Department of Classical Studies
University of Michigan
The question of what constitutes performance has yet to be answered. With a little ingenuity, almost any activity can be construed as performance. But it by no means requires the talents of a sophist to demonstrate that performance was much more common in antiquity than it is in the study of antiquity. Most of Greek literature, and not a little of Latin, was presented to its original audience as a performance. Add to that the performing arts which we know existed but which made use of no written text, such as Atellan farce and pantomime, and a picture emerges of a world much more 'theatrical' than a collection of Oxford Classical Texts would ever suggest.
In moving 'Beyond Spoken Drama,' the editors of Didaskalia have attempted to bring the performance aspect of genres other than comedy, tragedy, and satyr-play, and the non-dialogue aspects of drama, to the forefront. Issue 2's features include a composer/music director's retrospective on music for Roman comedy, a description of the life and art of a pantomime, synopses of several lectures on offstage theatricality, and a testimony that oral recitation of ancient poetry is alive and well among the members of CAMWS. Also worthy of note in this context are Steven Lonsdale's Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion and the performance of Catullus 63--with a cast of 30--which took place at the Classical Association in Exeter. The International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music is flourishing and beginning to bring the research projects of its members to our attention.
We hope that the projects described in this issue will encourage others to try putting less traditional material onto the stage. Not only would such ventures engage the attention of students, they would force us, as scholars, to approach texts from a different perspective. Performance criticism has made a tremendous difference to our understanding of drama; it might similarly affect our understanding of other forms of poetry. And, as the Exeter Catullus production shows, 'non-dramatic' poetry is viable and interesting when staged. Even though we have very little evidence of the forms of the original spectacles, we usually have enough testimony to lead us to creative cultural borrowings. The Seraikella Chau of India, for instance, is noted for many of the same qualities which distinguished Greco-Roman pantomime. If a work resonates for us in printed form, will it not be even more effective on its feet?
That issue is one which we will take up again, in a slightly different way, in Issue 3 at the beginning of August. The question there is what makes a translation into a script, and several translators will provide their answers and samples of their work.
We have included a new section, the Suggestion Box, so subscribers can tell us where they'd like to see Didaskalia heading in the future. As always, listings and reviews will be welcome, as are responses to anything published in previous issues. Guidelines for contributors may be found at the end of this issue.
Please send suggestions for features, and letters to the editors, to the Editor.