NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOKS -- October 15, 1962
Assignment: A Chorus (“Numberless are the world’s wonders . . .”) -- Theban elders, Antigone. The group signed up for Friday of this week will begin this assignment. Perform it singly or in groups, either spoken, chanted, or both. If you use accompanying movement, make it say something; if you don’t, then readiness for movement must be visible in posture, stance and vitality.
Before beginning this assignment, review the functions of the chorus: exposition, narration, presentation in a lyric and a dramatic mood, reflection. The audience must see through and with the eyes of the chorus.
To ascertain the rhythms and cadences, distinguish between long and short sounds; use onomatopoeia. The chorus is several persons’ thinking, speaking, and moving as one. Learn to breathe together, to articulate together, to move together as in singing and dancing.
Read the article by H.D.F. Kitto entitled “The Greek Chorus” which can be found in the
Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1956), pp. 1-8. Apply what you read there to all your work in Greek drama. Copies below are some of the more important statements made by Kitto in the article:
1. The first point is that what the Greek audience heard and saw was something that we are not likely to see and hear today: a combination of lyric poetry, dancing and singing, integrated with drama. I use the word “dance” in the Green sense, meaning any ordered physical movement.
2. (These movements) covered a big emotional range, and they were not in the ordinary sense pictorially mimetic.
3. The choral performance was indeed a combination of the three arts of poetry, dancing and singing.
4. Of the three allied arts, the Greeks themselves put the poetry first; and next to the poetry, I suspect, they would put the dance.
5. The metres used by the dramatic poets were not speech-rhythms at all, but music-rhythms.
6. In certain of Euripides’ later and non-tragic plays, the choral style became distinctly operatic. Roulades, the singing of one syllable to several successive notes, became common; so too did the repetition of words, which becomes so tiresome as a literary device, that ordinary politeness compels one to assume that Euripides was thinking of the musical effect first, and of the poetry second.
7. It is quite plain that the Greek dramatists used ‘lyrical relief’ in much the way that Shakespeare used what is innocently called ‘comic relief.’
8. About their dance nothing definite can be said; the rhythm is the very common glyconic, which was found suitable to many different moods. But although we cannot form any precise idea of what the chorus did, at least we can appreciate, in a general way, the dramatic effect of music and movement at such a moment: a liberation rather than a relating of tension.
9. If the modern producer relies throughout on speech, he is, so to speak, representing in three dimensions a drama that was conceived in four.
Try the “Antigone” chorus first; then use one of your own choice. This assignment must be finished by October 26th. Select immediately your characters for your final stage performance. Class previews and discussion of them should begin no later than November 2nd.
PAPERS ARE DUE TODAY -- Monday, October 15th.
--Alvina E. Krause (WB)
C-49-1 NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOK -- October 16, 1962
“My partner is not here. I can’t do anything.” This is equivalent to saying, “I have no one to talk to, and so I am not me; I have no character when I am alone. I am somebody only when I am with someone else.” Hereafter you are to be ready to get on stage anyday or everyday, with or without a partner, whether or not you are signed up! If you are working, you will ALWAYS be prepared!
Being a character is not speaking words. We are not what we say; we are the sum total of our behaviour patterns, and speech is only one of those patterns. All that we think and have thought, and all that we have experienced and are experiencing: all of this is expressed in behaviour patterns. Our walk, stance, hand and arm movements, shoulders, and particularly the spine (AN ACTOR ACTS WITH AND FROM HIS SPINE!) form the various patterns of our behavior. The eyes reflect or conceal thoughts.
Everyone wears on his body the marks of his era. You are unmistakably today: marked by your curved spines, your weak and dangling arms, your uneasy hands (unless they are holding a cigarette!), your empty eyes lacking lustre, your sagging shoulders, etc. etc. And it is with these contemporary behaviour patterns that you have spoken Antigone’s and Creon’s lines. Ridiculous!
The Greeks wore clothing which did not restrict; they wore sandals which permitted their feet to grip the ground. They could move as one unified whole, not in pieces as you have been doing. Further: they were athletes, active athletes, not sitters-on-the-sidelines; and their living ideal was the perfect, healthy, strong, vital body housing an equally healthy and vital mind. Until you have assimilated these characteristics, you cannot truthfully speak a line. We have discussed this for four weeks; and you have been given the necessary exercises to work on in private. LET’S SEE RESULTS!
For inner motivation for the particular situations of the drama, remember this: the characters reveal only the dominant traits, those traits which one shares with all men, the traits crucial to creating a pattern of life in which men could reach their highest stability. Man, not an end in himself, is but a part of a whole scheme of life: all equal in a total universe. “I am a man, and nothing in mankind is alien to me.” Tragic suffering comes from a sense of the worth of life. Electra goes to extremes to make men realize the enormity of the crime that has been committed. Antigone dies for a crime against justice. I have not yet seen this on stage. Your poor weak bodies, shifting feet, weak thigh-gripping hands, little piping, rasping three-note voices make lies of the lines you speak and the dramatist’s themes.
Greek drama has revealed your own impotence. Try to move on now to the correlative truth of your own potential greatness. Greek drama does not make the individual helpless or irresponsible; it emphasizes his responsibility, forcing him to face the consequences of his own acts. The world is human and, like men, rational. Use sane reason in connection with forces beyond reason. The human being has the capacity to endure against the forces that destroy. For this quarter, you must incorporate these thoughts, these principles into your thinking and behaviour. You must believe with a passion. When you do (IF you have acquired physical and vocal range and flexibility), your bodies will corroborate your thinking and the dramatist’s words as well.
What’s your goal? Mediocrity? If so, you hit it yesterday, and the theatre is no place for you.
-- Alvina E. Krause (WB)