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CAMP Press Release

The SCS’ Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) would like to announce a change in its staged reading for the 2020 meeting in Washington D.C. Instead of Robert Montgomery Bird’s “the Gladiator,” the committee will instead present Joseph Addison’s “Cato.” Both plays provoke interesting discussion on the connections between American history and Classical Rome. “Cato,” which dramatizes the stoic and patriotic Cato’s last stand against a tyrannical Julius Caesar, was quoted and alluded to by the leaders of the American Revolution, and staged by George Washington for his troops at Valley Forge in defiance of a congressional ban on plays.

Both plays and their authors are also rooted in the ideologies of their own times, ideologies which include some racist and colonialist viewpoints. That these viewpoints have been connected with Classics as an academic field is an important element of both the history of and the contemporary challenges of our discipline. CAMP believes that by working with and presenting such material, even when (and in fact especially when) it is problematic, we can simultaneously acknowledge the field’s entanglement with historical wrongs, and have fruitful discussions about how we can productively move forward.

In this context, our staging of Addison’s 1713 tragedy will give careful attention to and consideration of the role of the play’s Numidian characters (including Juba II and his general Syphax) and Africa more broadly. We hope that there will be fruitful discussion of this issue, among others, at the talkback that will follow the staging.

The staged reading of “Cato” will be held on the evening of January 3rd, 2020 as part of the SCS’s annual meeting. Admission will be free and open to both meeting participants and the public.

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(Photo: "Empty Theatre (almost)" by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0)