Written by: Hannah Wemitt, Director of Marketing & PR for Stage One: The Louisville Children's Theatre and Broadway At Iroquois.
Photo: Odysseus (Jon Huffman) receives the gift of the north wind from King Aeolus (Tony Smith).
In the 21st century, is it possible to entertain and engage young audiences in a live theater setting on par with their experience watching TV or at the cinema? Can what they see on stage be as fascinating and mesmerizing as special effects in a $10 million blockbuster movie?
After sitting in on a rehearsal of Stage One's October 2008 production of Homer's The Odyssey with 200 middle and high school students, I think the answer to those questions is "YES."
Stage One's production of The Odyssey, a warrior's tale of Odysseus and his 10-year journey home to Ithaca, takes a look at one of the oldest adventure stories, fashioned in one of the oldest styles of theater. And while it's not 300 (the 2006 multi-million dollar movie depicting the 480 B.C. battle of Sparta) , movies like 300 would not be possible without the ground work of Greek Theater.
We should thank the Greeks for their brilliance. Starting with the theater itself, it was the Greeks who first staged their productions at the base of a hill, creating a natural backdrop for their dramas. Not only did this provide the best vantage point for viewing by large audiences, but the Greeks found this layout to be the most pleasing for sound reverberation. Today, most theaters, concert halls, and ever sports arenas, are designed the same way, for the same reasons.
In regard to set design, the Greeks were the first to create backdrops (called skené, our "scenes") and use two-story scenery. With multiple actors and a chorus on stage, multiple entrance and exit points had to be created. In Stage One's production of The Odyssey, set designer Tom Tutino and director Moses Goldberg outdid themselves and - in a nod to Greek ingenuity - had actors constantly moving through the performance space at multiple levels.
Masks were a critical part of costuming in Greek Comedies and Tragedies. Stage One costume designer Allison Anderson created 23 stunning plaster masks for The Odyssey. Masks allow actors to play several characters. In our production, a full mask was worn if an actor portrayed a Greek God. An actor in a partial mask was neither God nor human, but some other fantasy character.
At the end of the rehearsal, I went back to my initial question about live theatre's ability to entertain and engage young audiences in a world of special effects and million dollar stunts. I felt relieved to look around and see that the students, most of whom are required to read this classic tale in school, were as engaged in the spectacle as I had been. We did our job by taking these teens on a journey where they shared in Odysseus' triumphs and failures.
The Greeks really knew what they were talking about! The next time you visit the theater, a sporting event, or go to a movie, take a moment to check out the scene (the skené), and thank the Greeks for a lovely time.
Join the conversation! Post a Comment. Beyond movies and television, what does your child find most entertaining? Does your family have a Stage One memory they'd like to share?
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