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The political messages, the myth of the primordial Athenian kings, and the legitimacy they imparted to their subjects down the ages, as well as their hegemony, founded on blood relation, over the Ionians are primary, but the family situation, the relationships among Ion, Creusa, and Apollo are the human (“anthropotheistic,” in fact, for Euripides’ audience) form the material of which the drama is made.
While Ion is intimately bound to Apollo’s temple, they can approach the god only as postulants seeking a solution through the obscure prophecy of the Pythia, Apollo’s earthly voice.
Hermes, who speaks the introduction, has already told us about Creusa’s rape by Apollo—a violent one—her concealment of it, and her exposure of the child in the cave where the god had inseminated her.
She did not know that Apollo had told Hermes to bring the child to Delphi, where he would protect him.
From the beginning, the story unfolds as a concatenation of deceptions, delusions, and false conclusions, and at the end, one of the characters, Xuthus, is as misinformed as he was at the beginning—a deceived husband.
Upon hearing this, Creusa believes that she will be sidelined by Xuthus’ bastard and takes measures to protect herself, advised and abetted by a knavish servant who had tutored her father and is especially conscious of the family’s distinction and racial purity.
She plans to have the servant put poison in the ritual wine that Xuthus and Ion will drink at the sacrifice celebrating his finding, but Apollo prevents this.
Our appreciation of Ion has grown considerably since the mid-twentieth century, because of the more open, relativistic, anti-canonical taste which his arisen over the past generation and because of a growth of scholarly interest in the body of local Attic myth that lies behind its subject—not because of a renaissance on the stage.
Helene Foley, Professor of Greek at Barnard (Faculty advisor to the Ancient Drama Group) in her Sather Lectures, Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage, mentions only one straight production of Ion, by the Shakespeare Theare Company of Washington, DC in the spring of 2009.
Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group Minor Latham Playhouse, April 2, 2015 (Run April 2-5, 2015) Director/Choreographer – Rachel Herzog Composer/Piano – Samuel Humphreys Violin – Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt Producers – Isabel Farias Velasco Kimberly Hunter Stage Managers – Maria Dimitropoulos Talia Varonos-Pavlopoulos Assistant Stage Manager – Kelly Powers Lighting Design – Elizabeth Schweitzer Costume Design – Rachel Katz Makeup Design – Kerry Joyce Makeup Assistants – Kay Gabriel Simone Oppen Translation and Supertitles – Carina de Klerk Peter Shi Rachel Herzog Poster Design – Lauren Green Caleb Simone Faculty Advisor – Helene Foley Cast Hermes – Eli Aizikowitz Ion – Caleb Simone Creusa – Elizabeth Heintges Xuthus – Yujhán Claros Old Man – Vikram Kumar Messenger – Kay Gabriel Prophetess – Simone Oppen Athena – Victoria Schmidt-Scheuber Chorus – Anna Conser, Elizabeth Mc Namara, Lina Nania, Nathan Levine, Verity Walsh Dance Soloist – Chloe Hawkey Even if the performances of the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group were half as good as they are, we’d have to be grateful to them for even attempting to perfom ancient theater in the original language as something more than an academic exercise.
Since 1977, the Matthew Alan Kramer Fund has enabled Barnard and Columbia students to offer these productions with some resources for costumes, sets, etc., but the essential ingredient in their success (they usually sell out) is the passionate dedication and hard work of all involved—above all the student actors, who often rise to a level far beyond what we normally expect from even the most serious efforts of colleges and universities.