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Stanford Classics in Theater to perform "An ancient satire with modern obscenities"

Stanford Classics in Theater to perform "An ancient satire with modern obscenities"

This weekend the student-run group, Stanford Classics in Theater, will perform a modernized and slightly cheeky version of the classic Greek play Clouds, originally written by famed comic playwright, Aristophanes over 1500 years ago. Performances, which are free and open to the public, will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 14th and 15th in Annenberg Auditorium.

First performed during an Athenian festival in 423 B.C., Clouds survives as one of the notable 'old comedies' of Greece, a satire that pokes fun at intellectual life and classical traditions in ancient Athens. Clouds, adapted and translated by members of Stanford Classics in Theater (SCIT), will present a modernized and thought-provoking version of the play, raising timeless questions about academia, authority, and morality with a farcical twist. Clouds is the second annual SCIT production.

In 2009 the SCIT troupe, primarily comprised of Stanford Classics Department graduate students, staged another Aristophanes play titled Acharnians, most known for being Western civilization's oldest comedy.

As described on the SCIT website the performance was an “updated, original, and frequently obscene translation.” Al Duncan, a fourth year PhD candidate in Classics, has been involved with both productions, serving as producer on Acharnians and as musical director for Clouds. Like most students who work on the shows, Duncan helped with the translations. He feels that working on the shows offers students a multi-faceted learning opportunity. “Translation is a form of performance because you are applying your own interpretation to the text. Our performances involve two levels of interpretation, on the stage and in the translation phase.” 

When Clouds was produced in 423 B.C. it represented a transition from Aristophanes' previous focus on wartime politics to the depiction of intellectual life in ancient Greece. "Phrontisterion" or "Thinkery," where much of the Clouds story takes place, is a satirized educational institution that breeds skepticism and disrespect.

SCIT's production transforms the Thinkery into the Stanford campus, and brings a controversial cast of characters onto the fictional campus. Like Aristophanes' protagonist Strepsiades, SCIT's Shifty McThrifty suffers from the burden of debt. Shifty McThrifty's son Diesel has developed a serious Lamborghini addiction, and is sent to Stanford University to study financial strategy under the guidance of Professor Socrates. This modern take on the ancient play tackles contemporary issues like finance, liberal education and religion, and, as the SCIT website states, "serves as a lively forum for modern debate."

SCIT was founded last year in response to the Vice Provost for Graduate Education office's SPICE initiative "to develop innovative activities to expand the intellectual community of their department or program." Duncan said Clouds will be delight and surprise audiences with its salient social commentary and sharply humorous dialogue.

“Our number one goal is for the audience to experience 90 minutes of fun, but on a more academic level we hope that people will see that ancient comedy is more than an arcane dramatic form, it is a useful tool for promoting a vibrant democracy by providing another outlet for social commentary.” Performances begin at 8:00pm. Doors open at 7:45pm. Aristophanes’ Clouds contains language, images, and themes not suitable for all audiences. Unaccompanied minors will not be admitted.

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