A new archaeological exhibition on ancient Greek theater is planned by the Museum of Cycladic Art for the end of 2023. The new exhibition, the title of which will be announced soon, will be the first curated by the new Scientific Director of the Museum, Nikolaos Kaltsas.
The exhibition will focus on ancient Greek drama as an expression of democratic thought. Sculptures, vases with scenes from tragedies, small objects related to theatrical costumes and the cult of Dionysus as the god of theater – objects from in museums in Greece and Europe – , will frame the exhibition, so that the visitor can understand the deeper meaning of ancient drama and at the same time its educational and entertaining role.
The theater originally took the form of worship, as it is connected with the worship of Dionysus, the god of vegetation, fertility, but also of overthrowing the system, the god who led mortals to ecstasy and liberation from the ordinary. Very soon, within a period of half a century, poets, such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, on the occasion of mythological episodes, composed works characterized by a plot with a beginning and an end (to use the definition of tragedy by Aristotle). The plays were educational to the spectators, as the texts discussed ideas grounded on moral, social and political issues; they were also accessible to all as the whole community – even the slaves – could watch the plays for free. Cornerstone to this free expression is comedy, the genre expressed mainly by Aristophanes, who used his satire to comment on the “evils” of society and the state.
The ancient Greek tragedy was the archetype for the writing of similar works during the Roman period, by Seneca and Quinto Ennio, then during the Renaissance and later by writers such as Racine, Voltaire, Alfieri, Shakespeare, Goethe and others. It was also a source of inspiration for the creation of another genre, the opera.
As Nikolaos Kaltsas, Scientific Director of the Museum, states: Athens, at the southern foot of the Acropolis, developed theater as an expression of free democratic thought. In tragedy, myth is only the occasion; everything else is the work of the poet, who puts on stage dilemmas, while he judges, criticizes, praises, challenges and lets the viewer choose his side. But, mostly, the poet leaves the spectator with questions. On the other hand, comedy does not use a mythical place and time, but the city of Athens and the present time, commenting on current events with satire. This perfect poetic-theatrical genre that was developed and magnified in Athens 2,500 years ago and is still valid today, can only be characterized as a miracle, as the works of the tragic poets are played by the largest troupes both in Greece and worldwide, to charm and excite the public. Renowned Greek and famous foreign directors, such as Dimitris Rontiris, Karolos Koun, Peter Stein, Max Reinhardt, Bob Wilson, Yukio Ninagawa of Japan’s No theater and many others, presented ancient Greek tragedies on stage with great success. At the Museum of Cycladic Art, we chose theater as the theme of our next exhibition, as so far no exhibition has been presented that ‘teaches’ the public about ancient drama in all its range, from its beginnings as worship events to its development and completion in the highest literary and theatrical genre”.