Only my favorite kind of drama, though – the kind that happens on stage!
It’s been a nice break, but I’m ready to get back into working in the theatre. This semester the Athenian Players will be producing The Frogs, a Greek comedy by Aristophanes and translated by Dr. Frank Blessington. I will once again be acting as stage manager and assistant director.
Summers are always Greek plays, but it’s pretty rare that we do a Greek comedy – probably because there just aren’t as many surviving comedies. The Greeks were all about tragedies, which they considered the truer art. During City Dionysia (an annual festival in honor of the Greek god Dionysos, who presided over wine, theatre, and some really great parties), originally only tragic playwrights would compete, each of the three chosen writers submitting a set of two tragedies and a satyr play (a type of farcical comedy involving pranks and sexual innuendo, though innuendo may not be the right word – they didn’t hint at it, they trumpeted it!). Only later, in around 487 BC, were comedic plays performed, and then each of five comedic playwrights submitted a single play. Comedy was definitely a secondary art, but winning the competition was still impressive. Aristophanes won in 426 BC with another of his plays, The Babylonians. The Frogs was awarded first place at smaller Dionysian festival, the Lenaia, in 405 BC.
The play is quite a contrast to last summer’s production of The Bacchae, a tragedy featuring Dionysos. The god also stars in The Frogs, where he has decided that all of the good playwrights are long dead and he can’t trust any living playwrights to write him something worthwhile. He tries to remedy this situation by entering Hades in search of Euripides.
One thing I enjoy is that our director doesn’t always like to be traditional with settings. The Bacchae was moved to a 1920’s German cabaret, which fit beautifully – the idea of the strict military leader doing everything he could to quash the Bacchic revelry, which took place in both time periods, made them merge extremely well. This time, he is toying with the idea of Hades as a waiting room or the passenger area in a train station. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
The most exciting thing for me, though, was watching my daughter – who is normally fairly quiet when faced with public speaking or acting – blow everyone away with her audition by making some really good character choices and by being relaxed enough to just let go and throw herself into it. It was hard to step back from part of the casting (I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to have a say in any decisions about possible roles for her), but I’m incredibly proud to say that she earned the role she wanted, despite her fears of only making it to the chorus. It’s been hard not being able to tell her, but she should be getting the casting email any time now.
We now have just over six weeks to take this production from first rehearsal to curtain. I’ll be spending some of my free time taking blocking notes, helping direct rehearsals, creating a program, helping build a set and locate props, and possibly creating a video advertisement. I’ll be a ball of stress before we open, but I love every minute of it.