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The department of performing arts presented a reading of Aristophanes’ The Wasps on Tuesday in the Hetzel-Hoellein Room of the Stewart Library.
The Greek Reader’s Theater has been performing these comedies at Weber State University for the past 12 years, and this year was the last of the plays. Now that this project is complete, the cast is talking about recycling the scripts and starting again from the beginning. WSU student Rick Rea edited the script and the cast revised it.
Caril Jennings, marketing director of the department of performing arts and producer of the series, described Greek comedy as “lewd, crude and rude” when introducing the performance.
“Greek comedy, to me, serves the same purpose as Jon Stewart or any of the nighttime television shows where they are making fun of what’s in the news,” she said. “My goal was to present all of Aristophanes’ work before I die. I’ve done it.”
Aristophanes’ scripts were known for poking fun, and The Wasps specifically targeted the court system. Originally produced at the Lenaia Festival in 422 B.C., the script is still applicable to modern day.
“It all stays the same,” said Allan Lykins, a cast member who played a juror in Athens. “We put in names of modern politicians and commentators. The names that we replaced were politicians and commentators of that time. It’s the exact same situation. By replacing those names, we’re making it so that they can understand the joke, but we’re not really changing it.”
One of the name changes in the script included a reference to Clint Eastwood giving a speech to a chair. Other modern-day comedic references were thrown in throughout the script, including “if the mutt don’t fit, acquit.”
The cast was made up of faculty and staff, members of the community, a stuffed dog and duck (included in the program), and guest appearances by such witness characters as a cheese-grater and pie pan. The performance was free to the public, but recommended for a mature audience because it contained some adult situations and language.
The cast all sat up front behind a lectern, sporting matching dark outfits and reciting the script with theatrical voices and animated facial expressions. They often chanted together as they recited lines such as the “wasp nest of jurymen.” Several laughs emerged from both the audience and the cast members throughout the performance.
Many of the students in the audience mentioned that they came to the play to write a paper for one of their classes. One student said he saw the play as an opportunity to write a paper for his history class. He said the play seemed applicable to the 21st century and that he was able to understand the characters easily even though the script was written thousands of years ago.
The Greek Reader’s Theater Aristophanes readings have been held annually since 2001. The department of performing arts will be presenting various performances throughout the semester.