Section: Opinion

2,420 years later, classics still nothing to ‘wine’ about

By Kate Ridley

When I first saw the posters for the Kenyon College Dance and Drama Club’s production of Bakkhai, I wasn’t convinced it was for me. Even after it garnered rave reviews from my friends, it still took me until Saturday afternoon to actually buy a ticket. I didn’t assume it was a bad production, nor did the subject matter look boring. Instead, the mistake I made was believing I wouldn’t be able to relate to a work of theater written 2,420 years ago.

Needless to say, my assumptions were proven incorrect when Bakkhai was entirely accessible and became my new favorite play. It didn’t matter that over 2,000 years had passed since its first production; Bakkhai still addressed topics to which my friends and I could relate. Of course, these topics were namely partying hard and experiencing sexual tension. But others included the strength of familial bonds, fighting for ideas in which we believe and the desire to be free from societal norms.

Although the production was aided by the excellent directorial edits made by Assistant Professor of Drama Ben Viccellio ’98, which included arecent translation and modern costuming, this does not take away from the fact that something so old could be made as entertaining now as it was when it was first performed. Sure, I had never particularly disliked reading The Canterbury Tales or looking at Renaissance paintings, but I had never been able to relate to them, either. I certainly didn’t think that I found them as wonderful as their first audience did.

What I am now realizing is that maybe this is because I simply assumed they could not be as entertaining or relevant, without ever giving them the chance. Reading The Canterbury Tales, I never considered how much I could relate to the Wife of Bath’s desire for independence and power in a patriarchal society. When we have trouble grasping the importance or delight of old works, maybe the problem is with us, not them. Obviously we can’t be expected to like it all, but even trying to would count as progress.

As students, we should attempt to get the most possible out of the documents and concepts presented to us. Simply put, there’s no better time. After college, we’re probably not going to be reading books or analyzing plays to make a living; cultural exposure is going to have to be on our own time and our own initiative, so let’s take advantage of the opportunities we have now. It’s possible that your next obsession will be a Gregorian chant from the 10th century, or a dark romance from the 19th century. You never know until you give it a chance.

Kate Ridley ’18 is undeclared from Piedmont, Calif. She can be contacted at ridleyk@kenyon.


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