Monday, April 30, 2007

Textkit website offers free ancient Greek and Latin learning materials

This is just too cool! Now if there was just a learn Italian website that I could use for my upcoming trip!

"Textkit was created to help you learn Ancient Greek and Latin!

Textkit is the Internet's largest provider of free and fully downloadable Greek and Latin grammars and readers. With currently 146 free books to choose from, Greek and Latin learners have downloaded 687,131 grammars, readers and classical e-books.

There are also many other areas of Textkit which can help you learn Greek and Latin. Register in our Forum where you can meet and learn Greek and Latin with other learners. Join a Textkit Study Group where you can move through a textbook at a set schedule with others. Subscribe to our newsletter. With a subscription you'll be able to download our growing collection of Greek and Latin answer keys. Explore Textkit Tutorials - a growing collection of in-depth Greek and Latin grammar discussions. Finally, check out our newest area, Textkit Vocabulary, where you can create entirely free online vocabulary courses complete with quizzes.

You can get started by visiting our Learn Ancient Greek and Learn Latin areas to find more downloadable grammars, readers, lexicons and dictionaries."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

British playwright crafts play about the destruction of Carthage

STARVED into submission following a three-year siege, Carthage burned at the hands of Rome.

Seventeen days on, with the walled city nothing more than a smoking pyre, its once 250,000-strong population reduced to a mere 50,000 slaves, the third Punic war ended, bringing to a close more than a century of conflict between the age-old adversaries.

It is against the backdrop of the circumstances leading up to this war that Edinburgh playwright Alan Wilkins has set his second collaboration with the Traverse Theatre's associate director, Lorne Campbell.

Carthage Must Be Destroyed, the latest play in the Cambridge Street theatre's 2007 season, receives its world premiere on Sunday, after two previews, beginning tonight.

Wilkins' retelling of the war, which raged from 150BC and 146BC, promises to be a compelling story of political intrigue, double-dealing and the ruthless realities of taking a nation to war.

Fifty years after the ravages of Hannibal, the Roman Republic is doing well, although taxes have risen and there doesn't seem to be quite as much money around for wine, villas and boys with good complexions.

There have been mutterings about Cato's rule. He needs to find a scapegoat and the state of Carthage fits the bill. Carthage has too much money. Carthage is stockpiling weapons. Carthage is a threat to Rome. Delenda est Cathago - Carthage must be destroyed - and Cato knows just the man for the job, Senator Gregor.

Practiced in the art of having just enough power to guarantee privilege without ever having so much that it brings responsibility, Gregor is about to encounter the sharp end of politics.

Wilkins, who is also playwright-mentor for the Traverse Theatre's Young Writers' Group and represented Scotland as a tutor playwright at the 2006 Interplay festival in Lichtenstein, reveals that he was attracted to this specific period of Ancient Rome's history because of its parallels with today. He explains: "That period has just the right amount of parallels with the present, but also, because it's a period about which not a lot is really known, it allows the writer a certain freedom to play around a bit more.

"And of course it is Rome, so there is a lot of inherent drama, the use of rhetoric, the togas and the wrestling. It's quite fun for a writer.

"What I wanted to avoid was making this an overtly political play with a message. Most people who I know that go to the theatre have fairly clear views on the Iraq situation anyway, so although the piece might cause them to reflect on the situation, I'm not beating a drum.

"The idea that the past can help us inform the present is not a new one, but there has to be an emotional drama to back it up to make it worth while going to the theatre."

First performed as a staged reading during the Traverse Cubed season last year, Carthage Must Be Destroyed reunites the writer with Campbell for the first time in three years.

He says: "The piece is really Gregor's story. Cato is the one who wants to invade Carthage in order to distract minds from domestic troubles - obviously there are contemporary parallels there, 25 years after the Falklands. But I was more interested in the people that allow that to happen. The politicians who just say yes in order to protect what they have. So, more than Cato, this is Gregor's journey."

"Ruthless Roman" play teaches history in 3D

Now this is an example of the way history should be taught:

"AS YOU entered the Whitley Bay Playhouse you could feel the excitement as children of all ages took there seats. Everyone jumped as loud music rattled around the room, entrancing you to wonder what would happen next on the stage.

“They’re behind you!” the audience cried, as the Ruthless Romans sneaked behind the Barmy Britons. A backdrop of a state-of-the-art electronic screen gave you a virtual visit back into history. Jokes made laughter amongst the audience which showed everyone getting pulled right into the entertaining performance.

What a great way to have a history lesson; in a few hours you learned the Roman Empire’s history. Instead of text books and paper, you had 3D glasses making the battles seem as though you were there. Getting hit by flying skulls and arrows made the audience gasp.

Only four actors in the cast produced many characters by changing their hair or bringing on props. Starting out in modern day Rome as three tourists from Britain, they took an Italian guide who showed them back in time.

A hilarious game of weakest link, or should I say ‘the weakest king’ – it was the audience’s job to vote who was the worst king – really got the audience fired up with excitement.

Live on stage, the loud sound effects made all the difference and lighting really showed what Rome was like in those times, educating the children without them even realising. They were teaching and entertaining at the same time."