Erase and Rewrite. Ancient Texts, Modern Palimpsests


  • Martina Treu



Aeschylus spent his last days in Sicily, upon invitation by the tyrant of Syracuse: the same town, since 1914, has been hosting a world famous festival of classical productions, in the ancient Greek theatre, which re-opened with the performance of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (1914). My paper aims at showing the peculiar connection between ancient Greece and modern Sicily and particularly how Aeschylus’ legacy is received and transformed by Sicilian playwrights. First of all, his trilogy Oresteia was (and is) frequently chosen in order to celebrate the foundation (or rebirth) of a community, all over the island. My main case study is located in Gibellina, a town in Western Sicily destroyed by an earthquake in 1968. Many artists were involved in the process of its reconstruction. One of them, the Sicilian artist Emilio Isgrò, wrote and staged his first plays in Gibellina, including a poetic adaptation from Aeschylus’ trilogy: the monumental Orestea di Gibellina 1983-1985 (recently republished with other plays, such as Medea, 2002 and Odissea Cancellata, 2003, and with a selection of critical essays: Isgrò 2011). The key concept of this paper is borrowed by a fundamental technique created by Isgrò, which inspired his creations both as an artist and a playwright: to erase and rewrite a text, so that its profound essence may emerge – not on the surface, but in the backlight.