Theatre students at the University of Kansas were able to bring their passion for performance to foreign audiences when they traveled to Greece this summer.
For about two months, 13 students, along with a graduate teaching assistant and the artistic director of the University Theatre, stayed in the Greek village, Katohi, and performed Electra, a Greek play about Electra and Orestes’ revenge towards the death of their father Agamemnon by their mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus.
“It’s all about that revenge. And whether or not the revenge is just or whether or not some other form of justice might be more appropriate,” Artistic Director and Associate Professor Dennis Christilles said.
Katohi has welcomed and provided accommodations for University students since the KU Summer Theatre in Greece program started in 1990.
As part of the program, students learned Modern Greek from Dimitra Pitsikou, a Katohi resident. Alice Hofgren, the GTA present on the trip, taught students Greek dramatic literature and mythologyand Christilles taught Greek history, art and architecture.
“I think that for the students the important thing is, sure, the play and academic experience. But most importantly is being immersed in another culture and learning so much more about themselves through that culture,” Christilles said.
The students stayed at a school where they lived together and rehearsed every day. “We had a chance to not just live together, but live with the play for an extended period of time,” Christilles said. “Not that the other productions don’t, but for us it was a much different, kind of personal way.”
Christilles said that everyone got along well together, something that he enjoyed seeing. He said that everyone, himself included, had an equally quirky sense of humor which made it fun to be around one another.
Students also visited many archeological sites, met new people and built relationships with one another as well as with the village.
Jami Bessey, a senior from Paola, Kan., was amazed to see the ruins she learned about in art history classes.
“I got to actually go to the places that I’ve studied in books and see the mask of Agamemnon and the national museum,” Bessey said. “Some of the locations you could actually walk through the pillars and touch the ground and everything. We actually got to go to theater of Dionysius, which was where theater was started. Very first play was done in that theater. Couple of us had this moment where we were just like, ‘We’re here. This is real.’”
Thomas Tong, a senior from Olathe, Kan., played the character, Orestes. He said he has always wanted to take the opportunity to study abroad during college through the theatre department.
“What was really exhilarating was doing our show in the evening. What’s different was that since it’s outside, we had to speak out loud to the audience and they were sitting on the seats up the stairs,” Tong said.
The KU Summer Theatre in Greece program provided far more than just academic knowledge, it provided students with an unforgettable experience.
“It was a fun place to be,” Tong said. “Being able to just immerse ourselves in the culture that they have as well as them just being so open to us being there.”
The play will be performed in Lawrence, partially in Greek, for a one-time-only show on Saturday Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.
Tickets are available online or at the box office located in Murphy Hall.
— Edited by Kelsie Jennings