Winter Dionysia on Dec. 1 Brings Greek Theater and Food UNC Asheville

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Students perform in Medea
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You might have to travel across the globe and back in time to enjoy a feast of traditional Greek foods like fresh bread with Homeric olive relish, stuffed peppers, and baklava, served alongside a live theater performance of Euripides' Medea--or you could head to Whitesides and Humanities Lecture Halls on Friday, Dec. 1 for UNC Asheville's fourth biannual Festival of Dionysus.

The festival will feature a dinner of a dozen traditional Greek dishes researched and prepared by students in the Foodways and Ancient Cultures course, featuring produce grown in our own campus gardens. From there, students in the Drama Department will perform a special production of the Greek tragedy Medea, which has been given a brand-new translation from Greek to English by students taking the Greek Poetry course.

Elizabeth Hunt, a double major in Classics and biology, has been working on creating the script for the drama students' production of Medea, a Greek tragedy centered on a vengeful and murderous wife. Translating the play from Greek to English, however, was just the beginning.

"When you translate directly from Greek the syntax can be a little rough. Greek loves participles," Hunt said. The challenge, then, was to turn the English translation into readable English, that would be understandable to a contemporary audience. "We're trying very hard to keep it relevant to a college student's interest, while preserving as much of the original meaning and characterizations as we could."

The translation was a group effort, Hunt said. "We had eight different people working on this, so you had eight different opinions and perspectives, and writing styles that you kind of had to merge and make agree with each other," she said. Seeing the script turned into a live performance, however, made all the challenges worthwhile. "Seeing it come together has been pretty cool," Hunt said. "And seeing the final play will be awesome."

Attendees will be invited to indulge in a special Greek feast before the show. Kendra Biehler, a health and wellness promotion major, has been working with her classmates to create the perfect menu for the festivities. While there will be staples like fish soup, many of the dishes will be vegetarian.

"Most things we're doing are plant based because most of the food we're using is from the gardens on campus," Biehler explained. "In that way, we're being our own self-sustaining community, in a way. We're combining all the different disciplines and majors and feeding off of each other and giving back to each other."

The class has explored the culture and cuisines of various ancient civilizations throughout the course, and has put a special focus on ancient Greek food in preparation for the festival. They'll spend two days taking shifts in the Teaching Kitchen to create the feast, with support from students in other health and nutrition classes. The result, combining authentic food and theatre, will give students a deeper understanding of ancient Greek life.

"I think the goal is to re-create a portion of ancient Greek culture, because they were really into food as a culture, and they also had all the great classic plays and art," Biehler said. "It's getting to experience different aspects of the culture and art of a nation and civilization."

For more information about the Winter Dionysia, visit the Facebook page.

Photo of UNC Asheville students performing Medea by Serena Dotson Smith '20