I love seeing a good set of ruins. They’re grand, they’re picturesque, and they prove to you that all that stuff you learned in your sixth grade history class actually happened. Also, you can get awesome pictures that make you look like you’re all sorts of cultured.
At the same time, though, it’s sad to see ruins. Think about it: Those are things that used to be wonders of the world, the Metropolitan Opera House of their day, and now they’re a heap of rocks that vaguely resemble a theater.
Not in Siracusa, though.
The archaeological park in Siracusa sports some wonderful ruins leftover from antiquity, including a Greek theater that dates back to its heyday as a Greek city-state and first city of Sicily. If you visit the park on any normal day, you’ll see a ruined theater that looks every bit of its roughly 2400 years in age.
But if you visit in May and June of any given year, you’ll see an actual theater, staged, lighted, and ready to go.
For 52 years now, Siracusa has been staging classical Greek plays in their Greek theater. Being in Sicily during the festival this year, I was able to go for opening night. I saw Alcestis by Euripides, performed in the exact sort of theater that Euripides would have written it for.
There were some additions, though. There was electric lighting, which the ancients wouldn’t have had, but which was very helpful once the sun went down. There was also speakers and microphones. I’m not sure how on earth Euripides’ actors would have projected enough for their voices to reach the nosebleeds, up where I was, without the help of microphones. I mean, there were tons of people, and those seats are pretty high up.
The set was really interesting. It was very simple, but also very flexible. I’m no scholar of ancient Greek plays, and have little to no idea of how they would have been staged, but this set doesn’t seem like it would be out of the question. It was a sort of box, with doors that opened and closed to represent the comings and goings of the people from the palace, and curtains for walls, which could be dropped so that the audience could see what was going on inside the palace.
Overall, it was a very interesting staging of the play. It should be noted, though, that the play was an Italian translation of the ancient Greek. The language barrier forces us into one unavoidable anachronism.
The plays change every year, so make sure you know which Greek play you’ll have to brush up on before you go! Find more information on the official site for the Greek theater in Siracusa: http://www.indafondazione.org/en/stagione-2016-elettra-di-sofocle-alcesti-di-euripide-fedra-di-seneca/.
To see one of the plays, buy your tickets online (from the same website) and pick them up from the prepaid (prepagato) window at the ticket office. It is both acceptable and highly recommended to bring tooshie kooshies.