EllinikoTheatro is an international performing arts organization based in New York and Athens. Since its inception in 1979, it has sought to serve as an innovative carrier of cultural diplomacy, expanding the temporal, spatial and social boundaries of Hellenic Theatre.

 

Socrates Now

Click here for information and details: SOCRATES NOW-BROCHURE

“A revelation…Socrates Now should be required viewing for all my students.”
Nortwestern University Philosophy Professor, Richard Kraut


“A mutli-talented actor has set himself the decidedly idiosyncratic mission of proving the transcendent dramatic power of the ancient philosopher.”
American Theatre


“A superhuman effort on the part of the actor in a splendid coordination of text, movement and speech.”
Luxembourger Wort

Socrates Now is an 80-minute solo performance, which captures the essence of Socratic ethics in an accessible and engaging manner. First presented by EllinikoTheatro in New York in 2004, it has since been performed to great acclaim at the United Nations, the Athens Agora, the NBC Today Show, and in over 465 venues the world over. It has been filmed by National Geographic and presented as part of the PBS/NGS documentary series “The Greeks”.

Socrates Now closely follows Plato’s portrait of Socrates’ speech at his trial in which he dramatically poses the question at the heart of Greek philosophy, “How ought one to live?”

The setting is an open-air court before a jury of 501 Athenians. Socrates is 70 years old and has a record of combat service in the recently concluded Peloponnesian War, and decades of renown – or notoriety – as a quirky character and clever arguer who publicly scrutinized traditional notions of “virtue” and “the good life.”

The charges against him are religious nonconformity and corrupting the youth. The prosecution aims to silence him once and for all. In their view, his dissenting activities harm the youth and risk the security of the city. To them, the volatile instability of post-war Athens amounts to a crisis that makes this matter urgent. To Socrates the court case is an opportunity to give a full, public accounting of his life’s work—that is, to deliver an apologia. The word in Greek has no relation at all to expressions of regret.

Athenian trials concluded all business in a single day and the litigants spoke for themselves, not through attorneys. Staying close to the source, Socrates Now starts with the philosopher reviewing the charges and the motives of his accusers.  He argues that his actions respect the true demands of piety, citizenship and care for the young. In the course of his speech he interprets the puzzling oracle proclaiming that “there is no one wiser than Socrates” and likens the civic value of philosophical work to the way a gadfly irritates a lazy horse. 

Midway through the performance Socrates reports the verdict: guilty. We are told the prosecution asks for death and yet also fully expects Socrates to counter with a promise to stop practicing philosophy and pay a fine. But Socrates does not back down. He refuses to accept the verdict defining him as a danger to the city. He will not cease and desist, though he does acquiesce to a modest fine to be paid by friends.  He holds fast to the view that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and to the view that his work as a philosopher has great political value. 

After the jury votes in favor of death – and does so by a larger margin than their earlier vote to convict – Socrates addresses the jurors who voted to convict him and those who voted to acquit him separately, in turn.  He closes by reflecting on the immortality of the soul.

Other texts depict Socrates in prison awaiting execution, refusing opportunities to flee into exile and calmly drinking the hemlock.

Yannis Simonides’ singular performance of Plato’s Apology places you at the scene, giving audiences today a chance to have their own vicarious encounter with the humor, arrogance and brilliance of this thrillingly demanding figure”.

(S. Sara Monoson, academic advisor to Socrates Now and dramaturg for EllinikoTheatro, is professor of political science and classics at Northwestern University in Chicago).

Actor / Director: Yannis Simonides
Original Direction / Mask Concept: Loukas N. Skipitaris
English Translation: Yannis Simonides & Loukas N. Skipitaris
Greek Translation: Elektra Andreadi
Design: Theoni Vahlioti Aldredge
Percussion: Caryn Heilman

In 2018-20 it is scheduled to tour South Africa, Germany, Italy, Israel, Abu Dhabi, China, Japan, Greece and the USA, and surtitles in Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, German and Italian are in the works. Audio and video versions of the performance-discourse will be released in late fall 2019.