Saturday, March 15, 2014

Puppet Casina performed in Seattle

This is a guest post by Lauren Dudley, creator of the Puppet Casina:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsWW0ywTerE

Welcome, Lauren and puppets!




The inspiration for a puppet version of Plautus’ Casina began in Professor Catherine Connors’ Roman Comedy class  at the University of Washington in September, 2012. In addition to translating the text and discussing the grammar, we acted several scenes from the play.

This activity increased my curiosity about differences between a script as text and a script as information to actors that guides performance in physical space.  At the same time, I became interested in what kind of people made up the grex in Plautus’ time.

My research into the composition of a Roman comedy troupe included social status, gender, ethnicity and costume.  The more I learned about the actors, the more I wanted to see them come to life. (In 1970, I learned to make hand puppets from Aurora Valentinetti, a well-known Northwest puppeteer and professor of Drama at the University of Washington.  I have made puppets on occasion since that time.)

Because Professor Connors has a policy of allowing class projects in lieu of paper, I decided to construct an 8-man grex that would be capable of performing any Roman comedy.  And so the grex came into being.

Their debut performance was playing two scenes from Casina in our Roman Comedy class. Next, they made a guest appearance at the APA workshop on Roman Comedy in Seattle in January, 2013.

The APA workshop was extremely helpful because it allowed me to see the effects of different performance choices: Latin or English; spoken dialogue or recorded; Latin meter or not; music or not; the use of masks or not.

With Professor Connors’ continued guidance and at the suggestion of Lynn Jeffries, a well-known puppeteer and member of Cornerstone Theater in Los Angeles, I began to reduce the script to a running time of 28 minutes. 

My editorial and production decisions were made with the goal of providing my contemporary audience with an experience similar to that of a Roman audience.

I chose not to retain the Latin meter as a result of having cut so much text.  The actors were instructed to speak the Latin in a way that expressed the emotion inherent in the text.  The aim of the translation was to make the 2013 American audience laugh.

Now that I had both a puppet grex and a script, I began to recruit puppeteers.  Of the five puppeteers, three of us were Latin students and the other two had no Latin experience at all.  As we began rehearsals, it became clear that it was impossible for the puppeteers to memorize the Latin. The exception was Professor Connors, who memorized her lines for her performance as Fides.  We recorded our soundtrack and used English subtitles.  The recording was so successful that, after the show, I had many people ask me how we had managed to memorize so much Latin.

Although I had a desire to include a puppet tibicen player, that idea was discarded as too distracting to the audience.  Instead we substituted the women’s dance routines accompanied by contemporary music to convey the idea that Roman comedy had a musical component.

Although each puppet has his own linen comedy mask, the decision was made to perform without them for fear the masks would also confuse the audience.

We performed puppet Casina at the Jewel Box Theater in Seattle, Washington on September 28, 2013 in front of an audience of 55, about a third of whom were classicists.  Casina was one of three acts included in the program of Roman funeral games, titled Mors Falsimoniae. A gladiator dance and circus act followed the puppet performance, connected by an emcee in the role of the goddess Trivia.

The show was extremely well received by all.  For the puppeteers who were Latin students, performing this show gave us a chance to experience Latin as a living language, connected to our body movements.  We felt closer to the Roman people, laughing at and causing our audience to laugh at something that would have pleased the Romans so many thousands of years ago.

The classicists in the audience enjoyed hearing the spoken Latin and seeing this play brought to life.  The non-classicists in the audience were amazed at how funny this play was and how much fun they had watching it.

The grex and I look forward to future performances.




  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

10,000 views, in 100 countries!

Our global superstars have been viewed ten thousand times since we went on YouTube eighteen months ago!  The viewing list now has 100 countries:


Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM), Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reúnion, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S.A., “Unknown Region,” Vietnam.

In the U.S., the list remains the same: 49 states, plus D.C. and an "unknown region."  (If you drive through South Dakota some time, find a wifi hotspot and pull up one of our videos!  That way we'll have views in all 50 states.)

U.S. viewership accounts for 66% of the total, but international viewing continues to increase.  Here are the nations in the top 20:

U.S.
U.K.
Italy
Australia
Canada
Spain
Greece
Germany
France
Cyprus
India
Russia
Brazil
Switzerland
Japan
Netherlands
Ireland 
Belgium
Czech Republic
Portugal

The Latin videos account for 3,002 of the 10,002 views, and their international viewership is significantly higher than the 34% of the total views.  (Google Statistics did not give figures for all 20 videos, but for some of the Latin scenes, international views amount to 51% of the total viewership.)

Overall, the viewing patterns suggest that our videos are really seeing a lot of classroom use.

This blog has been visited 4,250 times. 

Congratulations to all our participants—faculty experts, composer (Ted Gellar-Goad), program assistant (Serena Witzke), costume designer (Adam Dill), and especially the hardworking NEH Summer Scholars.  Ten thousand views!  We never dreamt of such numbers when we were designing this program, and we're just amazed.

Tim and Sharon 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Seth Jeppesen's class, Ancient Drama and Performance

Here's what NEH Summer Scholar Seth Jeppeson is up to this semester!


This semester at BYU I am teaching a course entitled Ancient Drama and Performance, which is based to a large extent on my experience with the NEH Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance. One thing that the institute demonstrated quite well is how important performance is to the understanding of ancient drama. Though most people would agree with this statement, it is still rare in the field of Classics to find classes that incorporate performance in the course work and assessment to a significant degree. In teaching this class, I hope to illustrate that such an approach can work. Riffing off of my experience in the institute, I came up with the following plan: with a group of Classics, Humanities and Theater students, we will read a number of plays in translation - Greek and Roman, tragedy and comedy - and then read a survey of scholarship about how these plays were performed anciently and how they have been translated, adapted, and performed in the modern world. Using the tools gained through this survey of the primary and secondary material, the students will choose scenes to perform at the end of the semester.

We will document our process along the way on our blog: http://technitaidionysou.blogspot.com/



Please feel free to look over our posts on the blog and provide comments on what you see. Thanks!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mimi Kammer to give a talk about the Institute at conference, in March

Mimi Kammer, of Simpson College in Iowa, will be giving a talk about the Institute this March:

“Performance as Research and Pedagogy:  Revising the Procedures of the National Endowment for the Humanities”

Mid-America Theatre Conference
Upcoming, March 2014


Here's the abstract:


Performance as Research and Pedagogy: 
Revising the Procedures of the National Endowment for the Humanities


            Each summer, the National Endowment for the Humanities offers a series of programs designed for scholars to engage in collaborative, intensive research and study of “ideas central to undergraduate teaching in the humanities.”[1]  The 2012 summer institute, “Roman Comedy in Performance,” attracted scholars from a range of fields, including classics, literature, religious studies, modern languages, acting, directing, and theatre history.  It was considered an unconventional experiment among NEH officials not only for its interdisciplinary nature, but also because it combined more traditional academic techniques (e,g, close readings, seminar discussions, etc.) with mandates for performance:  to be a fellow at this institute, each scholar, regardless of his/her field, would have to act.  Setting aside the more usual means of scholarly articulation such as the publishable paper, this institute culminated with professionally filmed performances of scenes from the works of Plautus and Terence, each featuring scholars as actors. 
This paper will iterate the methodologies of the Roman comedy institute, particularly those predicated on a scholarship of “doing” via embodied knowledge-experiences of performance; relate the findings of the institute, particularly if humor could—or should—be found in these plays[2]; and from a first-person point-of-view demonstrate that our success as humanities students and instructors would not have been possible if we had not utilized performance as a tool of research, scholarship and potential practical  pedagogy.






[1] “NEH Programs for School and College Educators”  (Washington:  National Endowment for the Humanities, 2012).
[2] Although Roman comedic formulas inspired much of the comedy we have today, from stock characters to common scenarios, acting in these plays is difficult.  Most include storylines of rape, slavery, and violence which seem more disturbing than comical, particularly to 21st century sensibilities.  Debate also remains over whether or not these plays were funny in their own time.  Teaching them is difficult, and public performances of Roman comedies are rare.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

9,000 views, in 97 countries!

YouTube records 9,000 views--in 97 countries!  Here is where our superstars have been seen:



Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S.A., “Unknown Region,” Vietnam.

All U.S. states have checked in, except South Dakota!

This blog has been visited more than 3,700 times.

Remember: DVD sets are still available for sale: 
http://romancomedyinperformance.blogspot.com/search/label/DVDs

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

T. Moore uses NEH Summer Institute videos in various lectures

The NEH Summer Institute Videos have proved a priceless asset to Tim Moore as I have given various lectures this year.  In lectures on "Roman Comedy on Stage" at Illinois Wesleyan University and Truman State University I showed videos from the institute to demonstrate stage space, masks, music, and the relationship between performance and tone; and I used them to show a group of donors at Washington University what Classics is all about.  I introduced the videos as a classroom tool to the Illinois Classical Conference.  I append below part of the handout from the Illinois Classical Conference talk, which may prove useful to those wanting a handy guide to the videos.


Videos from the NEH Summer Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmBs1K1ruw2i48CmDku1HrQ?feature=mhee
(or search for “Roman Comedy” and “Sharon James” in Youtube).
Performed in Latin
01 Pseudolus Latin: Plautus, Pseudolus 133-234, with ancient style costumes, an all-male cast (except for mutes), and clarinet accompaniment, played as background music.
Bacchides 1 Latin: Plautus, Bacchides 1116-1206, with ancient style costumes and masks, sung a capella.
PersaLatin: Plautus, Persa 753-858, in modern costumes, sung to the accompaniment of a clarinet. 
Truculentus 1 Latin: Plautus, Truculentus 775-854, in modern costumes, sung with a repetitive melody to the accompaniment of a clarinet, in the style of melodrama.
Eunuchus 1 Latin: Terence, Eunuchus 739-816, in masks and ancient style costumes, with elaborate stylized gestures.

Performed in English Translation
Plautus, Bacchides 1116-1206
            Bacchides 2 English in Masks: with ancient style costumes and masks, spoken.
            Bacchides 3 English Without Masks: with ancient style costumes, spoken.
Plautus, Casina 353-423
Casina English Version 1: with ancient style costumes and masks created for the NEH Summer Institute.
Casina English Version 2: with ancient style costumes and large full masks used elsewhere in performances of Greek tragedy.
Casina English Version 3 Improv: with ancient style costumes and half-masks used elsewhere in performances of commedia dell’arte, performed as a scenario to which the actors improvised, as in commedia dell’arte.
Plautus, Mercator 691-802
Mercator English A: in modern costumes. Dorippa is furious, and the cook appears to be deliberately “playing dumb” to aggravate Lysimachus.
Mercator English B: in modern costumes. Dorippa is traumatized, and the cook appears to be clueless
Plautus, Pseudolus 133-234
02 Pseudolus Commedia: with modern style costumes, and the half-masks and style of commedia dell’arte.
03 Pseudolus All Female cast: with modern style costumes and a “breakout scene” in which the performers discuss questions raised by the scene and its performance.
04 PseudolusHipHop: with ancient style costumes and some masks, in the style of hip-hop, with percussion and recorder accompaniment.
05 Pseudolus Slapstick/Mocking Slaves: with ancient style costumes, half-masks as in commedia dell’arte, and a slapstick.
Truculentus 2 English: Plautus, Truculentus 775-854: in modern costumes, spoken, in the style of melodrama.
Terence, Eunuchus 739-816
Eunuchus 19th century: using Henry Thomas Riley's 1853 translation, with costumes suggesting a 19th-century British garden party.
Eunuchus 3 sit-com: in modern costumes. An adaptation in the style of a 21st-century American situation comedy.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

8,000 Views in 92 countries!



We have reached 8,000 views, in 92 countries and all U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C. and "unknown region"), except for South Dakota!  There has been a big uptick in viewing since mid-September.

Here's our current viewing list:

Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy,  Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S.A., “Unknown Region,” Vietnam.

In the last 6 weeks, international viewership has risen by about 4%, from about 33% of the total views to 37%.  

This blog has been visited over 3,100 times.

DVD sets are still available for sale—see below.