Describe the origins of theatre and how it relates to ritual in at least one ancient Indo-European culture. (300 words minimum)
There has always been a need for entertainment, passing along of knowledge, and trying to please the Gods. It was out of these needs that theater has its origins. At the start, theater comes out of ritual. The actors are the ones performing the ritual, and the audience is both those watching and the deities that are trying to be communicated with. As society advanced, the rituals became more elaborate. We started getting costumes and masks. We started to go beyond a simple ritual and into bigger and bigger productions. These were still done to please the deities, but at some point they went beyond just ritual to becoming entertainment for the people. As such, the earliest pieces of theater were mythology based. The oldest recorded theater actually comes from Egypt with a performance for a dead pharaoh, and another one telling the story of Osiris. (Robinson, Origins of Theater)
Theater within the Indo-European cultures is best known from the Greeks, often thought of as the origins of modern theater. This began around 700 BCE and was reenacting of the myths to honor the gods. The true birth of Greek theater though begins in the City Dionysia festival in Athens. This was a festival to Dionysis, and involved drunken revelry. The revelry eventually gave way to men putting on one man performances to entertain the crowds, and to compete for the best performance. This was the origin of the Greek Tragedy. Tragedy literally means “goat songs” as the people who were doing them were dressed up in goat skins as part oft he revelries. As time went on, it became two, then three, and finally three lead actors and a chorus. Aeschylus , Sophocles, and Euripedes are the playwrights credited with these early plays. Unfortunately the majority of their work has been lost to history, with Euripedes having the largest surviving body of work. Around this same time period we also have the origins of the comedy, but there is no surviving evidence on how this came about. (Robinson, Ancient Greece)
Explain "intentional movement" and why it is important in ritual. Include how movement can both aid and detract from the ritual experience. (100 words minimum)
Intentional movement is limiting your movement to eliminate all kinds of movement that have no actual purpose, be it wandering around the ritual site, or making random gestures (Thomas, Well Trained Ritualist). Movement without a purpose is only a distraction within the ritual. People watching you will automatically assume that what you are doing is being done with a purpose. They will follow your motions and even at times imitate what you do. I think the best example for how things like this can be distracting comes from the movie “Life of Brian” where Brian loses his shoe, and the masses following him take it as a sign and take off one of their shoes too.... when in reality he just lost his shoe running away from said crowd.
Within ritual, when you are on “stage”, and even when you are not, your movement should be purposeful. Don't wander, don't make gestures that aren't needed. If you need to go from point A to point B, just go there. If you are making a gesture to punctuate what you are saying, make the gesture firmly, otherwise leave your hands/arms in a neutral position. Make it obvious what you are doing is for a purpose.
Explain your understanding of the circles of concentration. (200 words minimum)
Kirk Thomas has taken the concept of circle of concentraion from the theatrical realm and adapted them for use in ritual form (Thomas, Concentration in Ritual). The circles he discusses going from the smallest to largest are the critic, connection, awareness, and boundaries.
The first circle, the critic is focusing on yourself. This circle is about being aware of what you are doing, where you are, what is directly around you, etc. This is by far the easiest one to control as it depends on nobody but yourself. It is also the one that one would be most critical of for exactly the same reason.
The second circle, the connection, is focusing on the ensemble on “stage”. This circle is about everyone that is performing the ritual. How does everyone work together? How do you relate to everyone? How do you connect to the others performing the ritual? I would also go on to say that this can include how others performing the ritual can draw attention their way while you do necessary things (like prepare offerings, move objects around, take care of a crisis) with a minimal or no distraction to the ritual.
The third circle, the awareness, is about those watching. How do you, and your ensemble connect with those watching you? How are they reacting? Are they showing signs that they can't see, hear, or something else along those lines? Being aware of how the audience is reacting allows you to adjust your performance to counter any bad reactions.
The fourth circle, the boundaries, is dealing with the otherworlds. Just as we are looking at the reactions of the audience, we also need to look at the reactions of the Kindred, and anything else that we have invited into the ritual. Ultimately, their reaction is one of the biggest reason we are doing ritual, so it is important that we please them.
The first and the fourth are easy to work on by ones self. Being aware of what the ritual space is like and how things are set up, and your own movements are easy to practice and control. With practice, you can also know how things are being perceived in the otherworlds too, and modify your rites to get better reactions. The second circle is much like the first circle, but it comes from practicing as a ritual crew. If there is no time for practice, if the group comes together at the last minute with no cohesive script, this becomes more difficult, but can in large part be mitigated by the use of a “traffic cop”. The third circle comes completely from experience. Your interactions with the audience is something that can only truly be learned from experience, and asking for critique after the rites on how to things could have gone better, but also how things went well.
Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the three ritual configurations (proscenium, thrust, and round). Note how a ritualist can maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of each configuration. Offer at least one type of ritual that would work best in each configuration. (100 words min. for each configuration)
Proscenium is what most of us would consider the traditional stage. This is where all the actors and actors perform in front of the audience and there is usually a curtain that can block the majority of the stage (Wikipedia, Proscenium). There are many advantages to performing like this. Everything can be seen props can be moved on/off quickly and they plus other actors can be hidden off stage. The biggest disadvantage though is that there is a barrier between the performance and the audience. The stage can also come off looking very 2 dimensional because of the fixed viewpoint of the audience, and those that are in the very back can be far enough away to have trouble seeing and/or hearing.
There are ways to fix the disadvantages. The props and things that lead to things looking 2 dimensional can be crafted in such a way as to give them exaggerated depth making the stage seem deeper. They can also be made in such a way to make things appear larger or smaller as appropriate, which helps those in the back of the theater. Microphones are all but needed to help with those in the back to hear those on stage. As for the perceived barrier between the stage and audience, that is difficult to overcome. Some options are to intentionally interact with people in the audience, be it by talking to them directly from the stage, or getting off the stage and going into the audience, but ultimately, it is difficult to fix. As for a ritual that works well in this setting, award ceremonies, or rituals that are focused highly on one person such as weddings and funerals, and rituals that have a large audience (more than a hundred) would work well in this format.
Thrust staging is where there is a large portion of the stage that is surrounded on three sides by the audience. This is often attached to a back stage area, so many of the advantages of Proscenium also apply here (Wikipedia,Thrust). As with Proscenium, you can have your props and other actors hidden off stage and easily brought on stage. Also, part of the stage can be hidden behind curtains. There are other advantages though. Since the actors are now in the middle of the audience, there is more intimacy between them and the audience and the entire body can be seen. There are also disadvantages with performing in the thrust. One is that now the actors can have the audience behind them which makes communicating with them more difficult. If props and scenery are placed on the thrust part of the stage, this can also block the views of the audience, but is also means that there is less in the way of props and scenery that can be used. Finally, on the thrust part of the stage, nothing can really be hidden.
The disadvantages are relatively minor overall. The use of minimal props and scenery that would block views is required. The actors need to be aware that there are people behind them, and act accordingly by moving so that they don't always get the backside of the actors. As the actors are closer to the audience, it may be possible to not need to use microphones unless it is a very large audience. This kind of stage works well for the majority of our rituals, where we have the central hallows and a table at one end so that we form a horseshoe shape.
Ritual in the round is where the stage is in the center of everything, and the audience is all around it (Wikipedia, Round). The biggest advantage of this format is that the intimacy between the actors and the audience is maximized. This is because there really is very little division between the stage and the audience. The disadvantages though start with it being intimidating to the actor because of this intimacy. There is no hiding of anything, as such your props and scenery are limited. These are also limited because they can't block the view of the audience. The other issue is that you have to act to all sides of the stage, and no matter what you do, someone will be getting the back side of the actor.
There is little that can be done with regards to the disadvantages and props. Things just need to be kept small and/or in the center of the stage. As for the actors, the way they minimize the disadvantages though, they have to work the whole stage. This means that they need to make conscious efforts to walk to every part of the stage and face all directions so that they can make connections with all the audiences. Depending on the size of the audience, microphones may or may not be needed though, but if they are not used, actors need to be conscious that the people behind them will have a difficult time hearing them. Also, the actors must be conscious that anything they are doing with their hands in front of them will be difficult, if not impossible for those behind them to see. For the most part, small and medium sized rituals where there are only at most a few dozen to possibly one hundred work well in this format. Anything that depends on the entire group participating directly, such as a sumble, would also benefit from this format.
Choose a being of the occasion appropriate to a specific high day of your choosing and describe a theatrical method of conveying the mythology of that being to others during a public performance. (300 words minimum)
For many reasons, I am personally drawn to the way the original Greek Tragedies were performed, as one man shows. To maintain the same theme as the original festivals of Dionysis, the following would be utilized for the Fall Equinox, but would celebrate another intoxicant, Kvasir. To make the following more readable, since this is a one person performance, assume that any actions in the following will be done during the performance.
3 large jars of various sizes (too large to be drunk in one sip by humans)
Big “rock” to stand on, and a “millstone” to drop (can be the same)
Cloak and floppy hat
Hand drill with large bit.
(start center stage. Cloak and hat are hung off to one side with the whetstone, scythe, and drill, rock is behind the speaker, 2 jars are barely off to the other side and the third is front and center. Knife is on the speaker).
Long ago, there was a war. Our great Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir both were battling each other. One side would be winning, then the other. They just kept fighting and fighting. One day they realized that they were even matched and that neither side was going to win. The made peace with each other, and shook hands on it. They also sealed their peace by all spitting into a jar. (shake hands, and spit into the largest jar). The Aesir, recognizing the power of this jar, formed it into a man, Kvasir. (do “magic” and pantomime pouring a human out of the jar, place the jar with the other 2.).
Kvasir was a wise man. He traveled around the world answering questions, giving advice (wander around stage). He became known for his skills and the truth of his answers. He traveled far and wide. He also caught the attention of a couple dwarves, Fjalar and Galar. They were jealous of Kvasir and his fame. They had him over for dinner, and after, as they showed him deeper into their lair, they stabbed him. (show worry on face, as you head back deeper onto the stage. Then, when you reach the rock, pantomime the stabbing using the knife that was hidden on the speaker). Not only did they stab him, they collected his blood into three jars, Son, Bodn, and Odrorir (after stabbing, drag the body over to the 3 jars and drain of blood into them, and pour in honey after). They added honey to these jars, and fermented the wisdom of Kvasir into mead.
Now, these dwarves were not loners. They were social and did have others over from time to time. One day they had the giant Gilling and his wife over. These were a gruesome couple. They argued all the time and got on the nerves of the dwarves. Fjalar and Galar suggested that Gilling may enjoy the sea air, and took him out in their boat (row towards the front of the stage, then become unsteady and tip). They rowed far out into the sea, to a point that was deep. Here the dwarves shook the boat, and capsized it. Now Gilling, not being a swimmer, drowned, and the dwarves made it back home without him. Gillings wife was understandably upset that she lost her husband. She cried and cried, making the ankles of the dwarves wet. They, not liking the wetness, devised another plan. Fjalar disappeared, and Galar suggested the widow go outside for some fresh air, and he would show here where her late husband died (Pick up the millstone and move towards center stage. Drop with the story). When she stepped outside, Fjalar dropped a millstone on her head from above, and so ended the lives of Gilling and his wife.
(push millstone, or rock out to front of stage while explaining Suttung). When Suttung,son of Gilling, heard of his parents death, he was not happy. He found Fjalar and Galar. He grabbed the dwarves (Pick them up by scruff of neck, and pretend to cary into deep water) and waded out a mile into the sea, to the point where he couldn't even stand and to far to swim back in, and put them down on a rock just barely above water (set down on rock/millstone). When the tide came in, they would drown. He was intent on revenge, but the cunning dwarves, who up to this point have not told anyone of the mead, offer him the mead for their lives. (carry dwarves back and focus on the jars with the narative)
Suttung took Son, Bodn, and Odrorir back with him. He hewed (pick axe motions) a cave out of the heart of the mountain Hnitbjorg, and had his daughter Gunnold guard it. While the dwarves were quiet about their prize, Suttung was not, and the Gods quickly found out about it. There was much discussion and it was decided that Odin would get the mead.
(put on cloak, hat, and put whetstone on body)
He traveled as Bolverk, the worker of evil. As he traveled, he came upon nine thralls working in a field. He asked who their master was, and Baugi was the answer, brother of Suttung. Bolverk asked if the thrall needed his scythe sharpened, and he said yes (sharpen scythes). They all wanted their scythes sharpened. Bolverk pulled out a whetstone and sharpened them all. Sharper than sharp. The thralls were all impressed that they wanted the whetstone. Bolverk said he would sell it to the man that would give him the feast he is used to receiving. They all said they would and the whetstone was thrown in the air. It hung in the air and the thralls scrambled and fought to try to catch it.... and they forgot about their sharp scythes, and slashed each others throats. (Throw whetstone in the air, and spin around with scythe. If possible, catch whetstone, look smug, and put it away.)
Bolverk then traveled to Baugi's home. He found Baugi distraught that he lost all of his thralls. Bolverk offered to work for him for the summer, and he would do the work of nine men, but he needed a sip of Suttung's mead as payment. Baugi promised he would try, knowing full well that it would be impossible for one man to do the work of nine. The summer passed, the work was done (use scythe as working across stage to where the drill is stored). Baugi was impressed at Bolverk and how he didn't need the rest that his thralls had needed, and how he was able to do the work of nine men. At the end of the summer, as promised, Baugi went to his brother and asked for the sip of mead. Suttung denied him.
Bolverk not being one to give up so easily gave Baugi his auger and told him to drill into the chamber (drill towards the jars, blow, drill more). Baugi not knowing how this would help decided to try. He drilled and drilled, and pulled out the auger telling Bolverk that he was in. Bolverk blew into the hole and got shavings in his face. They were not in. Baugi drilled more and more and finally they were in, but how were they going to get through that tiny hole?
Bolverk now revealed himself as a magician. He turned himself into a snake and slithered his way into the the cave (slither across stage, and stand back up near where the jars are). He then turned himself back into a giant. Gunnold saw him and wanted him. They spent three days eating, talking, and laying together. Finally, after Gunnold was completely entrhalled with him, Bolverk asked for three sips of the mead, and she obliged. (Drink from the 3 large jars in turn, but be obvious about holding in the mouth and not swallowing) He first sipped from Odrorir and emptied the jar. He next sipped from Bodn and emptied that jar. Finally he sipped from Son, and that jar too was emptied. His mouth was full of mead, and now was time to get out and back to Asgard.
Odin turned himself into an eagle (drop hat and cloak, fly away from the jars and around stage as describing the chase. End up on the other side of the stage from the jars). He flew out of the cave off to Asgard. Suttung seeing this turned himself into an eagle and made chase. The flight was a sight to see for all those below, and eagle chasing an eagle. The gods, seeing this chase knew it must be Odin heading home, and they got a many jars as they could and put them out, just inside the walls of Asgard. At last, right when Suttung was about to catch Odin, Odin spit the mead out into the jars spilling some outside the walls (spit into imaginary jars and stop flying). Suttung seeing he lost through cunning what he had gained by force, gave up the chase.
So, the gods had regained Kvasir. His knowledge and wisdom, his prowess in the bardic arts, they were all embodied in the mead. Those that drank of this mead gained these skills. Odin was now in control once more, and would share with those he found worthy. May we be found worthy.
Explain how you would prepare and deliver three of the following pieces for public performance, and include an audio or video clip of your performance of each. (50 words min. each explanation)
Videos can be found at:
Strong meter and strong rhythm: selection 1
The first thing to do with this piece was to find the proper pronunciation of eyries. After that, the rythm had to be identified, and where the rhythm seems to break in the 9th line. To keep it from sounding sing-song, I also determined that it would be good to combine lines together and put breaks at non-regular intervals so that it was broken up, yet still cohesive.
Uncertain meter: selection 2
Complex thought with complex meter: selection 3
Prose: selection 4
With this piece, it is a matter of knowing the story, and not being afraid to do a little adaptation to make it my own. Prose, to me is a guideline for the basis of the story, and because it has no rhyme or meter to be conscious of, things can be added or changed with little consequence. Again, the first thing to do is become familiar with the piece, know where the part that Skaldi speaks and be conscious of changing my voice at that point.
Strong meter and strong rhyme: selection 5
The Raven is perhaps my most favorite poem, so I am already very familiar with this piece. While it does have a strong rhyme to it, I find that the tempo is more important. The poem naturally has a rising tempo through the start of each verse, but that needs to be broken up and slowed down again at the end. Keeping an eye on the tempo, and making a decision on where to put the break is where this piece is prepared.
Write a statement of purpose for a rite of your choosing and one invitation for each of the Three Kindreds. Submit a video (of no more than ten minutes of total length) of your performance of all four pieces.
All of these would be for my grove's Spring Equinox where we invite Chaos into our rite. Videos can be found at:
Statement of Purpose:
We are gathered here today to celebrate the spring equinox. Today we celebrate the balance of nature. We have half day, half night. It is said that today you can balance an egg on its end. We are here to celebrate the fertility of the earth, and to do work to bring about a much more fertile summer. We are also here to celebrate the balance of order and chaos. This time of year in this part of the world is full of chaotic weather, and you never know what is in store. As such it is appropriate that we will call on the powers of chaos and the outdwellers to come and join us in our rite today. We will celebrate them, and thank them, and ask that they take this as our sacrifice for the year so we can spend the rest of year in relative peace.
Ancestors! You of our blood and bones. Our relatives of old. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You who are the relatives of our friends and chosen family. We call on you to join and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You who are of this place, buried in this land, and walked this land long before us. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. Ancestors! Come to our fire. Ancestors! Accept our Sacrifice!
Land Spirits! You of fur and feather, our animal kin. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You of leaf and twig, our plant kin. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You who are unseen, the dwarves, the elves, and wights of all kinds. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. Land Spirits! Come to our fire. Land Spirits! Accept our Sacrifice!
Shining Ones! You who look over each and every one of us, our patrons and matrons. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You of the pantheons that each and every one of us work with. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. You of this land, where we stand and worship today, known or unknown to us. We call on you to join us and aid us as we celebrate the chaos of the world. Shining Ones! Come to our fire. Shining Ones! Accept our Sacrifice!
Robinson, Scott. “Origins of Theater”. 4 July 2014 <http://www.cwu.edu/~robinsos/ppages/resources/Theatre_History/Theahis_1.html>. Web.
Robinson, Scott. “Theater and Drama in Ancient Greece”. 4 July 2014 <http://www.cwu.edu/~robinsos/ppages/resources/Theatre_History/Theahis_2…;. Web.
Thomas, Kirk. "Concentration in Ritual." Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF, December 22, 2009. PDF file.
Thomas, Kirk. "The Well-Trained Ritualist." Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF, November 19, 2009. PDF file.
Wikipedia. “Proscenium”. 1 Jul 2014 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proscenium>. Web.
Wikipedia. “Thrust stage”. 1 Jul 2014 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrust_stage>. Web.
Wikipedia. “Theatre in the round”. 1 Jul 2014 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_in_the_round>. Web.