Serious Students, Ancient Drama
While UMBC celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, a diverse group of talented students is doing its best to turn the clock back 2,500 years this weekend.
On May 11, 12 and 13, the grassy hillside between the Fine Arts and Chemistry buildings will be transformed to an ancient Greek natural theatre as student members of UMBC’s Ancient Studies Club and Theatre Council of Majors present a free performance of Frogs, the classical comedy by Aristophanes. (Information about the rain location is at the end of this story.)
The play, which starts at 4:30 p.m. each day, is open to the public and the entire UMBC community and comes complete with authentic costumes and free Greek food made by members of UMBC’s Hellenic Association.
Frogs began thanks to the vision of director/producer Steve Killen, a senior ancient studies major and president of the Ancient Studies Club. “I often walked by the hillside and thought how it would make a perfect natural theatre for an authentic Greek drama,” Killen said. “We’ve worked very hard to make the production as close as possible to how it was performed 2,500 years ago.”
Frogs tells the story of how the demigod Dionysus, having grown despondent at the state of the arts on Earth after the recent death of master poet Euripedes, takes a sometimes perilous and often hilarious journey to the underworld to find a good poet. There he encounters the two great Athenian poets, Euripides (senior biological sciences/psychology major Mark Hendricks) and Aeschylus (visiting lecturer of philosophy Greg Ealick) as the two get ready to square off in a poetic contest for the ages.
The producers of Frogs made one concession to modern technology by amplifying the actors’ voices. While the production includes some theatre majors like freshman Alexander Scally (Dionysus) and received advice from UMBC theatre faculty members, the idea behind Frogs was for it to be an independent, all-volunteer labor of love created entirely by students from a cross-section of majors.
The real labor came over winter break as many of the crew and cast spent their winter break making the play their own by working two hours a day, three days a week on a unique translation of the play from Greek to English with the help of Associate Professor of Ancient Studies Jay Freyman.
This type of dedication to academics is typical for the six Ancient Studies majors who worked on the translation, most of whom are seniors headed to prestigious graduate studies programs after completing undergraduate degrees at UMBC.
- Kristin Hulburt, stage manager/producer for Frogs, will attend the University of Chicago’s one-year intensive, interdisciplinary MA program in the humanities with future plans to pursue a Ph.D.
- Clare Ryan, who has several roles in the play, will attend Kings College London to read for M.A. in Classical Art and Archaeology.
- Rebecca Stephen, the play’s resident authentic Greek costume expert, earned a full scholarship for the combined M.A./Ph.D. program in Classical Archaeology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
- Joe Howley, co-salutatorian of the Class of 2006, was a finalist and alternate for the British Marshall Scholarship and UMBC’s nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship. He is editor-in-chief of The Retriever Weekly student newspaper. Howley will pursue a master’s of philosophy in classics at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
- Skylar Neil will spend her summer as an archeological intern with Anne Arundel County, Maryland’s Lost Towns Project, and will then pursue an M.A. in Classical Archaeology at Tufts University in the fall.
- Killen, who is not scheduled to graduate until fall 2006, will spend his summer narrowing down his graduate school application field and digging with an ongoing archaeological field research program excavation at Tel Beth Shemesh in Israel.
“In an age when so many of their generation are concerned with the immediate satisfaction of material wants, it is refreshing to find a group of students who pursue an intellectual exercise for its own sake, just because it is fun and intriguing to do and is healthy for the mind,” said Freyman. “The seriousness and depth of their analysis and discussion during these sessions would rival that of any graduate seminar.”
Important Note: The rain location for Frogs will be Lecture Hall 7, located in the UMBC Information Technology & Engineering (ITE) Building (building #21 on UMBC Campus Map).
For more information on the performance of Frogs, contact Kristin Hulburt at 240-460-7432 or Steve Killen at 443-851-3364.