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:  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:

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

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