Beyond the Boundaries of Fantasia: An ancient imagining of the future of leadership

Step Two: Translating the Lysistrata (1:30)

Those who present an ancient dramatic performance and text, i.e., a "play", to a new contemporary audience have a fundamental choice to make: (1) try to present the play in a form that is as close to the original production as possible or (2) extract the portions of the play that seem most relevant to a contemporary audience. Between (1) and (2) there is obviously a broad spectrum. In the case of Aristophanes' Lysistrata someone fully committed to (1) would need, for example, to preserve Aristophanes' original Greek language; the play would need to be performed during the day in open air in a theater like the theater of Dionysus in Athens; the actors would need to use traditional masks, costumes, and props. The expectation would be that such authenticity could educate an audience and perhaps even move them in similar ways to how an ancient Athenian audience might be moved. But of course this would assume that the contemporary audience already knew a lot of ancient Greek and was familiar with ancient dramatic conventions.

This is not the way that plays are normally performed, however. At the very least, directors use translations of the play that use the language of the audience members. And they must make a decision about literal the translation will be and how much of their own native idiom they will use (for example, do you keep the same references to contemporary Athenian culture or adapt them to your own? consider the many issues of historical background). Directors must also decide what exactly is important to them about the original play that they want to convey to their audience. In the following exercise you will be tasked to perform this role of such a director, who is in fact a leader in her/his own right in the sense that directors must not only communicate a certain vision to actors and production team on the play itself but must strive to educate, entertain, and move audience members in specific ways.

Listening for Leadership

Possible Group Activity

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