Dr Maria Georgopoulou’s presentation focuses on two theatrical plays written by American playwrights (Mordecai Noah and John Howard Payne) that were performed in New York and in London in 1822. The protagonist of both plays is Ali Pasha (c. 1740 – 1822), who contributed decisively, if unwittingly, to the struggle of the Greeks for their independence primarily because of the effect he had on Lord Byron.
Written immediately after Ali Pasha’s demise in 1822, the plays were performed while the Greek Revolution was still in its early stages. The villain Ali Pasha and the beautiful Greek prisoner who tries to avoid his wrath and harassment in order to mingle with her beloved, offer the necessary elements of savagery, sensuality, exoticism and action for a successful melodrama. Both works transform Ali Pasha’s story to highlight themes to resonate with the intended audiences. Noah transposes Ali Pasha’s action from the city of Ioannina to Athens while the finale of the show is a fantastic allegorical scene of triumph where famous ancient Greeks and modern revolutionaries, including several from the Americas, join the chorus. In the end of Payne’s play, Ali Pasha sets himself on fire in the citadel of Ioannina so that he and his riches do not fall into the hands of the Sultan.
The analysis of the characters as well as of the geographical and historical references in the two works, explores the resonance of the events of ’21 in distant America, the perception of exotic stereotypes, and the impact of the struggle for independence on American and English audiences.