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Prof. Trainor’s Research to Be Published in Theatre Symposium

One of Visiting Asst. Professor Sebastian Trainor’s essays on the history of Western theatre practices will be published this coming October in a special issue of the journal Theatre Symposium devoted to the topic “Theatre and Space.” Trainor’s essay is titled “The Odeon of Pericles: A Tale of the First Athenian Music Hall.” It examines the world’s first Odeon, an Athenian concert hall of the fifth century BCE that is rarely studied by scholars and historians. The Odeon is actually somewhat older than its next-door neighbor, the much more famous Theatre of Dionysos, and it played a profound role in the development of that better-known venue.

The piece makes a number of surprising connections between the (second) Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE) and the overall development of the ancient Athenian theatre complex. The most significant are Trainor’s propositions that the earliest Western theatres were literally built out of artifacts captured from the defeated Persian invasion army. By tracing the history and theatrical employment of several important trophies from the recent war (lumber recycled from the ships of the defeated Persian navy; the captured traveling palace of the Persian emperor), Trainor establishes an alternative narrative for the origins of Athenian drama. Ultimately “The Odeon of Pericles” argues that the physical performance space that belonged to our earliest surviving plays had very little to do with Dionysos, religious ritual, or the cycle of the harvest (as is generally believed) — but that it had everything to do with proclaiming Athenian military dominance and launching the city’s imperialist future.

Trainor’s overall research agenda is focused on the re-examination and enlivening of received narratives and traditional wisdom concerning our theatrical past. This study of ancient Athenian theatre practices applies his re-historiographic methods — originally developed for study of the theatre of the nineteenth century — to a new era of theatre-historical investigation.