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September 24, 2007

The Getty Villa’s public programming enhances the experience of the ancient world with a diverse and engaging schedule of events anchored by an innovative theater program. Live performances of classical drama offer insight into the social, cultural, and political realities of life in ancient Greece and Rome, while the J. Paul Getty Museum’s permanent collection of antiquities, as well as changing exhibitions, deepen the connection between modern audiences and the stories underlying the tragedies and comedies onstage.

Classical dramatists explored basic, human stories that often parallel our contemporary experiences. Because of their universality, they are ever powerful and resonant, continuing to tempt theater professionals to reinterpret them.

Each summer, a major production is staged in the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, an outdoor theater based on ancient prototypes. Hippolytos, a dramatic tragedy, was the inaugural production in 2006. It moved audiences and resulted in sold-out performances and rave reviews.

Tug of War, the second annual classical play in the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, is a modern twist on a Roman classic. Award-winning director Meryl Friedman brings bawdiness and antic behavior to this play she adapted from an original translation by Amy Richlin, from the Roman comedy Rudens by Plautus.

The Villa Theater Lab Series, presented throughout the year in the Auditorium, fosters experimental and modern approaches to ancient stories. The Auditorium's technology enables directors, designers, musicians, and actors to freely incorporate advanced stage, music, and sound elements into their productions.

The Series is a workshop program that invites directors and companies to the Villa to create fresh takes on classical theater. The Getty provides each director orcompany with equal time and resources to rehearse and present four free public performances in the Villa’s indoor Auditorium. The Series is integral to the Villa’s mission to cultivate new productions in the classical canon, and has proven wildly popular with the theater-going public. In addition to Meryl Friedman’s take on The Wasps, audiences have been treated to presentations by the Latino Theater Company, Theatre Movement Bazaar, the Antaeus Company, Culture Clash, and the Ipanema Theater Troupe. The public also had the opportunity to experience a dramatic reading of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon from internationally renowned director Stephen Wadsworth, which will be transformed into a fully realized play for next year’s annual outdoor theater production at the Villa. Previews will begin in August and performances will run every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in September 2008.

“The Getty Villa’s theater program offers the public a bountiful mix of experiences,” says Karol Wight, curator of antiquities for the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Between the outdoor theater production and the Villa Theater Lab presentations, our programming hopefully conveys to audiences the importance theater had in antiquity, and how it continues to inspire modern plays today.”

And while there’s certainly a great deal of educational value to be gained from classical theater, audiences have also found the performances inescapably entertaining. Tug of War, with its colorful characters, outrageous plot twists, and playful language, does justice to Plautus, whom many consider the father of musical comedy, the improvisational commedia dell’arte, and even the modern day sitcom.

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Tracy Gilbert
Getty Communications Dept.

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

Visiting the Getty Villa: The Getty Villa is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Villa is always free. A ticket is required for admission. Tickets can be ordered in advance, or on the day of your visit, at or at 310-440-7300. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm for evening events. Groups of 15 or more must make reservations by phone. For more information, call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish); 310-440-7305 (TTY line for the deaf or hearing impaired). The Getty Villa is at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California.