Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chris Bungard's production of Truculentus!


Here is Chris Bungard's write-up of his recent production of Plautus' stunning and surprising play Truculentus.
 
                     Empowering Plautus’ Women



Following a sabbatical translating Plautus’ Truculentus, I had the good privilege to see it come to life when the Butler University Theatre Department agreed to stage it. Since the students in that department are predominantly women, and almost all of the men would be needed for the other main production (Our Town), a happy accident occurred where the play would be performed by an all female cast under the marvelous direction of Bart Simpson.



I can think of few better plays of Plautus for an all-female production. Despite being named Truculentus, the play focuses primarily on the meretrix Phronesium and her ancilla Astaphium as they deftly ply their trade in order to procure the goods of three men, a city lad, a mercenary soldier, and country boy—eager for the opportunity to squander his father’s goods in the elegance of the city. The men cycle on and off stage, overly eager to enjoy some time with Phronesium while being ushered off stage in favor of the latest guest who has new resources to give. At the end of the play, the meretrix calls the shots as she invites the soldier and the country boy to share her company.



Despite having only 15 rehearsals (including a weeklong break to provide tech crew for Our Town and a week at Thanksgiving), and despite figuring out how to negotiate half-masks and musical cues from a live musician, the actors managed to put on a full production, off book thanks to the brilliant work of Bart Simpson, invited by the Theatre Department to tackle this show. What emerged was a show that sat comfortably in the modern and ancient world simultaneously. The costumes were largely modern in nature while the draping element suggested a previous time.  There was music to set the tone of a scene, but the musician was right there, at times interfering with the characters. The actors could use the lower face to express themselves as they normally would, but the masks denied them the expressiveness of the eyes.



In the end, the show sold out its three-show run with packed houses, even packing the final dress rehearsal when we knew there would not be enough seats for all the students on campus interested in seeing the show, and the actors loved having had the opportunity to act in a theatrical style that they would likely not have had the chance to explore otherwise.









  




Sunday, November 1, 2015

Special issue of Classical Journal, on the 2012 Summer Institute, now in print!

Here's a guest post by Meredith Safran, who guest-edited the current issue of Classical Journal (111.1), dedicated to our Institute and featuring articles by Erin Moodie, Nancy Sultan, Sophie Klein, Mike Lippman, Chris Bungard, Ted Gellar-Goad and Tim Moore, and Sharon James, Tim Moore, and Meredith Safran.  The journal is available electronically through JSTOR.  Clara Hardy Shaw, of Carleton College, has done informal reviews on her blog:  https://classicsblogging.wordpress.com/.

Meredith writes:

By now, many of the readers of this blog will have received the recent volume of Classical Journal, which features fruits of the 2012 NEH Summer Institute in Roman Comedy in Performance. A little over two years ago, CJ editor Laurel Fulkerson agreed to take a chance on a special issue devoted to exploring the intersection of performance and research into Roman comedy. The initial versions of these papers were presented at the 2013 CAMWS Annual Meeting, in a panel organized by Erin Moodie of Purdue University and Christopher Bungard of Butler University and featuring participants from the NEH Institute. Over the next two years, Laurel and I worked with the authors to develop a kind of “how-to” manual for teaching various aspects of Roman comedy through performance, primarily directed at undergraduates and adaptable to Latin-based and in-translation courses.

The pieces cover a variety of technical and broadly sociological topics, fusing together scholarly research and practical application. Each piece offers both exercises that any teacher—novice or specialist—can try in the classroom and intellectual grounding and objectives for those experiments. In the first half of the volume, Erin Moodie takes on the challenge of preserving the spirit but not the letter of Plautine Latin in creating new translations. Michael Lippman explores the connection between mask and body work in communicating character. Timothy Moore and Ted Gellar-Goad provide a variety of approaches for integrating the sine qua non of Roman comedy, music and meter, into the classroom. Sophie Klein uncovers the significance of silent characters and advocates for making them present in analysis and performance.

Taking off from Sophie’s analysis of the sociological significance of silent characters in comedy, the second half of the volume plays with the dynamics of masters and slaves (Christopher Bungard), the multilayered potential of metatheater to expose power dynamics (Meredith Safran), and the experience of integrating Plautine comedy into a full-fledged reconstruction of a Roman religious festival (Nancy Sultan). These papers are bracketed by an introductory essay by Sharon James, Timothy Moore, and me explaining the genesis and goals of the NEH Summer Institute and the CJ special issue, and a concluding essay that provides a brief history of integrating performance and research since the early twentieth century by Erica Bexley. Erica kindly agreed to join the project due to her own interest in Plautine performance, featured in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy, edited by Michael Fontaine and Adele Scafuro.

It’s exciting to see the labor of the past several years in print. We all look forward to hearing what happens as people try them out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mimi Kammer's article about Performance as Research/Reflections on the NEH Institute will be published soon!

Here is a guest post by Mimi Kammer, about her forthcoming article in Theater/Practice, an on-line journal (http://theatrepractice.us/).  It will appear in late September.


“The study of theatre history and historiography is something of an adventure, not so much a survey of what was, as an investigation of what might have been.  It is about questions not answers and it should continually allow new approaches and new possibilities.”
--Jim Davis, Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, p. 97.

This fall, my article “Reflections on the 2012 Institute on Roman Comedy and Performance: 
Revising the Procedures of the National Endowment for the Humanities through Theatre Production as Research and Pedagogy “ will be published in the journal Theatre/Practice.  In this piece, I discuss the work of the institute through a performance as research lens.

Although the institute was not officially classified as “performance as research” or “PAR,”  I argue in my writing that the categorization fits.  Throughout the program, we  participants combined traditional methods of research such as close reading of primary texts with exercises in live performance that brought a physicalized, “human” element to the work.  Drawing on my own experiences, accounts from fellow participants, and the PAR scholarship of Baz Kershaw, Robin Nelson, Ian Watson and others, I discuss the ways in which embodied engagement with Classical texts suggests potential insights into ancient practices and offers guideposts to how these plays may be performed today. 

While I admit to previously tending to view PAR with some skepticism, my work with the Roman comedy program has changed my outlook considerably.  I believe that an approach to history afforded by PAR can be quite fruitful, whether in the classroom, on the stage, or in a hybrid space that combines both.  As evidence, I conclude my article by reflecting upon my work developing an ecofeminist script adaptation of Pericles:  Prince of Tyre at Simpson College near Des Moines, IA.  As the director, I utilized the performance-as-research skillset that I developed at the NEH performance institute in order to stage this late Shakespearean play with undergraduate students.


Sara Hill as Gower, the narrator/the goddess Diana in Pericles at Simpson College; March 2015.  Photo by Luke Behaunek.

11/4/15 update: the PDF of this now-published article can be downloaded here:
http://www.theatrepractice.us/current.html

Saturday, June 20, 2015

16,000 views in 114 countries

Our scenes have now been viewed 16,000 times, in 114 countries!

The viewing list is here:


Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, 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, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guam, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM), Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reúnion, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S.A., “Unknown Region,” Vietnam.

49 US States +  D.C. and “unknown region, US” (with 79 views).  Only South Dakota remains.

This blog has been visited 9,350 times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest post by Sophie Klein: Plautus' Mostellaria at Boston University


                    Plautus’s Mostellaria (The Haunted House)

This past spring (2014), the Boston University Department of Classical Studies and the Core Curriculum staged a reading of Plautus’ Mostellaria (The Haunted House). The play was produced in conjunction with my Roman Comedy course (CL 229). The talented students in this class were each assigned a section of the script and asked to transpose the original plot and characters, update arcane jokes and idioms, and recreate some of the “verbal fireworks” of Plautus’ Latin for a modern, English-speaking audience, taking into account the cultural, practical, and theoretical concepts and contexts they had been studying all semester. By workshopping the individual scenes in class and seeing them performed at the event itself, the students were able to explore and experiment with the material in a dynamic, hands-on, and collaborative way.

The cast comprised undergraduates, graduate students, and members of our distinguished faculty, clad in togas, tutus, beanies, bowties, and a variety of other colorful costumes. The event brought together members of the larger classics community for a memorable evening of music, pizza, and comedy.






Saturday, September 6, 2014

12,000 views, in 105 countries!

Two years after we went on-line, our videos have been seen 12,000 times, in 105 countries:


Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, 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, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM), Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Pakistan, 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.

49 US States +  D.C. and “unknown region, US” (with 25 views).  Still no views in South Dakota....

International viewership continues to climb, and accounts for 55% of the views in the last 90 days.

This blog has been visited 5,900 times.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dan Smith, Steve Earnest, and Seth Jeppesen presented at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education

Here's a guest post by Dan Smith, about the panel that he, Steve, and Seth put on at ATHE in July 2014.

A panel on the NEH Summer Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance was presented at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on July 25, 2014.  The panelists were three participants in the NEH Institute: Steve Earnest (Coastal Carolina University), Seth Jeppesen (Brigham Young University), and Daniel Smith (Michigan State University).  The session began with an overview of NEH Summer Institutes in general, and of the Roman Comedy Institute in particular.  Dan Smith spoke about the twenty videos created by the Roman Comedy Institute and suggested several possibilities for the use of these videos as teaching tools. He detailed his own use of the four English-language Pseudolus videos for teaching applications of translation theory in a graduate seminar on Translation and Adaptation. Steve Earnest (newly returned from a trip to China!) then recounted what he took away from the NEH Institute as a teacher of acting, expressing his appreciation for the thorough grounding in Roman history and culture afforded by his participation.  Historically informed mask work was a particular focus of Steve’s presentation.  Finally, Seth Jeppesen discussed new research he has done on a possible staging of Rudens in the Forum, crediting readings and conversations from the NEH Institute with inspiring this research.  He also described a staged reading of Amphitruo that he produced as part of a class at BYU, again crediting the NEH Institute with giving him the courage to pursue this practice-based learning opportunity.  The spirit of cross-disciplinary collaboration was certainly evident, with two Theatre faculty and a Classicist sharing the work of the Roman Comedy Institute at a conference for colleagues invested in the teaching of Theatre at the college level.

Dan's handout for the panel:


Daniel Smith, “Resistance, Renewal, and the NEH Summer Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance”
Resource Guide
 
NEH Summer Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance Website: http://nehsummer2012romancomedy.web.unc.edu/

Plautus, Pseudolus (lines 133-234)
Group A: Performed in Latin; musical underscoring
Group B: Commedia dell’arte (female Ballio); contemporary jokes
Group C: Drag King version with critical “break-out” scene
Group D: Hip-Hopera; focus on rhythm, rhyme, and meter
Group E: Commedia-inspired; “mocking slaves

Plautus, Bacchides (1116-1211)
Version 1: Sung in Latin; performed with masks
Version 2: Performed in English with masks
Version 3: Performed in English without masks

Plautus, Casina (353-423)
Version 1: Full masks designed for Roman Comedy Institute
Version 2: Full masks designed for Greek tragedy
Version 3: Half-masks, improvised in commedia dell’arte style

Plautus, Mercator (691-802)
Version 1: Performed in Latin
Version 2: Angry wife (English Version A)
Version 3: Sad wife (English version B)

Plautus, Persa (753-858)
Sung in Latin

Plautus, Truculentus (775-854)
Version 1: Sung in Latin
Version 2: Sung in English

Terence, Eunuchus (739-816)
Version 1: Performed in Latin with masks and ancient costumes
Version 2: Using 19th-Century English translation and costumes
Version 3: Sitcom

Ideas for Teaching
Pseudolus and Translation: 4 different English-language versions.
·       Theatrical Practice and Correspondence Rules: Meter, Gender, Masks
·       Linguistic Translation: Insults, Character Names, Translation of Jokes

Practice-Based Research:
·       How acting choices change a scene (Mercator English A and B)
·       Music in Roman Comedy: Persa, Truculentus, Pseudolus A, Bacchides
·       How use of masks changes performance (Casina especially)