“Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming” is a festival of arts and ideas that celebrates, reevaluates, and considers anew the concept of democracy in the one space that has, since Greek antiquity, allowed citizens to engage peacefully and constructively with serious and often divisive issues, be they social, political, religious, or ideological: a public theater. Through a multidisciplinary program of theater, music, talks, and visual art, Onassis USA and The Public Theater, two agitators of public curiosity—one Greek, one American—offer a joint project that brings together Greek and American artists and thinkers to bridge the origins of democracy with its evolution, its violent and idealistic past with its distorted present, and offer artistic interpretations about its current state and future.
Democracy, which literally means “the rule of the people,” is perhaps the most celebrated Greek innovation. But even as we generally acknowledge it as the best political system available to us compared to its alternatives, democracy is still deeply flawed. Historically, it has given rise to corrupt leaders, or, as Plato warned, evolved into tyranny. Wherever and whenever democracy “arrived,” to remove power from the hands of the few and deliver it to the many, its landing was not peaceful, but vengeful and violent. So where can we turn to consider the concept of democracy today in its most ideal form?