In development, in association with the Classical Receptions Workshop in the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University.
If you could act unjustly with impunity and at the same time also enjoy all the benefits that flow from a reputation for goodness should you nevertheless choose to act justly? If yes, does this choice require self-sacrifice or produce happiness? Do cultural and political institutions shape our ability to choose wisely and live well?
In the Republic, Socrates tells the story of a lengthy conversation he had the day before about these questions in the presence of an assortment of characters including fellow citizens, a family of immigrants, a sharp but irritable young man, an aging patriarch, and fellow veterans, some of whom push him in very demanding directions (“Explain why precisely we should choose justice! Explain why your answer involves positing gender equality and rejecting the nuclear family! Tell us why this view has merit if it is not easily realizable!”).
Inspired by Socrates’ declaration that the account of justice he details in words in the Republic creates “a sight worth seeing,” we are working on a 90-minute performance by a small ensemble that conveys both the dramatic arc of the reasoned argument of the book and the emotional allure–even physicality–of the stunning images and metaphors that make it sing, and for which Plato’s Republic is renowned (e.g., ship of state, city is a soul writ large, allegory of the cave, philosopher-king, Er’s trip to the underworld). We aim not to envelop an audience in general moral ideas and impressions of philosophical views associated with Platonic thought, nor to strictly represent dispassionately the logic of a philosophical argument.
Rather, we aim to expand on Yannis Simonides’ portrayal of Socrates in action (Socrates Now—Plato’s Apology) to present a captivating theatrical experience of the very construction of a sustained, unnerving and amusing inquiry into gravely important matters we ordinarily consider settled, and thus to provoke reflection, wonder and appreciation for this Hellenic inheritance.
Conceived and constructed by: Sara Monoson & Yannis Simonides
Dramaturg: Sara Monoson