Euripides Our Contemporary

Continuing Studies Course taught by Rush Rehm

SRT Artistic Director; Professor of Classics and Theater, Stanford University


As part of Stanford Repertory's 20th anniversary summer festival Nevertheless They Persisted: Euripides' Hecuba/Helen, “Euripides Our Contemporary” will focus on Euripides' plays that deal with female protagonists, especially in relationship to war and violence. Although Euripides wrote and directed his plays in ancient Athens, we keep returning to his tragedies for their uncanny modernity, and the course will focus on this aspect of his work. 

Over six sessions, we will read and discuss some of Euripides’ most famous tragedies (Medea, Trojan Women, Electra), but also several of his lesser-known works (Andromache, Hecuba, Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Helen). In each of these, a tragic heroine “takes on” a world not of her own making. Drawing on a combination of resilience, will power, deception, courage, and endurance, these powerful female characters face the direst of circumstances. However, surrender is not in their vocabulary, or if it is, it comes with such depth of understanding as to constitute its own form of resistance. 

Euripides’ tragic heroines are full of surprises, shifting the ground out from under our expectations in the audience. Alive to shifting sympathies and dynamics of power, his plays provoke us by unsettling our expectations and disturbing our comfort level. Part of his genius lies in his daring theatricality, joining tragedy and humor, suffering and escape, irony and heartfelt emotion. We recognize a modern sensibility here, one that justifies considering Euripides very much as our contemporary. Join the conversation with an ancient playwright who is – for better or worse – one of us. 

The course meets Wednesday, 7 – 8:50 pm, June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25 (attending Hecuba/Helen preview, 8 pm, Roble Studio Theater), August 1, and August 8, 2018. 

To enroll in the course, please visit the Stanford Continuing Studies website,


Please note: The class also will attend a preview performance of SRT's Hecuba/Helen production.  Students are encouraged to attend SRT’s free Monday night film festival, where we will screen films based on Euripides directed by Michael Cacoyannis (Electra, Trojan Women, and Iphigenia), as well as three films directed by Margarethe von Trotta (The Lost Honor of Katerina Blum, Marianne and Juliane, and Hannah Arendt). Enrollment also includes free attendance at SRT’s community symposium The Trojan War, Then and Now (Saturday August 4, 2018,) featuring lectures by Professors Mary-Kay Gamel (Classics, UC Santa Cruz), Katerina Zacharia (Classics and Film Studies, Loyola-Marymount University), Richard Martin (Classics, Stanford), and William Eddelman (Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford), short performances from relevant plays, and a catered lunch.