Week Three – Tragedy in Performance
Visual Resources - Staging the Eumenides
i – Vases …
Unless you're some kind of vase expert… it is impossible to determine whether these are depictions of ancient theatre or silly myths. However – the vases feature feature women, who didn't act in the Greek theatre. Also, there aren't any images of masks & elaborate costumes etc so it seems to be a bit unrealistic yet could be someone's personal interpretation and not an intended factual vase.
Seeing as the Goddess of retribution is covered by a massive snake and floating on a stick, we find it hard to believe the Greeks would have been able to simulate this in performance… hence we say – myth.
The vase gives a defined image of an important scene in Aeschylus' Oresteia therefore this may have been how it was performed by the Greeks. The site outlines each aspect of the painting on the vase with great detail thus it seems to be quite valid.
ii – Respones …
In response to the images viewed, we think that the vases are useful if you have a detailed backgrounf knowledge of the use of these artifacts however, if it's something that you're researching for the first time, there are more conclusive resources such as primary sources i.e. ancient texts, that we would find far more useful.
i – There is a central door on the stage & this would have been necessary, as it represents the main entrance. The single stage allows room for modification for the praticular scenes and the wooden architecture would be able to be pianted over and modifed as needed. However, the stone stage couldn't be moved and thus would need to have materials and artifacts placed over it to indicate scene changes etc. Also it seems a tad small!
ii – In the opening scene, Klytemnestra, Apollo and Orestes could have performed on the centre stage and then allowed room for the chorus to come on by moving to the left. By acting in the centre, the left and right hand sides of the stage can be transformed into the temple of Pallas, as the seen progresses. This could possibly be done by the chorus …
iii – The chorus in Eumenides could possible have performed in the orchestra as an ensemble group.
i) The wooden Phlyakes stage would be quite difficult to perform on – the stone alter means that it couldn't be painted over or modified easily. However, the plain background allows modification quite easily which is a great advantage as it wouldn't affect the audience.
The Dionysis theatre of the Lycurgan period is grand in size and thus would have allowed various scenes and locations. In contrast to the Phlyakes stage it has levels for the actors to work with. The three doors situated in the stone skene and its appearance as a whole would be far more visually stimulating than the Phylakes stage.
ii) Action of the Eumenides takes place in three places:
1 – Outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
2 – Inside the inner shrine of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
3 – the Temple of Athene in Athens – dedicated to Athena.
iii) The scene changes would have definitely been better staged at the Dionysis – it's grander in size, has levels to add diversity to the productions and the doors could be used for a variety of things. One could stand in the doorway or infront of it and the chorus could come through the doorway in a grand entrance. Orestes as the central character would be able to be seen in full view if standing in the orchestra and this would increase his importance on the stage.
i) In the binding scene of the Eumenides it would make more sense to have Orsetes in the centre of the orchestra. This would enable the theatron to view the character in full and his status and grandeur would thus be magnified.
ii) If Orestes had been placed centrally infront of the skene doors the the image of binding would not be so apparent to the theatron yet if Orestes stood in the centre of the orchestra, he could be encircled by the chorus figures and this would have provided increased visual stimulation for the audience. Moreover, the spatial relationship of Apollo and Athene would be important and it would be effective to have them placed on the highest level so that their Godly status was easily apparent.
5) The best seats of the 4th century theatron were those in the front row of the theatron – close to the action with a clear view of the elaborate gestures and intricate costumes and masks. These seats were reserved for the wealthy – the most important members of society called the prohedria. The worst seats would have been at the higher cavea and at the very ends of either side of the theatron. This is because viewing would be heavily restricted and acoustics would be limited with the side angle. The sheer size of the theatron would also mean that seats at the top of the theatron, in the higher cavea would have been extremely problematic – simply because acoustics would be limited and the view would generally be of thousands of heads! Nonetheless, the audience fed off emotions of the other audience members therefore this may not have been such an issue … would have been for me I know that!
i) A contemporary audience is hugely different to that of a Greek one – simply because of the enormous size of Greek theatres, the Greeks looked for elaborate gestures to interpret meaning whereas we focus on dialogue and facial expressions to interpret the play's themes and message. Superficially, the seating would create problems because you would be literally leaning on someone else during the whole performance and trying to listen to the tragedy with thousands of people seated around you would be extremely difficult! They sat on stone and were thus incredibly uncomfortable yet the focus was not on the comfort but the story being told. The Greeks look for emotion and the mass audience would have created intense emotions throughout the duration of the play. Vocal participation was an important role in Greek theatre thus the audience would be far more excited and roused than a contemporary audience.
ii) These differences certinally prove to create a much different experience for the audiences.
iii) Acting syles of the Greeks would appear melodramatic to a contemporary audience yet for the Greeks, the size of the theatron meant that gestures needed to be exaggerated to the fullest.This has evolved enormously because as audience now we seek meaning through the facial expressions and language of the actors – unless its abstract or physical theatre that is! The chorus role has also evolved to become the monologue instead, which some may argue adds a personal level to the production.