Mississippi State’s Shackouls Honors College is gearing up for Classical Week 2021.
As part of the week, which celebrates Greek, Roman and other cultures of the ancient world, students will perform Prometheus Bound, a Greek tragedy by Aeschylus, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The free, outdoor performances start at 6 p.m. and will be held at the university’s Zacharias Village Courtyard. In case of inclement weather, the play will be performed at Bettersworth Auditorium in Lee Hall.
The cast and crew of this year’s production are made up of all honors students, said director Donna Clevinger. All students are first semester freshmen except for one sophomore. Majors come from all corners of campus.
“There was a huge turnout for auditions,” she said. “In fact, the auditions began before the classes did. I cast as many students as the script would allow and others were cast in backstage roles.”
This annual event has been presented for almost 10 years. Clevinger said the play would not be possible without the help of the Starkville community.
“The costumes for the production are lovely. Connie Willsey, owner of Costume Party in Starkville, always does a great job with our costumes for the Classical Week show,” she said. “I think with this production, however, she outdid herself.”
Madelyn Sykes, a sophomore English education major from Southaven commented that the costumes were “gorgeous.” The other cast members agreed.
Willsey said that she has been working with Clevinger on the plays for three to four years. The former nurse turned business owner said Clevinger tells her about the characters before she designs the costumes.
“She wanted an authentic look,” Willsey said, “so I had to learn about toga draping. I have been sewing since August and finished sewing at 6 a.m. (Wednesday).”
She noted many of the costumes are made from repurposed clothes, such as evening gowns or graduation robes. turned into capes and dresses.
Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BC) is the earliest and one of only three classical Greek tragic writers whose plays continue to survive today. He wrote about 90 plays, but only seven of his plays now exist including Prometheus Bound.
Scholars have noted that Prometheus Bound is one of the most challenging of all the Greek dramas by raising the problem of evil through such questions as, why is there evil in the world and why do the gods allow humans to suffer?
The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus who defied the god Zeus by giving the gift of fire to the humans. As a consequence, he is tethered to a cliff and is subjected to Zeus’ continual punishment. As various gods and a mortal visit him, they bring their own set of conflicts and seek answers to these and other eternal questions, much like us today. The fundamental theme of the play is the conflict between brute force and violence and that of wisdom and justice.
During the 19th Century, Romantic writers such as Goethe, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley wrote about the defiant Prometheus in their own works.
Willsey encouraged the public to watch the show, noting Starkville is a very talented community.
“I get to relearn history when I hear (Clevinger’s) vision,” she said. “I’m just happy that it’s happening this year, since they didn’t get to hold it this year. I hope everyone comes out to see the show.”
■ WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
■ WHERE: Mississippi State’s Zacharias Village Courtyard (In case of rain, Bettersworth Auditorium, Lee Hall.)
■ COST: Free.
■ WHAT TO BRING: Audience is encouraged to bring dinner and a chair or blanket to sit on the grass
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