The Classical Greek Theatre Festival (CGTF) is an annual theatrical event created to introduce and sustain the appreciation of ancient Greek theatre throughout communities and campuses in various southwestern and western states. CGTF is committed to the idea that Greek drama, like Shakespearean drama, has much to offer contemporary audiences.
The festival, now in its thirty-seventh season, began in 1971 under the inspiration and leadership of Dr. Keith Engar, past chair of the University of Utah Department of Theatre, and Dr. Jim Svendsen, professor in the Department of Languages and Literature, who has served to the present as classical consultant and dramaturge.
The Classical Greek Theatre Festival was so named to reflect a multi-dimensional event that includes not just the theatrical performance but also educational components. These include lectures, post-play discussions, exhibits, symposia, films, and a study guide distributed widely to the general public and to high school and college students.
With a professional director, professional designers, composer, and choreographer and actors from the U of Utah's acclaimed Actor Training Program, CGTF has grown in terms of audience size (with outside performances reaching 1,000) and has established a track record for excellence, receiving critical recognition and awards. In 1999, for example, CGTF's production of Libation Bearers won a regional award from the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival.
The support for the Festival is broad-based. It includes the University of Utah's Department of Theatre, The Utah Humanities Council, The Utah Arts Council and The Salt lake City Arts Council. In addition, The Utah Performing Arts Tour of the Utah Arts Council has for many years matched the fee paid by local sponsors and thus subsidized the tour of the state of Utah. A grant from the Thomas D. Dee Foundation and a donation from the Greek Orthodox Community of Salt Lake City also subsidize the production costs.
In the falls of 2001-2003, CGTF mounted and toured productions of Sophocles' cycle of plays on the family of Oedipus. CGTF devoted the last four years to plays focused on the Trojan War and the family of Agamemnon: Aeschylus' Agamemnon in 2004, Euripides' prequel Iphigenia at Aulis In 2005, Euripides' Electra in 2006 and Euripides' Helen in 2007.
CGTF is unique in its attempt to bring ancient Greek theatre to a broad American audience through modern American translations, original music, song and dance and an utterly entertaining theatricality. While there are many Shakespearean festivals throughout the USA, there is only one touring Greek festival: The Classical Greek Theatre Festival of Utah.