Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.12.14

Gibert on Usher.   Response to 2000.10.28

Response by John Gibert, University of Colorado, Boulder

As a follow-up to Mark Usher's thoughtful review (BMCR 00.10.28) of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' production of Tantalus, a cycle of 10 original Trojan War-related plays by English playwright John Barton, readers of BMCR might like to know that the DCPA and the Classics Department of the University of Colorado at Boulder collaborated on two academic events to accompany the world premiere of this important theatrical work, and papers delivered at the one-day symposium "Tantalus and the Greeks" are available online.

On Sunday, October 29, author John Barton and a panel of scholars of Greek drama and society conducted a 90-minute "round-table discussion" before an audience of 600 in the Denver Center's Grand Ballroom. The emphasis was on aspects of the Denver production, including masks, costumes, the chorus, stylized acting, music, dance, lighting, and set design. On the following day, an audience ranging in size from 200 to 300 heard each of the panelists deliver a 20-minute prepared talk. The panel consisted of John Barton, Deborah Boedeker (Brown), Paul Cartledge (Cambridge), Helene Foley (Columbia), John Gibert (University of Colorado at Boulder), Michael Kustow (Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company), Graham Ley (Exeter University), Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania), and Rush Rehm (Stanford). The round-table discussion was moderated by James Symons of the University of Colorado's Department of Theatre and Dance.

Sunday's round-table discussion was videotaped by the DCPA but has not been made available. All agreed that one of its most striking features was the eloquent and perceptive remarks, not to mention difficult questions, of the audience members, who included local theater fans, teachers, and students, as well as visitors from Chicago, Seattle, Boston, New York, and other cities across the country. Denver was the only North American venue for Tantalus, which will now tour the U.K., ending with a spring run in London, to be followed by Greek engagements in Athens and Thessaloniki. A television production and a documentary are in the works.

Six of the papers delivered at Monday's symposium on "Tantalus and the Greeks" are available in PDF format on the DCPA's web site at They are the papers of Paul Cartledge on "The Politics of Tragedy Ancient and Modern," Sheila Murnaghan on "Stagings of Gender," Deborah Boedeker on "Drinking from the Sources: Tantalus, Epic and Myth," John Gibert comparing a selection of myths dramatized in Tantalus with their antecedents in Greek epic and tragedy, Graham Ley on his role as classical consultant to John Barton during 10 years of work on Tantalus, and Helene Foley on "Tantalus from the Perspective of Modern Adaptations and Remaking of Greek Tragedy."

In his review, Usher mentioned that John Barton's complete text of Tantalus was expected shortly. It has now been published by Oberon Books and costs $20. Also, Michael Kustow's theatre@risk (Methuen, 2000) contains, among other things, a fascinating tale of the search for a venue for Tantalus.

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