Monday, April 28, 2014

Video on YouTube!

Here it is! The video of our production of Amphitruo! The first three minutes are just me talking about the play - feel free to skip over those and get to the good stuff (i.e. running through the audience, hurling rubber chickens, etc.). Enjoy!

Plautus' Amphitruo: The Birth of Hercules -  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Amphitruo Bro

So this is a bit late. Two weeks after the performance. But let me say! I am SO happy with how it went! We exceeded everyone's expectations! Most definitely our own! I don't know why, but I didn't expect so much laughter! We had a great audience. There was lots of Classics and Humanities majors to appreciate our Greek myth jokes.

I like that our show had a lot of variety. Monologues were a big thing in ancient Roman comedy and even though we shortened them and only did one really (Mercury's opening speech) I thought it was good that we kept some of that tradition. Then we had lots of physical humor with the slapstick fighting and running around. But we also had funny lines including quick verbal exchanges, like between Amphitruo (Chris) and Sosia (me). We also incorporated funny props like with the bit of Mercury (Rick) keeping Amphitruo out via rubber chicken and marshmallow bow among ither things. Then we also had funny customes, Alcema's (Magaret) big pregant belly and me in a dress for Bromia. There was a TON going on in our play and I think all of it worked.

If I had to criticize anything it would be myself. Watching parts of the Youtube video I realized I was really distracting, especially during Alcmena's and Alcmena's scene. My dumb faces and body postures really took away from Amphitruo's and Alcmena's argument. Probably didn't help that I'm super tall and huge. I was trying to do SOMETHING while the conversation was going on, I trying not to stop acting. But I ended up just repeating the same face and mannerisms, I could used these more sparingly and been more subtle.

I'm not saying I think I did a bad job though, I am VERY pleased with how I did overall.

I think one of my favorites things about doing the play was seeing everyone's talents and personalities being applied. I was impressed again and again by our group. I was impressed by the scence Chris rewrote based on the old 1950's comedy skit "who's on first?" It was impressive to see Rick use his skill with his marshmallow bow also when using his whistle for sound effects, there was no way I could've been as precise. Then Magaret's voice and demenor was perfect for the type of Alcmena we were trying to portray. And Then Professor Jeppensen, I was extreemely impressed by his creativty and diligence. His adaption and direction of the play really made me realize his talent and ability. Also his wife Danae was great, a faboulus prop/costume/poster maker along with a faboulous Juno!

It was a TON of fun getting ready for this play. I put A LOT of thought into my performance and I was very excited. It was an extremely rewarding experience to hear the laughter and applause. This experience has been a huge confidence booster for me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amphitruo Photos

Hey Cast! These are mostly from my phone so they aren't great... but here are some photos.

 Haha I screen-shotted my roommate's snapchats...

Way to go TEAM :)

Hey everybody!

I just wanted to thank you all for being such a lovely supportive cast. Aside from having a great time, this experience also really brought an artistic aspect to my major that it needed. After having had to think about the staging and production side of things, I probably won't read Greek or Roman plays the same way. This class really added to the collegiate experience. Thank you to each of you so much for all your help! 

Professor Jeppesen: Thank you for ALL the work you put into the script, and blocking, and set, and for being such a good villain. Keifer could learn a lesson or two from ya.

Ansel: Thank you for making all of us laugh and for all your efforts to rid me of pre-show nerves. 

Chris: Thank you for being so committed to our memorizing and for running the scene a million times with me because I needed it.

Rick: Thank you for keeping us on track, all your good suggestions, and for those epic slide whistle effects.

Danae: Thank you for picking up all our slack. We couldn't have pulled it off without you :)

Thanks for the memories!
I hope I see you all around next year.


Monday, April 14, 2014


This performance has been one my favorite highlights from my BYU experience. I am near being a senior and have often thought that I should have been more involved in some sort of extracurricular. This production has forced me out of my comfort zone and into something fun and memorable. What a great time we have had! It all came together and it was great. As I think about it, I can’t see anything that didn’t work. We worked hard on this production so that it would all work, and the audience loved us. It was so strange being on stage and hearing so much laughter, even at things that were not meant to be funny.  I think that the hardest part for me was keeping a straight face, especially when things got funny hearing Ansel deliver his lines. I do feel that this performance, and even this entire process has been helpful in giving me a greater appreciation and understanding of ancient drama. This is what Plautus was all about, making his audience laugh. We knocked down the fourth wall, interacted with the audience, used many different kinds of comedy, adapted a classic, and dashed everyone’s expectations for a boring night. We didn’t just read about ancient theatre, for one night we lived in its spirit.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

o, what a night!

The performance was incredible! All things considered, I think things went better than we ever might have expected.

As far as what worked, I think the modernization that we did (i.e. adapting/updating it for our audience) was an excellent choice. Good reactions came for jokes like "faster than Fox cancelled Firefly" and "no amount of extra credit..." as well as our blatant discrediting of the misogyny found in the original. Also, interestingly, a lot of the original script held up pretty well, and just the general ridiculousness of certain situations (like Ansel as Bromia) was a big hit.

As far as what didn't work, some of the jokes we expected to be funniest got so-so reactions (though there were also unexpected laughs in other places.) I suppose that varies by performance, and we only had one, and it's a natural part of these kinds of things. But perhaps more potently, I think we probably were kind of pushing it (as we knew) with some of our suggestive jokes. Particularly the protection one. People laughed, but it was largely a shocked laugh, and some feedback I received confirmed that at least some people felt uncomfortable with it. I don't think it was an unfunny joke per se, I just don't know if this was the right audience for it.

I learned a lot from this experience. And there was a lot that I believed about the importance of performing greek and roman drama that was completely confirmed! For instance, people laughed quite a bit during the performance, and I only sometimes see someone laugh when they're silently reading. Sometimes. And even then it's just a light chuckle. Also, Professor Jeppesen mentioned how roman comedies are the great-great-great-etc-etc grandfather of the modern sitcom. AND IT'S TRUE! It's the exact same format! And even some of the exact same jokes! This was a lot more tangible to me after having performed one. Also, I was made more aware of some of the more serious undertones of these comedies, such as the scene where Mercury beats Sosia, forcing him to give up his identity. I might not have thought too much about it had I not rehearsed and performed it myself. All in all it was a very enriching experience, and I'm so very glad to have had the opportunity. I look forward to any and all future opportunities to participate in such productions.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Let's do it!

Rehearsals, at least in my opinion, have been a lot of fun! It's pretty awesome to see things start to come together, and as we tighten and smooth the play, it seems to get funnier and funnier, so that's good. I suppose if I'm honest, I also have some doubts as to whether or not we'll have all our lines down by friday, but whatever happens, it'll be fun, and will have been a great experience that I'm so incredibly glad we were able to have.

Comedy is a very physical art form! Well, when done right I suppose. While I personally wouldn't consider it a challenge per se, it's definitely been something that has required a notable amount of our attention. For the hodgepodge of participants we have, I'm actually pretty impressed with how convincingly I think we'll be able to do this!

At this point I think we'll have to focus mostly on the action scenes, since those are the ones that won't really work with script in hand. Let's do it!


Friday, April 4, 2014


This stuff truly is coming together. Watching the other scenes I am not in has given me confidence in this work that it is going to be funny. Ansel and Rick are freaking hilarious. I feel that although this class has taken a little extra time and attention, it will pay off in the end. Learning lines has been the hardest. Although I have the recordings which Professor sent us, I feel like my time is best spent when I am just running lines with everyone. I feel like the best way to memorize lines for me has been to break up my parts into sections and run them over and over and over. Ansel and Margaret have been great with putting in extra time with me so that we can get our stuff down. Although this will probably end up being a reading, I am doing my best to get these lines figured out. Like I said, all in all, the more I see in our rehearsals, the more confident I am in the production.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"There's nothing wrong with updating a little"

Although after reviewing the assignment I have several questions that I'll need to be asking professor Jeppesen, I can at least post my initial thoughts on what I might write about in my final paper.
My planned theme is:

Reviving Greek and Roman Theater for a Modern Audience!

It will be a collection of thoughts on how to make a tasteful adaptation of an ancient play. Not an expert guide by any means, just some thoughts. These will be based on historical aspects to consider, as well as experiential issues that arose in the production of our Amphitruo. It's really interesting stuff! Maybe our papers will end up posted here. If not, I might post a short summary of mine. The performance is only two weeks away! I am both excited and nervous. I hope we can prepare well enough by then.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Final Paper Outline

At the end of the semester we will have to write about how this class helped us understand ancient drama, and I will focus on the following aspects: 1. Adapting a classic, 2. What makes a comedy funny?, 3. The spirit of ancient theatre, and 4. Authenticity.  I hope to show how going through this process has helped me not only understand the mind of the ancient playwrights better, but also in a way to live what they experienced as artists and performers. There is something to be said about how some things must be experienced, not just read about.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Time Marches On

Just a quick update on our progress:

The pressures of the end of semester are building right on schedule, but luckily we've been able to find a little extra time to practice, which was desperately needed in my opinion. We seem to be on top of the blocking now, and I'm very excited about the action scenes we'll be doing, particularly those involving the audience area. I just hope we'll have enough time to practice it enough to be able to perform it like I know we all want to, but either way, it will have been a great experience. I'm so glad the class wasn't cancelled!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Progress 2

I am no actor. This whole blocking thing has been frustrating. Although I comprehend that it is important, I am still so far behind with my lines. I also find myself struggling to know how to even read my lines with all of the prompts in the script added by the translator which seem to be off. I struggle to pull off lines that I feel like I would never say in any situation. Clunky translation aside, little by little I am starting to find my way and hopefully will reach the point when I will be able to do my part well. Blocking is a chore, but I realize that if we don’t know where we are going on stage, there might be unforeseen blunders. I do not want to go on stage and look foolish. Fear is a powerful motivator to trust our director and get this down.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Our Progress

                   I'm feeling very optimistic about our progress! I think we have most aspects of our play planned for (props, costumes, etc) and now we just have to focus on rehearsal and improving our chemistry as a cast. I think that we should have a goal to be off-book (memorized) by a week from this Wednesday at least so that we can focus on blocking and fine-tuning without having to be concerned about lines. Thanks to our professor's hard work, I feel confident regarding the current status of our script. I think that any polishing it may need will come naturally during the rehearsal process. But from what I've heard in class so far, I really feel like everyone's' characters are starting to take form and that everyone is bringing a lot to the table acting-wise. Good work team! Now that we have a script- let's get down to memorizing!

The Story So Far

Things are going great! (and yes, they're only getting' better!)

Granted, we are a bit behind schedule, and I have been sick out of my mind for the past week, but if it were all going off without a single hitch, I think we'd start getting nervous. But viewed with a healthy perspective, things are going quite well.

The script is coming along fine, and has some pretty hilarious moments in it, especially if we can act it out right. Professor Jeppesen has proved a capable director. The plans for props, costumes, and sound effects also seem to be moving forward nicely. The stage we'll be performing on is great! Just perfect for our purposes. And while initially I was a little trepidatious about doing Amphitruo, it's definitely grown on me.

Yep. Things are good. Let's just hope they stay that way, and nothing crazy derails our plans...


Sosia in Act 1

For my portrayal of Sosia I have very little interest in reciting his very long triumph speech and since we are trying to shorten the play considerably I think it'd be in our interest as a group to cut it out for the most part.  I like the idea of Sosia (me) saying something like, "let me put it this way, the war was a doozy!" and leave it as that. It could be funny. Also I suggest shortening Sosia's other act 1 lines a lot. I think they are unnecessarily long and if I was being perfectly honest I don't want to memorize so much material, especially since I will be performing as Belpharo and Broma as well. I rewrote some of these opening lines of Sosia more to my liking but I don't think I have a knack for play writing. Usually when I write dialogue I focus on realism which wasn't really the point of a theatrical performance in ancient times. I would like to show what I got to the class at some point though. I am very open to suggestions. My main goal is just to shorten the lines.

Friday, March 14, 2014


So… there has been a lot of talk about how we are behind schedule. I feel like I have contributed to this perhaps not helping enough with the adapted script, although I do feel like I tend to want to reinvent the entire thing, which isn’t the point, as we just need to get enough done so we can get through the much more daunting task of memorization. I am very pleased with the changes we are making with the script, particularly towards the ending. As I told Professor, this ending just did not sit well with me. Amphytruo always seemed to be getting the short stick and in the end be okay with it for a lack of recourse. The fact that our Jupiter will get his comeuppance from Juno sits much better, and I feel will be more satisfying for our audience. Hoping it all comes together.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Musings on 'Alcumena in the "Amphitruo" of Plautus: A Pregnant Lady Joke' by Jane Phillips

             In her article, "Alcumena in the "Amphitruo" of Plautus: A Pregnant Lady Joke" Phillips seems to disagree with her scholastic predecessors.  Many scholars have noted that Alcumena is one of the most virtuous female characters in Roman comedy. She behaves as the ideal wife in every way and her prose is more often littered with forgiveness and praise for her husband than indignation he deserves. Many have praised Plautus for his clearly positive (from the Roman standpoint) perspective on women in this play. However, Phillips made the claim that a lot of the humor surrounding Alcumena relies on the visual of an extremely pregnant woman. Phillips believes that Plautus knew that the image of a ridiculously pregnant Alcumena would contrast with her noble speech to humorous results. Also, Philips notes that some of Alcumena's lines in latin are double entendres with sexual references. These references combined with her ludicrous appearance would certainly have served Plautus's comedic motives.
          I found this article very interesting and it definitely affected how I see Alcumena within the bigger scope of the play. It definitely reminded me of the humor to be found in costuming- I will make sure I look very pregnant. But it also reaffirmed to me that Alcumena is a "straightman" in this comedy. In order for her to contribute to the comedy of this play, she must be entirely invested in her problems, which are of a rather serious nature. I think that Alcumena's character should be a contrast to some of the more "hammy" characters in this play like Sosia. Also, I think by conveying a strong sense of indignation and conviction, it will redeem some of the immorality present in this play.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tragicomedy? Or Comitragedy?

This is a brief commentary on Timothy Moore's article on Tragicomedy as seen in Amphitruo:

Due to a number of famous playwrights referencing the term "tragicomedy," many people have come to understand that it implies an equal-parts mixture of the two genres, like a Dramedy, or basically any movie with Sandra Bullock in it. This isn't an incorrect perception of the modern term, but the context in which this term was originally coined presents a notably different perspective on what "tragicomedy" is actually supposed to mean.

As stated in the article, as far as we know, Plautus, a Roman Playwright famous for his comedies, was the first one to use the word, and most likely invented it. Romans had a very specific definition of what a "comedy" was, and what a "tragedy" was, and it extended beyond simple seriousness vs. hilarity to the actual form and specific tropes associated with each kind of play. For example, if there were gods participating in the action, it was almost certainly a tragedy. Conversely, if you saw a slave engaging in rascally behavior, it was obviously a comedy. It's important to understand that according to classical theater tradition, these two sets of stereotypes hardly ever crossed. Which is why what happens in Amphitruo was somewhat radical/significant, particularly in the finer details of its execution.

ANYWAY, long story short,  rather than being that equal-parts mixture we might think of, Amphitruo is more about the supremacy of comedy over tragedy, and how comedy is so good that it can take perfectly tragic lines and elements, and with a sprinkling of unexpected context, role reversals, etc, make them into unmistakeable comedy. If you're interested in seeing more of the specific instances where this happens, you should check out the link at the top of this post! If you're into Classical Theater, then you'll appreciate it for sure.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Reflection of the Script Reworking Process

I have really enjoyed the reworking that we have done so far. I find it most helpful when we run lines in class during this process because I think our ears naturally pick up what is gratuitous or unnecessary to the essential motion of the play. It has also been beneficial when we have discussed themes and message as a cast that we wish to portray with this production. I like Professor Jeppesen's plot additions because I believe it changes the sentiment of the play from misogyny to one that features moral consequences. I think that this redeems the play from some of its less savory aspects and makes it more palatable to a modern western audience. I have also enjoyed some of the moments in which we have changed the wording of lines to help with the rhythm and flow of the language. I understand that we can't go over every line together as a class, and that some of the reworking process will be individual, but the experience of rewriting as a class has both helped our group dynamic while producing something is a product of our collective creativity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

shop-working the cript-se

We've been working a lot lately on workshopping the script for Amphitruo, and it has certainly been an interesting experience. One that so far I've enjoyed quite a bit! First off we chose the script we liked best as a basis, and after that we began going through and finding all the parts we didn't quite like and changing them to work better.

Have you ever heard a song that was almost your favorite, but there were just a few parts that you didn't quite like as much? Well this is kind of like not just putting up with it. This is like making it exactly what you want it to be. Obviously, this is somewhat limited by skill level of those editing, but hey, we're college students, so I think where this is going, relatively speaking, is quite good. And I personally find that my creative power reaches a new level entirely when I'm able to work with others and build off of each others ideas. Of course, this is not always without democratic complication, but all in all, I think we're all pretty pleased with our work thus far.

This is beginning to materialize! Doubts are slowly beginning to disappear! Images are coming into focus! May we be inspired as we move ahead through the coming weeks.

Friday, February 28, 2014

'Who's on first?'

When I first read the scene between my character Amphytruo and Sosia in the translation provided to us by Professor Jeppesen, I found my mind immediately turning to Abbott and Costello’s ‘Who’s on first?’ comedy bit. The lines back and forth, the talking at cross purposes, the silliness. It all brought me back to the first time that I heard that bit somewhere in my childhood. When reading it from the translation that we chose, I realized that some of those jokes did not show through. As I have been working at ‘punching up’ the scene a bit, I realized how hard it can be to get just the right natural responses when talking at cross purposes. We all do it at some point in our lives and it needs to come naturally. The more natural the more hilarious. Obviously the audience is meant to be the only entity that understands what is going on, which can be tricky. The other obstacle of course is trying to still be true to the original with what is said and not reinventing the wheel. Although it has taken me a while, I feel that the end product has hit the mark and will make this scene all the better.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Couplet vs. The Punch

For my part, I thought I'd take a moment and write about some of the differences between two translations of Plautus' Amphitruo from Latin to English. One by Lionel Casson (the punch) and the other by Edward Sugden (the couplet.)

Like the other bloggers, I'll be focusing on the scene where Sosia arrives and Mercury beats him and sends him packing. I'll try to be succinct.

First, for context's sake, I should mention that Casson's translation was published in 1963, while Sugden's was published in 1893.
The most immediate difference between the two is the general structure. As implied by the title of this post, Casson's translation is a lot punchier, and feels more stage-ready (at least in a modern context.) It has a good pace (or at least a good a pace as it could have in such a Plautine scene) and most of the jokes fit more smoothly, though not all. Also, Casson's translation has stage directions on almost every line of the play. This may be viewed as taking liberties (and it is,) but the stage directions are all very fitting when considering the dialogue.
In contrast, Sugdon's translation follows the more formal structure of shaping everything into rhyming couplets. This doesn't make it of a lower quality outright, and in its own right it is a clever translation, but after so many rhyming couplets it's easy to become tired of it and to wish he would stop trying so hard to make the entire play that way. Perhaps ironically, some of Sugdon's decisions regarding how to translate the jokes actually worked a bit better than the Casson translation, and the couplets do give a nice quirky feel to the exchange, though this quickly deteriorates into what sounds like a hyper-extended Dr. Seuss reference. As with the original fragmentary script we have, there are no stage directions in this translation, and it seems to be more of a literary translation than one intended for performance.

In conclusion, one translation isn't necessarily "better" than the other, it's just that they were made with slightly different intents in mind. For our purposes, which are to perform the play in a modern and relatable context, Casson's translation is definitely the better fit.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Casson Vs. De Melo

I found the contrast between Casson and De Melo the most interesting because of the different purposes for which they were written. In class today we discussed how De Melo is the newest translation and that he emphasized a scholarly, literal translation from the original Latin text. As a Latin student, I found his translation very helpful as he tried to keep the English in similar clauses as the Latin had been. However because of this scholarly effort, the translation is stiff and clearly not suited for the stage.  Casson’s work, however, features a rhythm and ease that makes his translation a prime candidate for our production. He has adjusted the lines to make them sound more fluid to the English ear. Casson’s punchlines hit well, and he displays a sound understanding of the timing of quick back and forth banter. Casson also included parenthesized stage directions that gave the readers a bit of emotional context. I believe that this was a smart play on Casson’s part (no pun intended) because the brief directions do a lot to aid the silent reader’s mental imaging of the scene. Sir Thomas Casson (pictured below) was a well-known British actor and director in the early 20th century and his familiarity with the theatre is clear from this translation.  Though they had their differences, these two versions did have their similarities. Both Casson and De Melo utilized modern English to make the translation relatable.
I have had some rudimentary Latin translation experience myself and this has given me some insight into the amount of decisions and influence a translator can have on the end product. Even though I previously called De Melo’s translation stiff, it has still been translated into smooth English and it is by all means accessible. I am partial to Casson’s translation because it features a dialogue that both embraces the reality of the circumstances and characters and the poetry of the theatre.


In class we have been discussing the idea of authenticity in our performance and how there are many different kinds of authenticity. When I think if adaptation I think of being true to the original meaning of the author. I tend to appreciate the original when it comes to most things, although I have realized that things are not always so simple when it comes to adaptation. Can we truly know what the original intent of the author was? And in adapting their work, do we think that we are being true to the original without considering how the audience has changed and the author might not have done it the same way for our audience? On the other hand, if we go about changing someone’s work to fit our needs how far before we hijack their work and destroy a good thing? As someone said to me recently ‘Who are we to change it?’ To that I have concluded, especially in the case of Plautus, we are artists! Plautus himself and many others made it their business to take works from others and redo them to fit their own ideas. Humanity has been reinventing its entertainment with old ideas since the beginning. It’s what we do. And as we have said in class, an important part of being authentic is being true to ourselves. Perhaps Plautus is turning in his grave with all of the things we changed in his play. But isn’t that exactly what he did with this myth in the first place? With the changes I feel like we will be even truer to Plautus’s work because we will be entertaining instead of simply staging his play.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The two plays that we have discussed from Seneca have been Hercules Furens and his Oedipus. Both of which cast the main protagonists differently than they had been portrayed before. Oedipus is less arrogant and is trying to find his identity more for the sake of saving Thebes. While Hercules kills his family because he has offended Hera in this play, having performed his labors successfully, in past renditions this connection is not made. Outside of changing content, Seneca also changes text and creates long flowing rhetorical dialogue which, despite being deep, does not seem to lend itself to performance. In my opinion it is meant to be read and pondered. Within a performance context this kind of dialogue is wasted on a live audience who is not given time to savor its meaning. I feel like in the end Seneca’s interpretations are interesting, though hardly my favorites.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What should we perform?

I think that the consensus on Amphitrou is pretty apparent. I want to be a team player so I will join the bandwagon. It is light, funny, and interesting. I do think that it is important to consider certain things when making this decision. I myself am interested in doing something that is more well known, mostly for the sake of educating our audience. I want them to walk away with more respect and interest towards the Classics. I feel like we should keep things in their ancient context (costumes, characters, setting, etc.), but I feel like we might have to drop certain ancient conventions of drama (chorus, masks, phaloi, etc.). I want to do an entire play because it will allow us to really do the play right. Although I feel a tragedy would be more emotionally charged, I think that perhaps a comedy is the best way to go for practical purposes. Whatever we do choose, I feel like if we can translate the essence of the work to our audience, we will have been successful.

Amphitryon it is!

So it sounds like we have a consensus. I think Amphitryon is a good choice. Margaret brings up a good point about our limitations, and I agree that if we want to give the best, most well-received performance, comedy is probably the way we'll want to go.

Apparently the reading in class (the day I was gone) was very good, and I'm curious, who was reading which parts?

As to my preferences for the rendering, I think it should be that be a balance between formal agreement with the text and modern adaptation. It should definitely be relatable, but we should be careful not to "dumb it down." As long as we avoid overdone adaptation, I think it'll be good. I could see some hybrid of classical dress and some reference to the masks being an interesting decision. Maybe half-masks or hats, or some other such equivalent. Just an idea.

One question I would have though is: considering we're performing at BYU, and the fact that the illicit relations between Jupiter and Alcmena are essential to the end of the plot, how were we thinking we'd treat that portion of the play? I'd be interested to hear some ideas for that.

I'm excited!



For our performance this semester, I think we should totally do Plattus' Amphritruo. Struggling with the pronunciation of the play name, I jokingly referred to it as "Ampi-Frito." I propose we name our production this and adapt the play around this title. Ampi-Frito is the boss of a Frito chip business. Sosia is a lowly worker. Zeus and Hermes could be conniving CEOs from upper management. Or they could be gods in a contemporary setting, whatever.  Ampi-Frito would where a suit and tie, looking like a boss. Sosia would be in sanitary factory garb, complete with hairnet. Or maybe his outfit could look more drive-thruish, with a colorful outfit with a visor. I think Amphituro is definitely our best bet for a good performance.

Fritos, anyone?

Out of the plays that we have read so far, I think that we should strongly consider performing Plautus’s Amphritruo. Firstly, I believe that the plot has the right amount of complexity and humor for a modern audience. It also features concepts that are relatable to a modern audience without too much background explanation of Greek culture. Zeus and his man-whore ways, a jealous husband, and a confused slave can be taken at face value, whereas with other plays we might have to find ways to explain the intricacy of Greek adoption, the practice of exposing etc. Also this plot is a bit more intricate that Pseudolus and personally I think it has a better sense of pacing and timing.
I am far more inclined to advocate a comedy of this nature as an option for our performance, than a tragedy. I think that with a comedy, given our collective lack of experience staging Greek plays and putting on productions as students, we would have a higher chance of a quality performance. Greek tragedies require serious acting chops and though we have discussed casting outside of our class…casting can be a bit of a mixed bag (especially near the end of the semester when a lot of BYU’s plays occupy the actors)… and the thought of either casting for or performing in a Greek tragedy is rather daunting to me. Plus, I’ve watched a few Greek Tragedy performances, and though they were amazing…they were also definitely downers. People love to laugh and a Greek comedy might be a bit easier to swallow for our audience.
I think that I would prefer to do one play in its entirety, as opposed to scenes. This way, the audience can follow the arch of the characters and the storyline without constantly having to switch gears. Also we, as a class, would be able to better explore one piece as opposed to having to juggle different snippets of plays.
Also, I really enjoyed Ansel and Christopher’s cold reading of Amphitrio and firmly believe that if we all opted to perform in the play, that there would be enough characters that suit us and our abilities. This play really has some funny moments and a lot of opportunity for great blocking. There is a lot of ways that we could stage physical humor to make the dialogue come alive.  As for dress, I prefer costumes over stage blacks. I think that costumes help with characterization for actors and improve the atmosphere of the play for the audience. In terms of location, so far I am liking the JKB stage that we have reserved, especially because it seems as though they are willing to give us ample rehearsal time which is a huge plus. I think that our class is really well suited to put on an awesome production of Amphitruo and I strongly encourage you all to consider it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Amplification through Simplification

The other night I was watching a movie. It was Tom Cruise's Oblivion, an action, sci-fi type film. Morgan Freeman was in it. Often times when you watch a film with a personality as famous as Morgan Freeman it is very difficult to see him as anyone else. Forget seeing him as the character he's supposed to be portraying. I have no idea what his character's name in the film was, to me he was Morgan Freeman.

The ancient Greeks didn't have this problem during their performances. Ancient actors in Greece always wore large masks during their plays. It didn't matter how famous the actor was, you didn't have try to picture him as someone else, he was wearing a different face. This is one purpose that the masks served but I think their significance goes beyond that, a significance that becomes exceptionally apparent when comparing ancient and modern performance.

When I learned that the ancient Greeks used masks during their performances my initial thought was, "wow what an archaic practice, drama really has come a long way." Yet as I look at these masks portrayed in ancient sculpture and vase paintings I can't help feeling captivated by them. Why is this? What makes me feel so involved with these masks? The masks were simplified representations of the human face with exaggerated expressions. A cartoon really. I think about Oblivion and how uninvolved I felt with that film. It was a performance undeniably more realistic than ancient Greek drama. So why am I responding more to something that is much more unrealistic?

When we watch a modern movie we don't have to imagine much, everything is right there being displayed for us. But an ancient Greek play required much more imagination from the audience. The masks didn't look real. They were bigger than a normal face and the facial features on the masks didn't move. This requires the viewer to be part of the performance, they had to imagine themselves that the mask is talking. They had to invest a bit of themselves into it to make it alive. You don't have to do that in most modern films, the experience can just wash over you, with you completely uninvolved.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Taplin and Tragedy

My complaints with Mr. Taplin tend to stem from my own bias when it comes to writing style. I found his book wordy and more of a survey instead of an argument. I don't know that there is anyone who would disagree with a lot of his ideas and observations. Although everyone might envision different ways that the elements of the drama would play out, the importance of the elements and the importance of visualizing the play instead of reading should be obvious to all. In the end, if you already had a cursory knowledge of Greek drama, culture, and theater performance, it was not life-changing. I do feel like I understand Greek tragedy better because I read this book.

What do you think, Fulano? [pointing to an audience member]

Though they may have played on the same stage, Greek Tragedy and Greek Comedy have some stark differences. Obviously, as their labels imply, there is the difference in content, but that aside there are also a number of conventional variations between the two dramatic genres. In all honesty I'm still relatively new to Greek Comedy, and so with this post, I'd like to raise some questions for pondering, rather than presume to provide answers of any sort. Think of it as an exercise in taking a moment to think about classic theater. Who wouldn't want to be able to say they did that, right? That being said, this post is no good without people commenting to share their thoughts! That's right: audience participation! Some minor generalizations are bound to follow, but bear with me, I think this might be worth contemplating.

First of all, there's the chorus. As time passed and we shift from "Old Comedy" (400's BCE) through "Middle Comedy" (404-321 BCE) and finally to "New Comedy" (323-ca.250 BCE), the chorus becomes increasingly marginalized, so for the purpose of this post, we'll focus on comparing Old Comedy with tragedy. Tragedy had a Chorus of 15, whereas comedy had nearly twice that, with a chorus of 24, and at least in the case of Aristophanes, these comedic choruses were usually animals or features of the scenery (like clouds). The tragic choruses tended to be some group of people from the city/area where the play was supposed to take place. And so...

Question number 1!
What do you think the difference in experience would be between these two types of choruses? (Tragedy= 15 normal citizens [usually], vs. Comedy= 24 fantastical things [usually. e.g. frogs, clouds, etc.])
Follow up question:
What advantages/disadvantages would these differences provide their respective genres?

Next, (and this may be one of those generalizations,) tragedy was usually to the point of pensive, philosophical commentary on such classic questions as the meaning of man's existence, fate vs. choice, and man's relationship with divinity. Comedy on the other hand was often used to lighten the mood (satyr plays being a good example of this) as well as to make socio-political commentaries on their contemporary issues. This too, faded somewhat with time as the political situation in Greece shifted, and freedom of speech was largely subdued. But again, focusing on Old Comedy...

Question number 2!
These Philosophical and Socio-political commentaries raise certain questions about life and society.
What does it tell us about ourselves and our entertainment that these questions have not changed much in the last 2500 years?

Finally there are the irreverent elements of Old Comedy which include: exaggerated phalluses (yup), poop jokes, fart jokes, cross-dressing, and just general slapstick and tomfoolery. So just jumping straight to the question...

Question number 3!
Why do you think it is that so many of these elements of humor are almost universally considered funny?? (regardless of era, language, and culture)

Well that's it, don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear what people think about these questions! Until next week.


A Review on Taplin's "Greek Tragedy in Action"

             I have rather mixed feelings about Taplin’s work Greek Tragedy in Action. From a scholarly perspective, it’s hard to disagree with the points that he presents.  I think that his goals to incorporate a visual performing aspect or a “stage of the mind” into the way Greek tragedy is read and understood are very pertinent to a more complete grasp of the genre. Taplin’s arguments make one really evaluate the playwright, his motives and how he chooses to portray a story. The background he provides on the logistics of Greek theatre is both helpful and clarifying. All in all, Taplin creates an insightful reader; one who looks for blocking clues within the lines, evaluates tableaus, looks for symbolism in limited props, and ponders story timing.  After Taplin, it is hard to merely trot through a plot. He has given his readers the tools turn Greek literature into a more three dimensional experience.  However, his book is a bit tricky to read on its own. Because he continually references many different Greek plays, it is hard to truly benefit from these references unless one has recently read the play (which in some cases we had).  I believe that the knowledge within this book may be more beneficial if certain sections were published in the same copy of the play to which they refer (as an afterword/ annotation of sort). I find that the organization of this book may be its flaw. I might have found it more helpful if Taplin began with a brief overview of all his concepts and then did a chapter per play. He could then, in separate chapters, set up each play and review the important theatrical concepts within that play. This way, readers wouldn’t have to be constantly switching gears to different storylines to benefit from his references.  Also this system may be more convenient for those who are trying to put on a production of one of the plays he mentions. This way, one could find all the commentary on a specific play in one chapter as opposed to having to fish for it throughout the book. In a sense though, I see that Taplin may have set the book up the way he did in order to compare and contrast different examples that match a concept. Unfortunately, for me, that aspect doesn’t redeem the effort it takes to continually remember different plot lines in order to understand his point.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mirror Scenes in "Hamlet, Prince of Grief"

Last week in class we read and discussed Oliver Taplin’s chapter on mirror scenes from Greek Tragedy in Action. In our society’s current entertainment milieu, saturated with CGI and multi-million-dollar special-effects blockbusters, we sometimes forget the bare power of simple theatrical techniques such as verbal and visual repetition. Taplin notes how effective such techniques can be in Greek tragedy, emphasizing that when you have a repeated stage image in a play, the meaning is often found in analyzing the differences between the two scenes.

This past weekend, I saw a play at the BYU International Theater Festival that brought home to me the efficacy of a well-performed scene of repetition. The play was a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet entitled Hamlet, Prince of Grief, performed by the Leev Theater Group from Iran. The single actor in the show, Afshin Hashemi, put in a powerful performance (also a reminder that good theater doesn’t necessarily need a lot of actors). The mirror scenes in question bookend the play at the beginning and end. As Taplin points out, it is only when you see the second pair of a mirror scene that you realize that there is a repetition, which causes you to reassess the scene you have previously witnessed and look for differences between the previous scene and the one currently displayed before your eyes. In case you have the chance to see it in the future, I don’t want to give away too much about the ending of Hamlet, Prince of Grief, but I will say that the mirror scene in question comes at the point in the Hamlet story at which Hamlet organizes the famous play-within-a-play that depicts the death of the king in front of the court. In the Leev Theater Group’s version, when the actor starts into the play-within-a-play, he repeats the lines and the blocking of the opening scene of play, with a few subtle differences, which leads the audience to understand that they have been watching the play-within-a-play all along. The full force of the repetition, however, lies in the difference between the two scenes, which I won’t reveal here for fear of spoiling it. Go see the play if you have the chance, and bask in the power of a simple, well-executed theatrical technique that is as old as tragedy itself.