The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded an $800,000 grant to the Aquila Theatre, the professional company-in-residence at NYU’s Center for Ancient Studies since 1999, to launch its newest program, “Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives: Poetry-Drama-Dialogue,” across 100 inner-city, rural, and veteran communities in 20 states.
“Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives” is a major national humanities program traveling across America to inspire people to come together to read, see, and think about classical literature and how it continues to influence and invigorate American cultural life. It will take place from May 2010 to April 2013. It unites the assets of the Aquila Theater Company, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), the American Philological Association (APA), the Center for Ancient Studies at NYU, and the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC (CHS).
The grant, tied with the largest amount announced in this round of awards, is a Chairman’s Award, which is given to “projects that have exceptional significance and promise to reach exceptionally wide audiences,” the NEH notes.
“Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives” is organized around four thematic units: 1) Rites of Passage: Changing Worlds, Transforming Lives; 2) Stranger in a Strange Land: Encountering the Other; 3) Homecoming: The Return of the Warrior; and, 4) From Homer to Hip Hop: The Art of Storytelling.
These units will explore significant humanities themes that investigate the connections between classical literature and contemporary America to examine the central place of the classics in our lives. There will be an additional focus on cross-cultural impact relating to the African-American, Asian-American and Latino experience and a special emphasis on veterans and their families. The program consists of scholar-led reading and film discussion groups, public lectures, workshops and free staged readings of key scenes from Homer’s Odyssey and Greek drama by Aquila Theatre followed by scholar moderated “town-hall”-style discussions.
The program will be launched by three celebrity staged readings and scholar-led town hall meetings at the Washington, DC Public Library organized with the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, at the New York Public Library with the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, and at the Los Angeles Public Library, with the Shakespeare Festival in Los Angeles. These special events will be aimed at an audience of the general public and members of the veteran community. A specially designed program web site will be created utilizing the latest technology, including live web casting, video clips, podcasts, downloadable materials, and social networking.
For more on the Aquila Theatre, whose artistic director is Peter Meineck, a clinical assistant professor of Classics at NYU, click here. For more on NYU’s Center for Ancient Studies, directed by Matthew Santirocco, dean of NYU’s College of Arts and Science, click here.