Since 1977, a community scholars, students, and enthusiasts of Greco-Roman drama have produced an ancient play in the original Greek or Latin through an endowed fund at Barnard College, Columbia University. While the organization is formally a collaboration between the Classics departments of Columbia and Barnard, several other institutions in New York City are often represented each year, drawing audiences from throughout the tri-state area. With annual programming in the original ancient tongue for over four decades, our performing arts group is the only one of its kind in the United States. Browse our recent productions and check out our YouTube postings for freely available videos of past productions. Stay tuned for news on the current season: casting calls often occur in the fall semester, with performances in early April.
Directed by Caleb Simone
APRIL 4-6, 2019 at Minor Latham Playhouse
Featuring a full musical score on the aulos (Ancient Greek double-pipes) performed by Callum Armstrong
In April 2019, Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama is producing Euripides’ Herakles with a focus on musical design. Featuring live performance on reconstructed models of the ancient Greek double-pipes or auloi, this will be the first modern production of a Greek tragedy in its original tongue to incorporate a full score on tragedy’s historic instrument. Check out this video, where Oxford Prof. Armand D’Angour at Oxford discusses some of the exciting new research that informs this year’s production. (Our aulos-player Callum plays at 8:20, our director Caleb sings the chorus from the Orestes at 12:35.)
Euripides’ Herakles stages the fall of Greece’s greatest hero. While Herakles is completing the last of his twelve mythical labors in the underworld, the usurper Lykos has overtaken his palace in Thebes and prepares to murder Herakles’ wife Megara and their three sons. Herakles returns just in time to save them, but the gods plot another twist of fate.
Visit our facebook page for information on auditions in late October!
Oil painting of the Flavian Hercules statue (MET) by Edmond Paul Rochat.
Faculty Advisor: Helene Foley
Helene Foley is Professor of Classics at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she has taught for forty years and supervised Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama. As an internationally recognized authority on Greek drama especially, Helene has published several books on the reception of Greek tragedy. She is the author of Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage (2012, UC Press), Female Acts in Greek Tragedy (2001, Princeton), and Ritual Irony: Poetry and Sacrifice in Euripides (1985, Cornell), among several other books and articles. She is co-editor of Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage (2011, Oxford) and Visualizing the Tragic (2007, Oxford). Her current research examines the aspect of choral dance in particular.
Director: Caleb Simone
A PhD Candidate in Classics at Columbia University, Caleb is currently writing his dissertation on the aulos or double pipes in ancient Greek culture. He has published on sound and musical performance in Greek lyric and tragedy. Caleb holds a certificate in Ancient Greek Music from the University of Trento in Italy (2015) offered through the MOISA Society for Greek and Roman Music. He has been involved in Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama since 2013 and played a lead role in the 2015 production of Euripides’ Ion. In July 2017, Caleb participated in a concert in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford featuring a fragment of the musical annotation from Euripides’ Orestes. In 2017, Caleb worked with Matt Rocker (below) to record a dramatic performance of spoken Latin for Bloomberg’s London Mithraeum project. Caleb has also worked with the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study as the program developer for a volunteer-based public-school program in ancient Greek language and myth.
Musician: Callum Armstrong
Callum is a professional musician based in London who specializes in woodwind instruments. Having studied the recorder at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatory, Callum has a broad background in historical wind playing. For three consecutive years Callum won the Beryl Maggs Award for recorder and in his final year was awarded the Silver Medal for Early Music. In recent years, Callum has collaborated with the MOISA Society for Greek and Roman Music to perform on reconstructed models of the ancient Greek aulos in chiefly scholarly settings. In November 2017, Callum played the aulos to accompany a creative retelling of Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women at London’s Young Vic.
Choreographer: Jon Froelich
Jon is artistic director of Cloud of Fools Theater Company, which emphasizes the actor’s body in ensemble as the root of theatrical creation. Jon acts, teaches, writes, directs, and choreographs with various companies, venues, and institutions around the city. He is a regular collaborator with Caborca, Stolen Chair, and Mettawee River. Besides his regular work in NYC, he has performed in Germany, Italy, and Puerto Rico, as well as regionally in the United States. He teaches Movement in Pace University’s International Performance Ensemble program, and obtained his MFA in acting from Columbia University, where he has also taught acting.
Lighting Designer: Marién Vélez
Marién is from Puerto Rico and has a background in stage lighting in Argentina, New York City and Puerto Rico. Marién is currently finishing a Masters in Fine Arts in Lighting Design at Parsons School of Design. She has participated in events produced by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics (NYU) in Brazil and Canada. She has collaborated with groups like Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, Sylvia Bofill, Sleep No More, The Public Theater, Kairiana Núñez, Viveca Vázquez, Karen Languevin, Mima, and other artists and collectives. She has published for the magazine of the Colegio de Arquitectos de Puerto Rico.
Sound Designer: Matt Rocker
Matt Rocker is the Supervising Sound Editor and Mixer at Underground Audio in NYC. He holds a BA in music composition and theory from the University of Minnesota, and an MA in Music from New York University with a concentration in music technology. His film credits range from blockbusters such as the “Lord of the Rings” films, to indie hits like “Winter’s Bone.” His television work spans the streaming, broadcast, and cable platforms for NBC, VH1, Discovery, A&E, and more, including work on “30 Rock”, and HBO’s recent Bruce Springsteen documentary “The ties that bind.” Matt has created sound design for museums and art installations such as the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Matthew Barney’s seminal “Cremaster Cycle” at the Guggenheim, and the immersive archaeological site of the London Mithraeum, where he first collaborated with BCAD 2019 director Caleb Simone.
We are holding auditions for the spring Herakles production on Monday and Tuesday October 22-23 on Columbia’s Morningside campus. We are looking to cast singers, dancers, and actors, but we invite anyone who shares a love of Greek drama to come audition for a role, even if you have little to no experience in performance. Knowledge of Ancient Greek is ideal, but not required, especially for those with significant acting experience comfortable with the commitment of learning the lines. Dancers with formal training and/or experience take note: this year, we invite the possibility of a few experienced dancers who will not be singing in Ancient Greek. Please contact Caleb Simone directly to express your interest.
Major Greek-memorization roles for Euripides’ Herakles include singers in the chorus of Theban elders, Amphitryon, Heracles’ father (~275 lines, with singing), Heracles (~240 lines), Megara, Heracles’ wife (~120 lines), and the Messenger (~100 lines). The Athenian hero Theseus and the Theban usurper Lycus appear in a more limited range of scenes and have around 75 lines each. The immortals Lyssa (Madness) and Iris appear only once, each with around 25 lines. Potential silent roles include guards for Lycus and for younger volunteers, the three children of Heracles and Megara.
Audition appointments are up to seven minutes long for up to three roles: schedule your audition here. Audition slides for your selected role(s) will be provided by Monday, October 15. Please note that Monday is preferred for all chorus auditions, however you may select Tuesday if you are unavailable on Monday, or if Monday is full.
If you are interested in joining the production crew, please reach out to the producer, Cait Morgan and director, Caleb Simone. We especially need volunteers willing to assist in the areas of set, lighting, ticket sales, and more.
We look forward to meeting you soon!