- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press (November 15, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226301281
- ISBN-13: 978-0226301280
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today
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Similarly, Goldhill compares numerous translations and points out how the standard academic translations (e.g. Lattimore and Grene) are rarely used for productions because their word choices are less effective in action than they are when simply read. He provides numerous examples of transactions used by contemporary productions around the world, and again compares elements of the more successfully used stage translations to those which work -- engage, entertain, interest -- less effectively.
He also talks about how contemporary actors can approach interpreting and representing the many divine and mythic characters that have few or no equivalents in modern theatre (outside of Shakespeare). He again provides historical context and many examples.
I would not agree with the other reviewer here that Goldhill recommends forgoing period costumes (I don't remember him saying it at all, and many photos of contemporary productions used in the book feature actors in period dress), and I wouldn't agree that his examples mostly from cutting-edge troupes or for them -- his suggestions and interpretations seem instead to be eminently practical and well-reasoned. I thought this book would enlarge my understanding of the plays themselves and help me visualize some scenes better, and it has done both. Excellent book; very highly recommended.
Actually, the book's intended audience is the professional stage company planning a modern, cutting edge production. The emphasis is on modern as the book focuses on productions from the 1990s to the early 2000s. In fact, in its opening pages, the author basically scoffs at 19th century productions in robes and amphitheaters, so there is scant information on masks or period costumes, and relatively little information even on stage movements.
On the other hand, there is substantial historical background, analyses of major scenes from several plays, and even original, usually literal, translations used as a starting point for evaluating other translations. The challenges of acting and adapting for a proscenium bound stage are also covered in depth. The six topics that author used as chapters for organizing the book seemed to work well (see the Amazon Look Inside feature for the table of contents and introduction).
What the book primarily lacked was any consideration of productions using period costume and sets. If that still works for Shakespeare, why should it not also work for Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides? Instead, the author's basic assumption is that productions in the near future will continue in the vein of current productions that aspire to make these plays "relevant" to the modern audience by using modern military costumes, slave women paraded naked except for masks, and even a gospel choir or a chorus of the wounded in wheelchairs in place of a more traditional chorus. It should be noted that the author did not find that all of these devices were used successfully.
My background in the performing arts is in classical music, and specifically solo classical guitar. When I perform Bach, the resulting music is 97% Bach and 3% my phrasing and ornamentation because I recognize the humble level of my efforts relative to a great work of art and the genius of Bach. Why does present day theater presume to do the reverse so that a performance is 80% production and 20% the author's work? The audience for Elektra is not Joe Six-Pack, so why expend so much effort on too often strained, preachy or trite "relevancy"?
Back to the book--for the theater professional or those up to a bit of intellectual challenge, it may well be the best book on the subject of staging Greek tragedy today, especially if you've bought into the current of style of productions.
Finally, if there is a revised version of this book in the future, I have two suggestions. First, add a chapter on music, which was a major part of performances. Since no scores exist, it will be a stretch, but surely some appropriate guidelines can be suggested. And second, a better title for the book might be "Numerous things to consider when staging Greek tragedy today". It's not as catchy, but it would be more accurate.