Getty Villa Readings Day 7

May 21, 2013

Bondo:  Getty Villa Day 7 May 19, 2013

We are tired … and ….

Sunday was our 3rd and final public reading of the Greeks.  We read Euripides’ ION.  We arrived at the villa for training at 10:30 a.m.  I chose that we would work on the marches, then statues with speaking the “Midsummer” text.  We did a 15 minute VP session that was entirely open, then set up the tables to sit and do our rehearsal read. 

Each table configuration has been slightly different over the 3 public reads.  For PERSIANS we set 1 table with the men (JEd, GM, & Bondo) behind it and the two women (Kelly & Ellen) on either end.  Jessica sat at the proscenium edge SL to read directions.  The focus for us was entirely forward toward the audience.  The table was several feet up of the edge of the stage.  For THE BACCHAE we moved the setting slightly  more down stage with 3 tables all in a line where Jessica & Anne joined us (Anne read the stage directions from the table.)  For ION we set the 2 tables side by side only a couple of feet from the stage’s edge.  It was cozy.  

This closing of the distance with the audience really felt like we were subtly staging the progress from the remote distances of THE PERSIANS of Aeschylus to the familiarity of Euripides’ ION. 

Today’s work was a hilarious romp of a reading.  ION (this David Lan translation) really is very funny.  I don’t think we understood how funny the audience would find it.  Let’s just say that once we understood, we went there.  But we really couldn’t have done so had Kelly not pulled out all the emotional and energetic stops as only she can.  Also, we were held firmly in the capable hands of our curatorial expert, Ken Lapatin, who reminded us that there are some serious issues and consequences contained within.  We were reminded of the themes of the Foreigner, Truth, and how the god/human relationship conspires to manipulate it (“if the gods lie, how can we ever know the truth”), Borders (a haunting representation of our own immigration war in this country), and so on.  

After the reading we reconfigured to have our post reading discussion Q & A with the audience – not before Anna Woo handed out prizes to audience members who’d attended all three of the readings.  Thank you to them.

This was a lively and appreciative conversation.  We truly have been searching to extend our relationship with the audience, asking their thoughts on the translations, how they imagine the works being done (with guidance from the expansive and expert knowledge of our curator/handlers), how they think of SITI and what might happen with the works in our hands, and much more.  I am so impressed with those who stayed to talk.  I am surprised by how much they got from the readings, how they remembered so much detail, how they translated the works to our own time and to their personal situations.  In a sense, we did our job, much in the way that the festival of greek plays during the celebrations of Dionysus did – that is to unite a community in a common pursuit, confirm identity, engender conversation both personal and collective, provide some catharsis, and allow us to somehow see in the future what might happen – or at least the “possible” future we hope to share when we come back next summer with the full on — whichever play we choose.  What’s more, the consensus seemed to be that we do 2 of the scripts – better yet, all 3!  I wish I could name all the audience members who went on this ride with us.

Here’s another surprise.  As much as the BACCHAE is so much favored as a work overall, the audience (and we with them I think) were particularly taken with THE PERSIANS.  The audience thought this would be a good fit despite the difficulty of the text, the obscurity of the language, the seeming lack of “action” and “character development” and, well, the fun of the bloody violence or the comic misadventures.  In short, it seems they were up for  the challenge that THE PERSIANS would offer.  And then it was put to us that to do ION as well would be a nice balance.  I think we of SITI were pleasantly surprised and heartened, and I could feel our collective bloods rise in anticipation of the challenge.  Later discussions back at the apartment complex included such “what if’s” as a 3 year residency to do each of the 3 plays, or a performance of ION in the small indoor theater followed by a performance of THE PERSIANS outside in the amphitheater, or a festival of all 3 performed in repertory over a series of nights ….  

I want to articulate the amount of enthusiasm, support, confidence, and encouragement I felt from those who stayed to speak with us, to keep going, to dream as big as we wished, to know that we were not alone in this process, and that they’d be there when we came back.  Remarkable.

And so this coming week will be about pouring over some translation alternatives to what we have now, perhaps reading something new such as Aristophanes’ THE FROGS for example.  

But for today, our 1 day off, it is about laundry, good food, STAR TREK (!), visits with local friends, catching up on emails and phone calls, skyping the kids, and the rest of it.  “Rest” is the key word there.

So, thank you Kel, El, Jessica, GM, JEd, Anne, Anna Woo, Ken Lapatin, Mary Hart, Shelby Brown, and Ralph Flores for a happy, productive week.