The 2400 Year Old Problem

I love my excursions down to Indiana University. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the level of creativity, passion and dedication that survives (and perhaps thrives) after years of schooling. (Disclosure: This be a proud papa moment…)

This weekend my daughter’s adaptation of  Aristophanes’ “The Wasps” hit the streets and it struck me how familiar the problems of our ancient greek cousins were. Having spent the past four years studying ancient history and theater, that was Sarah K Schlegel’s point of course and her goal in producing the play for a modern audience.

We know we should learn from the past, but, oh so often, it seems so far away.

Turns out Aristophanes felt he lived in a very litigious society. Sound familiar? So much so that he said lawyers had become like wasps, stinging with suits at every opportunity and swarming from victim to victim without serious care as to the consequences of their attack.

A bit about the performance: The team did an amazing job of working with the updated material, adding quick skits that brought today’s always fun TV lawyers into the mix. The relationship between siblings (one who loved to sue and the other who felt things had to stop) was great fun – with ‘LoveCleon’ fighting to escape the ideas and containment of his sister, ‘HateCleon.’ From battles with swarms of lawyers, to trials of criminal pets the action was absurd, but the message showed that many of the personal and political challenges we face today haven’t changed in millennia.

Most nights the show was performed in a limestone courtyard, bringing the audience closer to the feel of a greek amphitheater than one would expect in central Indiana. Costumes were modern, with ancient touches including Chorus masks paper mache’d from magazine photos and ‘stingers’ that stiffened when the lawyers were riled. Sets of burlap and rope (cardboard creativity at work). All performed with movement that highlighted the absurdity that took over Athens in its day.

The dots between their world and ours were connected. Arguments and lawsuits. Hyperbole and brinksmanship. I win you lose living.

There is a reason I bring up the show beyond fatherly pride. In the workplace, in politics, in our personal life – technology has changed the way we communicate, but technology has not changed what we need to communicate about.

A few lines that make the point:

“Yet in these times we have stung misguided. Lacking clear enemies we sting each other in a desperate attempt to create another ‘other.’ We see not the change we must pursue and forget the brotherhood we should already know. Change is ambiguouis and dangerous, but blind stinging is a death sentence. The sting must be directed away from our breathren and towards the misguided failing of our own creation.”  (Choir member. The Addled Wasps. Aristophanes. Edited By Sarah Schlegel)

Whether you take the ‘sting’ to be legal in nature or simply damaging argument, I think that means as much in today’s environment as it did 2400 years ago. The solution from Aristophanes is interesting. He does not expect the clash of ideas in legal forums to end, simply moderate –

“In short I give it as my deliberate opinion that in future every citizen must be possessed of a sting. But that sting’s use must have thought as a prerequisite.”

I really enjoyed the performance, and while I’ve gushed about my kids in the past I’d like to list all the folks involved here for now. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of them.

Editor/Director/Producer: Sarah Schlegel
Assistant Director: Kelsey Sheppard
Costume Designer: Nicole Zausmer
Poster Design: Christopher Knarr
Faculty Advisor: Murray McGibbon
Lovecleon: Stephanie Kuschel
Hatecleon:  Ted Timothy
Sosias: Lauren Bourke
Xanthias: Sam Gurnick
Chorus 1: Katie Harmon
Chorus 2: Mandie Van Osdol
Chorus 3: Shanta Parasuraman
Chorus 4: Sam Petry
Chorus 5: Colton Irwin

And wrapping up with a few wise words from old Aristophanes:

“He was right who said, ‘decide nothing till you have heard both sides’”

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9 Responses to The 2400 Year Old Problem

  1. Paul C says:

    Greek theatre to remind us of perennial social issues in society…How wonderful to see your daughter involved in such a dynamic way after taking classical history and drama. Thanks for this overview.
    .-= Paul C´s last blog ..Rich Resource: National Geographic =-.

  2. LaVonn says:

    Great post! Great play! Great daughter!

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    I really enjoy how some things are timeless.

    > technology has changed the way we communicate, but technology has not changed what we need to communicate about
    Perfect words of wisdom.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning Sources of Insight =-.

  4. Andrew says:


    Welcome back.

    You must be one proud father – congratulations to your daughter and all others involved.

    Not being familiar with the ‘The Wasps,’ I am not in much of a position to comment on the theatrical itself. But I agree with your broader point – whilst lawyers are necessary, legal action should be used as a last resort only.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Kraft’s broken promise =-.

  5. I was certainly proud of her.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. 🙂

  7. Absolutely. So easy to forget when your caught up in the moment.

  8. I was just surprised at how clearly the sentiment has traveled through the ages. Like so many things that are useful, excess and indiscriminate use can be destructive.

  9. Davina says:

    Congratulations to the proud papa and his daughter. How exciting, Fred!

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