San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Aztecs Abroad Features World Theatre: Performance Traditions in Greece

An immersive performance-based global seminar in summer 2022

Aztecs Abroad Features World Theatre: Performance Traditions in Greece

by Allison Cone

May 20, 2022

Aztecs Abroad introduces a new summer abroad program, World Theatre: Performance Traditions in Greece.  Led by Shelley Orr, associate professor of theatre and director of the MA in theatre arts, the program will take 14 SDSU students to the Greek island of Hydra to study ancient performance traditions. 

“Students will have specialized instruction in Greek dancing and mask making. The major project of the course will be producing a live theatre performance of an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes for an audience,” states program director Shelley Orr. 

Orr notes how the ancient history of Greek performance remains relevant to this day.

“Many of the conventions that we associate with Western theatre can be traced to plays from ancient Greece. One of the most frequently used techniques in contemporary theatre and film comes from this period: the reversal. A reversal is commonly referred to as a plot twist, when something surprising and unexpected happens to the main character,” said Orr. 

From ancient to modern times, theatre has been a primary tool for human connection. 

“I am looking forward to bringing SDSU students to one of the foundational places where theatre originated.  Theatre was a central part of cultural life in ancient Greece. When a theatre festival took place, the entire community came out to see it. Theatrical performances brought forward urgent questions about ethics, leadership, war, and family,” says Orr. “Especially as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, I look forward to bringing students to a significant site for them to experience in person. I’m excited for us to connect with one another as a community, something that theatre has done from its earliest days.”

Shelley Orr is a dramaturg and theatre scholar, specializing in 20th and 21st century theatre. She has a BS in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, an MFA in Dramaturgy from UCSD, and a Ph.D. in Theatre from the UCI/UCSD joint program. She has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Arizona. Her professional credits include dramaturging or providing dramaturgical support for the San Diego Rep, The Old Globe, and Mo`olelo Theatre Company. She dramaturged Marguerite Duras’s Savannah Bay at New York’s Classic Stage Company, directed by Les Waters and starring Kathleen Chalfant. She dramaturged Beckett’s Happy Days, directed by Robert Woodruff at La Jolla Playhouse; this production had a run at PS 122 in New York. Her article on Duras’s India Song appears in Review: The Journal of Dramaturgy (2019). Her publications have appeared in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, TheatreForum, American Theatre, Theatron, and Paroles gelees. She has presented at the annual meetings of ASTR and ATHE. Orr is a Past President of LMDA, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

More PSFA Stories