new name or just another theatre under the NTG umbrella. My ambition and my hope is that it will have a new theatrical identity and a new focus. Ancient drama can and must, in my opinion, have its own exclusive space where it can be studied, and a separate “production unit” within the NTG. Our priority is that this outstanding and world-renowned form of theatre should be nurtured and explored in an organised and systematic way.

The Research Theatre will not focus only on plays, however. There are many types of ancient Greek literature, poetry, prose and history, that can, as we know, be dramatised, whether for the stage or for listening audiences, for example on the radio, embracing dramatic conventions and offering a valuable theatrical experience. In my opinion, these texts in ancient Greek (and Latin) are what the Research Theatre should be concerned with.

The Research Theatre will have two main objectives. To contribute to education at a national level and to promote Greek culture through an outward-looking dissemination of our ancient heritage.

In terms of the first objective, we want the Research Theatre to be a tool for learning, a “school” or, if you like, a “university”, but open to all, offering a modern, attractive and effective form of experiential teaching through the art of the theatre; a “lesson”, in other words, that will employ drama in support of the ongoing acquisition of knowledge, meeting the requirements of  “lifelong learning” in a targeted and committed way. Regarding the second objective, the promotion of ancient Greek culture, the Research Theatre aims to attract a wide international audience keen to learn about ancient Greece through the theatre. This will harness what has previously, if I may say so, been untapped tourist potential, providing a service that entertains and edifies, functioning both independently and in addition to established cultural activities such as visits to museums, archaeological sites, and elsewhere. Making connections and building a dialectical relationship, a synergy between the Research Theatre and Greece’s archaeological sites, is one of the NTG’s main goals.

To achieve these aims, the Research Theatre will partner mainly with state bodies, of course, but also with universities,  while also participating in funding programmes. I’d like to say a few words about the Research Theatre’s productions. In the 2021 season, it will present two plays by Euripides: Medea, directed by Martha Frintzila, and The Bacchae directed by Angela Brouskou. Because theatres are unable to open as a result of the pandemic, the first production, Medea, will be live streamed. In addition to these two productions, Aeschylus’ The Persians, which was performed at Epidaurus in the summer and was live-streamed all over the world, will be made available as a repeat on-demand broadcast. This will be in February and these three events will be followed by others, involving talks and discussions between academics and creative practitioners. As you can imagine, the difficult circumstances and the many uncertainties that we have faced have made it impossible for us to present the current theatrical season as we would have liked, and as the efforts of our theatre companies deserve. However, we have attempted to create an explanatory framework for these performances to show the thinking behind them. This framework comprises:  a) introductions to the play and its concerns by the dramaturg or the director, b) a programme (available online due to the special circumstances) with texts by Greek and foreign scholars on the play as a whole or some specific aspects, and finally c) a discussion between the public and the cast and creative team; a dialogue which, in addition to other benefits that it offers, will make the audience's experience of the play so musch richer overall.

I believe that the desire for education is one that always be fulfilled and so I hope that a public with this overriding inner need, a public craving texts of high quality – and therefore of cultural value – will, regardless of their age, want to take up our invitation to watch the work of the Research Theatre. Because, to quote our great writer of ancient comedies, Aristophanes, τοῖς μὲν γὰρ παιδαρίοισίν/ ἐστὶ διδάσκαλος ὅστις φράζει, τοῖσιν δ᾽ ἡβῶσι ποηταί (“Young children have teachers to educate them, adults have poets.”)


Dimitris Lignadis

Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Greece

Agiou Konstantinou 22-24, 10437,Athens, phones: +302105288100

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