Classical Studies
CLA 1-364-2003

Masterpieces of Greek and Roman Theater


Modern Performance/Adaptation of Classical Drama
Assignment A
CLA 1-364-03

The goal of the project is to offer you a new way of looking at ancient drama, to learn what others think about it, what is meaningful to them, and how does it still speak to us today. In other words, this project is different from the project devoted t recovering the performance dimension of Greek and Roman drama in which you thought through the staging of a particular scene. In this project, you become familiar with another person's attempt to create a production of an ancient text for a modern audience.

What questions would be useful to think about as you think about your production? Start with the basics. Aristotle says that there are six components of ancient theater production: plot, character, thought, language, music, and spectacle. What choices has the director of the modern production made in regard to each of these components? Has the plot been changed? Have characters been added? Have lines been altered? What type of music is used? How do costumes, sets, lights, blocking, and delivery affect the modern production? If a film (e.g. Cacoyannis' Iphigenia), how does the camera perspective affect our understanding of the action?

The next set of questions take the observations you have made and try to tie them together into a bigger perspective. An answer to these questions will help you devise a thesis for your paper. First, what themes are stressed and are they the same as the ancient production? For example, what does the modern production/adaptation say about the gods, about the state, about kin, about gender? Second, what type of people are portrayed and what kind of relationships do they have with each other? How does each character's gender affect how s/he acts and thinks in the play? Third, what emotions are felt by the audience? Pity and fear, or something else? Would the men in the audience respond to the production any differently than the women in the audience? In short, what is the overall effect/goal/purpose that the modern production/adaptation has upon the audience? How does it compare with the themes, characters, and emotions aroused by the ancient production?

One way to get at some of these questions is through first-hand accounts of the modern production: videos, scripts, playbills, letters, interviews, and reviews. These are all primary sources that help us understand the modern production more fully. Depending on the modern adaptation you have chosen, you will use some or all of these primary sources. The secondary literature will make use of these primary sources, but also add personal observations, cultural and historical background, and analysis to help get at an interpretation of the play. Reading what another person has to say about a production may help clarify your ideas and offer a new perspective on the production.

Maintained by: Last Update: July 15, 2008 8:39 am

Professor John Gruber-Miller
CLA 1-364-2003
Masterpieces of Greek and Roman Theater

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