For the first time ever, an ancient Greek drama performance will be streamed live, from the ancient theater of Epidaurus, often called “the world’s most beautiful theater.”
As countries around the world are still exploring ways to restart theater in the post-COVID era, and as most festivals across Europe have been unfortunately canceled this year, the Athens and Epidaurus Festival will still take place, albeit in a condensed form, titled Fragment, adhering to the strictest safety measures.
Within the framework of this year’s Festival, the National Theatre of Greece with the support of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports will present to a global audience a production of Aeschylus’ drama The Persians, commemorating the 25th centennial of the Battle of Salamis. It is the first time that a major ancient Greek drama production is being livestreamed, and it is also the first time that any event is being livestreamed from Epidaurus.
On this occasion, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated: “As humanity is still challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first ever live streaming of an ancient Greek drama performance from the ancient theater of Epidaurus is, Ι believe, a pivotal moment. This performance of Aeschylus' The Persians, on July 25, comes at a critical juncture to underscore the universality of the principles that led to the construction of the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 2300 years ago. The Persians, Aeschylus’ most important antiwar play, dramatizes the naval battle of Salamis, one of the most decisive battles in the history of humanity, constantly recalling the timeless values of democracy and freedom, as well as the meaning of Ancient Greek metron and moderation”
The play will be streamed live at 21.00 Athens time (GMT +2), in partnership with Google Greece. It will be available worldwide except Greece, exclusively through the YouTube platform, free of charge, although donations will be welcomed. All proceeds will benefit the National Theatre and Greek actors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Google will host the livestreaming and provide technical support as well as major free promotion across YouTube regarding the livestreaming event.
The play is in Greek with English subtitles and lasts approximately 90 minutes.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports’ goal has been to prevent COVID-19 from leaving Greece without cultural events this summer, from leaving artists without employment opportunities and from leaving local communities without additional revenues. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival and the National Theatre of Greece, two major cultural institutions supervised by the Ministry, share our beliefs and adjusted their programming in the new reality, in a creative manner.
The theater of Epidaurus, work of architect Polycleitus the Younger, is connected to the born of theater as well as healing, as it was part of a holy site dedicated to Asclepius, god of medicine and father of goddess Hygeia who personifies health. Music and dramatic contests hosted at this theater were part of the patients’ therapy, as they prayed to the god for their healing. It is therefore quite fitting that in 2020, when the entire planet is being tried by COVID-19, that Greece symbolically and literally transmits globally an ancient drama performance from the holiest of places, to heal the wounds that were inflicted by this pandemic. This summer Greece sends its own message around the world that art can heal body and soul, as ancient Greek philosophers and doctors taught us. This summer, we keep safe while still enjoying art.
Minister of Culture and Sports
Two and a half thousand years ago, the theatre was born in Greece – and specifically in Attica – as the product of an advanced society that had found a balance between the individual and the collective, centred on citizens and their education.
Aeschylus’ Persians is the oldest drama that has survived in full to the present day and is at the same time a historical account of the most important conflict in the second Persian invasion of Greece, the Battle of Salamis, which took place exactly 2500 years ago. It was one of the most decisive battles in the history of humanity, whose outcome determined the world’s future. The Persians is a tragedy of defeat; defeat caused by hubris.
This year, our planet has experienced an unprecedented and terrifying pandemic, COVID-19, which overturned everything we once thought we knew and brought us face to face with our responsibilities. Amidst an enforced lockdown, art and the theatre once more emerged as vital human needs, as a place of refuge.
The National Theatre of Greece, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, invites the entire planet to the most beautiful theatre in the world, at Ancient Epidaurus, to share and participate – even if only online – in our production of The Persians; in a ritual that takes us back to the past, reminding us of the essence and the core of existence, which is at the same time a bridge between people and cultures. The theatre is, of course, quintessentially the art form of communication and dialogue. Culture is the child of the education of one place but at the same time belongs to all humanity. A humanity that has the right to unity and to the bridging of distances, even when the conditions do not allow it.
Anyone looking for the heart of culture will find it beating in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, in the National Theatre of Greece’s first production of ancient drama in the post-COVID era, to which the whole planet is invited.
Director of The Persians
Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Greece
For the first time, YouTube will give the opportunity to an international audience, to virtually travel to the home of the theater and to the magical landscape of Epidaurus and to watch live, via live stream, the Persians by Aeschylus – one of the leading ancient Greek tragedies. And while it is true that nothing can compare with the physical presence in such a sacred place like Epidaurus, the fact that, in these adverse conditions we can share a taste of our cultural heritage and unparalleled Greek experience with people who would like to visit our country but are currently undergoing restrictions is really important.
General Manager Southeast Europe for Google