The best in tragedy is coming to a theater near you. “Elektra,” written about 412 B.C. by Sophocles, will be presented at the Getty Villa amphitheater from Sept. 9 to Oct. 2. In conjunction with this theatrical production, the villa has opened a new exhibit, “The Art of Ancient Greek Theater.” Covering 600 years from approximately 600 B.C., it includes pottery, terra cotta figures, and statues not only from Greece but also from Italy, whose cities, while influenced by Greek culture, each developed distinct styles.
These pristine pieces serve as a sort of gossip magazine and behind-the-scenes look at the Hollywood of classical Greece. The large vases, called kraters, depict aspects of theatrical presentations such as the actors preparing (masks and costumes were significant), or scenes from famous plays. They provide a better understanding of the works as they were performed then, in all-day affairs.
The vases, in tones of red, tan, gold and black, were often both ornamental and practical, such as the wine bowls. They beautifully depict the theater world, whether stock characters like the pimp or the naive suitor, or some of the most intense figures in mythology, such as Hercules and Medea.
The exhibit is divided into three rooms-for comedy, tragedy and the historical context. Integral to all three is the worship of Dionysus, god of theater and promoter of a well-mixed bowl of wine (thus the profusion of drinking vessels on display) as a means of entering an elevated, inspired state, as actors do when they don a mask and step on the stage.
The exhibit runs through Jan.3 while the play runs Thursday through Saturday nights, until Oct. 2, www.getty.edu.