Socrates set to apoligize at Queens College

The court of ancient Athens will come to life once again in a riveting, one-man performance of Plato’s classic “The Apology of Socrates,” featuring Emmy-award winner Yannis Simonides in the title role. The free performance takes place on Th

Plato’s “The Apology of Socrates” reenacts Socrates’ defense in the Athenian court and his rebuttals to a guilty verdict and sentence of death. This dynamic treatment transports the viewer from our contemporary world to ancient times, and in doing so reaffirms the relevance of Socrates’ thinking for today’s society.

Simonides, an Emmy award-winning producer and former chairman of the New York University Drama Department, is founder of the Greek Theatre of New York and director of Hellenic Public Radio. “‘The Apology’ is about joy, ethics, and courage, and sticking to your beliefs,” he said. “In the character of Socrates, I recognize myself at every turn — my strengths, my frailties, my failures — so every time I pick up the script or utter a line, it makes my hair stand on end.”

Adding a touch of Hollywood to the set will be legendary costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, a three-time Tony recipient and winner of an Academy Award for her designs in the 1974 film “The Great Gatsby.”

Loukas Skipitaris, founder and artistic director of Theatron, a New York based Greek-American performing arts center, is set to direct. Skipitaris, who holds BA and MA degrees from Queens College, made his Broadway acting debut in “Illya Darling,” and has since gone on to recurring roles in TV’s “As the World Turns,” “The Guiding Light” and “One Life to Live.”

“The Apology of Socrates” production is linked to an innovative “Reacting to the Past” curriculum used for freshmen at Queens College, Barnard, Smith, Trinity College, Pace University, and Loras College in Iowa. The brainstorm of Mark Carnes, the Olin C. Whitney professor of history at Barnard College, “Reacting to the Past” transports students back in time to re-enact great moments and to debate great historical issues. These classes are “intricate games” where students are divided into factions that verbally argue their positions, and write papers defending their points of view. Last fall, Queens College students became residents of Athens in 403 B.C. to grapple with the trial of Socrates.

“This superb production brings home to the entire audience what Socrates — and philosophy — is all about,” said Fred Purnell, professor of philosophy at Queens College, whose “Reacting to the Past” students condemned Socrates to death (they had the option to decide otherwise, changing the course of history). Purnell recently finished creating a new game, “The Trial of Galileo.”

“The Apology of Socrates” is sponsored by the Freshman Year Initiative, the Center for Byzantine and Greek Studies, and the Office of the Provost at Queens College.

Seats for the free performance may be reserved in advance by calling 718-997-5567. Queens College is located at 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, at the corner of the Long Island Expressway and Kissena Blvd. (Exit 24 on the Long Island Expressway) in Flushing, Queens.

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