Classical Theatre Workshop

Rayor Works with Theatre Students

April 2009
Volume 2, Issue 8
Our Mission: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.   CLAS College Office Monthly Newsletter for Faculty

Frederick J. Antczak, Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences First, no April Fool, let me invite you to a party to celebrate scholarship, service and other accomplishments in CLAS this year: come recharge and refresh yourself with good food and better company at the Spring College Meeting and Sabbatical Showcase on April 1, 11am-2 pm.  The College's spring meeting is an important one for several very pleasant reasons.  CLAS's Sabbatical Showcase is a point of pride for the College every year.  It gives you the chance to learn from the scholarly achievement of 19 of your colleagues (all in one location, Grand River Room, KC), and in past years it's been a place where connections are made and interdisciplinary scholarly collaborations have begun.  Another important thing about this event is that from noon until 1:00pm, there will be reports on the work and the accomplishments--very significant work this year on your behalf--of your elected governance committees.  We'll also have the chance to celebrate together the achievements of our faculty and staff colleagues' service and outreach, as we honor the recipients of this year's Service Awards. As is our custom, I'll report on the year from my perspective, and share some thoughts about Grand Valley in the context of a turbulent higher education scene, in remarks I'm calling (unless cooler heads can restrain me) "We are a Ship, Not a Clown Car: Clashing Metaphors for Higher Education in Economic Turbulence."    Now, some good news from our long march (by the way, do you know why people are so tired on April 1st? Because they just finished a 31-day March...). I'm delighted to announce that CLAS has reached an agreement with University of Education Schwäbisch-Gmünd Fakultät (PHSG) in Germany.  After a successful three year faculty exchange with our Sociology department, we're happy to formalize the arrangement.  The objective of this agreement is to encourage international educational cooperation and exchange in ways such as the exchange of faculty; joint research projects, short-term lectures and symposia; development, testing and evaluation of new, above all, virtual forms of teaching and learning, which may include teaching of joint courses; exchange of information, library acquisitions and publications; and exchange of students (summer or semester terms). It has almost become a rite of spring that we have trumpet students to celebrate.  This year it's senior Hunter Eberly who won first prize at the 2009 National Trumpet Competition College Solo Division.  Meanwhile Mary Ann Sheline, grant administrator extraordinaire with the Regional Math and Science Center, was selected by the Michigan Science Teachers Association to receive the George G. Mallinson Award.  And rounding out a month of deserved recognition, I'm delighted to report that Laurie Witucki (Chemistry) received the Women's Impact Award and Kate Remlinger (English) received the Barbara Jordan Award at the Women's Commission "Celebration of Women". In April, after I see you all at the Sabbatical Showcase, I'll be plunging into one of my busiest months: getting out a variety of appointment letters, writing or reviewing evaluations of CLAS AP and COT staff, finishing tenure and promotion recommendations as they arrive from CPC, pushing GrIT forward, welcoming poet Ernesto Cardenal, taking pictures with the CLAS marshals Karen Libman of Theatre in the School of Communications and Figen Mekik of Geology for a proud display on our website, meeting with Philosophy about consultants in re their self-study even as we receive the report of the School of Comm's consultants (I hope to do this for each department every other self-study year, or about once a decade), participating in April commencement and Traverse City Commencement, and attending at least 21 year-end recognitions, dinners and award ceremonies. The ADs will also be engaged in the big end-of-term push.  Jann Joseph will be supporting grants, writing a scholarly paper, providing College of Education liaison, and working on Elementary Minor and Major changes.  Gary Stark will be assisting with salary adjustment process, facilitating work of CPC and personnel review process, preparing the data needed for units for new position requests, and monitoring summer enrollments.  And please join me in special thanks to Karen Gipson and Paul Stephenson who have done excellent work on all our behalf while Mary Schutten was on sabbatical.  I'm grateful to them both for the creativity and energy they brought to their assignments.  We all look forward with joy and a little tired relief to Mary taking up her new position with the College Office in May.   The bookends for the month of April are also my opportunities to see you as we celebrate the faculty at the Showcase and Meeting on the 1st and our students at commencement on the 25th.  Please encourage your colleagues to participate in these important events.    


Faculty Feature by Monica Johnstone, Dir. of CLAS Communications & Advancement 

Mighty words teach good sense-translation and extreme collaboration

Whoever does not pursue the best policies to steer the entire state, but locks tight his tongue out of some fear, has always seemed to me the worst. And whoever thinks a friend more important than his fatherland, I say he is nothing. Let all-seeing Zeus know I would not wait silently, watching blight rather than deliverance advance on the city. I could never consider any man my friend who is an enemy of the state, knowing that this ship keeps us safe and only by sailing it straight can we know our friends. ~ excerpted from the translation of Antigone by Diane Rayor   In the summer of 2007, Classic professor Diane Rayor made a pitch to an editor of Cambridge University Press for her translation of Medea.   Diane admits to me that the editor wasn't interested in the Medea, but had countered with the suggestion of a new translation of Sophocles' Antigone.  So began the undertaking that will result in two theatrical productions this year and publication sometime after the manuscript is due in April 2010. Theatre is, unassailably, a collaborative art.  So too is translation-at very least between the translator and the original text-but for Diane Rayor, that is only a beginning.  Not only has she refined her draft through work with her students on the rough translation in her Greek Drama course during Winter 2008, she intends to glean additional insights from the students engaging her draft in Peter Anderson's summer course and two to three of her own courses in the fall, not to mention a production at Jenison High School also in the fall.  And perhaps the supreme act of parking one's ego for the good of the translation is the intensive workout the draft is receiving from the student actors in this semester's Classical Theatre Workshop, which Diane team teaches with award winning director, Professor Karen Libman.   "Karen is a master," Diane explains.  "I was her dramaturg on Metamorphosis a few summers back.  Watching her in action was totally amazing.  She took these actors and made it work." I attended two rehearsals to witness the action for myself.  1506 PAC is a large room with curtains covering mirrored walls and, of late, the floor are taped to approximate the contours of the amphitheatre at the Honors College where they will perform, the weather gods willing.  As I first entered, Nick Law (who plays the Guard) was receiving instruction from Karen in the physical humor that would bring his lines to life.  After a false start on his first attempt, Karen is up to demonstrate the stumble and fall to the linoleum that she just described.  Clearly, we are catering to all learning styles here.  Karen conveys a sort of confidence in her movement that both delivers the comedic moment and assures you that she will not be hurt.    Technique conquers gravity.  Later Nick tells me that the course "is a lot of fun, a good experience."  He has acted in plays based on fixed texts before, but "working with the translation provides opportunities to change something unclear."   In fact, Diane admits that almost every question or difficulty the students mention leads to a refinement of the draft.  "There is one on every page," Diane smiles. The following week, I'm back to see how things have progressed.  Karen has taught the chorus a melody so that some of Diane's choruses can be sung.  Sally Langa of the Costume Shop comes and goes with armloads of potential costumes.  Student Ben Knight dons a tattered grey robe to general acclaim.  He plays the seer Tiresias in a dignified baritone, comfortable with the words and already "off book".  He tells me that, as a Classics major, he's used to verbal persuasion.  This is something different, "movement and persuasion with your body is a less cerebral experience."  He clearly likes the new challenge.  He also enjoys "seeing the two sides of Professor Rayor," from whom he's also taking Greek lyric poetry. The dynamism of the process would be hard to overestimate.  Karen and Diane sit next to one another in folding chairs holding open scripts and pencils.  Karen requests a change for a practical reason such as the decision not to cast the servant roles.  Diane checks the text to look for consequences.  Students chime in from the perspectives of their characters.  Does removing a line from performance affect their exit toward the city or how soon a dead body is discovered or how the Greeks felt about this particular event?  The adjustment passes its various tests and pencils fly. These pencil marks on all of the scripts will be poured over and will eventually become the extensive notes to the text that Diane plans.  Karen will write an essay to be published with the translation on the staging of this production. Through all these many tweaks and tests, the text becomes a living thing in the mouths of the actors.  Even as Diane holds it to a high standard of accuracy and Karen guides it so that it will play well today, the text is becoming something increasingly true for the students.  At the same time, Antigone is an emotional and ethical workout for everyone involved-and not very far from the concerns of our day.  What is best for the state and for the individual?  Who is right, the pragmatists or the steadfast? Life and death are in the balance.  The actions of the young lead to consequences they only fully understand when it is too late. In this production, the complexity is embraced; the motivations of the lead character are explored differently by the two actors who will perform the title role at the various performances. Back at rehearsal, Karen directs the chorus to react as Kreon enters center stage to the news of the death of his son.  A chorus member asks for clarification, "Is this, like, awkward?" she asks.  Everyone laughs.  It's 5:45 p.m.  The rehearsal finishes in a chaotic buzz of "I just need a word with the chorus" and alternate costumes being slipped over jeans, backpacks being zipped, a photo session being organized, and additional rehearsal time being arranged between students.  Over the din, Karen grins and calls out to me, "Don't you miss doing theatre?" Yes, I think.  Oimoi, how could you not?    
  The Cast Antigone: Nina Tollas and Maureen O'Brien (double-cast) 
Ismene: Tori Smith  Kreon: Evin Anderson  Guard: Nick Law  Haemon: Aaron Sohaski  Tiresias: Ben Knight  Messengers: Arielle Leverett and Chuck Fortenbacher  Eurydice: April Conant  Chorus: Kat Bell, Ashley Keller, Dani Sweet , Sarah Stark. Sarah Cupper, Alicia Clark, Caitlin Kelly, Lauren Branstetter, Lauren Jablonski., Dayna Campbell