The Gay Greek Myths Re-Awaken as Theater and Book After Two Thousand Year Sleep

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Four New York artists collaborate over four years on a theatrical CD+book project to bring back to life the lost Greek myths of male love. Titled Lovers’ Legends Unbound, it features familiar protagonists who reveal here a side censored since Roman times. Stories of Narcissus, who spurns the love of another man before falling in love with himself; Hercules and Hylas, in love and together “morning, noon and night;” Zeus and Ganymede and jealous Hera, and many others, are set to music by Steve Gorn and read by Timothy Carter. The tales show that self-indulgence, betrayal, and violence are to be despised, and love is the highest good. The myths were restored and retold by author Andrew Calimach, and published unabridged in Lovers’ Legends: The Gay Greek Myths, a ForeWord Book-of-the-Year Award winner and a well-reviewed work, adapted here for the stage by Israeli director Agnes Lev.

In a tour-de-force combining archaeology, literature, theater and music, four artists from New York State have united their efforts to bring back to life the lost Greek myths of male love. Culminating four years of labor, they have released their work, titled "Lovers’ Legends Unbound," as a radio-drama genre production on audio-CD plus text with color illustrations of ancient art. The stories, painstakingly pieced together from ancient fragments and re-written by Andrew Calimach, have as protagonists characters we all thought we knew, but who reveal here a side censored out of popular literature ever since Roman times.

Listening to these magic stories – movingly narrated by Shakespearean actor Timothy Carter and spiced with flute music by Steve Gorn, of the contemplative music band Drala – we discover that Narcissus fell in love with a beautiful boy in a pond, ignorant it was his own reflection, all because of a curse upon him for having spurned the love of another man. Here too are Hercules and Hylas, in love, and together “morning, noon and night.” The stories integrate passion with spiritual and moral teachings: there is the shamanic story of Tantalus and the Olympians; and Pelops in Pisa, whose lover helps him gain a wife but can’t protect him from paying for his crimes. Stories about Orpheus, the prophet of male love; Zeus & Ganymede and jealous Hera; the gay side of the Trojan war in Achilles and Patroclus, and others complete the collection.

“Books of folk tales and myths were the daily fare of my childhood, since my parents were too poor to afford a television set, and they helped me understand myself and the world.” says Calimach. “I felt cheated when I realized that a whole family of myths had been suppressed. I don’t think I would have felt so alienated when growing up if I had learned about the naturalness of gay love through the tales of the Greek gods and heroes.”

Calimach is the author of the acclaimed "Lovers' Legends: The Gay Greek Myths" — the source text for the current work, winner of the FOREWORD MAGAZINE Silver Book-of-the-Year Award for Gay & Lesbian Non-Fiction, and finalist in Education. The book was also a BEN FRANKLIN AWARD finalist and a LAMBDA BOOK AWARD finalist in Children / Young Adults and Spirituality categories. Calimach’s work has been well reviewed in popular and professional journals. School Library Journal praises the original text, rating it appropriate for High School and College audiences and adding, “Young adults will have an opportunity to learn about mythology with new explications and insights. Not only of interest to the gay community, the book will appeal to all lovers of myth as it is a work of considerable scholarship suitable for use in courses on gender studies or Greek history and culture.” Vern Bullough, who has published extensively on the history of sexuality comments on "Lovers’ Legends Unbound," “I am impressed. It is a work of great devotion, and scholarly as well.”

To produce the CD, Calimach joined forces with Agnes Lev, the noted Israeli theater director. “Mythology is historical and narrative,” says Lev, “but my approach was to make the stories personal and emotional. Conflict became dilemma, and story line became inner action.” Calimach adds, “We wanted to present the myths the way the ancients might have heard them. In the old days they were not meant to be read but to be told.”

The stories have a timeless appeal, springing from the Greeks’ sophisticated understanding of human psychology. Calimach explains, “In our ancestors’ time, same-sex love was considered natural, and often was analogous to marriage. It colored every aspect of life: war, religion, and education. Listening to myths we get drawn into that world, and discover that self-indulgence, betrayal, and violence are to be despised, and love is the highest good.”

For additional information and review copies, contact Andrew Calimach by e-mail or at 914-522-2000, or visit http://www.haidukpress.com     

Lovers’ Legends Unbound

Haiduk Press, December 2003

96 p.; Cloth + Audio-CD

ISBN 0-9714686-1-3 $25

Distributed by Biblio / National Book Network and available from all major US wholesalers and bookstores worldwide.

ABOUT HAIDUK PRESS — The haiduks were quasi-legendary folk heroes who fought the Turks during their occupation of Eastern Europe. To this day they are regarded as romantic, Robin Hood figures, and are an integral part of the folklore of the villages and towns of Hungary and Romania. Inspired by their example, Haiduk Press (http://www.haidukpress.com), an independent publishing company formed over moonshine and home-made sausages in the wee hours of a Bucharest morning, presents non-fiction works that gently challenge the cultural status quo and conventional wisdom.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Andrew Calimach

Haiduk Press

Fax 801-697-8167

http://www.haidukpress.com

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