Yesterday Helen, Sam and I travelled out to Broadmeadowns (in _audhumla_
's car - hereafter referred to as the 'Omnipropmobile'). We were organised. Did a lines run on the way up, and seemed to remember everything.
We were performing for some classics and some drama students at Penola Catholic College. After some issues finding the joint, we arrived in plenty of time, organised ourselves, had time for a chat with the teacher and went off to the performance space. It was great. The space was ideal.
We'd embarked upon the preparations for this gig about a week ago. No I'm not kidding. We rehearsed it twice. It was a killer scene the 'Court case' scene with Helen and Hecuba from "The Trojan Women" by Euripides. A really good translation too. It required a cast of 3. Helen, Hecuba and Menelaus.
As fate would have it our cast was: yours truly, Sam Browne and Helen Slaney. So..... We'd discussed at an earlier juncture playing with some gender reversals here and there. "Wouldn't it be funny if Sam was Helen?!?!?". And as is so often the case in our productions, these were prophetic words....
Sam was indeed Helen of Sparta. The most beautiful woman in the world. It left Helen to play Menelaus. And yours truly - beard and all - playing Hecuba. BUT (and this was the key) we just played the scene. Didn't put on falsettos, didn't camp it up and didn't even acknowledge gender as a factor in the scene beyond its impact on the status of the characters.
The result was something that ended up being quite intense. Hecuba's pain thought my voice. Helen's arrogonce and self-assuredness in her own beauty through Sam's. And Menelaus' pig-headedness, simplicity and ultimate weakness through Helen's (Slaney - it gets confusing when Helen plays Helen's husband...).
So what happened when we showed it to a bunch of 16-17 year olds:
For about 20 seconds.
Then they just watched.
They were a great audience. Really really good. They watched, took it in, asked (and were asked) some good questions.
"What's it like playing these characters - do you learn more about them than when you read it?" Best TIE question ever, because it gets to the core of why this work is important if you want to understand classical literature, and especially theatre.
And this one from the teacher to the students:
"Did the way this was done with the men playing women change the scene for you at all?" And the kids, bless their hearts, said that once they got over the shoke, no it didn't. The scene just unfolded.
And then there were some really specific questions about the play, about our choices with the shape of the scene, the props and costumes and about how we got into this all in the first place.
It's always great when you achieve your artistic objective in something. When an audience responds the way you want them to.