Category: theatre

He was performing in the WPA Theater troupe’s production of “Haiti: The Story of Pierre-Dominique Toussaint l’Ouverture” at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, New York City.

THE WASPS: 

The Wasps is a play written by the lone representative of Ancient Greece’s Old Attic Comedy, Aristophanes (c. 445 – c. 386 BCE). It won second place at the Lenaea competition in 422 BCE. Written in two acts, the play focuses on a reoccurring theme, the tension between the old and new.

The first act revolves around the young Athenian Bdelycleon (Cleon-hater) and his old-fashioned father Philocleon (Cleon-lover). Bdelycleon endeavors to prevent the father from participating in the city’s jury system; a system he believes is controlled by the unscrupulous pro-war Athenian leadership, namely Cleon. The son barricades his father in the house, stationing two slaves outside to prevent his escape. Late, one night, dressed as wasps and denouncing the son as pro-Spartan, a chorus of old men arrives at their house and endeavors to help Philocleon escape and perform what they consider to be their civic duty. Finally, the son cures his father of his passion for the law court by staging a mock trial of their own at home, trying a dog for the theft of a piece of cheese.

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The Indian theatre form Kathakali got pretty long and pretty crazy

A 16th-century book, with notes in the margins, may have been annotated by Shakespeare himself. The 1576 copy of François de Belleforest’s “Histoires Tragiques” has faded ink symbols next to six passages – passages featuring a Danish prince who avenges his father’s murder by his uncle, who cemented his stolen throne by marrying the prince’s mother. Sound familiar?

The “Histoires Tragiques” was already thought to have been one of Shakespeare’s sources for Hamlet. This new find may have been the specific copy Shakespeare read!

Theatre marquees of New York in the 1930s through George Mann’s lens.

ANTIGONE: 

Antigone was the third play in the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek playwright Sophocles (c. 496 – c. 406). Produced around 441 BCE and receiving first prize at the Dionysia festival, the tragedy was actually written long before both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus.

In the play, Antigone returns to Thebes after the death of her father Oedipus. Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles have both been killed in the war between Argos and Thebes. Creon, Antigone’s uncle, has assumed the leadership of Thebes and by decree refuses to grant the traitor Polynices a proper burial. Antigone chooses to disobey Creon and bury her brother herself. Having violated Creon’s order, she is imprisoned and left to die, eventually hanging herself. Haemon, her fiancé and Creon’s son, joins her, taking his own life. Finally persuaded by a prophet to change his mind, Creon is too late to save either his son or Antigone. His wife Eurydice commits suicide, blaming Creon for the death of her son. In the end, Creon is left alone.

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LYSISTRATA: 

Lysistrata was the third and final of the peace plays written by the great Greek comic playwright Aristophanes (c. 445 – c. 386 BCE). Shown in 411 BCE at the Lenaea festival in Athens, it was written during the final years of the war between Athens and Sparta. The play is essentially a dream about peace. Many Greeks believed the war was bringing nothing but ruin to Greece, making it susceptible to Persian attack. So, in Aristophanes’ play, the wives and mothers of the warring cities, led by the Athenian Lysistrata, came together with an ingenious solution. In order to force peace, the women decided to go on strike. This was not a typical work stoppage. Instead, there was to be no romantic relations of any kind with their husbands. Further, by occupying the Acropolis, home of the Athenian treasury, the women controlled access to the money necessary to finance the war. Together with the withholding of sex, both sides would soon be begging for peace.

As the author of at least forty plays, only eleven of which have survived, Aristophanes is considered by many to be the greatest poet of Greek comedy. Unfortunately, his works are the only examples to remain intact. By the time Aristophanes began to write, Greek theatre was in serious decline. However, much of the presentation of drama remained the same. There was the usual chorus of 24 as well as three actors who wore grotesque masks and costumes.

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Various actors dressed for Chantecler, a play written by
Edmond Rostand and set in a barnyard.

Lucien Guitry, 1910:

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Gertrude Hoffmann, 1910:

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Simone le Bargy, 1910:

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Maud Jay, Frances Kapstowne and Davy Burnaby, 1910:

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Maude Adams, 1911:

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Bonus contestant! although most characters were feathered, the play did feature other animals, like this dog:

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And these frogs (I wish I had a clearer photo):

OEDIPUS AT COLONUS: 

OEDIPUS at Colonus was the third play of the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek tragedian Sophocles (c. 496 – c. 406 BCE). Although written in the years prior to his death, it would finally be presented by his son Iophon at a dramatic competition in 401 BCE. The play’s sequel Antigone was actually written years earlier in 441 BCE. Oedipus at Colonus accounts for the final years of the fallen king, 20 years after his exile from Thebes

Blind, weak and dressed in rags, he accepted his fate and wandered from town to town as an outcast accompanied only by his young daughter Antigone. Arriving outside Athens at Colonus, he is befriended by the king of Athens, Theseus, who offers him protection. Oedipus speaks of a prophecy that says whatever city grants him sanctuary will be given special protection. Knowledge of this prophecy comes to the attention of Creon, his brother-in-law, and his son Polyneices who want to take advantage of the blinded king. Both had coldly refused him shelter in the past but now travel to Colonus to offer him sanctuary.

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