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How to handle a Greek tragedy

A new book that shows actors and directors how to handle scripts from Greek tragedies has been produced as a practical guide.

Productions of Antigone, Electra or Oedipus remain vitally popular with audiences and are especially attractive to female actors due to the powerful, leading roles for women.

Unlike Shakespeare’s plays, which have numerous publications about how to train and deal with verse speaking, this is the first approach to preparation for actors and directors specifically dedicated to Greek tragedy.

Acting Greek Tragedy was developed by Graham Ley, Professor of Drama and Theory at the University of Exeter and draws on a lifetime of studio research.  The book provides a methodical approach for actors preparing for performances of Greek tragedy.

It offers an understanding of the dynamics of the script, and how these may be translated into movement and interactions in space and between the characters. The tragedies do not provide stage directions, and the language isn’t broken up in any indicative way, with the script often laid out in the form of continuous text. 

The book is designed to be used as a practical instrument in workshops to prepare scripts with actors and to do the ground-work of preparation for performance. It does not suggest a particular style of production, but helps to enhance performers’ and directors’ understanding of how to approach Greek tragedy.

Professor Ley, who worked with John Barton on Tantalus, said:“Greek tragic scripts are hard for actors to tackle head on. The approach I offer deals with monologue, dialogue, three-actor scenes and working with properties, and at every moment a close interaction with the chorus is an essential part of working the scene effectively. All that is required is some space, and a desire to get close to the material in all its power and subtlety.”

Date: 29 June 2015

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