After 450 performances in 20 countries, the internationally acclaimed play of the Elliniko Theatro Socrates Now is in Yerevan. First staged in 2004, it has since reached audiences in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Greece, Australia, and Russia, among other countries. The 80-minute solo play is an illustration of the exculpation of the prominent Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates during his final trial.
Socrates Now is an interactive performance and is based on dialogue with the audience.
The actor and the director of the play, Yannis Simonides, was born in Istanbul. He is a graduate of Yale School of Drama. He has been awarded an Emmy by the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and has been named Ambassador of Hellenism by the city of Athens for his lifelong services to the Greek arts.
The play is a short representation of Plato’s portrait of Socrates’ speech and his trial which is dramatically reflected by the question, that is the heart of philosophy, “How should one live?”
By the time Socrates was 70 years old, he had attracted a great deal of criticism from the society and rulers. He was charged with religious unconformity and corrupting the youth, and the jury eventually voted in favor of his death, arguing that he, because of his wisdom, was an enormous danger. To that, Socrates responded with a simple yet powerful statement: “I know that I know nothing.” He claimed that the main problem of the society is people thinking that they know something. Socrates Now focuses on the philosopher’s fight for the virtue of justice. He reports the verdict of being guilty and during a monologue, he refuses to accept the verdict defining him as a danger to the city. Yannis Simonides’ performance places viewers on the stage, allowing to them to express their own views towards Socrates’ actions and thoughts.
Adriano Palma, a professor of philosophy at the American University of Armenia (AUA), considers the play a worthy presentation of Socrates’ thoughts. This is considering the fact that Socrates never wrote anything, there is a great deal of mystery about his persona; after all, the only accounts of Socrates’ life and activities are the stories by Plato.
Palma adds that when considering why Socratic ideas made a number of young people go after him, the two main questions to keep in mind are: 1) How important they thought that person was to follow him? 2) What exactly were they after?
Athens at the time did not have a professional justice system, anyone could be on the jury. Socrates, however, held that justice cannot be owned by everybody in the society. An essentially anti-oligarchy view, this made Socrates a huge menace for the government. The trial (therefore, the play as well), then, has a certain political undertone to it. According to Palma, whenever one knows what the right thing to do is, they do it automatically; if a person is just, nothing can change the course of their actions. This is reflected in the play, in that Socrates has a very sarcastic attitude towards the actions of the government, a government that he knows for a fact is an unjust one.
Supporters of the productions of the play are the RA Ministry of Culture, the Greek National Tourism Organization, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Armenia, the American University of Armenia, Aegean Airways and Charentsi 28 Restaurant.
Photographer: Ani Jilavyan