Arts & Entertainment, Features

Classics enthusiasts celebrate Halloween via dramatic virtual readings of Greek tragedy

As the snow came pouring down over Boston Friday night, the Boston University Classics department held its fifth annual Gore Fest — a night of dramatic readings of Ancient Greek and Roman horror tragedies — to celebrate a remote Halloween via Zoom.

Boston University’s Classics Department hosted its fifth annual Gorefest virtually on Friday. COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF CLASSICAL STUDIES

Students, professors and alumni in BU Classics filled the meeting to share stories of lore and myth during the spookiest time of the year.

Classics lecturer Sophie Klein moderated the event, a task she said she was especially excited to undertake this year. Klein said Gore Fest is meant to coincide with midterm season and alleviate students’ stress over exams.

“It’s always meant to be a fun study break, which seems perhaps a bit counterintuitive because, of course, it’s tragedy,” Klein said. “But there really is something cathartic about coming together to read tragedy.”

Gore Fest included back-to-back story-telling featuring a number of different readers and famous tragedies, such as “The Odyssey,” “Metamorphoses,” “Oedipus Tyrannus” and “The History of the Peloponnesian War.”

Klein, who teaches courses in language, literature and drama at BU, has participated in Gore Fest before and said it was important to keep the event going despite the difficult circumstances.

“We were very keen to do it this year, especially this year, with everybody being so far apart,” Klein said. “Doing a community event felt more important than ever, so we’re very lucky to be able to find a format that we could come up with equally silly solutions.”

Attendees who participated on Zoom heard poetry from professors as a way of celebrating Halloween remotely this year.

For classics minor Anna Rafferty, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, this was her first time experiencing Gore Fest. She said the event presented an optimistic environment.

“I’ve never been able to chill out with my professors in such a non-professional sense, non-academic,” Rafferty said. “It was really nice to see a bunch of my peers and my professors reading Greek tragedy and having fun.”

Although participants did not get to participate in the usual in-person experience, which entails costume contests and bake-offs, the Learn from Anywhere model brought students both on and off campus together to hear stories read aloud by their fellow classmates and professors.

Matthew Goebel, a reader during the event studying classics at CAS, said the event was successful despite the remote environment. Goebel said he didn’t expect so many people to show up — more than 60 people attended the reading.

“We actually got a lot higher turnout, which was surprising, I guess it’s more accessible in a way,” Goebel said. “Normally we have pizza and candy available for everyone, and it’s the kind of thing where you could just drop by.”

The first reading came from Book 7 of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and included speakers using their Zoom background settings to set the scene with a five-headed mythical sea monster. The sea monster from the story, Charybdis, was played by associate professor Leah Kronenberg’s dog.

Other makeshift props and costumes included associate professor Stephanie Nelson’s use of a surgical mask to play the role of Polyphemus, the cyclops from “The Odyssey.” Nelson brought the role to life with the help of her stuffed animal lamb to further resemble the role.

Klein said the readers’ dedication to their characters and passion for the texts showed through, despite Gore Fest being an impromptu performance.

“It actually requires no rehearsal. None of the actors actually had rehearsed or even maybe saw the script until they read it tonight,” Klein said. “We thought that was a way of encouraging more participation if there’s basically no effort demanded of the participants. They can just show up, have a script and have a good time.”

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