by Aeschylus' Agamemnon Translated by Alexander Harrington
directed by Alexander Harrington
Historically, English adaptations of Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" have rendered its ancient Greek poetry into proven English poetic forms. The results have been often good and occasionally brilliant. Yet the original Greek meters provide clues as to how a section of a play was performed (sung, spoken or spoken to musical accompaniment). This has prompted Alexander Harrington, a director known for his mastery of oratorical theater, to attempt something radical: approximating Aeschylus' actual, original poetic meters in a new translation. This intrepid idea has resulted in a script of surprisingly clear stage speech and unusual poetic quality. It will debut November 12 to 29, 2009 in La MaMa's large Annex Theater, performed by The Eleventh Hour Theatre Company. The script is available for perusal at www.jsnyc.com/season/agamemnon.pdf. The production will also feature an original score by Michael Sirotta, a principal composer of La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory, who is setting the sung and chanted sections to music. Greek tragedy combined song, speech and musically accompanied speech (whether it was chant, recitative or underscored speech is unknown). The plays were written in verse, but of a different nature from ours. Greek meters are based on vowel length, while English meters are based on syllable stress. Some Greek meters (iambs, trochees, anapests, and dactyls) are easy to replicate in English; others cannot be exactly reproduced. Generally, the chorus' spoken dialogue was iambic; this is close to our every day speech. The principal characters for the most part also spoke in iambs. But in more lyrical sections, the chorus used a variety of meters. It makes the translation trickier, but it also presented Harrington and Sirotta their greatest opportunities for creativity, since it is the most evocative in a musical sense. Approximately half of the play belongs to the chorus.
11/12/2009 at 7:30pm