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Crossing the Stages:
The Production, Performance and Reception of Ancient Theater


David Gowen
The Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at the University of Oxford

Cross-Referencing the Stages: The Collection, Research and Database of The Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at the University of Oxford

Ancient Drama is currently being performed on both the commercial and the amateur stage with greater frequency than at any time since classical antiquity — yet our appreciation of its rich modern production history is often constrained by the fact that documentation in the theatre arts often remains sporadic and disorganised. In response to the absence of a coordinated research effort devoted to the international production and reception of Greek and Roman plays since the Renaissance, The Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama was founded in 1995 by Oliver Taplin and Edith Hall, its co-directors, to serve both as a repository of artefacts pertaining to the stage history of the classics in performance and as a comprehensive source of stored information, recording the details of all productions known to have been staged in the last five hundred years. The holdings of the Archive available for consultation include playbills, programmes, reviews, illustrations, photographs, scripts, video recordings and audio recordings.

Our Database is defined by its length — the past five hundred years; by its breadth — which includes all manner of revival, translation, adaptation and re-working; and by its depth — the powerful relational component of our electronic database, which facilitates efficient, cross-referenced searching across a variety of fields, including playwright, play, language, translator, director, company and theatre; and across less traditional points of entry, such as detailed production credits, popular reception, critical reception and sponsorship. As new connections are discovered between hitherto dissociated productions spanning the past half-millennium, the benefits of such cross-referencing potential prove invaluable; and our cumulative knowledge, as interdisciplinary scholars — classicists, theatre historians, social historians and comparative literature specialists — inevitably benefits from the collaboration.

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