October 22, 2004

Staging The Eumenides, Question 2

-The 4th century B.C.E. Phlyakes vases from the south of Italy show temporary wooden stages which we believe are similar or identical to those that would have been used for comic performance in the 5th century B.C.E. How adequate or appropriate would such a stage have been for the performance of tragedy in the 5th century B.C.E., in particular the Eumenides?

Due to the large chorus of Furies and the need for this group of actors to be expressive and powerful with commanding presence and ownership of the stage, I think the Phylakes stage would have been too restrictive and not allowed for the possible dramatic impact this chorus would have created. Also the sheer space that the actors in the chorus would have taken up would be too expansive for such a small stage. I don't think that the Furies should be resigned to the orchestra space due to the need for them to represent power and status, and in the orchestra they would have obviously been lower down than the other characters.

Not only is there the problem of space but I feel this stage form is not suitable for tragic plays in general. It is brightly decorated and would have been designed festively for the comic plays and I think this would have detracted some of the graveness and weight behind the tragedies if they had been performed here.

Lastly the Phylakes stage is quite plain in its form and for a play such as Eumenides where there are a few dramatically contrasting settings, this staging form would make it hard for the audience to imagine somewhere like Apollos temple and then see the same simple space repesenting Athens.

-Where could Klytemnestra, Apollo and Orestes have performed in the opening scene of the play?

It is important to portray Apollo's status as a god in the opening scene of the play, especially seeing as the action takes place in his own temple. Threfore I would position him upstage perhaps on a higher level above the main stage. Orestes, to signify his position as a mortal who has come to Apollo for help should be much lower down, nearer the audience, and so he could kneel amongst the orchestra looking up at Apollo. Klytemnestra could begin by standing downstage to indicate her position between god and man as a ghost.

-Where could the chorus have performed?

The chorus could have performed in the orchestra and I like the idea that they are closer to the audience as this proximity would make them more threatening and so rile the audience even more than usual. If the Furies are within close distance of the front row of audience members then it would have been likely to provoke a more receptive reaction from the crowd than if they were simply delivering their lines from the stage. As well as this, it shows their low status below that of men and gods, but also their capability of punishing the everyday man – the fact they are near men in the audience who would have been scared of the Furies vengeance.

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