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March 08, 2005

Friday 4th March : Medea Session

We ran through pretty much the whole piece in this rehearsal, and it’s looking really good, finally we’ve got a good performance with so many different elements (dance, music, SFX, the painting).

Rachel’s painting (thanks to James and Beck as well) is looking awesome, much too good to paint over in white! Here it is :

The beginning’s pretty much come together now; we used a CD that Laura’s made of children playing, which is really spooky when played at the beginning before I enter with the chorus. I’m probably going to have to sing the song twice, as Frankie and Kali need enough time to come down from the catwalk and enter at the end of the procession with the rest of the chorus; it’d look a bit naff if they had to come in separately because they were letting the bits of red material down from the catwalk.

We spent a lot of time working on the courtroom scene, as we hadn’t really spent any time on this yet. We altered the placing of the chorus at the back in their ‘material boxes’. Will and I now start standing on platforms at either side of the stage, then we’re carried on on the platforms, into the court (as it were). Four members of the chorus then kneel round each of us on the floor, and they say the ‘Objection’ and ‘Sustained’ that brings the emotional scene into the court scene.

Helen and Rachel (the Gods / scales) stand during the scene on a high platform at the back of the stage, then they come down and move through the chorus while we’re frozen in position, for their scene. We tried putting James and Beck up on the catwalk, as if Medea is in prison (or in a dock in court) and Jason is accusing her; this is effective and we are going to use it. Hopefully we can use light through the catwalk grille like the light through the bars of a prison cell.

We decided on a place for Rachel’s painting as well; on the far left of the set, between two white curtains.

We discussed what white noise/flicking between TV channels we want for the alternative ending scene. Hopefully Annisa is going to be able to do something this weekend on VHS that we can use. Then we need to put it on the same tape as Grace’s news report, and we can edit it all together for ease during the performance.

All getting better every rehearsal, now we have what looks like a good performance! We need to do some hard work next week on making everything smooth, so we know what we’re doing very well and it doesn’t look like we’ve only every run it once before!

March 03, 2005

Medea Rehearsal : 3rd March

I felt today's session in the studio went really well and clarified the structure of the piece, something that's really important before we develop the individual bits any further.

We started off rehearsing individually in our groups; Charlotte, Julia, Kali, Jack and Annisa are working on the Dada poem with a kind of dance where Medea is in the middle and is controlled by pieces of red material which are tied to parts of her body; this represents the different elements of her mindset and her confused state of mind in the situation of the play.

Rachel, Will, Beck, Helen, James and I are working on our courtroom scene. We now have a script that we are learning; the scene is fairly naturalistic, which provides a distinct contrast with the other scenes in the 'middle' of the piece, especially as it comes after the dada dance and poem, which is obviously very non-naturalistic.

Diagram :

There are two pairs of Jason and Medea, one pair which will be behind a thin sheet of material, lit from behind by a light, so they will act out a scene from p346 of ‘Medea’ silhouetted. In front, on a platform, will be the Jason and the Medea who are in the courtroom (me and Will). They are more controlled and restrained than the couple behind the sheet, yet they make sudden outbursts that are controlled by the court. At the very back are Rachel and Helen, who represent the human scales. At the end of the textual speaking by Will, me, Beck and James, we freeze and Rachel and Helen walk on and have an argument/discussion summing up the points for and against Medea’s defence of her actions. We were thinking of using 2 red sashes to represent the two Medeas, and 2 black sashes to represent the two Jasons.

Grace, Laura and Mary-Kate were working on an alternative ending for ‘Medea’. Grace is filming a news report for the beginning of the performance, so today she recorded an alternative report as though the people of Corinth searched for Medea’s children and killed them themselves as revenge for Creon’s death.

Sam and Gethin developed a kind of ritual dance inspired by the ancient Greek dance workshopping that we did with Annisa, which they taught the boys. This will probably be used at the same time as the girls singing a 2-part version of my latin song from the beginning.
We now seem to have a vague structure for the performance :

1) The audience enter to Gethin playing the guitar

2) A blackout then occurs and Frankie and Kali start making noises on the cat-walk

3) The lights then come on. Two figures are seen in masks on the cat-walk. These figures (representing the children) then drop red material down to the floor and create a kind of arch for the chorus to walk through

4) The chorus then walk in pairs through the material arch into the studio through the audience, with me singing and everyone else following

5) When we have all gone through the arch, the red material is dropped to the floor (possibly held by invisible string so we can pull it up again later)

6) The news report then comes on the television

7) Everyone starts saying the lines from the public interviews, in pairs; one person says it, one whispers, until we all start shouting then we stop when Jack stamps his foot and shouts

8) Frankie then choreographed us in a ritualistic dance which ends with some people staying and the others going back into the ‘box’ frames created out of material round the back of the studio

9) Next is the MIDDLE section : Dada poem and dance, Courtroom scene then ALTERNATIVE ending

10) The ending will be like the beginning but in reverse

James, Beck and Rachel have also started work on the painting; they have painted the back white like a blank canvas, and then they are starting to paint by projecting the picture onto it and painting round it.
Good session guys, I really feel like it’s coming on now and I can see it all working really well. We need to sort out who’s going to buy fabric etc so we’re not doing last-minute trips to Leamington next Thursday afternoon. See you all tomorrow! K8 xXx

Laura's Photos

Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/lmatthews/gallery/medea_theatre_studies_stuff/

Lovely Laura has put 22 photos from her digital camera that she took at our rehearsal today (3rd March)! Thanks Laura!

March 02, 2005

Initial Ideas for Courtroom Scene

Rachel, Beck, Helen, Will, James and I are working on a 'courtroom'-style piece that will hopefully fulfil the need that we all felt for more audience participation and involvement in our performance.

We thought that it should be at least a partly non-naturalistic style, as the majority of the piece so far seems to have a non-naturalistic slant. The speech around p346 is a direct argument between Jason and Medea, so we're thinking of using that.

James has got some friends who do law who will hopefully be able to put what we want into 'law-sounding' speaking terms, so it sounds like we're summing up the case in proper Ally- McBeal terms!

Possibly have 2 Jasons and 2 Medeas, 1 pair being the emotional couple having the argument in the background, while 1 pair represent the controlled, restarined individuals in the courtroom being cross-questioned.

Need for prosecutor and defence.

How about an Exhitbit Table? We could have Exhibit A – the knife used to kill the children, or Exhibit B – the poisoned tiara that Medea used to kill Creon's daughter, the princess (what's her name). Is this too gory? Or good? Since we're not actually showing the murdering or the kids at any point, maybe this is nicely graphic?! What do you think peeps?

Signing off here….............

Medea : 24th February : SONG

We had the idea of having a piece of singing from the catwalk at the end of the killing of the children – haunting music, maybe resembling the soundtrack from 'Gladiator'. I thought of using the Latin text that is used for requiem masses (masses for the dead) – this is the first section, which I used words from to set to a simple tune in C minor, 12 bars long.

I. lntroitus - Kyrie

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis

Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem

Exaudi orationem meam
ad te omnis caro veniet

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison.

(TRAnslation) :
Grant them eternal rest, o Lord,
and may perpertual light shine upon them

Thou, o God, art praised in Sion, and unto Thee
shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem.

Hear my prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy

February 23, 2005

Ideas for 'justified'

One of the words we came up with to describe Medea was 'justified'. I explored some images of the typical image of 'Justice', and the idea of using a set of scales to weigh up both sides of Medea's argument for taking revenge on Jason.

Image 1:

Image 2:

Image 3:

Links to other people's blogs for 'Medea'

Beck's blog

Frankie's blog

Julia's blog

Charlotte's blog

Helen's blog

Annisa's blog

Kali's blog

Laura's blog

Gethin's blog

Rachel's blog

Sam's blog

Mary-Kate's blog

Jack's blog

Infanticide Research

We decided that we should focus particularly on the children in 'Medea', as they are not actually given a 'voice' of their own in Euripides' play.

I did some research on Infanticide, mostly in a modern context, but there's a complete mixture. Here it is :

The phenomenon of female infanticide is as old as many cultures, and has likely accounted for millions of gender-selective deaths throughout history. It remains a critical concern in a number of "Third World" countries today, notably the two most populous countries on earth, China and India. In all cases, specifically female infanticide reflects the low status accorded to women in most parts of the world; it is arguably the most brutal and destructive manifestation of the anti-female bias that pervades "patriarchal" societies. It is closely linked to the phenomena of sex-selective abortion, which targets female fetuses almost exclusively, and neglect of girl children.
The background
"Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females." (Marina Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) It should be seen as a subset of the broader phenomenon of infanticide, which has also targeted the physically or mentally handicapped, and infant males (alongside infant females or, occasionally, on a gender-selective basis). As with maternal mortality, some would dispute the assigning of infanticide or female infanticide to the category of "genocide" or, as here, "gendercide." Nonetheless, the argument advanced in the maternal mortality case-study holds true in this case as well: governments and other actors can be just as guilty of mass killing by neglect or tacit encouragement, as by direct murder. R.J. Rummel buttresses this view, referring to infanticide as
another type of government killing whose victims may total millions … In many cultures, government permitted, if not encouraged, the killing of handicapped or female infants or otherwise unwanted children. In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters. Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two. Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons. ... But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, "defective" children have been killed in one-third of them. In India, for example, because of Hindu beliefs and the rigid caste system, young girls were murdered as a matter of course. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in "some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls. … [I]n Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603."
Rummel adds: "Instances of infanticide … are usually singular events; they do not happen en masse. But the accumulation of such officially sanctioned or demanded murders comprises, in effect, serial massacre. Since such practices were so pervasive in some cultures, I suspect that the death toll from infanticide must exceed that from mass sacrifice and perhaps even outright mass murder." (Rummel, Death by Government, pp. 65–66.)
Focus (1): India
As John-Thor Dahlburg points out, "in rural India, the centuries-old practice of female infanticide can still be considered a wise course of action." (Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'," The Los Angeles Times [in The Toronto Star, February 28, 1994.]) According to census statistics, "From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901 … the gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. … In the nearly 300 poor hamlets of the Usilampatti area of Tamil Nadu [state], as many as 196 girls died under suspicious circumstances [in 1993] … Some were fed dry, unhulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death." Dahlburg profiles one disturbing case from Tamil Nadu:
Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child's short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant's famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn's throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi's square thatched hut of sunbaked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. "A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?" Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child's life eight years ago. "Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her." (All quotes from Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.")
A study of Tamil Nadu by the Community Service Guild of Madras similarly found that "female infanticide is rampant" in the state, though only among Hindu (rather than Moslem or Christian) families. "Of the 1,250 families covered by the study, 740 had only one girl child and 249 agreed directly that they had done away with the unwanted girl child. More than 213 of the families had more than one male child whereas half the respondents had only one daughter." (Malavika Karlekar, "The girl child in India: does she have any rights?," Canadian Woman Studies, March 1995.)
The bias against females in India is related to the fact that "Sons are called upon to provide the income; they are the ones who do most of the work in the fields. In this way sons are looked to as a type of insurance. With this perspective, it becomes clearer that the high value given to males decreases the value given to females." (Marina Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) The problem is also intimately tied to the institution of dowry, in which the family of a prospective bride must pay enormous sums of money to the family in which the woman will live after marriage. Though formally outlawed, the institution is still pervasive. "The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees ([US] $35,000). In India the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children." (Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) Murders of women whose families are deemed to have paid insufficient dowry have become increasingly common, and receive separate case-study treatment on this site.
India is also the heartland of sex-selective abortion. Amniocentesis was introduced in 1974 "to ascertain birth defects in a sample population," but "was quickly appropriated by medical entrepreneurs. A spate of sex-selective abortions followed." (Karlekar, "The girl child in India.") Karlekar points out that "those women who undergo sex determination tests and abort on knowing that the foetus is female are actively taking a decision against equality and the right to life for girls. In many cases, of course, the women are not independent agents but merely victims of a dominant family ideology based on preference for male children."
Dahlburg notes that "In Jaipur, capital of the western state of Rajasthan, prenatal sex determination tests result in an estimated 3,500 abortions of female fetuses annually," according to a medical-college study. (Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.") Most strikingly, according to UNICEF, "A report from Bombay in 1984 on abortions after prenatal sex determination stated that 7,999 out of 8,000 of the aborted fetuses were females. Sex determination has become a lucrative business." (Zeng Yi et al., "Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China," Population and Development Review, 19: 2 [June 1993], p. 297.)
Deficits in nutrition and health-care also overwhelmingly target female children. Karlekar cites research
indicat[ing] a definite bias in feeding boys milk and milk products and eggs … In Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh [states], it is usual for girls and women to eat less than men and boys and to have their meal after the men and boys had finished eating. Greater mobility outside the home provides boys with the opportunity to eat sweets and fruit from saved-up pocket money or from money given to buy articles for food consumption. In case of illness, it is usually boys who have preference in health care. … More is spent on clothing for boys than for girls[,] which also affects morbidity. (Karlekar, "The girl child in India.")
Sunita Kishor reports "another disturbing finding," namely "that, despite the increased ability to command essential food and medical resources associated with development, female children [in India] do not improve their survival chances relative to male children with gains in development. Relatively high levels of agricultural development decrease the life chances of females while leaving males' life chances unaffected; urbanization increases the life chances of males more than females. … Clearly, gender-based discrimination in the allocation of resources persists and even increases, even when availability of resources is not a constraint." (Kishor, "'May God Give Sons to All': Gender and Child Mortality in India," American Sociological Review, 58: 2 [April 1993], p. 262.)
Indian state governments have sometimes taken measures to diminish the slaughter of infant girls and abortions of female fetuses. "The leaders of Tamil Nadu are holding out a tempting carrot to couples in the state with one or two daughters and no sons: if one parent undergoes sterilization, the government will give the family [U.S.] \\$160 in aid per child. The money will be paid in instalments as the girl goes through school. She will also get a small gold ring and on her 20th birthday, a lump sum of $650 to serve as her dowry or defray the expenses of higher education. Four thousand families enrolled in the first year," with 6,000 to 8,000 expected to join annually (as of 1994) (Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.") Such programs have, however, barely begun to address the scale of the catastrophe.
Focus (2): China
"A tradition of infanticide and abandonment, especially of females, existed in China before the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949," note Zeng et al.. ("Causes and Implications," p. 294.) According to Ansley J. Coale and Judith Banister, "A missionary (and naturalist) observer in [China in] the late nineteenth century interviewed 40 women over age 50 who reported having borne 183 sons and 175 daughters, of whom 126 sons but only 53 daughters survived to age 10; by their account, the women had destroyed 78 of their daughters." (Coale and Banister, "Five Decades of Missing Females in China," Demography, 31: 3 [August 1994], p. 472.)
According to Zeng et al., "The practice was largely forsaken in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s." (Zeng et al., "Causes and Implications," p. 294.) Coale and Banister likewise acknowledge a "decline of excess female mortality after the establishment of the People's Republic … assisted by the action of a strong government, which tried to modify this custom as well as other traditional practices that it viewed as harmful." (Coale and Banister, "Five Decades," p. 472.) But the number of "missing" women showed a sharp upward trend in the 1980s, linked by almost all scholars to the "one-child policy" introduced by the Chinese government in 1979 to control spiralling population growth. Couples are penalized by wage-cuts and reduced access to social services when children are born "outside the plan." Johansson and Nygren found that while "sex ratios [were] generally within or fairly near the expected range of 105 to 106 boys per 100 girls for live births within the plan … they are, in contrast, clearly far above normal for children born outside the plan, even as high as 115 to 118 for 1984–87. That the phenomenon of missing girls in China in the 1980s is related to the government's population policy is thus conclusively shown." (Sten Johansson and Ola Nygren, "The Missing Girls of China: A New Demographic Account," Population and Development Review, 17: 1 [March 1991], pp. 40–41.)
The Chinese government appeared to recognize the linkage by allowing families in rural areas (where anti-female bias is stronger) a second child if the first was a girl. Nonetheless, in September 1997, the World Health Organization's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific issued a report claiming that "more than 50 million women were estimated to be 'missing' in China because of the institutionalized killing and neglect of girls due to Beijing's population control program that limits parents to one child." (See Joseph Farah, "Cover-up of China's gender-cide", Western Journalism Center/FreeRepublic, September 29, 1997.) Farah referred to the gendercide as "the biggest single holocaust in human history."
According to Peter Stockland, "Years of population engineering, including virtual extermination of 'surplus' baby girls, has created a nightmarish imbalance in China's male and female populations." (Stockland, "China's baby-slaughter overlooked," The Calgary Sun, June 11, 1997.) In 1999, Jonathan Manthorpe reported a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, claiming that "the imbalance between the sexes is now so distorted that there are 111 million men in China — more than three times the population of Canada — who will not be able to find a wife." As a result, the kidnapping and slave-trading of women has increased: "Since 1990, say official Chinese figures, 64,000 women — 8,000 a year on average — have been rescued by authorities from forced 'marriages'. The number who have not been saved can only be guessed at. … The thirst for women is so acute that the slave trader gangs are even reaching outside China to find merchandise. There are regular reports of women being abducted in such places as northern Vietnam to feed the demand in China." (Jonathan Manthorpe, "China battles slave trading in women: Female infanticide fuels a brisk trade in wives," The Vancouver Sun, January 11, 1999.)
Since the first allegations of widespread female infanticide in China connected to the government's "one-child" policy, controversy has raged over the number of deaths that can be ascribed to infanticide as opposed to other causes. Zeng et al. argued in 1993 that "underreporting of female births, an increase in prenatal sex identification by ultrasound and other diagnostic methods for the illegal purpose of gender-specific birth control, and [only] very low-level incidence of female infanticide are the causes of the increase in the reported sex ratio at birth in China." (Zeng et al., "Causes and Implications," p. 285.) They add: "Underreporting of female births accounts for about 43 percent to 75 percent of the difference between the reported sex ratio at birth during the second half of the 1980s and the normal value of the true sex ratio at birth" (p. 289). The authors contended that "sex-differential underreporting of births and induced abortion after prenatal sex determination together explain almost all of the increase in the reported sex ratio at birth during the late 1980s," and thus "the omission … of victims of female infanticide cannot be a significant factor." Moreover, "Both the social and administrative structure and the close bond among neighbors in China make it difficult to conceal a serious crime such as infanticide," while additionally "Infanticide is not a cost-effective method of sex selection. The psychological and moral costs are so high that people are unlikely to take such a step except under extreme circumstances" (p. 295). They stress, however, that "even small numbers of cases of female infanticide, abandonment, and neglect are a serious violation of the fundamental human rights of women and children" (p. 296). (2002 update: A recent article by John Gittings of the UK Guardian cites national census results released in May 2002 that show that "more than 116 male births were recorded for every 100 female births," but claims the cause is overwhelmingly sex-selective abortion: "Female infanticide, notorious in China's past as a primitive method of sex selection, is now thought to be infrequent." See Gittings, "Growing Sex Imbalance Shocks China", The Guardian, May 13, 2002.)
In a similar vein, in April 2000, The New York Times reported that "many 'illegal' children are born in secret, their births never officially registered." And "as more women move around the country to work, it is increasingly hard to monitor pregnancies … Unannnounced spot checks by the State Statistics Bureau have discovered undercounts of up to 40 percent in some villages, Chinese demographers say." (See Elisabeth Rosenthal, "China's Widely Flouted One-Child Policy Undercuts Its Census", The New York Times, April 14, 2000.)
Johansson and Nygren attracted considerable notice with a somewhat different claim: "that adoptions (which often go unreported) account for a large proportion of the missing girls. … If adopted children are added to the live births … the sex ratio at birth becomes much closer to normal for most years in the 1980s. … Adding the adopted children to live births reduces the number of missing girls by about half." (Johansson and Nygren, "The Missing Girls of China," pp. 43, 46.) They add (p. 50): "That female infanticide does occur on some scale is evidenced by reports in the Chinese press, but the available statistical evidence does not help us to determine whether it takes place on a large or a small scale."
Even if millions of Chinese infant girls are unregistered rather than directly murdered, however, the pattern of discrimination is one that will severely reduce their opportunities in life. "If parents do hide the birth of a baby girl, she will go unregistered and therefore will not have any legal existence. The child may have difficulty receiving medical attention, going to school, and [accessing] other state services." (Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".)
Likewise, if a Chinese infant girl is turned over for adoption rather than being killed, she risks being placed in one of the notorious "Dying Rooms" unveiled in a British TV documentary. Chinese state orphanages have come in for heavy criticism as a result of the degrading and unsanitary conditions that usually pervade them. In one orphanage, documentary producer Brian Woods found that "every single baby … was a girl, and as we moved on this pattern was repeated. The only boys were mentally or physically disabled. 95% of the babies we saw were able-bodied girls. We also discovered that, although they are described as orphans, very few of them actually are; the overwhelming majority do have parents, but their parents have abandoned them, simply because they were born the wrong sex." Woods estimated that "up to a million baby girls every year" were victims of this "mass desertion," deriving from "the complex collision of [China's] notorious One Child Policy and its traditional preference for sons." (See Brian Woods, "The Dying Rooms Trust".)
The phenomenon of neglect of girl children is also dramatically evident in China. According to the World Health Organization, "In many cases, mothers are more likely to bring their male children to health centers — particularly to private physicians — and they may be treated at an earlier stage of disease than girls." (Cited in Farah, "Cover-up of China's gender-cide".)
The Chinese government has taken some energetic steps to combat the practice of female infanticide and sex-selective abortion of female fetuses. It "has employed the Marriage Law and Women's Protection Law which both prohibit female infanticide. The Women's Protection Law also prohibits discrimination against 'women who give birth to female babies.' … The Maternal Health Care Law of 1994 'strictly prohibits' the use of technology to identify the gender of a fetus." However, "although the government has outlawed the use of ultrasound machines, physicians continue to use them to determine the gender of fetuses, especially in rural areas." (Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".)
How many die?
Gendercide Watch is aware of no overall statistics on the numbers of girls who die annually from infanticide. Calculations are further clouded by the unreliability and ambiguity of much of the data. Nonetheless, a minimum estimate would place the casualties in the the hundreds of thousands, especially when one takes into consideration that the phenomenon is most prevalent in the world's two most populous countries. Sex-selective abortions likely account for an even higher number of "missing" girls.
Who is responsible?
As already noted, female infanticide reflects the low status accorded to women in many societies around the world. The "burden" of taking a woman into the family accounts for the high dowry rates in India which, in turn, have led to an epidemic female infanticide. Typical also is China, where
culture dictates that when a girl marries she leaves her family and becomes part of her husband's family. For this reason Chinese peasants have for many centuries wanted a son to ensure there is someone to look after them in their old age — having a boy child is the best pension a Chinese peasant can get. Baby girls are even called "maggots in the rice" … ("The Dying Rooms Trust")
Infanticide is a crime overwhelmingly committed by women, both in the Third and First Worlds. (This contrasts markedly with "infanticide in nonhuman primates," which "is carried out primarily by migrant males who are unrelated to the infant or its parents and is a manifestation of reproductive competition among males." [Glenn Hausfater, "Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives," Current Anthropology, 25: 4 (1984), p. 501.] It also serves as a reminder that gendercide may be implemented by those of the same gender.) In India, according to John-Thor Dahlburg, "many births take place in isolated villages, with only female friends and the midwife present. If a child dies, the women can always blame natural causes." (Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.") In the United States, "every year hundreds of women commit neonaticide [the killing of newborns] … Prosecutors sometimes don't prosecute; juries rarely convict; those found guilty almost never go to jail. Barbara Kirwin, a forensic psychologist, reports that in nearly 300 cases of women charged with neonaticide in the United States and Britain, no woman spent more than a night in jail." Much of "the leniency shown to neonaticidal mothers" reflects the fact that they are standardly "young, poor, unmarried and socially isolated," although it is notable that similar leniency is rarely extended to young, poor, and socially isolated male murderers.
A number of strategies have been proposed and implemented to try to address the problem of female infanticide, along with the related phenomena of sex-selective abortion and abandonment and neglect of girl children. Zeng et al.'s prescriptions for Chinese policymakers can easily be generalized to other countries where female infanticide is rife:
The principle of equality between men and women should be more widely promoted through the news media to change the attitude of son preference and improve the awareness of the general public on this issue; the principle should also be reflected in specific social and economic policies to protect the basic rights of women and children, especially female children. … Government regulations prohibiting the use of prenatal sex identification techniques for nonmedical purposes should be strictly enforced, and violators should be punished accordingly. The laws that punish people who commit infanticide, abandonment, and neglect of female children, and the laws and regulations on the protection of women and children[,] should be strictly enforced. The campaigns to protect women and children from being kidnapped or sold into servitude should be effectively strengthened. Family planning programs should focus on effective public education, good counseling and service delivery, and the fully voluntary participation of the community and individuals to increase contraceptive prevalence, reduce unplanned pregnancies, and minimize the need for an induced abortion. _

Here is a graph showing infanticide rates :

November 09, 2004

Old Comedy and Satyr Plays

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/oldcomedy/

1. Which of the following vase paintings appear to depict scenes from Old Comedy, and which from Satyr plays?

The Aulos-playing Satyr Vase

Definitely a satyr play – I think the title 'aulos-playing satyr vase' kinda gives it away though…

The Cheiron Vase

Old Comedy I reckon – the strange padded costumes that emphasise the actors' ugly bits are typical of the ancient productions of Old Comedy.

The Choregos Vase

Again, Old Comedy, for the same reasons as the Cheiron Vase.

The Pronomos Vase

This is a satyr play, I think; there are satyrs depicted, and the mask (pf Dionysus?) the man is holding looks much more like a tragic kind of mask than one in a comedy :

The Tarentine Vase

I think this is probably from a satyr play, as the actor is not wearing the large, bulgy clothes often shown in Old Comedy.

Vase 96AB113

Definitely Old Comedy; the huge costumes, large, grotesque gestures etc show it to be from a comedy.

Vase 96AE112

This is a hard one; I'm going for a satyr play, because the features of the characters aren't exaggerated as much as in some vase paintings. However, there are elements of comedy such as erect phalluses (or is it phalli in the plural?!) so I'm not too sure.

The Wurzburg Orestes

Ooh, I like this one cos it's quite different from the others – it looks quite exotic somehow. I'll go for a Satyr play, cos the men are depicted quite naturalistically and in a human way.

2. Drawing on the evidence provided by these vase paintings, the plays you have read, and other appropriate online sources:

i. what would seem to be the main characteristics of Old Comic masks, costumes and stages?

The costumes are grotesque and emphasise the large, bulgy bits of the charaters – the masks are likewise non-naturalistic and make the characters look hideous. Many of the male actors wear short skirt-like tunics and large, padded ights underneath. The stages seem to include a large piece of scenery (such as the steps in this picture) to represent where the scene is taking place.

ii. what appear to be the main characteristics of Satyr play masks, costumes and actors?

The satyrs appear to wear a kind of tail ad boots; many have wings coming out of their heads. There is not as much over-padding in the costumes of the characters. There are also no phalluses shown.

3. Read the analytical descriptions for the Pronomos Vase and the Choregos Vase. Using the web-searching and site-evaluation skills that you have developed, find information about, and devise an analytical description that might accompany one of the other vases.

Analytical description of Pronomos Vase : _A late 5th / early 4th-century B.C.E., red-figure volute-krater found in Ruvo, Apulia, in the South East of the Italian peninsula. The vase depicts the artist, named as Pronomos, as a seated aulos player. Pronomos is a known Attic vase-painter most of whose work dates from 410 – 390 B.C.E..The vase depicts Dionysos, a range of young satyr actors and older character actors, in costume, mostly holding their masks, musicians, as well as actual satyrs, maenads, symbols of victory (tripod, winged victory), icons of Dionysos (panther, thyrsos (= thyrsus), musical instruments. It has been suggested that the vase was commissioned to celebrate the victory of a chorus in the dramatic festival, probably a trilogy of tragedies and a satyr play.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples, 3240 inv. no. 81673_

Analytical description of Choregos Vase : _A 4th-century B.C.E., red-figure South-Italian vase, the so-called 'Choregos Vase'. One side of the vase shows four theatre characters on a temporary stage. This is one of a number of vases which has been called a 'phlyax' vase, after the actors of the so-called 'phlyax' farces, which they seem to depict. But, following Taplin's discussion in Comic Angels, these farces are now generally identified as being indistinguishable from Athenian Old Comedy. The vase labels the two shortest figures on this side 'CHOREGOS'. The figure between the two choregoi, (label unclear) is also dressed in comic costume. He stands on an upturned basket, and gestures as if making a speech. A fourth figure, labelled 'AIGISTHOS', stands to the left beside an open doorway; he is holding two spears. His 'tragic' costume, stance and gesture contrast markedly with those of the comic figures. In the scene from a comedy depicted here, two choregoi may have been debating which of them would sponsor a tragic tetralogy, and which a comedy, in one of the dramatic festivals.
The other side of the vase shows a seated female figure. A small bird perches on her left hand. To her left, stands an attendant, fanning her. To the right of the seated figure, is a naked youth. A small dog-like creature stands on his right arm.

Vase of the Choregos Painter. No. 96.AE.29. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California._

Analytical description of Cheiron Vase :

The characters depicted on the vase are wearing the grotesquely exaggerated costumes typical of the performances of Old Comedy in Ancient Greece. In Greek mythology, Cheiron (or Chiron) was a Centaur, half man and half horse, and the son of the Titan Cronos. He was the potter who made this vase (the Cheiron vase).

This is a picture of Cheiron the centaur :

4. With reference to the extract from Csapo and Slater on Comic Vases, how reliable are these vase paintings as evidence for 5th-century B.C.E. staging of Old Comedy and Satyr plays in Athens?

As with the frescoes, the vase paintings give fairly good but not totally reliable evidence for how Old Comedies and Satyr plays would have been staged in Ancient Greece. Some of the vases depict phylax and other stages, which are presumably fairly accurate depictions as the sculptors or painters wouldn't have made up how the stages looked. However, it is possible that the pictures were romanticised by the artists to make them look more aesthetically pleasing. For example, the fresco showing Pentheus' death from The Bacchae is fairly romanticised, and not truly based on Euripides' description of the death in his play.

In the vase painting mentioned in the Csapo and Slater article the orchestra is left out of the painting, as the painter simply wished to exclude them from the vase. Such whims of the artists mean that many of the vase paintings may be historically inaccurate.

As stated in the article, "many of the details of our drawing are reconstructed since the pot itself is much damaged and most of its finer details unclear" – since we do not know how the plays were staged in Ancient Greece, we cannot reconstruct them completely accurately. Therefore, the details of how they were staged can be lost when the pots get damaged.

October 29, 2004

A rather jolly little quiz

  • Quiz for Professionals *

> The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you
> whether you are qualified to be a "professional."

> Scroll down for each answer. The questions are NOT that difficult. But
> don't scroll down UNTIL you have answered the question!

> 1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

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> The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and
> close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple
> things
> in an overly complicated way.

> 2 How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

> *

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> Did you say, "Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close
> the

> refrigerator?" Wrong Answer.

> Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe put in the
> elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through
> the repercussions of your previous actions.

> 3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals
> attend… except one … Which animal does not attend?

> *

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> Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is still in the
> refrigerator.
> You just put him in there. This tests your memory.

> Okay even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly,
> you
> still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

> 4. There is a river you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles,
> and you do not have a boat How do you manage it?

> *

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> Correct Answer: You jump into the river and swim across. Have you not
> been listening? All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting.
> This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

> According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around 90% of the
> professionals they tested got all questions wrong, but many
> preschoolers
> got several correct answers. Anderson Consulting says this
> conclusively

> disproves the theory that most professionals have the brains of a four
> year old.

Reviews of Fresco Things

Jack's entry has some very good points about the frescos. He wrote : "The Roan Frescp is a little too romantic ; it does show how Pentheus is going to be pulled apart but negelcts to include the derenged, mand and possessed position of the woman. Nor does the Fresco depict the tree form which Pentheus was pulled down or the presence of the power of Dionysos." I think the women in the fresco do actually look fairly mad and deranged, so I'm not sure if I agree with this. However, I thought that there could have been more women round Pentheus, and this would make the women look more terrifying.

The worst–named bus in Finland

The worst named bus in Finland

October 26, 2004

Week 4 Questions : Frescos

Frescos : Using Roman Wall Paintings (frescos) as 'Evidence' for Traditions of Staging in Greece

These Roman frescos from Pompei were preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. around 500 years after the plays of Aeschyus, Euripides and Sophocles were first staged in Athens. They depict myths that were the subject of 5th-century Athenian tragedy, and that continued to be represented on the Roman stage, both in revivals of Greek plays, and in later plays written in Latin.

1. Consider the depictions of mythological scenes:

i What are the main similarities and main differences between the way in which the death of Pentheus is depicted in this fresco and in Euripides' Bakkhai?

Similarities :
As in 'The Bacchae', the Pentheus in the fresco is being brutally murdered by the women followers of Dionysus. Pentheus' mother, Agave (on Pentheus' left), looks as though she is about to rip Pentheus' arm off, as the messenger mentions in 'The Bacchae' ("Grabbing his elbow and digging her foot into his rib cage she pulled until his shoulder parted") The Bacchae are holding thyrceses, ivy-covered sticks typical of Dionysus' followers, which is mentioned by Euripides in 'The Bacchae'.

Differences :
In the fresco, Agave and Ino are the main perpetrators of the murder and there are only 3 other Bacchae depicted. Euripides states that "the whole pack of blood sisters came screaming from their dance to swarm over him". There are less bacchae around Pentheus and the scene is not nearly as chaotic and confusing as in Euripides' description.

ii. Compare and contrast the way in which the death of Iphigenia is depicted in this fresco with how it is recounted in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, and/or in Euripdes' play Iphigenia at Aulis.

Euripides' description by the chorus of Iphigenia's death keeps descibing her as a she-child, a virgin, as Agamemnon's jewel, joy, virgin-blood. In the fresco she doesn't look terribly young, but her barely-concealed body makes her look vulnerable and innocent.

In the fresco Agamemnon looks very unsure of what he is going to do – his hand on his mouth shows his doubt about comitting the act of sacrifice. 3 of the characters are looking up at the gods, as if waiting for a sign to confirm that the act should be done. In the play it is made to sound as if his mind is unchangeable once it has been made up : Necessity he kneels to it neck into the yokestrap the General harnessed to what he can't change and ince into harness his while life-lot lurches towards the unspeakable horror the crime

iii. Why do you think the similarities and differences which you have identified may exist?

The wall paintings are Roman whereas the plays were written by Greek playwrights; the stories would therefore have changed slightly in the retelling of the stories. Whoever painted the frescos wouldn't have known all the details of the Greek dramas, merely the basic plot.

iv. On reviewing your responses to the above questions, how useful do you find these Roman frescos to be as evidence for traditions of tragic performance in 5th-century Athens?

They are evidence that the performances happened, as they show the plot of the dramas. They show elements of symbolic costume or props from the plays. However, they are not realistic of the plays themselves as they show (for example) humans riding through the sky on horses, which would obviously not have been a tradition of performance. In the ferscos, the characters are not presented as actors, but as the actual people themselves; no one is wearing maks, and there are women, rather than male actors playing women in the performance.

*2. Examine this mosaic from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompei. *
i. What different types of masks can you see?

There is the mask of a type of animal on the top of one man's head; one man is holding against his face the mask representing Dionysus, with ivy growing out of the top. A tragic white mask and the mask of an old man are lying in a box at the bottom of the picture.

ii. What do you think is going on in this scene?

The characters on the left could be rehearsing for a play, while the boy on the right is being dressed by another boy before starting the rehearsal.

*3. Look at the masks in these frescos depicting actors, and those in the Pronomos Vase.

i. What differences can you discern between the 'tragic' masks depicted in the frescos and the vase?*

On the vase, the masks are much more realistic and like a real human. On the vase they have a large amount of beard and a crown-like thing on the head. In the frescos, the masks are more melodramatic and less like real people. They look as if they are meant to convey the meaning and point of the emotion, but not necessarily in a realistic way.

ii. Why might the masks be different?

The fresco and the vase could have been painted at very different times, or one could be Roman and one could be Greek. They could also just be open to interpretation, so the different artists working on the fresco and vase coulkd have interpreted or remembered the masks from the plays differently.

iii. Why do you think the ancient artists (and viewers) might have been so interested in depictions of actors and masks?

Theatre was a massive part of Greek culture and life, and was central to the life of the city of Athens, so was important enough to be depicted by all artists; it summed up Athenian culture, and inspired the Romans so much that they also felt the need to depict the plays and dramas they saw.

4*. Consider this painting from the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii.*

i. Is it similar or different in subject to the vases considered in Q.3 above?


*ii. What do you think the purpose of such paintings might have been? *


October 22, 2004

Natalie's Blog

Writing about questions from Natalie's blog

I think Nat has made some good points about the Greek vases; I agree that they are more likely to be based on myths. As she says, the women on the vases are cayying live snakes and have snakes in their hair; it is highly unlikely that this would have happened onstage, so it is therefore more likely that the vase is depicting a Greek myth.

October 16, 2004

Visual Resources : Staging the Eumenides

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/theatrontasks/

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?

I think the Phylakes stage looks quite small and restricting, especially for a play such as the Eumenides. The chorus of Furies would have been acting extremely dramatically, and I imagine they would need quite a large space to act in. Also, the stage is needed in the 3rd part of The Oresteia to represent Apollo's temple at Delphi, and also Athens (where Orestes flees to Athene's image). I think the very plain wooden stage, with pillars across the back, would be hard to imagine as such different settings. However, the stage is raised up on a level above the audience; this would appear to give the Furies more power and status as they are on a higher level.

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

The Ghost of Clytemnestra could start speaking from behind the stage, or possible under it; this could be effective as the audience would not be able to see her. Apollo should be placed high up, as he has the high status of a God; we also respect him in this part of the play when he shows sympathy for Orestes. Orestes should be on the normal part of the stage, but probably kneeling down, as he has come to Apollo's temple for help.

iii. Where could the chorus have performed?

I think it would be effective to have the chorus of Furies standing at the front of the stage; they would then be closer to the audience, which would make them more terrifying. They would also be at the same level as the audience, showing that normal people, the people in the crowd, are the ones who can be punished by the Furies if they commit an act worthy of their vengeance.

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?

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

iii.How might these scene changes have been staged?

An image of Apollo could signify the Temple of Apollo; whereas an image of Athene could be used for Orestes to hide behind in Athens – a screen at the back with a view of Athens could help the audience to understand where the scene takes place for the second half of the play.

To show the differences between the interior of the exterior, there can simply be no one on stage when the priestess makes her first speech, then she could 'enter' the temple simply by walking to the back of the stage, then running to the front again in shock. When the priestess leaves and we see the inner shrine, the Furies, Orestes and Apollo need to enter and the Furies must lie on the floor asleep to show we are in the shrine.

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?

Relationships between actors in plays are echoed in their spatial relationships onstage; for example, Orestes' fear of the furies would be demonstrated by his obvious wish for distance between him and the women; similarly they would continually be moving towards him threateningly, wishing to carry out their revenge for Clytaemnestra's death.

Orestes' respect for the God Apollo would be shown in a position of reverence and pleading as he would kneel to the God in the temple. The chorus would always be grouped together, as they share an opinion, a place and a status in the play. Apollo and Athene would both be placed high up, as they are gods and have the highest status of anyone in the play.

5. Where are the best and worst seats in the 4th century theatron? Why?

The central kirkede, or wedge in the theatre, would be the best place to view the stage, as the view is straight-on. The outer wedges, where other people (not the demes) sat, would have a very side-on view and various characters would be blocked from that view, I imagine. Being at the front of the semicircular seating area would be preferable to being at the back, as you would have been more likely to hear everything that was said (despite the fantastic acoustics). For this reason, it was the front seats that were reserved for the most important people – the prohedria.

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?

The audience were packed very close together in their seats, so that emotions would have passed throughout the crows in reaction to the action on the stage. There was also no obligation to watch the play in silence; the audience would have shouted out at the play's action, and talked throughout the performance. The huge numbers of spectators would have led to a completely different mood throughout the audience, and there would have been a massive feeling of national pride and unity, as nearly all the spectators would have been Athenian citizens.

ii. Do these differences suggest a fundamentally, or merely superficially different theatrical experience?

Because of these specific conditions, the playwright would actually have been affected in his writing of the play; whereas most conventional plays today are performed as a text, and the audience or theatre just happens to differ according to the specific production, the Greek playwrights knew exactly who they were writing for, and the specific performance conditions of their play. For this reason, I think the differences would have been fundamentally different.

Our performance conditions today for a Greek drama would be so different; I think the conventional theatre today is much more a personal than a group experience – we are much more restrained in our reactions and emotions, and our feelings generated by the action do not reflect back to the actors and/or the rest of the audience in the same way as would have happened in the ancient Greek theatres.

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?

Obviously parts of the chorus speeches would have been said at the same time by all the chorus members, whereas the individual character lines are said simply by the specific character. The choral performance would have had parts of it set to music, and to dance; the sections are long and include poetic descriptions, and comment on the action of the play. The chorus speeches do not add to the action of the play, they merely reflect on what we have seen and give us a chance to think about it; we do not need to focus on each word to follow the plot of the play, so using dance, music and other devices to make the speeches more aesthetically pleasing to watch, are particularly effective in choral sections.

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.

October 15, 2004

Csapo and Slater (from Hugh)

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/theatrontasks/csapo/

IVB. The Audience
IVBi. The Athenian Audience in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.
Extract from E. Csapo and W.J.Slater (eds) The Context of Ancient Drama (Ann Arbor: U. of Michigan Press, 1995) 286–290.*

Plato estimated the size of the theater audience in Athens at 30,000, but modern estimates of the capacity of the Theater of Dionysus vary between 15,000 and 20,000. This figure is roughly five to seven percent of the total population of Attica, which for 431 B.C. is estimated at 310,000, including 110,000 slaves and 28,500 metics. Not surprisingly, a number of sources attest fierce competition for seats. If Athenians were always the avid theatergoers Herakleides claims, then it is so much the more remarkable that we have no record of any attempt to restrict attendance. On the contrary, attendance at the theater was not only considered a right and privilege of Athenian citizenship (see on the theorikon, below), but the sources give ample evidence for the participation of all Athenian residents, whether metics or slaves, as well as large numbers of foreigners.

From 1796 to the present day, several classical scholars have argued for the exclusion of women and children from the festival. In our opinion, the testimony of ancient authors shows clearly that women (and boys) were present in the audience. The contrary argument rests mainly upon the comic poets' habit of addressing the audience as "gentlemen." This fails to distinguish physical from ideological forms of exclusion. Addresses to "gentlemen" show only that the notional audience was composed of male citizens. Athenian rhetoric was developed in the Assembly and the law courts, where the audience was entierly composed of adult males. When comic characters address the audience as "gentlemen," this is only a social and rhetorical reflex. The fact that the Assembly often met in the theater or that a mock trial (agon) usually lies at the heart of an Old Comic plot no doubt did much to reinforce this linguistic habit. Something more can be made of the habit of addressing the crowd as "men of Athens"; this reflects the speaker's desire to appeal to the segment of the audience that was generally deemed capable of formulating or influencing a judgment. The most comprehensive address to a Greek audience is "men and boys": evidence only of the conceptual invisibility of women in the theater, not of their actual exclusion. Possibly the number of women in the audience was disproportionately small, and [some texts] are frequently cited to show that "respectable" women normally stayed at home, but [other texts] contradict this view.

Some important developments affected the composition of the audience in the 5th and 4th c. B.C. The Athenian Dionysia grew in international prestige and popularity until it became a major Greek festival, by the late 5th c. second only to the Olympics. The increasingly international character of the audience at the Dionysia and (to some extent also) the Lenaea contributed to the gradual obsolescence of the political satire that dominated Old Comedy from ca. 430 to 410 B.C. The anecdote preserved by Aelian, though doubtless fiction, nevertheless illustrates the difficulty foreigners had in appreciating its parochial references. More important in the late 4th c. B.C. was the Macedonian support for the oligarchic faction in Athens, which culminated in the restriction of Athenian citizenship to the wealthier classes in 322 and 317 B.C. The new oligarchy dismantled several democratic institutions, among them the choregia and the festival fund (theorikon), through which the lower clases were ensured a place in the theater both as participants and spectators. The bourgeois character of New Comedy amply reflects the values of the dominant constituency in the late 4th-c. B.C. theater.

The origin of the festival fund is highly controversial. No ancient sources before 343 B.C. refer to the festival fund, but some of these trace the institution back as far as Pericles's democratic reforms before 449 B.C. The theorikon was a dole of money given to all Athenian citizens for the purpose of paying the cost of tickets to the theater, allegedly to give poorer citizens an equal opportunity to attend the theater. But there is also controversy over the function and nature of the theorikon. The ancient sources allege that seats were first sold in order to quell disturbances that erupted in the fierce competition for seats and that the dole was then introduced to allow poor citizens an equal chance of getting theater tickets. If this was its sole function one might have expected a distribution of tickets rather than the cash dole indicated by the texts, since this would simply have moved the site of disturbances from the theater to the ticket booth. Moreover the real obstruction to accessibility to the theater was limited space, not the high cost of tickets, which seems never to have exceeded two obols. It could hardly have been expected that all recipients would use the money to buy tickets, when the number of adult male citizens alone was at least twice the theater's seating capacity. It is clear however that the money was intended for use at the festival since the law restricted the theorikon to citizens actually present in Athens at the time of distribution. Doubtless the money could be used for general festivities and was not specifically tied to the theater ([some texts] allow for wider usage). The sum distributed is normally given as either 2 obols or 1 drachma (6 obols = 1 drachma). But by the late 4th c. B.C. the amount was 5 drachmas, an increase that cannot be entirely due to inflation. Perhaps the most important consequence of the institution of the theoric fund was to give the state a direct interest in stabilizing admission costs, and this was probably more important than the dole itself in guaranteeing universal eligibility, though the theater's size denied universal accessibility.

The practice of leasing the theaters to management corporations probably predates the introduction of the theorikon, since the latter seems to presuppose admission charges paid to a third party: the system would make little sense if the state merely collected the cash at one end that it distributed at another. Ulpian's reference to the theater manager (architekton) seems to point to this conclusion. Possibly the leasing arrangements and the theorikon were introduced simultantously. One ancient account associates the origin of the theorikon with the first attempt to sell seats in the theater. If this connection is sound, then the references to theater lessees would support an early date for the theorikon. Of great interest is a fragmentary inscription recording the details of a contract for the lease of the theater of Piraeus for a sum of 3,300 drachmas, which we are told is 300 drachmas more than the deme expected from the contract. Unfortunately, we do not know how long the lease was for. It appears that the cost of seats was stipulated, doubtless 2 obols. The contract further stipulates that the lessees are to build benches for the audience and give free admission to all those granted prohedria [seats of honour]. From 330 B.C. frequent reference is made to an official called the architect (architekton). His full title is the "architect in charge of sanctuaries." Inscriptions show that he is an elected magistrate by 270 B.C. His appearance seems to indicate direct assumption of the management of the theater by the state, a possible consequence of the construction of a permanent stone auditorium under Lycurgus. Leasing arrangements continued at Piraeus because it was a wooden theater and the auditorium, if not the stage house, had to be reconstructed for each festival, but by 307/6 B.C. an inscription attests an architekton for the theater at Piraeus. This perhaps reflects the increase in direct state control of the theater under Demetrius of Phaleron (the regent imposed by the Macedonians in 317–307 B.C.) rather than the rebuilding of the Piraeus theater in stone.

Seating arrangements also appear to have been regulated directly by the state. They reflect Athens' most important political and social divisions. The firt few rows bordering the orchestra were reserved for various officials, foreign dignitaries, and such public benefactors and culture heroes as victorious generals or athletes. The privilege, called prohedria ("front-seating" – the term is used both of the provilege and the place), could be a perquisite of public office or a special honor conferred by a vote of the Assembly. The marble prohedria of the theater of Lycurgus can still be seen in the theater today. At the center of the first row is the highly ornate throne of the priest of Dionysus Eleuthereus with marble seats for other sacerdotal figures on either side. This arrangement doubtless carries on the tradition of the earlier theater where the priest of Dionysus was easily accessible to the actors. Literary sources attest permanent sections of the theater reserved for the members of the Council, young men on military service (epheboi), the archons, the nomophylakes ["guardians of the law"], and the generals. Apparently nothing prevented ordinary citizens from occupying seats in the front rows. Prohedria only conferred the right to oust other occupants from front-row seats, though exercising that right could sometimes be problematic. Honorary grants of prohedria sometimes involved an escort by state officials.

Behind the prohedria the common people sat on wooden benches until Lycurgus. From Roman times three statue bases dedicated by the tribes Erechtheis, Akamantis, and Oineis were found at the foot of the first, sixth, and eighth wedges of the thirteen kerkides [wedge-shaped seating sections] of the Theater of Dionysus, and these correspond to the traditional order of the ten tribes if the central wedge is given to the Council and ephebes and the outer wedges to noncitizens and perhaps also citizen women. This can be taken together with epigraphic evidence for tribal seating at other Greek theaters and Athenian tokens, identified as theater tickets, stamped with tribal names, to argue that an ideal tribal division was maintained at the Theater of Dionysus. This would have been particularly useful to stimulate rivalry for the tribal dithyrambic competition; perhaps also to control excessive rivalry. There is, however, no reason to think that this division was ever strictly maintained or even voluntarily observed for drama, which had no tribal basis, though even here partisanship could run high.

The sources all depict Athenians as a demanding, unruly audience, and anything but passive in expressing approval or disapproval. The festival atmosphere did not have the polite tone of modern theater audiences. Part of the expense incurred by a comic choregos went to the distribution of food and wine to the spectators. A much underestimated part of the Old Comic poet's art was to keep the audience actively participating in the performance and to cue it continually for outbursts of approval not only to impress the judges but also to control its energy and prevent it from overtaking the performance. Tragedy stood in a much more precarious position: the slightest awkwardness could result in outbursts of disapproval, shouting, hissing (or whistling), clucking, heel banging, and, possibly, food throwing. Prolongued disturbances were frequently resolved only when the actors and chorus abandoned the performance, a calamity that befell even the best tragedians of the age. Crowd control appears to have necessitated a special force of theater police, called "rod holders" (rhabdouchoi).

  • Editorial changes for web-publication: numerical references to source texts published in the volume have been omitted, and explanatory annotations have been added within square brackets. Permission to reproduce on this website granted by U. of Michigan Press (letter on file: 27 October 2003). HD

Greek Audiences (from Hugh)

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/theatrontasks/stanford/

In the context of fifth-century Athens, the sheer scale of the theatrical event must have had a strong impact upon the least impressionable spectator; heightening the significance of the events in the performance-space 17,000-fold and charging the excitement and emotion up to and beyond fever pitch. Imagine this raw energy channelled into an intense and climactic work of art – add to this the powerful drug of national pride and identity when all the citizens of the capital city of a great empire gather together in one space to affirm and consolidate their common heritage and identity through the re-telling of their myths and the celebration of the best of their poets, and consider in this light how very different the theatre-experience of the fifth-century Athenian audience was to ours.

We have no similar experience of mass-crowd dynamic at work on this scale in our theatres. In Greek Tragedy and the Emotions, W.B. Stanford makes the point that unlike today's safely segregated theatre seats, the Greeks would have been tightly packed together:

"If someone beside you sobbed or shuddered or trembled, you would feel it directly, and a wave of physical reaction could pass like an electric shock through all your neighbours . . mass emotionalism flourishes in compact crowds of that kind."

We hear from Plutarch of audiences spontaneously standing up in terror at a (lost) play by Euripides. Herodotus tells us that Phrynichus was fined for having distressed the city excessively with The Sack of Miletus, and that the play banned from further performances.

Rich & Kate's Vases Analysis

Writing about web page http://www.blogs.warwick.ac.uk/shimonastarling/gallery/toga_party/

. 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?

Can't remember if women were allowed in plays, get the feeling they weren';t though, so their presence on the vase would indicate that it represents the myth rather than the play. Natalie says so too. Good old natalie :D

Kate thinks that Orestes' costume is very theatrical, especially the helmet, I think if I was going to make a vase, I'd give him a pretty helmet too, if it was the myth or the play.


Snakes appear on several of the vases especially with Erinyes, it is doubtful whether the furies onstage would have carried around live, poisonous snakes.

ii. In the light of your response to i. above, how significant may ancient vase paintings be as evidence for ancient theatre practice?

If they really are based on theatrical performances they may be slightly useful, they provide information on costume and props. However we doubt it.

October 13, 2004

Toga Party Pictures!

Writing about web page http://www.blogs.warwick.ac.uk/shimonastarling/gallery/toga_party/

Loads of pictures of Monday's (11th) amazing toga party, ending up in Top B. Thanks to everyone who came, you are amazingly cool and it was the funkiest night yet :-)

Shimona's Blog