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Crossing the Stages:
The Production, Performance and Reception of Ancient Theater


Robin Bond
Department of Classics
University of Canterbury

Doing Sophocles in '97

In the first instance I will discuss the actual business of translating from the Greek with the specific intention of a stage performance in mind. This naturally involves the identification of the major thematic concerns of the play in question and the problems of framing them in English which is dramatically interesting and theatrically viable.

Even as one translates one inevitably asks questions about staging, set, costume, music and lighting, and, especially important, how one makes this play speak to the target audience. Also, what does one learn from it about oneself and one's own society? For to present the plays simply as an exercise in antiquarianism or because they are "cultural icons" is to risk "deadly theatre".

The paper will discuss these questions and concerns and the attempts to answer them with reference to my text and directorial decisions taken in mounting the Ajax in Perth, and the O.T. and O.C. in Christchurch. If I may anticipate already the June '97 performance of the Oedipus plays in Christchurch, I am mulling over the notion of having a media crew on stage (T.V. camera, mike etc) at least some of the time, because Oedipus consciously plays the "role" of the politician for the benefit of the people and the Chorus and I am tentatively interested in highlighting this foible by a conscious anachronism of the type described. A similarly free approach will be taken to the Ajax where the debates which follow the death of Ajax seem to me to cry out for a court of enquiry setting, or something of that sort.

In short, the paper will be concerned with the theory and practice of presenting Sophocles to a modern audience in a modern way.

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