June 18, 2007

Vivi soars in Atlanta production of Aristophanes' "The Birds"

Have you ever dreamed of escaping to where you could live in freedom, untroubled by selected fellow humans and some of their doings? Last Friday, I watched my pal Vivienne (Vivi), age nine, flap her Scarecrow wings and snap her Scarecrow beak attempting to do just that.

At Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum, Vivi joined fellow thespians (ages 7-12) in the Museum's 2007 Camp Carlos five-day utopian world gone awry, learning difficult lines and life lessons — that even a perfect world has its problems. Actor and storyteller Julia Prittie directed about 20 campers in a children’s adaptation of Aristophanes' (c. 448-380 B.C.E.) The Birds.

In this lively, bird feather- and toga-filled comedy, the minimalist costumed cast of assorted birds, deities, and three-voice Greek chorus declaimed loudly and enunciated clearly (at times prompting each other when a line or word went AWOL).

One bright child, whose dyslexia made it all but impossible to learn lines on such short notice, turned a challenge into a starring role as the gold-coins-turned-goat, hopping and neighing with handheld "shield" — a feathered goat-puppet!

How can anyone, even young children, perform brilliantly after only three days' preparation?
  • A gutsy seasoned director with an effective stage whisper
  • Cue cards the size of some of the actors
  • Well-rehearsed thespians who went to bed three nights with big lines on little lips
This last secret I learned after the show from Scarecrow/Vivi, a seasoned practitioner of preparation and rehearsal (as she proved when she played her flute marching with fellow "Marching Abominables in-training" in Atlanta's recent Inman Park Festival).

So I say, bring on more Greek classics! Most of the core issues shed light and humor on human follies as the dramatists hold up mirrors to audiences — mirrors more than 2500 years old and reflecting back to us brilliantly today.


littlepurplecow said...

Very impressive... these little ones. Deep diving into Greek theater on their summer "break."

Tamar Orvell said...

... and loving every second (and script line) of the experience. Oh, and they played, it turns out, not for peanuts but for Tootsie Pops! As they packed up to leave, every last child was sucking that hard candy lollipop with a Tootsie Roll filling at its center. Talk about encouraging young ones by holding out a carrot, i mean Tootsie Pop!