byron-about the production

Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies

About the Production

While I have attempted exactly zero credit hours on any academic transcript in the performing arts and have little more experience wtih drama production other than what high school drama club had to offer, I am no stranger to the theater.  From the Ithomean Odeon in Messenia to the Haymarket Theater in London, from the Shubert in New York to Kabukiza in Tokyo, I have seen a fair share (though never enough) of plays and musicals.  So, when I suddenly found myself working on the announcements and website for the upcoming Stockton performance of Byron's Letters from Greece, I decided to ask GWB (google - wiki - bing) what this play was.  When that search yielded nothing useful, I took seventeen bold steps out of my office, around the corner and down the hall to the office of Mark Mallett who, among many other things, is the director of the play and a very busy person.  He graciously gave me time he did not have and is thanked here for his generosity.

He credits David Roessel with being the originator of the idea of a Byron play.  There was the very convenient fact of the 200th anniversary of Byron's arrival in Greece which provided a welcomed setting. The play, he says, is an original work which was not written by Roessel and him, but adapted from among Byron's many writings from his first stay in Greece.  Drawing on letters, manuscripts and poetry, the goal was to "...create a collection of Byron's words that had a dramatic arc...in Greece," showing Byron in eastern Europe in his development as a philhellene. The hope was to give Byron a third dimension to make him presentable to an audience.  

When it comes to Greece and all things Greek, most attention is usually directed to the Classical and, to a lesser degree, Byzantine, studies. People may be surprised to learn that Byron's philhellenism was unique in that it specifically orbited modern Greece.  This play will serve to bring that philhellensim to light as he tells the audience, in his own words, what he thinks and feels about the Greece of his day. 

I know less about Byron than I do about drama.  Had he left behind so much material?  Indeed, he wrote a great deal.  He is remembered as a poet but his plays do not appear to have received much attention.  More importantly, he wrote a great deal of letters throughout the course of his upward social mobility.  He was not English and used his letters as a form of self-promotion.

Byron's being an outsider (both in England and Greece) is just the beginning of what was historically a very complex character.  Described by a former secret lover as "...mad, bad and dangerous to know," there were many facets to Byron.  Would we see him in this production? The Roessel/Mallett adaptation was originally much longer but had to be cut - virtually in half - to meet the constraints of the event at which it was presented in Greece.  Byron's social and sexual criticisms, to say nothing of his sarcasm, were mostly removed in order to focus on him in Greece and his growing philhellenism.

What is truly interesting about the concept behind the play is that it has expansion ports for additional acts which will be added in the future.  Mallett says it may ultimately be the middle act of a three-act play.  Further, as it is now in its shortened form, with Patrick Judd as Byron, this piece will grow and morph into something bigger and different each time it returns.  The play as it will be staged on November 1st may be different from the next time it is performed as the work is passed on.  Of course, this is hardly surprising to him because, as he explains, every show is different every day. (My first lesson in drama)

I was curious to know a little more about directing a one-man play.  It is neither more nor less work, he says,  "...'it is simply different," but no less rewarding.

Mark, Assistant Professor of Theater Arts, has worked with the ICHS before on productions of The Odyssey (2005) and Desire Under the Elms (2008) which was performed in Greece at our Delphi Symposium.  As appreciative he is of the opportunity to have worked with Roessel and Judd, the support of the Friends of Hellenic Studies and the collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies, we are grateful for his efforts and his taking the time to sit down and shed some light on the Byron production.  

The play, Byron's Letters from Greece, will be performed on November 1st, 2009 at the Stockton College Performing Arts Center. More information can be found here and by contacting us at stockton.edu/ichs. 

George Plamantouras
ICHS