Week 2 -further discussion


Apologies for the sound failure in this week’s workshop!


Anyway, I hope to create a space after each workshop for you to share ideas, ask questions about the issues raised and reflect on what’s been covered.


If you create a ‘prezi’ account, you can access my presentation here: http://prezi.com/z5rotn-jkygc/workshop-1-week-2-general-introduction/ (or by searching Workshop 1 Week 2 General Introduction).


This week’s introductory session provided a brief introduction to searching the archives, hopefully equipping you with the necessary skills to contact your archivist in the next week or so. If you still don’t feel confident doing this, or encounter any problems in your searches, please email me. 


Performance databases, such as the APGRD and the Open University, not only allow you to find what’s out there, but also to get a sense of where and when certain plays are at their most/least popular. Why, for example, were there so many Antigone‘s in 1980s Northern Ireland?


We briefly talked about four major decisions that will shape your practical piece: the use of masks, the role of the chorus, staging and translation. I touched upon what it meant for Greek actors to take on female roles on stage and the role of the mask enabling this gender fluidity (a great example is Peter Hall’s Oresteia, which deploys an all-male cast and uses masks). An accessible and thought-provoking exploration of this theme, for those who want to think about this in greater depth, is:

Nancy S Rabinowitz’s piece in Didaskalia: The Male Actor of Greek Tragedy: Evidence of Misogyny or Gender-Bending?


I talked about translation and used the example of the scholarly reception of Sarah Ruden’s Lysistrata to get you thinking about what you want from your translation. What is the difference between a translation for the page and for the stage?


After the workshop, I got to thinking about a particular occurrence in ancient plays that is extremely difficult to stage: the deus ex machina. At the end of Euripides’ Orestes, for example, with the standoff between Orestes (who has Hermione), Electra, Pylades and Menelaus at an impasse, Apollo appears and restores order. Not only are Apollo’s plans for reconciliation somewhat disappointing (marrying off hostage-Hermione with Orestes) but without a tradition of the deus ex machina-entrance, how can a modern audience feel anything but dissatisfied and confused by this last-minute intervention? If you choose to include a final scene in your practical piece, how will you deal with godly intervention? Similar issues you may come up against are the representation of ghosts (e.g., Hecabe) and Helen of Troy (how can anyone do justice to ‘the face that launch’d a thousand ships’?). A good place to start thinking about these issues is the final chapter of Simon Goldhill’s How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today, entitled ‘Gods, Ghosts, and Helen of Troy’ (p.189-223).


I introduced you to Catherine Edwards’ Medea in preparation for next week’s workshop and looked at the ways in which modern playwrights may feel the need to alter aspects of their ancient sources to appeal to a contemporary audience (e.g., introducing the war between Corinth and Athens to explain Aegeus’ presence). The changes that a playwright makes to an ancient play may also have political reasons (e.g., giving Glauce a speaking part and questioning the veracity of Medea’s matricide in keeping with a feminist agenda).


In the comments section, please feel free to add your own thoughts or questions about this week’s workshop, as well as any questions you may have about the reading I asked you to do or the progress of your practical piece.


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