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A Proposal for a Theater Museum: Staging the Fragments of Greek and Roman Drama Timothy Richard Wutrich The proposal I am introducing here is imaginative but not ironic. The theme suggested itself to me while I was concluding a large project in comparative drama which necessitated my dealing with a large amount of fragmentary, yet "canonical" material. A commonplace of classical scholarship is that in dealing with the civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome one is confronted with incomplete evidence. Things that would potentially interest us—e.g., a complete text by any ofthe pre-Socratic philosophers , or Phidias' statue of Athena for the Parthenon, or a complete tragic trilogy other than the Oresteia—do not exist. The scholar's job is to start with the scraps that remain and reconstruct from the fragments a picture which will enable others to understand hypothetically what subjects Empedokles probably focused upon in his philosophy, how Roman statuary makes us aware of Phidias' genius, and how the great Attic playwrights possibly crafted tragic trilogies. In the first two instances, classicists have been persistently bold and daring, unafraid to take risks for the sake of making advancements in our knowledge. We cannot at present be certain what any of the pre-Socratic philosophers thought; there is simply not enough complete evidence. Yet scholars have taken the risk and reconstructed philosophical systems and biographical sketches of the great thinkers before Plato, and they have done this to our benefit. Building on the work of Hermann Diels and Walther Kranz,1 G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven have edited a highly influential work on the early Greek thinkers.2 Jonathan Barnes has more recently offered his reading and arrangement of the fragments.3 Scholars and artists dealing with the plastic arts have also been bold in attempting to reconstruct missing pieces in Greek art. The Laöcoön group, rediscovered in Rome in 1506, was reconstructed during the Italian Renaissance; modern archaeological research tells us the reconstruction is in466 Timothy Richard Wutrich467 correct. Even more dramatically, the marble figures on the pediments of the Aeginetan Temple of Aphaia underwent two major restorations and arrangements during the nineteenth century before being arranged yet again in the condition in which they are currently displayed in the Glyptothek in Munich.4 Both the Laöco ön group and the Aeginetan temple statuary stand as brilliant testimony to artistic reconstruction which is unafraid to take risks but which is based on careful research and artistic mastery. Why, then, has research and production in classical drama dealt so timidly , so dispassionately with its fragmentary masterpieces? To be sure, valuable work has been done in gathering the known fragments of Greek5 and Roman drama.6 Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that successful and imaginative attempts have been made to restore the fragments of ancient Greek comedy, particularly the comedy of Menander, for which substantial fragments are extant. Menander's restored comedies have even seen production, and one mightjustly reply that any attempt to stage classical drama is a reconstructive endeavor. Aside from the fact that we have only one trilogy (and this trilogy is missing its satyr play), we have none of the music,7 and have only vague ideas about the dance activities of the chorus. Yet, what I would like to argue is that in our persistent lament for the lack of complete ancient texts for the stage, we have missed a resource that has been put only to the most modest uses—i.e., the fragments themselves. What I propose to set forth in this paper is a proposal for a "theater museum" in which the fragments of Greek and Roman tragedy would be reconstructed not only to fill gaps in the mythological record, or to add to our linguistic information,8 but also to serve as nuclei for actual theater pieces. By the term 'theater museum' I do not have in mind a building, although the concept of an American center for ancient theater research with a reconstructed or reconstructible archaic, classical, Hellenistic, Republican , and Imperial theater is an intriguing thought, perhaps the topic for a future essay. The theater museum I envision will exist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 466-477
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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