Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Beginnings of Theater

I just got back from Greece and had some heart throbbing experiences in theater. First of all my husband and I went to Delphi the home of one of the ancient oracles. There, there was a Greek theater nestled into the side of a mountain. It seated an audience of 5,000 which looked down on the orchestra where the chorus took place and looked out on a breath stopping view of the valley below. The Greeks liked to have the audience look down on the actors like the gods look on us and have the audience realize the foibles of mankind. It's kind of like the Buddhist blue skying technique where when you are mired in troubles you are supposed to spend time looking at the sky. Perspective. Perspective. What we loose so often. So I walked out onto the central spot of the orchestra and started doing one of my monologues from my play, a bit under my breath since I didn't want to impinge on other people who were there. I felt something I haven't felt in a theater before. I felt held, taken care of. The curve of the audience as it was placed in the hill was the perfect curve for the "stage". The proportions were perfect. I felt like I could do no wrong on that "stage". I made "mistakes", but they were ok and I took my time. My words came from myself from my being present in the moment. Now that's good acting, but here I didn't have to do any preparation to get there. The space did it for me. I didn't have to "do" anything.

The second theater I went to was in Epidaurus and that theater's capacity was 15,000 people though I heard that when Maria Callus sang there they squeezed in 17,000. There the ethos was for people to stand in the center spot of the orchestra and speak, sing, do whatever you wanted. I stood there and spoke with a sending out voice. Not pushing, or speaking loudly. Just sending my voice out to the audience. I spoke three monologues out loud and the acoustics were such that my voice both echoed back to myself and soared to the uppermost reaches of the audience. I was pulled into a heightened sense of theater that you can get from performing from a great play. The enormity of the theater plus it's astounding acoustics plus it's perfect shape created the physical container for drama. It's a place where every word is literally heard and literally supported. I sent my words out and they came back to me and fed me. Thrilling.

Later a guide came and struck a match on the center stone. It rang throughout. Imagine Maria Callas singing there.

The Greeks: no microphones no acting techniques. They used location and use of space in location to create the effects they wanted. Feng Shui experts.