1. Working in pairs, review a selection of images from the Web Resources page.
i. Is it possible to determine whether the ancient vase paintings are depictions of theatrical performances, or of the myths upon which the plays are also based?
It is difficult to be entirely sure of what the paintings are depicting, but it is likely that they portraying myths rather than plays because there are no references to contemporary theatrical conventions in the paintings such as masks. Also, as mythology was central to ancient greek culture, it is likely that a variety of art froms would have been used to depict it.
ii. In the light of your response to i. above, how significant may ancient vase paintings be as evidence for ancient theatre practice?
As ancient greek theatre was based almost entirley on mythology, the vase paintings show scenes that might have been created on stage. The paintings also show great physicality, reminiscent of the energetioc dancing of contemporary plays. However, the paintings include images of women and live animals, neither of which would have been seen on stage, so they cannot be entirely relied upon as evidence of ancient theatre practice.
2. View digital visualisations of the 5th-century Theatre of Dionysus in (a) the swimming pool – Greek Drama Gallery, and (b) the Theatron Module.
To use the Theatron Module:
go to >Delivered Applications >Viewers >Cosmo Player, and double-click on the Cosmo Player icon
still in Delivered Applications, go to: >Applications >Theatron, and double-click on the Theatron icon in the right-hand window.
Once inside Theatron, see the Phlyax stage in the 'Temporary Stages' section.
i.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?
ii. Where could Klytemnestra, Apollo and Orestes have performed in the opening scene of the play?
iii. Where could the chorus have performed?
3. In Theatron, explore the model of the Theatre of Dionysos, which represents the theatre as it may have been during the Lycurgan period (338 – 326 B.C.E.). Compare and contrast its stone skene with the wooden Phlyakes stage.
i.What possibilities and limitations for performance does each type of scene building allow or impose?
ii.The action of the Eumenides is set in three locations. What are they?
iii.How might these scene changes have been staged?
4. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the theatrically 'strongest' position for an actor was directly in front of the central doors of the skene. Recently, however, in Tragedy in Athens, David Wiles has argued that, for Athenians, the most symbolically potent position was the centre of the orchestra. Explore both of these theories by considering the 'binding scene' in the Eumenides:
i. What kinds of spatial and choreographic relationships between theatre, spectators, actors and chorus, could have been established in each case?
ii.How might different spatial relationships have affected the meaning of the scene, or the characterisation and status of the characters and chorus?
5. Where are the best and worst seats in the 4th century theatron? Why?
i. How did the physical conditions of spectatorship for ancient Athenian audiences differ from the usual conditions of spectatorship in a conventional theatre building today?
ii. Do these differences suggest a fundamentally, or merely superficially different theatrical experience?
iii. Read the short note on Greek Audiences, and the longer text by Csapo and Slater. How might a style, or styles, of performance have evolved in response to the scale and sight-lines of the theatre, and the nature of the spatial and emotional relationship between Athenian spectators and performers?
iv. Might different parts of the theatre have demanded different styles of performance?
v. How might the style of choral performance have differed from that of the character actors?
6. Taking into account your findings in the above explorations, suggest one or more ways in which the voting scene, and the final hymn by the Women of Athens have been staged in the Eumenides