THE TROJAN WOMEN, a Greek play by Euripedes, is a collision between an ancient playtext and a contemporary context. Here’s some thoughts to keep in mind as you watch it.
- Listen to the prologue--the first speech from the God of the Ocean, Poseidon, that opens the play. It will tell you everything you need to know about the context the play hurtles us into.
- Greek plays in their time were sung and/or chanted. Listen for repetition of important chants during the “stasimons”, or the choral rituals. Look for how the movements indicate the ceremonial nature of these sections. Music and rhythms underscore these rituals.
- In between these stasimons are “episodes”, plot-based scenes that follow various mythic characters. In TROJAN WOMEN, these are endings of plots associated with the Trojan War--Cassandra (the crazy prophet), Andromache (the tragic mother) and Helen of Troy, the legendary beauty whom both Greece and Troy blame for the misery of the war. The play is a play about endings (with hints of sequels).
- Most monologues and all dialogues are in public--mythic characters (wearing masks) speaking in front of the choral women (without masks). The chorus reflect the thoughts and feelings of the general audience. There’s a communal nature to these plays.
- Queen Hecuba (and the women of Troy) are the last remnants of a city that is totally defeated, absolutely decimated. This is a story about a mighty empire crumbling. There is a hypnotic nature to witnessing the ways these women grapple with their new reality and how their emotions were designed to evoke fear and pity in their audience.
- Mythic character masks are meant to face the audience as much as possible, so that emotions of the characters are projected onto them by the audience. This may make for less naturalistic positions, movements and gestures, but enhance the power of alienation from our own realism.