A Classical Education

Today years of labor on the part of dozens of educators bent on enriching young minds and keeping the great knowledge of ages past alive paid off.

To the tune of approximately 34 cents.

Yes! The trivia question of the day (which, in case you do not visit the fine beverage emporium known as Caribou Coffee, is always written up on the blackboard behind the counter and entitles a patron with the correct answer to 10% off their order), was:

Martha Graham as Clytemnestra. She'd have made an awesome ninja...

Who killed Agamemnon?

Easy. Peasy.

Sometimes there are sports questions, or questions having to do with musical entertainment or reality TV, and then I must pony up full price. But today I Win.

Why was this particular question so delightfully simple, while others remain baffling? Two reasons: 1) I have actor friends. 2) I live under a rock.

So, while I was attending a nifty little liberal arts mill out in Ohio, where they tried their best to fling a few seeds of wisdom, discernment and wonder into the largely fallow, yet heavily irrigated (with grain alcohol and cool-aide) fields of youthful intellect, my two best friends were at drama conservatories.

One went to Carnegie Mellon, where, during her stint, they produced the entire Oresteia. She played Clytemnestra. The other went to Adler at NYU, and had the great misfortune of participating in something called The Cassandra Project (not to be confused with the current Cassandra Project going on in and around that institution. The new one seems to be about online communities and sharing and draws on drama, art and dance in a more peripheral way). The one I am talking about took place in 1992 (or maybe ’91 or ’93 – I’m fuzzy on this. See grain alcohol, above.).

I recall only two things about The Cassandra Project from the performance I was privileged to view:

1)      It smelled like a sweat sock. They covered the performance space in sand and finding it dusty, watered it. This is not a good idea for the indoors.

2)      A substantial person had, at one point, to perch above the stage (and much of the seating – it was stadium style) on what resembled an abbreviated diving board, rend her clothing, and declaim in what used to be called a Brooklyn accent before Brooklyn got all trendy: “I bear my breasts to thee, Apollo!”

 But of course these things are meant to be learning experiences.

And learning experiences they were, since, fortified with a sketchy but vivid knowledge of Greek drama, I could cry, “Clytemnestra!” and keep my thirty cents.

 The classics never die.

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