On May 14 and 15, 1886, a group of seventy Penn students put on Aristophanes' Acharnians, a Greek comedy set in 425 B.C. satirizing the Peloponnesian War. An audience of nearly three thousand turned out for the performance, which took place at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. The presentation marked the first time a Greek comedy was presented in the Academy of Music. The presentation marked the first time a Greek comedy was presented in America, the Greek play produced by Harvard in 1881 being a tragedy. Subsequent performances took place at the New York Academy of Music in November 1886.
The Acharnians was presented in the original ancient Greek. An elaborate illustrated libretto with the Greek text and the English translation in parallel columns could be purchased to render the play intelligible to the large portion of the audience unfamiliar with the Greek language. It was produced by Morton W. Easton, Professor of Philology and presented with an accompaniment of modern music composed by Dr. Hugh Archibald Clarke, Professor of Music. George Wharton Pepper (B.A. 1887) played the leading role of Dikaiopolis. During rehearsals, Eadweard Muybridge, the pioneer photographer of motion, took photographs of three scenes, which were later published in Harper's Magazine.
Images from University archives: