Introduction to Volume 8 and Remembering Douglass Parker

Amy R. Cohen
Randolph College

Douglass Parker, 1927-2011

Welcome to the new Didaskalia. With Volume 8 we embark on a new era that will reflect the revolution in online capabilities in the nearly two decades since Didaskalia began. What has not changed is our mission: we are an academic journal dedicated to the study of ancient theatre and its legacy in performance.

The new look of the site is the most obvious of our many projected changes. We intend it to be aesthetically pleasing as well as easy to navigate. You will also notice that the journal will no longer be organized by issues: each year will be a volume, and we will publish pieces as soon as they are ready. We may sometimes publish a group of pieces together (conference proceedings, perhaps), but the new numbering will be by volume, with sequential numbers for each item within a volume.

Randolph College is now our hosting and publishing institution. We are grateful to Hugh Denard and his colleagues at King's College, London, for their many years of promoting Didaskalia with excellent technical services. Randolph College is the home of a Greek theatre with a long and active Greek Play tradition, and the institution welcomes the opportunity to support the study of ancient performance.

The new editorial staff will have a difficult time living up to the standards of our founding editor, Sallie Goetsch, and her successors, Hugh Denard and Jane Montgomery Griffiths. Toph Marshall has been devoted to Didaskalia since he first wrote for it in 1994, and he will continue to serve as associate editor. Jay Kardan brings years of experience as an editor and translator and a remarkable expertise in classics to his new position as assistant editor. My own qualifications as the new editor-in-chief come from my deep belief in the critical importance of performance for understanding ancient plays and the ancient world. I learn every day from my fellow scholars and practitioners, and at the helm of Didaskalia I hope to continue to foster that interaction for others.

Our new advisory and editorial boards will help us to keep raising the standards of the journal, and we are grateful to the APA's Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance, who have affiliated with us by agreeing to have their chair join our editorial board.

We are starting slowly: expect to see the site change and evolve as we discover what is possible and find the best way to implement changes. This is not the place for an exhaustive list of our plans, but embedded video and pdfs of articles will appear as soon our technical capabilities will permit. We are still making sure that all of the material from the first seven volumes is available and free of errors, and that process will continue as we adapt their text, images, and video to the new site.

We dedicate our new endeavors to the late and much-lamented Douglass Parker, who embodied the interplay between scholarship and practice, between an acute understanding of the ancient world and a keen sense of modern audience. Remembrances of him by friends and colleagues follow.

Kenneth Reckford
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

In our Hellenic Center year of blessed memory, 1961-62, Doug Parker quickly became our unofficial leader. He was older than the rest of us, emotionally more mature, vastly well read, with broad literary interests, but wise also in the ways of the world. He was terribly funny—at least once, he had me literally rolling on the floor with helpless, painful laughter—as well, of course, as terribly serious. I learned so much from him amid the almost continual flow of food and drink: from morning coffee, through lunch, through afternoon tea. But for three wintry weeks Doug fell silent. He was translating Lysistrata (for the Michigan series, edited by Bill Arrowsmith, his fellow komast). Maybe he nodded and spoke a few words, but his mind was elsewhere, struggling with recalcitrant lines of a choral ode. He translated from sheer obsession, then and always.

If I am still working on Aristophanes today, it is Doug's fault, for showing me how our poet could be terribly funny and terribly serious at the same time.

Mary-Kay Gamel
University of California, Santa Cruz

Predictably, I first found Doug as a translator—absolutely the best translator of ancient comedy into English in the twentieth century. As an undergraduate I was so excited by what was going on in classics at Texas that I almost went there for graduate studies, and I wonder what my career would have been like if I had. I loved his translations long before I started working in the theater myself, and once I heard the call of Dionysos I realized even more clearly what an amazing man of the theater he was, as I produced his Lysistrata in 1993, then directed his Eunuch in 2003, then used his Wasps as the basis for my own version in 2006.

Over the years he sent me unpublished translations, including the best version of Metamorphoses 1 I have ever read (I pleaded with him for years to do the rest of the poem), and Money (Aristophanes' Ploutos). I hope these can somehow make it into print; the world needs them.

Doug's brilliance was not only intellectual and creative—it was a warm brilliance, sparkling with humanity, compassion, and kindness. My longest association with him (not nearly long enough) was in 2002 when I directed him as the elder Housman in Stoppard's The Invention of Love, the first of the now-annual staged readings at APA meetings. On that occasion, as always, he was a delight—creative, flexible, generous, funny. The only problem was that he wasn't nearly nasty enough to embody the character.

Ave atque vale, dear Doug.

John Given
East Carolina University

I didn’t know Doug Parker well, having met him only once. But my recent production of his Menaechmi translation was likely the last staging of his work during his lifetime. It is an honor I bear with deep regret. I met Doug in January 2002 when I was cast with him in a production of his Heavensgate Deposition, an adaptation of Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis. I was a young, anonymous face, just out of graduate school. Yet I vividly remember how, after I delivered a single, inconsequential line, Doug pulled me aside to say how well that line came off. His kindness and generosity to someone he need not have noticed were remarkable. It gave me the courage, years later, to seek his permission to use the Menaechmi translation. He remembered me and granted permission immediately. When I offered royalties, he adamantly refused. He was pleased, he said, to have his work performed and to have Plautus introduced to new audiences. His linguistic playfulness and intricate understanding of the stage made our production very successful. My students and I express our gratitude and sincere sympathies to his family and friends.

Peter Meineck
New York University and Aquila Theatre Company

Doug was so kind to me in Aquila's very early days and when I was in Austin working at UT. He was an inspired, brilliant translator who had a keen sense of the stage. The works he did with Arrowsmith set the bar for all others, and they still hold up today. His recent translations with Hackett of Roman comedy were equally inspired. He will be missed.

Tim Moore
University of Texas at Austin

Doug was a regular visitor to my classes, where we often read his translations of Aristophanes and Plautus.  Whether it was a class of 18 students in "Comedy, Ancient and Modern" or 320 in "Introduction to Ancient Rome," Doug always enchanted.


A PDF of this piece: Volume 8, Number 1.