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Ss. Peter and Paul production brings ‘Frogs’ to life


EASTON – When the student cast and stage hands for Ss. Peter and Paul High School’s production of “Frogs” heard of the selection, some were not overly enthused.

They thought it sounded rather Greek. “I said, what is ‘Frogs’? This makes no sense,” freshman Grace Burns recalled.

Ss. Peter and Paul High School in Easton, Md., hosted a student production of “Frogs.”

Then they learned it actually is all Greek, a play written some 2,500 years ago by Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. The comedy focuses on a perceived decline in Greek drama following the death of Euripides, which results in the god Dionysus (played by senior Max Hardesty) traveling to the underworld to bring Euripides back to the land of the living.

Naturally, it is not a simple journey and Hades, king of the underworld, sets up a literary battle between Euripides and Aeschylus, who died years before Euripides; they and Sophocles are considered the three best Greek writers of tragedy.

Kate Levey, who is producer, adapted a 2002 translation of the play by Jeffrey Henderson into a form suitable to a high school production and relevant to modern times while remaining true to the original text. Her major challenge was that in “Frogs,” Aristophanes often refers to other plays of the time, and their literary critiques, which the audiences of 405 BC would have understood but audiences today would not. That was especially evident in the literary competition between Euripides and Aeschylus. “I had to take all that out and retain the story and add just a bit” to make it relate to audiences today, Levey said.

Neither Levey nor Cecile Davis, director, know why Aristophanes titled the play “Frogs,” especially since they are only in a small part of the original play, chirping in unity as Dionysus crosses the lake to Hades.

Davis decided to combine the play’s chorus with the frog actors, and to extend the appearance of the frogs. That made what otherwise would have been miniscule roles as frogs more palatable to student actors.

The result is a lively script that features references to modern game shows and comic emoting to establish a farcical atmosphere.

Burns’ role as the salve of Hades is one example. “My character is an airhead who uses her charm and cuteness to get away with a lot of stuff” as she flits and dances about the stage.

While she was uncertain of the selection when it was announced, she described work on the play as fun. And while she may wonder why it was titled “Frogs,” she has come to like the production.

“I get it now,” she said.

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