The characters of ancient Greece were brought to life by the sixth grade class on March 7 at Ross Lower School. Before an audience of schoolmates and parents, the students put on two plays: Sophocles’ Antigone and Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis.
The plays were directed by Gerard Doyle and Margaret Kestler, theater teachers at the Upper and Lower Schools, respectively. The students had worked hard over several weeks memorizing and practicing their lines, pulling together costumes, and decorating the Multi-Purpose Room by covering over the structural support poles with paper designed to simulate real Greek columns.
Performing the tragedies has long been an integral part of the grade 6 cultural history curriculum, which focuses on prophecy and cultural transformation during the period 1450–356 BCE. Some of the other interdisciplinary projects undertaken by the students during this unit included drawing amphora, or Grecian urns (which were also on display in the MPR); studying classical architectural column decorations and recreating them using clay; and retelling stories involving Greek mythological figures of their own choosing.
The culminating plays highlighted the understanding of culture and political history the class acquired as they explored the themes of familial responsibility and wartime mores. Antigone centers around the title character, the daughter of Oedipus, and her sister, and the ordeals they face when they carry out traditional funeral rites for their brother in defiance of the edicts of King Creon. In Iphigenia in Aulis, which is set in the time of the Trojan War, Agamemnon determines to sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, in order to appease the goddess Artemis so that she will assist the Greek fleet in sailing to Troy. In roles ranging from lowly servants to royals, the boys and girls of the sixth grade turned in sophisticated performances that conveyed the tragedy or each story to the audience.
Afterward, the class invited their families to join them in their classroom for a reception featuring not only croissants and quiche, but also the beloved Greek pastry treat, baklava, as they celebrated a successful show.