The Culture of Democracy

Peter Sellars

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On Sunday, August 3, 2003, Peter Sellars, theater director from the United States, gave the 2003 Proms Lecture to a packed audience in the Victoria & Albert Museum Lecture Theater. This event was part of the 109th season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, now known as the BBC Proms, and was broadcast on BBC radio. This classical music festival takes place in London's Royal Albert Hall and includes over seventy classical orchestra concerts.

Let's ask ourselves what all of this fuss and excitement over the Greeks is about. For me, it's amazing that the Post Office in a little town in North Dakota has Greek columns. Why? It's because of an amazing moment in Periclean Athens where there was a little democracy — and it worked for a little while — an elusive moment of potential equality, of freedom, of the sense that members of a society could work together in a different way. Now this just didn't happen out of nowhere, it was the result of a culture. To me, the most powerful thing about Greek culture, the gestures of which surround us constantly, is that the people making it had something really interesting on their minds about how to live.