If Plato's account is accurate, the Greek philosopher Socrates was a funny, thoughtful man who preached a rigorous gospel of reason. He espoused a firm belief that those who claim great wisdom have little and those who profess to know nothing are usually the wisest among us. Naturally, that kind of thinking got him in lots of trouble. He was labeled a radical, identified as an enemy of the state, and charged by the court of Athens with the terrible crimes of being an exceptionally curious fellow and a heretic who worshiped gods of his own invention. Socrates, the father of all Western philosophy, was subsequently sentenced to death for corrupting the Athenian youth with his wild notions but not before having the opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers.
This week, The Apology of Socrates, an original creation of the Greek Theatre of New York, brings Plato's account of Socrates' impassioned final defense for two performances at the University of Memphis. Yannis Simonides, an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer, has played the part of Socrates since the project made its debut in 2003. The Yale-trained actor begins the show wearing the large mask of a Greek tragedian, but he removes it almost immediately in order to begin an intimate conversation with his audience about everything from the meaning of life to where we go after death. What follows for the audience is a full immersion in the type of probing dialogue that has come to be known as the "Socratic" method.