Thursday, February 26, 2009


We once again join our heroine as conference recommences after lunch (actual lunch, not only sandwiches (which is what Norwegians usually eat for lunch), but a nice little platter of cold cuts ‘n stuff, and some lovely students close by, with a special nod to the young man in the Grandiosa T-shirt and his stubborn soup eating), and as I’m trying for brevity, this will hopefully be shorter (I’ve been told that my ADHD-audience doesn’t like the longer texts). And sorry for mixing spellings of theatre and theater.

The first paper after lunch (a great slot to be given at a conference) was a dual presentation, “Observations on Staging the Ludi Virtuales”, which was begun by RB from the School of Theatre Studies at King’s College London, who showed his training at the Yale school of Drama in his excellent and effortless reading, with a casual leaning against the podium and a voice that carried beautifully.
This first part could be said to be the theoretical framework and historical reasoning for the second part, that was to present the virtual, reconstructed theatres and their uses, and we thus were treated to an overview of historical and philosophical back-story. Once again we ventured into questioning what is “real”, with the stage evoking multiple realities, simultaneously existing possible worlds and even reflecting something of reality itself, and linking the actual with the mythical.

Skipping some of my notes here in an effort to actually be brief, I however find I don’t want to skip over the mention of the so called memory castles, a mnemonic technique, a ancient device to remember and recall texts or facts, by envisioning them stored in different rooms and cupboards in a imaginary palace, one “stores” the memory on an appropriate shelf in a specific room, and for recalling this, you return to this place, and find this fact or text. This moving through an imaginary castle is similar to computer games, and like in such a world of illusion we hold ourselves in place by memory, and memory was held by illusion. Yep.

Moving on to the second part of the presentation by HD, from the wonderfully named The Centre for Computing in the Humanities, and we were shown these fascinating recreations of roman theatres. They have placed some of these in Second Life, you can watch them being built, but also interact with said buildings. (Let’s not get into the discussion what such educational endeavours mean for Second Life, some say it’s the end of it.)

Reconstructions are not only neat things to show of with and make in fun little programs, they also have, leaving educational aspects aside, relevance for the study of theatre history, as we can get a feel for the space of the stage and its limitations and possibilities, there has for example been some discussion of how sound must have travelled, simulations show that it probably couldn’t even be heard beyond the twentieth row, which brings us to question the previous views of the staging of the plays and their format, and also leads to discussions of other theatrical elements of Roman life, such as parades, funerals etc.

(Some other interesting results have emerged in working with the placement of frescoes in roman homes. Roman wall panting were not about pictures, they were about space. Walking in to such a panted room changed your perception of space of reality, and they were an intermedial blending of an art gallery and theatre, an imagined extension of the villa space, and in visualizing the preserved paintings and similar rooms quite a few new arrangements have been suggested.)

There ahs also been efforts to stage plays on these virtual theatres. By filming actors in front of a blue screen, one has been able to place some action on these ancient and missing stages. (among other Japanese actors from the noh-tradition have been used for their experience in pantomime and masks).

The theater of Pompey was specifically discussed, which is relevant for the next paper, and the whole science in general of visualisations such as of this long gone but important building.
The important thing is, it was said, not to get the reconstruction absolutely right (since we’ll never really know), but , but having your methodology right and open, so people can follow reasoning, and publishing the sources, whatever they are that you rely on. The London charter principles regarding historical visualisation clearly outline this. (Highly interesting!)

This was a incredibly presented paper, thanks is both due to the dramatic reading of RB (who I had the great fortune of sitting next to at the fancy conference dinner and greatly entertained me with stories of past Yale-days, and run ins with future presidents and presidential candidates), and the passion and enthusiasm of HD, which was quite catching.

I’m kinda not succeeding in the brevity-department.

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