NEH Summer Scholars will meet formally each week­day, 10am-12pm and 2-4pm (except for July 4th).  Morning sessions will be given to lecture and dis­cuss­ion.  In the afternoons groups will discuss and prepare performances of their scenes.  Visiting lec­tur­ers will address the par­ticipants together in the morn­ings and work hands-on with the groups in the af­ternoons.  NEH Summer Scholars may spend additional hours working to­gether on their scenes.


Week 1: The Practicalities of Ancient Performance (6/24-29)

Faculty experts: Sander Goldberg (UCLA) and

C.W. Marshall (University of British Columbia)


Sander Goldberg and C.W. Marshall have complementary but distinct ideas about the nature and effect of Roman comic performance.  Participants will gain great benefit from see­ing the two scholars work together, both debating issues and learning from each other along with the par­tici­pants: they will not only learn much about Roman comedy but will have a unique op­por­tunity to observe how scholarly debate can lead to new understanding of difficult issues.

6/24, Sunday evening. Party for participants, directors, and guest speakers of first week.  Intro­duction of NEH Institute, assignment of groups, orientation to campus, impromptu reading of scenes.

6/25, Monday: Space.  Space is one of the elements that most de­ter­mines effect: a play per­form­ed in a prosceni­um arch theater, for example, is quite a differ­ent experi­ence from the same play performed in a huge arena.  The question is espe­cial­ly acute for Roman come­dy, where theatrical spaces might have ranged from in­formal stages set up in the for­um to elaborate constructions of stages and seat­ing.  Goldberg and Marshall will pre­sent their own ideas on what spaces were available and what they mean for the effects of the plays.


Beacham, R. C.  1992.  The Roman Theatre and its Audience.  Cambridge, MA. 169-85.  Beach­am summarizes the construction and decoration of stages and sets (from painted backdrops to curtains to elevated sections), technology for special effects, and costumes.

Goldberg, S. M.  1998.  “Plautus on the Palatine.”  Journal of Roman Studies 88: 1-20. In this landmark study Goldberg for the first time used archaeological evidence to pinpoint the loca­tion of some performances of Roman comedy.  In doing so he established a ballpark figure (about 1600) for the number of audience members, modifying significantly what many have thought about the nature of Roman theatrical performances.

Hughes, A.  1996.  “Comic Stages in Magna Graecia: The Evidence of the Vases.”  Theatre Re­search International 21: 95-107.  One of the most important analogies for earlier Ro­man stages, for which no visual evidence survives, is a corpus of vases from Southern Italy with images of stages.  Hughes ex­amines the stages on these vases.

6/26, Tuesday: Masks, Costumes, Props.  Masked theater is a unique experience, difficult for those without experience in it to understand.  Marshall and Goldberg will show how to make masks and demonstrate how perform­ance in masks works, and will lead partici­pants as they con­sider the role of costumes and props in the scenes they are studying and performing.


Williams, R.  2004.  “Digital Resources for Practice-based Research: The New Comedy Masks Project.”  Literary and Linguistic Computing 19: 415-25.  Williams discusses a project in which, using 3D scanning, he has enlarged miniature terracotta masks from the ancient Mediter­rane­an to life-size, allowing actors to perform in them.

6/27, Wednesday: Actors, Acting Style.  A key feature of Roman comedy is the sta­tus of its act­ors: many were slaves, playing both slaves and free persons who threatened slaves. How those actors interacted with each other and the audience is equally important.  Goldberg and Marshall will discuss with the participants, using both Plautus’ Curculio and the scenes to be performed as case studies, such aspects of performance as audience address, fo­cus, pace, and status.


Csapo, E. G.  1993.  “A Case Study in the Use of Theatre Iconography as Evidence for Ancient Acting.” Antike Kunst 36: 41-58. Examines what visual imagery of “running slave” scenes can tell us about how actors in antiquity may have performed those scenes.

Marshall, C. W. 1999.  “Quis Hic Loquitur? Plautine Delivery and the ‘Double Aside.’” Syllecta Classica 10: 105-29. Proposes that actors using masks used finely choreo­graphed movement as they turned their heads, addressing first other characters, then the audience.

6/28, Thursday: Movement.  The discussion of acting style will continue with a look at how actors moved on the stage. Marshall and Goldberg will discuss what dialogue reveals about block­­ing, even though there are no explicit stage directions, and they will evaluate the evi­dence for gesture—descriptions of oratorical gestures by the rhetorician Quintilian and medi­eval illustra­tions—to see what we can learn about gestures in Plautus’ and Terence’s time.


Dutsch, D.  2007.  “Gestures in the Manuscripts of Terence and Late Revivals of Literary Drama.” Gesture 7: 39-71.  Examines a crucial source for ancient gesture, illustrated ma­nu­scripts of Terence’s plays from the Middle Ages, and considers how the schematiz­ed system shown in those illustrations may reflect actual practice on the Roman stage.

6/29, Friday: The Ancient Audience. A key to understanding any theatrical performance is an appreciation of who its audience was. The size and the social status of Plautus’ and Terence’s audiences are currently the subject of much scholarly controversy.  Marshall and Goldberg will dis­cuss this controversy and their own ideas on who was in Roman comedy’s audience.


Bernstein, F.  2007.  “Complex Rituals: Games and Processions in Republican Rome.” 222-34 in J. Rüpke, ed.  A Companion to Roman Religion.  Oxford.  Catalogues reli­gious festivals at which many if not all theatrical performances occurred in Rome dur­ing Plautus’ and Terence’s lifetimes.

Fontaine, Michael.  2009.  Funny Words in Plautine Comedy.  New York. Chapter 4: “Innuendo and Audience.”  Proposes, from the sophistication of Plautus’ jokes, that his audience was not, as many have believed, made up of all classes of Roman society, but that the plays were aimed at an elite audience who knew Greek well and were connoisseurs of theater.

Richlin, Amy. 2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient: Three Plays by Plautus. Berkeley. Pp. 21-30.  Argues for a broad audience for Roman comedy, who would see the slaves and lower-class characters, who provide much of the humor to the plays, as relevant to themselves.


Week 2: Music and Dance; Themes and Social Background (7/2-6)

Faculty expert: Amy Richlin (UCLA)


7/2, Monday: Music and Dance (discussion led by T. Moore).  One element of performance re­mains.  Roman comedy was profoundly musical: actors sang over half of most plays to the ac­com­paniment of a double-piped woodwind instrument called a tibia; and musi­c­al variety, still evident in the meter of the plays’ verses, contributed much to the effects pro­duced by every play. Moore will discuss the signifi­cance of this musical variety and how one might recreate some of its effects in modern per­formances, even in translation.


Moore, T.J.  2012.  Music in Roman Comedy (Cambridge University Press), introduction, chapters 1-4.  Moore offers a thorough review of the nature and role of mu­sic in the original performances. Chapter 1 discusses the tibia. Chapter 2 discusses the nature of singing on the Roman stage. Chapter 3 proposes that dance was much more import­ant in Roman comedy than most scholars have believed and evaluates what dance con­tributed. Chapter 4 examines evidence for the me­lodies, how instru­mentalists and singers worked to­gether, and what the meters in our texts tell us about the rhythm of their music.

The remainder of this week will be dedicated to social issues raised by the plays, with an aware­ness of how aspects of performance helped to determine how those issues were presented.

7/3, Tuesday: Men, Women, Rape, and Sex (discussion led by S. James).  We have noted the importance of Plautus’ and Terence’s plays in presenting women’s voices.  But the plays are also inescapably the products of a patriarchal culture.  James will discuss how the plays manage both to support and chal­lenge traditional assumptions about gender, and how an awareness of such issues can help us as we make decisions about modern per­formances.


Dutsch, Dorota. Forthcoming. “Women’s Studies and Gender Studies in Roman Comedy.” Cambridge Companion to Roman Comedy. Reviews the construction of female characters, using theory to investigate the intersection of motherhood and prostitution.

James, Sharon L.  Forthcoming.  “Gender and Sexuality in Terence.”  Blackwell Companion to Terence.  Surveys gender and sexuality, both male and female, in Terence, ar­gu­ing that female sexuality is generally repressed and that the construction of citizen mas­culinity as dominant over women and slaves governs family life in Terence’s drama.

Gold, Barbara.  1998. “‘Vested Interests’ in PlautusCasina: CrossDressing in Roman Comedy.” Helios 25: 17-29.  Gold discusses what it means that in Roman comedy, male actors play male characters dressed up as women. Such cross-dressing would affect how audience members would respond to the gender issues raised in such scenes.

7/4, Wednesday: July 4th holiday

7/5, Thursday: Humor.  Visiting Faculty Expert, Amy Richlin, UCLA.  Most readers agree that Plautus’ and Terence’s plays can be very funny, but what the Romans found funny does not always match modern ideas of humor.  Richlin will discuss how humor tend­ed to work in ancient Rome and what that means for both understanding and performing the plays today.


Richlin, Amy.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient: Three Plays by Plautus.  Berkeley. Pp. 30-53.  Here Richlin observes how much of the humor in Plautus comes from jokey words and names, and discusses how to translate such effects for modern audiences.

———-. 1992. The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor. Oxford. Pp. 59-63, 70-80. Richlin reviews how various theoretical perspectives, especially those of Freud, help to explain the pervasive aggression of Roman comic discourse.

7/6, Friday: Slavery and Ethnicity. Scholarly assessments of the all-important slaves of Roman comedy have ranged from stand-ins for Roman youths subject to their fathers, to figures ana­lo­gous to those in minstrel plays, to sources of subversion.  Many of the slaves on stage are iden­tified with ethnic groups recently conquered.  Richlin will discuss the subtle, multi­faceted ways Roman slaves might respond to Roman comedy, how issues of performance would affect the audience, and how we can keep these is­sues in mind for modern performance.


Richlin, Amy.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient, pp. 1-21. In these pages Richlin discusses the historical background to Plautus’ plays, including the many wars that led to a great increase in the number of slaves in Italy.

———-.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient, pp. 109-82 (Persa). Richlin’s translation of Plautus’ Persa, which she calls Iran Man, is set in contemporary Los Angeles.  The transposition of setting encourages much thought about how our own stereotypes about class and ethnicity compare to those of the Romans.

Le Guin, Ursula K.  1994.  “The Rock that Changed Things.”  In A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. New York.  Pp. 61-74.  Science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin shows how an en­slaved people, whose task it is to make art for their owners, has filled that art with meanings for themselves—meanings invisible to their owners, who see only the mean­ings they designed them­selv­es.  This parable suggests how the Roman slaves who acted in Plautus’ come­dies might have participated, along with like-minded audience mem­bers, in creating a second set of meanings for plays ostensibly about slave-owners

Scott, James C.  Domination and the Arts of Resistance.  New Haven. Pp. 183-201. Scott sets out the levels of outspoken­ness available to groups ordinarily not entitled to public speech, showing how and when they have historically “tested the limits.”

Optional reading: Amy Richlin, “Talking to Slaves in the Plautine Audience,” forthcoming, Classical Antiquity (a time-line accompanying this reading will be distributed before the session).


Week 3: Metatheatre, Modern Performance, and Workshops (7/9-13)

Faculty experts: Niall Slater (Emory University, 7/9),

Mary-Kay Gamel (UC Santa Cruz,7/10-11),

Anne Groton (St. Olaf College, 7-12),

John Starks (Binghamton University, 7/13)


7/9, Monday: Metatheatre: Visiting Faculty Expert: Niall Slater. A key aspect of Roman comedy, especially Plautus, was the self-con­scious awareness of actors and playwright that they were per­forming for an audience. Slater will dis­cuss this element of performance, what it means for our under­stand­ing of the plays, and how we can employ it today.


Slater, N.W.  Plautus in Performance, ch. 6, “The Double-Dealer” (pp. 94-117); ch. 8, “Convention and Reaction,” only pp. 160-167.  In these sections of his book on Plautine metatheatre, Slater examines how Plautus makes his play Pseudolus look like an improvisatory perform­ance that responds to the will of the audience, and how much of the fun of Plautus’ plays comes from their ironic responses to stage conventions.

Moore, T.J.  The Theater of Plautus, ch. 5, “Audience and Occasion” (pp. 92-107).  Moore looks further at metatheatre in Plautus’ Pseudolus and suggests that the play’s self-consciousness is a response to the demands of the play’s sponsors for a play of unri­v­al­led effectiveness.

7/10, Tuesday: Practical and Theoretical Issues in Modern Performance.  Visiting Faculty Expert: Mary-Kay Gamel. The first decision per­formers must make is what they will do with the text.  Drawing on her own experience Gamel will discuss how choices in translation help to determine the effects of Roman comedy in performance, and how effective dramaturgy can allow productions to respond to both the plays’ original milieus and issues of importance to a contem­porary audi­ence.


Miller, J.  1986.  Subsequent Performances.  New York.  Chapter 1, “The Afterlife.”  19-72. Miller draws on art, music, theater, and speech theory, to consider how artistic mean­ing, especially for drama, inevitably changes over time.

7/11: Wednesday: Adaptation. Sometimes performers responding to ancient drama wish to present adaptations rather than translations, making extensive changes to the text, its setting, and other elements.  Gamel will discuss the advantages and draw­backs of this approach.


Dutton, D.  2003.  “Authenticity in Art.”  258-74 in J. Levinson, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics.  New York.  Dutton argues for the concept of “emergent meaning” in complex works of art, a concept that allows interpreters and performers to explore inherent or implicit meanings in these works.

Edith Hall and Stephe Harrop, eds., Theorising Performance: Greek Drama, Cultural History and Critical Practice (Duckworth, 2010) 153-170.

On this day, we will also have viewings of scenes from productions of Plautus’ Persa and Terence’s Eunuchus, with dis­cussion of choices in translation, staging, direction.

7/12, Thursday: Workshop with Anne Groton, St. Olaf College. “All for Fun and Fun for All: Putting Plautus on Stage at St. Olaf College.”  Groton will report on her extensive experi­ence pre­s­enting plays of Plautus in a combination of Latin and English and will discuss how her model might help participants as they design their own performances.


Rhyme, Women, and Song.” In this article Groton describes how she adapts Plautus’ lyrics and writes her own melodies to create songs for her productions of Roman comedy.

7/13, Friday: Workshop with John Starks, Binghamton University.  “Make ’em Laugh (in Latin): Plautus and Humor in the ‘Original’ Language.”  Starks will discuss performing Roman comedy in its original language in a day when few potential audience members know Latin.


Selections from John H. Starks, et al., Latin Laughs: A Production of Plautus’ Poenulus. Wauconda, IL. Latin Laughs is a videotape of a production in Latin of Plautus’ play, with a manual for teachers that discusses choices to be made in such a production.

Week 4: Preparation and Final Performance on Video (7/16-20)

Faculty expert: George Fredric Franko, Hollins University),


7/16, Monday. Workshop with George Fredric Franko.  “Virtues from Necessities: Producing Plautus in Latin in Two Weeks.”  Professor Franko will reflect upon his experiences directing student productions in the Virginia Governor’s Latin Academy.  Responses to constraints can illuminate aspects of Plautine dramaturgy and allow us to speculate on the persistence of original practices.

7/17-7/19, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Videotaping.

7/20, Friday. Wrap-up meeting.