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Greek theater at Syracuse prepares for another record-breaking season

by Chiara Beghelli

It is only when the heat of the late Sicilian spring subsides and evening falls that Syracuse’s Greek theater comes back to life, often to the sound of ancient instruments.

Just like every year, the bone-white 5th century BC limestone theater in the heart of the city's archaeological park stages tragedies by classical playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides , as well as works by other authors such as Aristophanes and Seneca.

The plays are produced by the National Institute of Ancient Drama (INDA), headquartered in the Sicilian town. The institution celebrated last year its 100th anniversary.

Thanks to the setting and the performances' high quality, in recent years the event has proved increasingly successful, so that last year ended with record-breaking attendance and ticket sales numbers: 115,000 tickets sold for a total of €3.177 million revenues.

This uptrend, especially in recent years, led the organizers to extend the program and include famous acts such as the Martha Graham Dance Company, La Fura dels Baus, as well as architect Massimiliano Fuksas and artist Arnaldo Pomodoro for set designs.

This year, the shows will run from May 15 to June 28: the three tragedies that will be performed are intertwined through the theme of the sea, seen as a boundary but also as a place of exchange, in a year when Sicily came under the global spotlight due to the recent landings of migrants.

The first play to be staged will be “The Suppliants” by Aeschylus, directed by Moni Ovadia and based on a text in Sicilian dialect sprinkled with modern Greek words.

The “Iphigenia in Aulis” will follow, directed by Federico Tiezzi, as well as Seneca's “Medea,” directed by Paolo Magelli.

Medea “is the woman who opened the sea route and, for love's sake, ventures to explore the new world, a true female Ulysses whom Seneca portrayed in the figure of the mother who kills her own children in order to escape a corrupt and wrongful society,” the stage director said.

Besides the plays staged in Syracuse, and drawing from their growing success, the INDA plans to become the reference point for ancient drama in Europe and the world: first of all, through a project aimed at improving Italy's ancient theaters, such as the Grand Theatre of Pompeii, which reopened last year with two shows organized by INDA.

Furthermore, in order to support this growth process, Culture minister Dario Franceschini announced that the Ministry's annual funding for INDA will be bestowed on a three-year basis, with the aim of improving the institute's programming.

Syracuse’s school for specialized training in ancient theater, “Giusto Monaco,” will be part of this strategy.

INDA has announced that the 2016 season will be dedicated to female protagonists, and plays chosen will pay particular attention to present-day themes.