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)



Nancy Sultan's comedy/tragedy masks

This is a guest post by Nancy Sultan of Illinois Wesleyan University.  (Note: Nancy will be giving a presentation on the IWU Megalensia at CAAS in October, so our NEH Institute will be publicized again.)

Nancy Sultan, director of Greek and Roman Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, regularly stages readings and scenes from Greek and Roman plays in her classes. Curtis Trout, professor of scenic design in the IWU School of Theatre Arts, regularly teaches courses in Properties for the Stage and Scene Painting.  These two collaborate frequently, with amazing results. Together they have staged two full productions of Greek plays (Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Euripides' Trojan Women) and have established a permanent collection of props, masks, and backdrops for the performance of Greek and Roman plays.

The latest collaboration has resulted in a full set of masks for Greek tragedy and Roman comedy. Curtis worked with Nancy to design the masks based on historical sources—vase paintings, frescoes, and manuscript illuminations. Using stiff, yet light, cardboard, Curtis created a template for the structure of the masks that students in his "properties for the theatre" class executed. Students painted each mask with individualized details for each stock character. Inside the Greek tragedy masks Curtis inserted an adjustable baseball cap for wearing comfort. The Roman comedy masks are smaller, and are held in place comfortably with ribbon. The masks belong to Greek and Roman Studies, but can be rented on request.

Here are some photos:






Saturday, May 24, 2014

11,111 views, in 102 countries!

Viewership creeps steadily up, especially during the school year.  We are now at the weird but amusingly non-mystical number of 11,111 views, in these 102 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, 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.

 U.S. viewership accounts for 65% of total views.  For the scenes in Latin, international viewership is around 50%.

This blog has been viewed 4,835 times. 
 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Amphitruo in Performance, by Seth Jeppesen and his students

Seth gives us an update on his class this semester (see also his previous post: http://romancomedyinperformance.blogspot.com/2014/01/seth-jeppesens-class-ancient-drama-and.html).  Read Seth's entries and then go check out the great performance!


Plautus’ Amphitruo in Performance

After reading and discussing a number of Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies, the students in my Ancient Drama and Performance class at BYU (Winter 2014) chose to perform a full production of Plautus’ Amphitruo. At the outset, none of us truly realized how much work this would be. One of our biggest challenges was coming up with a script that was ready for performance. Since the students lacked the experience in Latin to create our own translation, we compared a number of different translations and finally settled on Lionel Casson’s to use for our production. There were, however, still two major obstacles to overcome with the script. First, we wanted the show to run about an hour, so we had to cut a little over one third of the script to get down to the running time that we wanted. Second, we had to find a way to fill the gap in act four of the play, since lacunae on stage, especially at the climax of a play, do not go over very well. We decided to take this challenge as an opportunity to redress the misogynistic tone of the original by bringing in Juno as a sympathetic character to catch and punish Jupiter for his infidelity. This change to the plot required us to go back and lightly adapt certain scenes from the rest of the play so as to create a coherent storyline. We also added a number of modern references to punch up the humor and replace the jokes from the original that require a footnote for a modern audience to understand. The performance was very well received by students and faculty alike, and the student actors have all independently expressed what an invaluable educational experience this was for them. In the end, the class proved what I had already learned at the NEH Institute for Roman Comedy in Performance: the best way to understand ancient drama is to experience it in performance.

The video of the performance is available here: http://youtu.be/0EKomW0xinw

Special thanks to the Education in Zion Gallery at Brigham Young University for the use of its theater.




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.