Time goes quickly; we are one week away from finishing the seminar!
Since coming to Epidaurus, we’ve spent a significant amount of time rehearsing for our performance. Our hotel, Hotel Magda is 40mins away from the neariest town. There is nothing nearby but a beach, the Aegean sea and a beautiful garden. As Tim aptly put it, we are on a “retreat”. We have plenty of space here for brainstorming and reflection.
Indeed, Epidaurus has definitely proved to be conducive for theatre work. We have had many great theatre performances presented this week. This morning we saw really good second drafts: Julia’s speech as Cassandra, Juliete’s speech as Madea, Catherine and Mary Lou’s adapted scene from Frogs, Savannah speech as Clytarnestra, Catherine and Kanoa’s slang poem on Promebius Bound.
Later in the evening, we saw an adapted version of Clouds by the National Greek Theatre. Michael gave us an brief talk on the performance and comedy before we went there. A few highlights of the points he made:
-Unlike tragedy, ancient Greek comedy always needs to be adapted to be understood.
-Clouds ridiculed Socrates and the play was thought to be one of the reasons that led to the trial of Socrates
-Comedy was deemed less respectable to tragedy. This is in some sense still true today; Oscar best comedian award is always given last.
-Comedy and tragedy theatre were thought to be really different in ancient Greece. Young males had to take part in the chorus of a tragedy to become a man in the society.
-However, nowadays the Aristophanic spirit often creeps in, i.e. people have the inclination to turn a tragic play to a comedic one. Rachel has written a play on the household of Menelaus and Helen in an urban setting after their voyage from Troy. Annika has written a play on Menelaus after Helen left Sparta for Paris.
-A few quotes that Michael mentioned: “Comedy is tragedy in the long shot”, “This world is a tragedy for those who feel, comedy for those that think.”
The Clouds performance was magnificent. The costume and set were definitely more extravagant than what we saw in Oedipus the Rex. The clouds wore white dresses and tall hat, everyone’s faces were powdered in white, Phidippides had a punky hair wig, Socrates also had wig of long blond hair tied up etc. Although we did not get most of the jokes that the actors made -since it was in Greek, we could tell from all the laughters from the audience that the plot was very entertaining. Something that surprised some of us was the use microphones. The Epidaurus theatre had the best acoustics amongst other outdoor theaters, yet there were two microphones on stage that actors consistently used.
Tomorrow, the actors from Clouds will be coming over to our hotel to talk to us. So we will get to learn more about what we saw tonight!
Earlier this week, the chorus director of the National Greek Theatre, Tsalahouris Philipos, also came over and gave us a workshop on the use of chorus in Greek tragedy. He talked to us a bit about how directoappeased to think of chorus and told us that it initially seemed like a big problem to directors because it is present on stage throughout the entire performance. However, Tsalahouris said that there are actually ways a chorus can help bring out the elements in the play. By establishing the role of chorus, we can further define a character through his relationship with the chorus. The chorus can produce simple rhythmic sounds in the background to set up the tension or the atmosphere of the scene. Since the chorus represent a more or less uniform entity, their movements need to be unified. Tsalahouris taught us how birds were enacted in Aristophanes’ play Bird, as well as farmers and old warriors in other plays. We learnt a lot in the workshop and many of us have applied the techniques to the scenes we have been rehearsing.
Although we are nearing the end of the seminar, our energy and enthusiasm have only increased! Our understanding of theatre has deepened so much this week from rehearsals, feedbacks we get in acting class, theatre performance we saw and meeting with people in the field. I look forward to next week and our meeting with the actors tomorrow!
Have a great weekend (Καλό σαββατοκύριακο),