Professor Michael Ewans Greek Drama Theatrical Productions Archive 1983-2009


Michael Ewans

PPT 1 title

PPT 1 title

This paper discusses nine performances of three plays each by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes, which I translated and directed with drama students here at the University of Newcastle in three cycles between the years 1983 and 2009.

On leaving the classics department to become Head of Drama in 1981, I introduced a course on The Greek Theatre which included practical workshopping of scenes, initially from tragedy. I found even in staging these short scenes that the then existing translations were problematic for use with drama students. The Chicago Lattimore/Grene versions were too monumental to be acted easily; the Penguins were fluid, but simplified the richness of the Greek unacceptably; and the Robert Fagles Oresteia proved to include many of the translator’s own flowery inventions. His version was also in many passages literally unspeakable; clearly it had never occurred to Fagles to workshop it with actors before publication. I therefore resolved, when in 1983 I ventured to direct a whole Greek tragedy, that I would make my own new translation, and it would be governed by two principal criteria, which lay in a creative tension with each other:

  1. It would be accurate as far as possible to the meaning(s) of the Greek source text, with nothing omitted and no additional inventions by the translator.
  2. It would be actable by Australian students; it should be as easy as possible to speak, and would try to capture the wide range of the original plays, from high tragic diction to the colloquial. It would also, naturally, avoid the particularly British or North American style and idioms often present in previous versions.

These principles guided me right through to the last translation, Aristophanes’ Peace (staged in 2009); and they meant in the case of Aristophanes that there would be no coyness about the obscenities. Also, these would not be adaptations containing interpolated modern jokes, like those which are found in most contemporary performances of Aristophanes. On the other hand, they would have to be self-sufficient, without the very large number of footnotes to be found in the published scholarly translations, since no one can act a footnote!

After the production of Libation Bearers I realized that our use of a half-size replica of the Greek orchēstra, surrounded on three sides by the audience, had led to important insights both into how the plays could be staged effectively today, and also into how they might have been staged by the authors in their original productions in the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens. And I managed to win modest but adequate internal grant funding for the rest of the series because of this research; it was embodied in the ‘Theatrical Commentaries’ on each scene and choral ode, which were included in all my published editions. But the research component of the project is not my concern today; I wish to discuss aspects of the productions which relate to their reception both by student performers, and by the members of the Newcastle community who came to see the shows.

Newcastle occupies a unique position among Australian cities. It is larger than Hobart, Darwin or Canberra, and it is the only Australian city which is close to another; the state capital, Sydney, is now only two hours away by road (though this journey took rather longer in the 1980s, before the freeway was completed). When this series of productions began Newcastle was predominantly an industrial city, with an economy dependent on the BHP steelworks. (Since the closure of their plant in 1999, the local economy has diversified; but the two largest employers in the region are now service industries, the John Hunter Hospital and the University of Newcastle). Drama students were, and still are, mostly Anglo-Celtic, together with some second-generation migrants from southern Europe; they are drawn either from the mainly working-class families of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast, or from the country towns of the upper Hunter valley and beyond. Parents from places like Muswellbrook and Tamworth feel it is safer to let their children study here than in the ‘big smoke’ of Sydney where they think there are more of the temptations to loose living – alcohol, sex and drugs. They are not necessarily right in this assumption.

My casts were all drawn from students in the discipline of Drama, which staged between two and three major and up to five smaller productions each year. It should be stressed that these productions were not part of the drama curriculum, and did not count for course credit (except in the case of the director of an Honours production). All cast and crew members volunteered to give their own time to participate in a show; and you will note from the dates on the handout that several of my Greek productions were performed in the first weeks of a new academic year. The students whom I cast in November were more than willing to cut short their long vacation and return to the university in mid-January for the very intensive rehearsal period that the chorus, in particular, of a Greek drama needed. Three times I asked some colleagues to play particularly challenging roles, and they functioned as additional mentors alongside myself; Dr Barry O’Connor played Agamemnon and Apollo, and many years later Dr Carl Caulfield starred as Trygaios in Peace. I also employed Alida Vanin, a professional actress from Sydney, to play Sophocles’ Elektra, a role which no student actress would have been able to play; but with these exceptions, all cast members were undergraduate drama students. Only a few of them were concurrently taking the Classical Civilization course in the Department of Classics, so all they knew about ancient Greek drama was learnt in their own research prior to audition, or from having taken my regular second-year course The Greek Theatre. But drama students competed fiercely for roles in my productions, and although discussion between staff and students in the Drama Department on the issues of where it was going and what it should be doing was intense and frank, not one student ever suggested that these ancient classics were inappropriate repertoire. On the contrary, I marvel in retrospect at the level of energy and commitment shown throughout all three cycles not only by those cast in lead roles, such as Orestes and Elektra in Libation Bearers, Klytaimestra and Kassandra, Antigone and Kreon, Aias and Tekmessa, Lysistrata, and the In-Law and Euripides in The Women’s Festival; but also by the other cast members, and in particular by members of the choruses, who had to become a closely bonded team; they rehearsed for at least three weeks longer than those playing named individuals, to master the choreography of the odes and lyric scenes.

A fortunate inspiration led me to record Libation Bearers on videotape. Once I had realized how many insights these productions gave into Greek theatre practice, I decided to have them all recorded, both for my own subsequent research analysis and also for the cast to study and enjoy. Naturally the technical quality of these recordings increased exponentially with the great improvements in video technology between 1983 and 2009.

I now want to focus on the decisions which I made as director, to give you an idea of the production style which I evolved to stage these six tragedies and three comedies in a way which could engage with audiences drawn from Newcastle and surrounding regions.

All productions of Greek drama make decisions which either assent to or dissent from aspects of the original productions. This assent and dissent will be conscious or not, according to the extent of the director’s knowledge of classical performance practice. In retrospect my Libation Bearers was a flawed production, far too shackled by assumptions which I had inherited from other people’s productions and from previous scholarly work on performance of Greek tragedy, all of which had been written without any practical experience. Of course the picture today is very different, now that a substantial number of major scholar-practitioners have worked on ancient performance practice.(1) But despite the flaws, Libation Bearers did lay down some of the parameters which I stayed with right through to Peace.

Let us consider the positives in my Libation Bearers first. I somehow managed at once to translate in a style which was accessible to a Newcastle audience, and by and large actable by students. Of course whenever in rehearsal an actor or actress had difficulty with delivering any of their lines, I worked with him or her to diagnose the problem; if it could not be fixed on the spot, I took the script away and rewrote the passage overnight – a practice which I maintained right through all three cycles.  The students really liked collaborating with me in this way, and they gained insight from the process into the role of the translator for the theatre. I was also delighted to find that the style of the translation encouraged the actors to achieve a delivery that was sensitive to the changes of tone, which I had carefully brought over into English from the source text.

I insisted from the outset that the actor-audience relationship should be a re-creation of the original, with the audience surrounding the orchēstra on three sides. After experiments in the Greek Theatre classes, I had become strongly opposed to the idea, which has been entertained by many classical scholars without any archaeological evidence, that there was a raised stage behind the orchēstra on which the actors playing individual parts acted, separately from the chorus.(2) I found by contrast that such a separation makes Greek plays almost impossible to stage, since they demand interaction between solo actors and chorus; as for example in the scenes between Orestes, Elektra and the Libation Bearers over Agamemnon’s grave, which we found has to be placed at the centre-point of the orchēstra. So there was no stage between the orchēstra and the skēnē doors; all the actors, both soloists and chorus, performed together in the orchēstra.

I also decided that our productions would not be masked. The reasoning behind this was simple; the ancient Greek object which we call a mask was in fact called a prosōpon, a face. It was nearly twice life size, and its purpose was to communicate to spectators who could be up to 100 metres up the hillside the sex and age of each character. It was not designed to conceal, but to reveal. By contrast in a small indoor theatre a mask would be an alienating device, and we discovered by experiment that it was also an obstacle in the larger outdoor space of King Edward Park, where I directed Aias and Elektra, since the natural amphitheatre in which our audiences sat was much smaller than the Theatre of Dionysus. And unlike for example Tyrone Guthrie in his famous (or notorious) masked and ritualistic Oedipus the King of 1957, I believe that Greek tragedy was designed to be not distancing but involving. W.B. Stanford has collected the evidence for intense audience involvement at the original Athenian performances in his book Greek Tragedy and the Emotions. (3) And I wanted all my productions to present real characters with whose emotions the audience could become involved.


So we did not employ masks. This meant that my student actors could use their faces to communicate feeling, and this was good, since even by third year their acting classes had not given them the absolute control of bodily movement, which is necessary for effective acting in masks. On the other hand student actors proved to be very good at registering mood, and responding to the words of others, using facial expression as well as movement. It also goes without saying that, not using masks, I was not tempted to emulate the disastrous experiment conducted by Peter Hall in his 1981 Oresteia at the National Theatre of Great Britain – an all-male cast. Unlike most of the roles of women which the Elizabethans wrote for boy actors, those in Greek tragedy are powerfully female, and modern professional actresses compete to play such roles as Klytaimestra, Antigone, Elektra and Medea. In any case I was not about to alienate all the young women, who in 1983 comprised nearly two thirds of the student body in the discipline of Drama, by depriving them of the opportunity to participate in my production!

I realized very early on that it is important to work out from the text of an ancient play what props are necessary, and to use none that are not called for in the text. Greek tragedy is an economical medium. And I employed a choreographer for all nine productions; without dance, an essential element of ancient Greek drama would be missing – as it often is from modern adaptations. The centrality of dance was particularly evident when in 1996 my Antigone performed the ‘dance of death’ in her last, lyric interaction with the Councillors. I have not seen this done in any other production of Sophocles’ tragedy.

I also decided at the start that after an instrumental prelude, music would only be heard when music had been used in the original performance – to accompany lyric verse, delivered by either chorus or soloists. But here I made my first mistake – asking my composer to set some of the chorus’ lyrics to music. I did this in both Libation Bearers and Eumenides, but I found that the strong difference in modern western performance between spoken and sung words, which is particularly evident in musical comedy, worked against a good rendition of Greek tragedy. In ancient Greek, which was a pitched language, the difference between speech and song was probably much less than it is in modern English, where the sung sections slowed down the action. So in and after Agamemnon all originally lyric passages were spoken by solo voices over instrumental accompaniment. (We experimented in the first rehearsal of the Cassandra scene in Agamemnon with unison rhythmic declamation by the chorus, but abandoned it at once).

PPT 2 LB chorus

PPT 2 LB chorus

The next mistake was to attempt to clothe the actors in ‘classical’ dress; this proved to be extremely problematic. Obviously we were not using the long and elaborate robes which went with the masks to form the costumes of the performers in the theatre of Dionysus; we were approximating ‘everyday’ Greek dress – of the fifth century, since there is insufficient evidence for the costumes actually worn by Mycenaean Greeks in the Trojan War period. But as soon as you replace the pins at the shoulders of a woman’s dress with a sown seam – as you must do if you are going to avoid embarrassing and show-stopping ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ during the performance of dance – you have strayed from authenticity.

PPT 3 Orestes and Elektra

PPT 3 Orestes and Elektra

Then there is the practical problem that the male actors were embarrassed by wearing chitons which showed their nobbly knees, while most of the actresses were unused to wearing long dresses elegantly, probably because they had only ever worn them for their high school formals and the O week ball. But the key argument against the use of an approximation of classical dress is that it can only communicate character and attitude to a modern audience partially, and by exaggeration. For example, the contrast between Aigisthos and the Libation Bearers in their short but crucial interaction could only be communicated by exaggerating his decadence and tyranny with a highly coloured costume and bacchanal wreath, in contrast to the severe and unornamented black dresses of the chorus of slave girls.

PPT 4 Aegisthus and Christina

PPT 4 Aegisthus and Christina

By contrast if you use modern dress, audiences can recognize quite subtle statements about and differentiations of character. I shall illustrate this later, with reference to Antigone.

There were two more problems in this first production which are worth discussing. I had been excessively influenced by the notion that there was a koryphaios, a word which is supposed to mean Chorus Leader, who acted as spokesperson for the chorus characters when they interacted with the solo actors. Even before I conducted research which showed me that there is in fact no ancient basis for this assumption, (4) I instinctively fought against it. In Libation Bearers, I usually alternated the role of chorus spokesperson between two people, and this made the dialogue much more vivid, by obliging the soloist who was in interaction with the chorus to change his or her focus when the actor or actress speaking on behalf of the group changed. Then as the series progressed I abandoned the traditional conception completely.  From Agamemnon onwards dialogue was shared as equally as possible between the members of the chorus. This democratic procedure, which I strongly suspect was employed in the original performances at Athens, was extremely dramatic, and made my productions much more exciting for the audiences.

PPT 5 The chorus of Furies

PPT 5 The chorus of Furies

Here are the Furies confronting Apollo. In Eumenides and all subsequent productions, once I had accepted an actor or actress at audition to be a member of the chorus, I decided on an appropriate individual character or attitude for each one. I would invite each chorus member to work with this concept, and develop it during the rehearsals. So the chorus of Furies included among others a tall one who was stately and dignified; a short one who was foxy and snarling; and

PPT 6 The sassy chorus member

PPT 6 The sassy chorus member

a sassy, almost sexy one with her blouse off one shoulder (this girl had of course to play creatively against the Furies’ ragged costumes and their hideous makeup, with dirt matted into their hair).

I also demarked scenes from choroses too clearly in Libation Bearers. More experience showed that it is much better for scene to flow without a pause into choros, choros back into scene. A simple change in lighting, together with the presence or absence of music, was enough to guide the audience to appreciate the change in mode.

Finally, there was far too little movement. A round space surrounded by the audience on three sides positively invites movement, but I was timid in my first Greek production because I had been used to directing modern plays in proscenium arch theatres, which do not demand – indeed actually fight against – this kind of flexibility. It was a pleasure to note that as the amount of movement increased so did the power of each scene. Take for example Agamemnon Scene 7, where Klytaimestra confronts the choros of Elders after murdering Agamemnon and Kassandra. In his production for Britain’s National Theatre Peter Hall had the actor playing the queen (who was marooned above the chorus on a raised stage) move once, away from the bodies, in the entire scene. By contrast in my production the actress playing Klytaimestra left the bodies to confront the Elders towards the end of her first speech; she then made 26 more principal movements to illustrate the ebb and flow of her interaction with the Elders. It begins with the Elders aghast and Klytaimestra savouring her triumph, and ends with them conceding that she has some Dikē on her side, while she has become crushed, hoping against Hope to make a pact with the daimōn of the house of Atreus. She begs him to leave her in peace so there will be no further bloodshed. The complete volte-face of both sides over the course of the scene calls in my view for a substantial amount of movement to stage it effectively for a modern audience; each new utterance creates a new relationship between the opposing parties, called forth by what the other character has just said; and the stage action must reflect and embody this. Read footnote 5 Here is part of the scene (starting at 1:16:25) in my 1986 production, with Vanessa Turton as Klytaimestra:


My most successful production of a tragedy was the Antigone of 1996. I was encouraged to return to staging Greek tragedy, after an interval of ten years, by the recent publication and success of my Oresteia (with Aeschylus: Suppliants and other Dramas in the press), and by the consequent commission from Everyman for two volumes of Sophocles. I was also aided by an exceptionally strong cast; not only were the five principals some of the finest student actors that I ever worked with, but the male chorus playing the Councilors were up to the best standards of the earlier female choruses of Libation Bearers and Eumenides (young women usually make better chorus members than young men, because they have often taken dance classes as girls). I chose to echo in the set and costumes the siege of Sarajevo (which began in 1992, and had only recently ended); this made for a powerful production, not least because it showed the continuing relevance of a play set in an ancient civil war. I had a Kreon of Croatian descent, and he played the king as a leather-jacketed warlord who went nowhere without a large and impressive, machine-gun toting bodyguard.

PPT 8 Bodyguard costume

PPT 8 Bodyguard costume

The Muslim religion of Bosnia-Hercegovina made an appropriate contemporary context for the ancient Greek male attitudes to assertiveness by women, which are embodied in Kreon’s response to Antigone’s defiance. A modern setting in a western country with a less sexist attitude and a greater degree of equality between men and women would not work for this play. In a Muslim context it was easy to indicate Antigone’s character, and her deliberate crossing of the line between ‘male’ and ’female’ roles, through costume; Ismene and Eurydike wore full-length dresses, and headscarves which left only the face visible.

PPT 9 Ismene costume

PPT 9 Ismene costume

(This costume was actually made in blue, at the actress’ request).

Antigone by contrast did not wear a skirt, but jeans and a bright V-necked shirt. Her only concession to the male views in this culture of acceptable female dress was that she wore a small silk headscarf, which did not completely cover her hair.

PPT 10 Antigone costume

PPT 10 Antigone costume

As you will see in a moment in the video extract, this scarf came off, and her hair flowed full-length, after she has been captured and maltreated by the soldiers standing guard over Polyneikes’ body.

I also re-imagined Teiresias as an imam in a white fez, wielding a large Koran as he almost literally throws the book of divine displeasure at Kreon.

PPT 11 Teiresias

PPT 11 Teiresias

This production ran for three weeks, instead of our normal one or two; it was completely sold out, and attracted school parties from up to five hours’ drive away to the special matinees, which were followed by a Q&A session with myself, my assistant director and the principal cast members. Thanks to the talent and dedication of the entire cast, and the intimate view with no seat further than five or six metres from the perimeter of the 9.5-metre circumference orchēstra, this Antigone was a very intense experience. My Assistant Director and I watched each performance from the gallery, where we could see both the actors and most of the audience, and we observed that the level of audience concentration was exceptionally high. Here is the climax of Antigone’s agōn with Kreon, followed by the three-actor scene where Ismene tries to claim co-ownership with her sister of the burial of Polyneikes. Helen Atkinson played the title role, with Tom Bonjekovic as Kreon and Lauren Eade as Ismene (segment begins at 28:59):


Aristophanes, of course, makes very different demands on his translator, director and actors. My experience with six tragedies provided a firm basis in the production style which I have described and illustrated, and I decided to transfer its main features to comedy unchanged; but my first new task was to evolve a style of translation which would be accurate and actable like my versions of the tragedies, while coping with the sometimes very sudden changes of direction, tone and mood in the comedies, and making sure that as many as possible of the original jokes would be funny for a modern audience. (A very few jokes, mainly untranslatable puns, had reluctantly to be cut from our performances).  I was determined to see if it was possible to convey Aristophanes’ humour without indulging in free adaptation, and without introducing new contemporary jokes and allusions; these are the besetting vices of almost all modern productions of Aristophanes.

The translation needed to be very flexible and colloquial, and above all to be accessible to actors and audiences. I replaced some obscure allusions with an English text which made the meaning clear. For example early in Lysistrata Kalonike exclaims that the three Athenian countrywomen who have just arrived have severe body odour, and asks ‘Where are they from?’ Lysistrata replies in the original by naming the malodorous swamp at Anagyros, but since this means nothing to contemporary Australians my Lysistrata simply replies ‘the stinky swamp’, which enables Kalonike’s punch-line to make its impact: ‘Oh yes, /Someone’s just stirred it up’.  Cult-titles like ‘The Cyprian, the Paphian’, which are probably too obscure for most members of the modern Newcastle audience, simply became ‘Aphrodite’.  And there are other devices, such as the ‘intruded gloss’, which can enable audiences to understand lines in which the original text made local, contemporary references.

I am now going to show you the oath-taking scene from early in my 2005 Lysistrata. By the time that this ceremony begins the audience has had a chance to get used to young ladies talking dirty, since there have already been plenty of bawdy moments, both verbal and physical, and in my translation Lysistrata’s proposal for a sex-strike is not wrapped up in coy euphemism, as it has been in certain productions overseas. (6) She simply says:

If we are going to force the men to sue for peace,
We must give up the prick. (120-6).

The audiences had been at least partly prepared for forthright language by the sight which greeted them when they took their seats. The skēnē façade, which represents in Lysistrata the entrance to the Acropolis, had a pediment decorated with images of enthusiastic copulation, and the classical design of the building was contrasted with some thoroughly modern graffiti; ‘NO WAR OR NO PRICK!’, ‘NO MORE BUSH WARS!’, ‘MAKE LOVE NOT WAR’, and ‘SEX FOR PEACE’, together with a CND logo.

So between the set and the opening dialogue, the audience had been acclimatized and was ready to laugh at the following sequence, and you can hear them doing so on the next clip (see segment beginning at 10:12). Please bear in mind that all the actresses in this show except Anne-Marie Adams as Lysistrata were first-year students who had studied drama at tertiary level for less than two months; in the light of this note how effectively Brooke Medcalf as Kalonike reacts with her face and her body to the increasing pressure of Lysistrata’s demands, and also watch the expressive facial reactions of the redhead (Elizabeth Smyth) who is in the middle holding the bowl:

Feedback from audiences was taken at the door. They loved this Lysistrata; there were definitely some weaknesses because it was a first-year play, but strong performances by the four principals (Lysistrata, Bureaucrat, Kalonike and Myrrhine), made it an enjoyable and engaging experience – aided and abetted by three quite hilarious actors and three equally hilarious actresses playing the opposed choruses of Old Men and Old Women, with much brilliant improvisation. It also taught me a great deal about making Aristophanes’ humour work in the twenty-first century, which I put to good use in The Women’s Festival and Peace.

I want to show next an extract from The Women’s Festival, which demonstrates the virtuoso use of props, which is essential when staging Aristophanes. This production began life as a moved reading, and indeed remained so – but the cast, who included some of the discipline’s most talented actors, insisted on doing the best job they could, and since I wanted to explore the play’s use of props we decided that it would be fully costumed, the choral odes would be choreographed, and all the props required by the script would be made and used. Here is the classic, literally slapstick scene where the In-Law, who has penetrated the Women’s Festival disguised as a woman to speak up for Euripides, has his identity revealed. The notorious homosexual Cleisthenes rushes in to bring some devastating news to the women at the festival. Carl Young plays Cleisthenes, Anne-Marie Adams plays Kritylla and Mark Coles plays the In-Law (see segment beginning at 31:20):

Several plays of Aristophanes involve an attractive girl (in Acharnians and Knights, two girls) entering to erotic effect, usually as the concluding kōmos approaches. Some scholars believe that all comic actors, including those playing these young women, wore grotesque, distorting masks. On vase-paintings some comic actors of the fifth century – in the roles of men and of old women – do wear distorting masks; but we also know from other vases that when men were playing young women, their masks could be beautiful, and they used feminine body postures to make the effect realistic. (7)  If the script implies that a girl is sexually attractive, surely she must look sexy in a modern production? Nude or nearly nude girls appear in all three of the comedies to which I have given full productions – in Lysistrata there is the naked figure who personifies Reconciliation, and on whose body the Spartan and Athenian ambassadors inscribe their territorial claims with extreme crudity; (8) in The Women’s Festival the dancing girl Fawn seduces the policeman and enables Euripides to escape with the In-Law; and in Peace personifications of Harvest and Festival appear. The second of these daimones is the victim of some of the most sexist treatment in the whole of ancient literature. I managed to find among the students who auditioned for Peace two exceptionally game (and attractive) young actresses who were willing to act these parts wearing only black bras and panties. Here is the offending scene as I staged it, with my colleague Carl Caulfield as Trygaios, Tracy Schmitzer as Harvest, Sarah Coffee as Festival and Nick Williams as the lecherous Second Slave (see segment beginning at 46:42):

I have, I hope, given you the impression that my productions were received with acclaim and audience enjoyment – for indeed they were. But I have to tell you now that on one night (but one night only!) of the run of Peace a small group from the audience walked out during Trygaios’ speech in praise of Festival. And one of the most talented and valuable actresses in the chorus was deeply disturbed by this scene; she needed some persuasion to remain in the production. I argued then to her, as I have now in print in my published commentary, that you can no more eliminate rampant male sexuality from a good production of Aristophanes than you can remove from The Merchant of Venice the belief of Shakespeare and his contemporaries that a Jew needs to be converted to Christianity, by force if necessary, to save his soul. And as my colleague, friend and lead actor Carl Caulfield pointed out in rehearsals and in a media interview, the real obscenity in Aristophanes’ play (and in our own actual lives) is the horrific violence and suffering of war itself, not the pursuit of peace and the natural human trait of wanting to fuck to celebrate the arrival of peace. (9) In my view it does not do any harm to show a contemporary audience that fifth-century Athenians accepted without question views on sexuality, and on many other matters, which are not ‘politically correct’ in Australia today. And it is very different – and much more confronting, for both the actors and the audience – to show this by actually staging such a scene than it is to write about it in a learned article, or to give an academic lecture or seminar on cultural differences between ancient Greece and the modern western world.


The approaches to translation and production, which I have described and illustrated in this paper, provided valuable experiences to both the drama students and the Newcastle theatre-going community. The large casts and crews of these nine productions were given a taste of the ancient Greek theatre, which even the very few who went on to become professional actors would be very unlikely to work on again; and the community was able to see performances of a classical repertory which none of the other theatre companies in the region, professional or amateur, had the human resources, the playing space or the knowledge to stage. Both the emotional intensity of the tragedies and the rich and wide-ranging humour of the comedies were realized in ways which both made a rewarding theatrical experience for Newcastle audiences, and also preserved much of the essence of the original. It is sadly true that many modern stagings of Greek drama are either very free adaptations of comedy, or ritualistic and boring versions of tragedy. I hope that the description which you have heard today, and the extracts which you have seen, prove that we achieved productions here which avoided these undesirable extremes.

Slide 16

Slide 16


Ewans, M. and Ley, G. ‘The Orchestra as acting area in Greek Tragedy’ Ramus 14.2, 75-84
Ewans, M. (ed. and tr.)  (1995) Aeschylus: Oresteia. London. Everyman.
Ewans, M. (ed. and tr.) (2011) Aristophanes: Lysistrata, The Women’s Festival and Frogs. Norman. Oklahoma U.P.
Ewans, M. (ed. and tr.)(2012) Aristophanes: Acharnians, Knights and Peace. Norman. Oklahoma U.P.
Ewans, M. and Phiddian, R. (2012)  ‘Risk-Taking and Transgression: Aristophanes’ Lysistrata Today’ Didaskalia 9.1.
Green, R. and Handley, E. (1995)  Images of the Greek Theatre. London. British Museum Press.
Revermann, M. (2006)  Comic Business; Theatricality, Dramatic Technique, and Performance Contexts of Aristophanic Comedy. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Stanford, W.B. (1983)  Greek Tragedy and the Emotions; an Introductory Study. London. Routledge and Kegan Paul.

1     Greg McCart, Graham Ley, David Wiles, Mary-Kay Gamel, Rush Rehm, Marianne McDonald and Michael Walton.
2     For the arguments against a raised stage see Ewans and Ley 1985 and Ewans 1995, xx-xxii.
3     Stanford 1983.
4     Ewans 1995, xxiii.
5     ASCS delegates saw a live workshop demonstration of how movement can illuminate this scene during the 2007 conference, which was held in Newcastle.
6     E.g. the production from Old Greenwich, CT, issued on DVD by MacMillan Films in 2007.
7     Ugly older women; Green/Handley 1995, Plate 2; beautiful younger women, Plates 4 and 31. Revermann (2006, 158-9) revives the old view that actual naked slave girls played the silent roles. Discussion at Ewans 2010, 39.
8     This scene is discussed in Phiddian and Ewans 2012.
9     Ewans 2011, 255.

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