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Filming: Day 3 (July 19)


These are Sharon’s notes; photos here are by Amy, Sharon, and Nancy (sometimes by Ada taking pictures with Nancy’s iPad, while Nancy was in a scene).  Many thanks to Amy, Ada, and Nancy for these great photos!


We started this hot and steamy day off in beautiful Forest Theatre, then moved to beautiful cool Gerrard Hall for the final scene—Pseudolus C, the Fabulous Drag Kings!


Pseudolus Group E

The Pseudolus E group made very creative use of masks and costumes (which sometimes merely hung from sticks), using both Gian Giacomo’s commedia dell’arte masks and the Institute’s full-face mask.  Seth played Ballio, using an actual slapstick that Ada contributed.  See here for the group’s Reflections on Filming.

Ballio threatens his slaves (note the slapstick).  Photo by Amy.










Ada, Gian Giacomo, Seth, Dan, Kenneth.


Ballio & the Girls.  Photo by Nancy.

Seth (note the slapstick at his side), Kenneth, Ada, Dan, Gian Giacomo.


Ballio amid the girls.  Photo by Nancy.








Ada, Seth, Gian Giacomo, against a backdrop of masks and veils.





The Bacchides group performed three versions: one in sung Latin (!) with masks and tunics; one in English with masks and tunics; one in English without masks.   They used the same blocking for each version.  You can read their blog here.  The videographers’ mike, placed on stage, will not appear in the videos!  Watch for Jeanne & Patrick’s dance….


Bacchides Versions 1 and 2


These two performances look identical in photographs; when the videos are available, you’ll know the difference!


The old men threaten the girls.  Photo by Amy.










Ada, Daniel, Patrick, Jeanne.


The old men are acting up!  Photo by Nancy.









The old men confer; the lovely young girls strike a pose.  Photo by Nancy.












Bacchides Version 3


Nicobulus and Philoxenus argue, but those old boys really can’t leave the girls alone. Photo by Amy.











Ada, Daniel, Patrick, Jeanne.



The grand dance of Philoxenus and Bacchis Soror.  Photo by Amy.


Patrick and Jeanne brought the house down.




Pseudolus Group E: The Drag Kings



The all-female Pseudolus E group decided on a Drag King performance, and it was a knockout—a perfect way to end filming!  All but one of the photos are from Nancy’s iPad, taken by Ada.


The Drag Kings, with extras.  Photo: Nancy’s iPad.











Male slaves: Angela, Meredith, Nancy; Ballio (Mimi); courtesan: Erin, Amy (with Pseudolus=Chris W. between her feet), Calidorus (Jeanne), and Phoenicium (Sophie).


Close-up (from Sharon’s fuzzy photos): Calidorus looooves Phoenicium.










Nancy’s left shoulder; Calidorus (Jeanne) and Phoenicium (Sophie).



Pseudolus boasts—he’s going to get that pimp Ballio!  Photo by Nancy’s iPad.









Mimi, Chris W., Erin, Amy, Nancy, Jeanne, and Phoenicium.  Note: Chris W., a beautiful and elegant woman in normal life, made a completely convincing man!  (To see what she normally looks like, see here.  Scroll down to the bottom for Chris as Dorippa.)



The breakout scene: Elizabeth and the rest of the group delineate the problems of the Ballio canticum.  They also discuss matters of basic philology (falafel-y?).  Photo by Nancy’s iPad.











Mimi, Elizabeth, Chris W., Meredith, Jeanne.



Back in action after the breakout scene. Pseudolus and Calidorus spar while the rest of the cast is frozen.  Photo: Nancy’s iPad.










Mimi, Chris W., Erin, Jeanne, Amy, Nancy, Sophie.


We had come up with a foolproof plan to shoot all three scenes with minimal changes in between.  We planned to start with the Latin version, then to shoot the English version with angry Dorippa, and to conclude with the “sad wife” version  (which required costume changes for Chris and Chris).  Everything worked out well in spite of a few minor challenges.

Because of lighting issues, we changed our shooting location, but fortunately we did not have to make significant changes to the blocking.   We also had a moment of being concerned about the order of the scenes, since Dan and Steve would have to trade off a body mic, but that worked out OK.  Doubling the Cook’s Assistant and Syra was a good choice; Syra’s appearance at the end of the scene got a big laugh in all three versions.

The Latin version went well, and we were very glad we did not have to re-take any of that scene.  It felt a little bit faster than we had ever done it in rehearsal.  I think part of that was picking up the cues, and part of it was the excitement of being in front of a supportive audience.

English version #1 was also a success, but we had some trouble with lines in the middle of the scene.  Steve and Chris valiantly soldiered on, but the scene went far enough off the rails that we decided to go back and start over in the middle.

During the sound check for English version #2, the audience got a preview of Chris W as the weepy wife, carrying a box of tissues with yellow flowers that matched her sweater.  Chris B jumped a few lines, but covered well.  One memorable difference in this scene is that the Cook delivers the line “Do you want me to call the police?” to Dorippa.  In both other versions, this line (“Vin m’experiri” in Latin) is a direct threat to Lysimachus.  It’s still a threat to him here, but not quite as direct.

We had a great time filming the scenes and are hopeful that our choices will be useful pedgagogically.  Chris B has already suggested that he might use the clips to encourage students to do practical projects in his courses by sharing the embodied knowledge he got from filming these scenes.

Thanks are due to Sharon James, who provided most of our props from her own kitchen.  The oversize, double-ended wooden spoon was a big hit!



Filming: Day 2 (July 18th).  Notes by Sharon.

Today we had the great luxury of filming indoors in beautiful, cool Gerrard Hall (thank you, Mark Steffen!).  We got lots of scenes done (nine!), and they were fantastic: all three versions of Eunuchus and Casina; both versions of Truculentus; plus Persa.  Only an equipment failure kept us from getting the Drag Kings (Pseudolus C) filmed, too.

Temporary photos: these are from Sharon’s elderly cell phone, which does not take very good photos at any kind of distance.  Better pictures will be sent to us in the next 2-3 weeks; check back later.

NOTE:  this page is still in progress.  I will be adding more scenes to it over the next few days.  Please send me (Sharon) any photos you have that look better than these, so that I can post them here.


Eunuchus version 1—in tunics and masks

Sophie has very kindly forwarded to me some of Nancy’s excellent photos—her iPad 3 takes much better pictures than my aging iPhone.  Everybody else: please send better pictures, so your scenes can look as good as the scenes from Eunuchus!


The Eunuchus group did three very different performances: one in Latin, with tunics and masks; one very 19th-century British version, in a Wildean style; and a very short modern TV sitcom style (called Family Thais). Be sure to read the Reflections on filming Eunuchus blogpost that Erin contributed.











Thais (Erin), Chremes (Kenneth), Thraso (Mark), and Gnatho (Sophie), plus the Kitchen Squadron: Tarik (behind Mark), Chris B. (behind Sophie), Seth (playing Sanga), and Dan.


Eunuchus version 2—the 1853 translation of Henry Thomas Riley

(from the Perseus website)








Pythias (Amy), Thais (Mark), and Chremes (Sophie), up against the Enemy: Tarik, Kenneth (playing Gnatho), Chris B., Seth (playing Sanga), Dan, and Erin (playing Thraso).


Chremes threatens Thraso, who is threatening to repossess Pamphila.  Note Sophie’s chief weapon: a badminton racket.









Pythias (Amy), Thais (Mark), Thraso (Erin), Gnatho (Kenneth’s leg, behind Erin), Chremes (Sophie, with badminton racket), Tarik (behind Sophie), Chris B., Seth (playing Sanga), and Dan.


Eunuchus version 3—Family Thais, a modern sitcom version











Thais (Sophie), Chremes (Mark), the nerdy accountant, Gnatho (Erin), and Thraso (Kenneth).  Near Sophie, off-camera, is Seth, holding a pile of cue cards for the audience:  LAUGH; APPLAUD; “OOOOO.”  We did.




The Casina group performed in three different types of masks: the ones made for the Institute; Amy Cohen’s full-head tragedy masks; and Gian Giacomo’s Commedia dell’arte half-face masks (an improv performance).  They found that Amy’s tragic masks completely transformed the scene.


Casina Version 1: tunics and ancient-style full-face masks


This photo is courtesy of Amy Cohen—thanks, Amy!










Chalinus (Elizabeth), Cleostrata (Nancy), Lysidamus (Gian Giacomo), and Olympio (Mike Lippman).


Casina Version 2: Amy Cohen’s tragic masks


This photo is also courtesy of Amy.











Cleostrata (Nancy), Chalinus (Elizabeth), Lysidamus (Gian Giacomo), and Olympio (Mike Lippman).


Casina Version 3: Improv with Gian Giacomo’s commedia dell’arte masks

Sad to say, this is one of my fuzzy photos.  If anybody has a better picture of the Improv version, please send it to me (Sharon).










Chalinus (Elizabeth), Cleostrata (Nancy), Lysidamus (Gian Giacomo), and Olympio (Mike Lippman).  Cleostrata has many unusual objects stuffed inside her dress….


Persa sung in Latin


The Persists performed in Latin, to the accompaniment of Ted’s music as performed by Tony on the clarinet.  There is much beating and kicking of the pimp, who gets tossed to the ground—Tarik was very game and funny.  Did anybody get a good shot of Angela and Seth fake-slapping him?  If so, send it to me (Sharon), so I can post it here.  My shots were blurry.

The pimp on his knees….










Tibicen (Tony), Paegnium (Seth), Dordalus (Tarik), Lemniselenis (Mimi), Sagaristio (Angela), and Toxilus (Amy).


The pimp underfoot….










Sagaristio (Angela), Lemniselenis (Mimi), Dordalus (Tarik), Toxilus (Amy), Paegnium (Seth).




Truculentus was performed in both Latin and English, with Ted’s ominous, deliberately repetitive melody performed by Tony, and melodramatic organ-style chords played by Angela on the piano, during Laura’s dramatic introductions and conclusions.  Meredith repeated her aria syllabus three times for a perfect take—Diniarchuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus! (Jim Hanson)—and we were all amazed every time.  Tim and Mike Lippman performed as the lorarii, the non-speaking male slaves who enforced the power of Callicles over Syra (Laura) and the ancilla (Meredith).  A doubly-metatheatrical moment made us all laugh, when Callicles (Mike Katchmer) ordered the lorarii to release the two women, who were in hand-shackles (invisible handcuffs!), and Tim’s character didn’t understand: a pantomime demonstrated what he was to do, then Tim shrugged and said “I don’t know Latin!”  The audience was in stitches, because of course Tim knows Latin, but we also remembered what Amy Richlin had reminded us in class—slaves in Rome might well have limited Latin.

Note: Tony and his clarinet are not visible in these shots, but will be seen in other photos (hint, hint…).


Callicles, the women, and the lorarii.  (One of Amy’s photos.)










Syra (Laura Lippman), lorarius 1 (Mike Lippman), Callicles (Mike Katchmer), lorarius 2 (Tim Moore), the ancilla (Meredith).


The lorarii coercing the women, under orders from Callicles (Amy’s photo).










Mike is behind Laura; Tim is behind Meredith.


Diniarchus begging Callicles for mercy, while the lorarii go to release Syra and the ancilla (Sharon’s fuzzy photo).










Callicles’ left arm and foot (belonging to Mike Katchmer), Syra (Laura Lippman) being unchained by lorarius 1 (Mike Lippman), lorarius 2 (Tim Moore) going to unchain the ancilla (Meredith, off camera).

*Somehow* everything came together in the end! On the one hand, our Ballio was a fearsome villain, threatening slaves and courtesans alike with his words and his whip. On the other hand, the pimp’s victims ultimately managed to undermine him. By entering in a conga line and merrily banging away on the drums, the slaves defused much of the danger.  The cross-gendered casting of three of the four courtesans provided additional comedic opportunities to undercut Ballio’s bullying. Through performance, we were able to explore how the “mute” characters, who are easily ignored in a text, can dramatically affect the tone of a scene.

Our filming session went well, and we appreciated the audience response to the slaves mocking Ballio, and to the work being piled onto the smallest person in the scene.  On the whole this has been a fruitful collaboration, combining Gian Giacomo’s expertise in physical movement to actualize Seth’s translation and Ada’s interesting concept.  Kenneth’s willingness to take a beating and yelp a lot were perhaps as essential as his dramaturgical eye.  And Dan has been your faithful blogging correspondent.

We were able to make it through the scene in one take, but we did have to go back to re-tape a section where there were some problems with the microphone sound.  This only involved Seth and Kenneth.  (We were relieved that we did not have to change costumes and do the courtesans’ entrance again.)  We had a couple of other goofs in the scene, but we were content to leave well enough alone.  In case you want to look for those… when Dan changed from a courtesan to Pseudolus, the mic pack fell out of his pocket and he had to pick it up.  And Gian Giacomo left one of the courtesan masks on stage at the end.

After watching some of the other scenes, we thought it might be a good idea to tape a prologue to establish Pseudolus and Callidorus as eavesdropping before the scene begins.  We hope that will be helpful for audiences watching the video.

Session 11: July 17

We met twice today, once in the morning and once late in the evening, to rehearse all versions.  We are now completely off book, and things are coming together nicely!

Performance Reflections

We finally put the scene on film. Mike was Brilliant as Ballio, aided by the hard work of Mark and Daniel as the slaves who helped Mike really sell the joyful reveling in mastery of the slimeball Ballio. Tarik nailed every line as the helpless Calidorus, and Chris had great fun breaking into the scene in the rant in the middle. Tony, our clarinetist, did a very nice job with Ted’s music to underscore the scene, doing a nice job of providing steady background music which did not detract from the spoken Latin. Many thanks to our volunteer prostitutes (Erin, Nancy, Jeanne, and Sophie) who played their parts perfectly.

We had to go back and film a few of the Calidorus and Pseudolus scenes again, but this was in no way the fault of the actors (alas videographer technical difficulties).

Now that we are at the end, it is a great relief. The Latin was quite the challenge to work with, but each practice got better, and the filming was by far the most emotive and interesting run we have had this whole time. This has been a very fun experience to the greatest extent because of the opportunity to work with this dedicated and fascinating group of collaborators.

And from Mark:  In theatre, the reward for hard work is performance. Kudos to all the Pseudoli A and especially to our upstanding extras in their veiled and impassive splendor, but most of all to Mike who carried the ballio across the line to victory. We learned a lot, sweat more and gave it everything we had. I’ll bet we light up the web! Hey NEH, we own you!


Filming: Day 1 (July 17) (notes by SLJ)


What a day!  It was hot and steamy, but beautiful Forest Theatre stayed fairly cool.  The scenes went off beautifully—and hilariously!  Three versions of the Ballio canticum were performed, by Groups A (all-male, in Latin), B (Angela as Ballia; commedia masks), and D (percussion), as well as all three versions of the Mercator scene. That’s six scenes in our first day—we actually finished a little early.

The pimp’s purple tunic (completely incorrect, but so great that we didn’t care) got quite a workout, and then went home with Sharon for a thorough washing.

These photos are courtesy of Amy Cohen.  Thanks, Amy!


Pseudolus D—we got the beat!

Pseudolus Group B was all percussion and hip-hop.  They hopped all over the stage, right on time (at 8am!).

Ballio and his male slaves.










Ballio threatens his slaves, who are keeping time: Mike L., Jim, Patrick, Sophie, Dan.


Poor Ballio—he has to work soooo hard!










Look at Patrick tugging his crew behind him.


Ballio lectures his “girls.”










Sophie, Dan, Patrick, Mike L., Chris B. (unless that’s Chris B. and Mike L.).














Patrick and Sophie.


Calidorus & Pseudolus eavesdrop.













Steve and Nancy.



Pseudolus A

All-male (except for some borrowed “girls”), all Latin.  Mike Katchmer didn’t miss a beat or a word in his performance as the evil Ballio.  Be sure to check their Reflections on Filming.


Ballio berates his (male) slaves.










Mark, Mike K., Daniel.


Ballio threatens the girls.










Jeanne, Mike K., Sophie.


Ballio threatens some more girls.










Erin, Mike K., Amy.  (I think Erin’s gorgeous gold getup came from Jeanne.)



Ballio lectures Hedytium, girlfriend of the grain merchants.












Mike K., Erin.



Pseudolus B: hop, hop, hop


The Pseudolus B group had a female pimp, Ballia (Angela), who hopped, somersaulted, rolled, and bounced all over. Luckily, she had a lot of padding to protect her.  They used mostly commedia dell’arte masks, and changed costumes between playing male slaves and meretrices.


Ballia threatens the household slaves.










Mike L., Angela, Erin, Amy.



Ballia threatens the “girls.”










Laura (with two masks); Mike L., Erin, Angela, Amy.





The Mercator group was fast and efficient—chop, chop, chop (though none of their kitchen utensils was actually a cutting implement, let alone a knife).  They put on three different versions, all in modern dress, without masks (but with two of Chris W.’s beautiful dresses!):  one in Latin, and two in English (an angry Dorippa and a weepy Dorippa).  They used the same blocking in all three versions, to create a tight model for pedagogical use. Chris Woodworth is not a Latinist, but her Latin sounded absolutely alive and fabulous!  She is a model for us all….


Don’t miss their Reflections on Filming.


Once again, many thanks to Amy for the great photos!


Versions I and 2—they look the same


Lysiteles tries to explain; Dorippa won’t have any of it.










Chris W., Chris B.


The cooks are confused….










Steve, Dan. Note that Dan is carrying Sharon’s two-headed wooden spoon, soon to be world-famous.



Uh-oh: the cooks are making things worse for poor old Lysiteles.










Steve, Dan, Chris B., Chris W.


 Version 3: Sad, Weeping Dorippa


In this version, the Mercator group experimented with the effect on the scene of an extravagantly unhappy Dorippa.  Note that Chris put on a different fabulous dress, plus a light yellow sweater that matched the flowers on her box of tissues.













Chris W. and Chris B.



Session 10: July 16

We rehearsed in the Forest Theatre today at 11:00 AM.  We began with some discussion of costume choices, which ended when Ada successfully convinced Dan that wearing the pink head scarf with the orange wrap and the gaudiest courtesan mask might be a little excessive.

After some work on the transition into the prostitute puppetry portion, we were able to run the scene twice for a small audience (Chris Bungard, Fred Franko, and a young woman who might have been a prospective UNC student).  Fred Franko gave us some helpful notes on gesture.  We had a good discussion with Chris about where the audience should sit, and he reminded us to keep our heads up and face out while using the masks so that they read for the audience and the cameras.

One interesting thing we have realized is that our initial concept of having the slaves mock Ballio has morphed into the slaves not only mocking Ballio when he turns his back, but also mocking each other when Ballio beats them.  Does the slaves’ interaction with each other subvert Ballio’s authority, or does their lack of respect for one another unwittingly support the hierarchical structure in spite of their lack of respect for Ballio?  We are excited to perform the scene for the cameras on Thursday!

Session 11: July 16

Today we rehearsed twice: we did all three versions in the Forest Theatre and then met at 4:00 PM to work on the Latin version and one English version.  Ada Palmer and Fred Franko observed our rehearsal at 4:00, and we appreciated their feedback (in particular their encouragement about our ability to make Latin sound natural, sort of like we are speaking an archaic version of Italian).

As we wrap up our rehearsal process, I thought it would be fun to look back on our email exchanges from before the Institute began.  Here’s what I wrote to Chris, Chris, and Steve about my initial response to the scene:

“I was drawn to this scene because I’m intrigued by the role of the cook as a funny character, and I’d be most interested in compiling a list of funny cooks/caterers to start exploring potential interpretations of the scene.  For example:

Cook as heavily-accented other (Swedish Chef, Yan Can Cook, French cook in Disney’s “Little Mermaid”);
Overbearing gruff Cook (Vic Tayback as Mel in “Alice”; Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi);
Coldly Competent Caterer (Kristin Bell’s Character in “Party Down”);
Completely Incompetent (everyone else on “Party Down,” Phoebe helping Monica on “Friends”)”

We did not explore all of these possibilities in staging our scene.  Indeed, much of our focus has been on the marital relationship between Dorippa and Lysimachus.

Why are cooks and caterers funny characters?  I think a lot of it has to do with power dynamics.  The Cook is hired help and could thus be considered to have a position of low status.  But Cooks tend to be hired for important meals, and thus they see families in high-stakes moments.  If all goes well, a Cook or caterer will probably go unnoticed.  And a family may enjoy themselves in spite of bad food or might have an unpleasant time together in spite of a wonderful meal.  In either case, cooks and caterers frequently have privileged access to knowledge about domestic conflicts.

In our discussion with Fred Franko, the character of Chef from “South Park” came up.  Chef is a great example of a Cook whose knowledge (in particular, his sexual knowledge) can change the power dynamic of the group he serves.  In the different versions of our scene, the Cook has varying degrees of knowledge about the domestic situation he has entered.  But he certainly has an impact on the relationship between Lysimachus and Dorippa, whether or not he knows what kind of impact he is having.

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