A Modern Reenactment of Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Theater has been around for thousands of years for the purpose of entertaining an audience. Plays have a way of capturing a crowd and releasing them from their current reality where they are then placed into the universe of the characters in the show.

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From the first play in Greece to those showing in New York City, plays have been altered throughout their history. At Randolph we have taken it upon ourselves to try to close the gap between ancient and new by reenacting Oedipus the King.

Through this show we are able to realize not only the differences between ancient and modern theater, but also the ancient conventions that are carried over and those we had to make way for our modern times. Some conventions of ancient Greek theater dealt with the sets and costumes in the plays. All of the actors were required to wear a mask as a part of their costume. These masks’ main purpose was to act as a makeshift microphone that was able to project the actors’ voices far out in the theater.

The masks were accompanied by very simple clothing for costumes, normally a chiton and a himation.

The masks created a rift between the audience and actual actors because the audience cannot see who the actor really was, only the person he is playing. It was almost transforming the actor into a different person. For the setting of the plays, there was a bare set with little to no props. The simplicity of the costumes directs the focus more on the dialogue and the plot, while the lack of scenery was forcing the audience to use their imagination, which engages them further in the show. Quite opposite from these Greek conventions are those of modern day theater. It is common for masks to be used as costumes in contemporary theater, but they are not necessary to the show. With our current technology, the invention of microphones eliminated the requirement for masks. Costumes also have become extremely varied depending on the role the actor or actress is trying to play. As the years passed there were more plays which resulted in more complex role specializations for characters. A role may call for an elaborate ball gown to a nun’s habit and anywhere in between, compared to ancient Greece where everyone wore almost the same thing.

The scenery in modern theater has also become more complex to the point where we can have people pretend they are actually flying or transform the entire stage into a jungle complete with wild animals. The Greeks wanted their audience to be emerged in the plays by focusing more on the dialogue while modern theater strives to completely envelop their audience into the world of the characters with the authenticity of the costumes and sets. Some other Greek conventions for ancient theater are related to the actors. It was tradition that there were only three main actors who played all of the parts by changing costumes. It was necessary that all of the actors were male- they even played female roles. Women were not allowed to perform in the plays because it was seen as a shameful act that a proper Grecian woman would not do. There was a large Chorus of about fifteen actors and only one who played the Chorus Leader. The Chorus was on stage the entire show where they offered input, sang, and danced. Singing accompanied the dialogue well in ancient Greek theater because the entire play was usually written in verse. This can be seen as an impressive feat, for the dialogue of most plays consisted of long monologues. On the other side, actors in modern theater are extremely different compared to those in ancient Greece.

It is very rare to find a modern show that only uses three actors for all the main characters; instead there is a single actor for each character. Not only are more actors employed, but many are women now. There are plenty of women who pursue a career in acting in modern times, and it is not seen as disgraceful like it was before. In modern plays, the need for a chorus is almost nonexistent- they are used in musicals. Excessive singing, dancing, and the use of verse in dialogue are also removed from modern plays and transferred to musicals. The ancient Greeks followed precise guidelines, such as the all male rule, when it came to performing, but in modern times we have broken those barriers, especially in regards to women. In Randolph’s production of Oedipus the King, we tried to reenact an ancient Greek play as closely as possible. Some conventions we were able to maintain were the masks, simple costumes and setting, and the three main actors. Another convention upheld was how violence and death were portrayed off stage, adding to the idea of leaving more to the audience’s mind.

Living in a world so different from the Greeks, it is hard to be able to convey the play exactly as they did. We had mainly female actresses and hardly any male actors, very unlike an ancient Greek play. The Chorus in ancient times only spoke as a unit except for one Chorus Leader, but at Randolph many different members of the Chorus had lines. Another important convention we failed to uphold was how the play in Athens would have been held rain or shine, while we unfortunately had to perform our version inside because of dreadful weather. It is important to maintain as many of the early Greek conventions to create an authentic show, but in our modern world sometimes it is difficult to fully adapt to practices foreign to us. There are many practices for the ancient Greek theater that differ with modern theater. There is no use for a mask as a microphone or to hide the actor and the costumes have evolved from plain to detailed.

The sets which were once minimalistic have now grown to try to capture the setting perfectly. There are no longer only three actors for all the roles, nor is the play consisted of only men. The Chorus has transferred from plays to musicals and took their singing and dancing with them. The show at Randolph was a unique combination of ancient Greek and modern theater. We were able to harness the energy and vigor from the old classic practices and unite it with our current, liberal customs.

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A Modern Reenactment of Oedipus the King by Sophocles. (2023, Apr 22). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-modern-reenactment-of-oedipus-the-king-by-sophocles/

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