focus and context, part IIIa: theatre

I am aware of the fact that it may be funny if a mathematical physicist speaks about theatre.

However while reading an article about the current state of theatre in Germany it occurred to me that I originally wanted to add “theatre” as a mean of simulation to my post about the focus and context, part III: the simulated and the real parallel.

For me one major aspect of theatre (and actually also of film, literature etc) is its role of simulating either a real or a possible situation in human existence. However in contrast to simulations like sim city (which uses e.g. macroeconomic models for a sim society) or spore, which e.g. concentrates on physical and biological models, theatre focuses often more on the psychological (and thus also cultural) parts of human life. There are computer games which involve psychological considerations, but it is (sofar) more or less hard to model a psyche (see e.g. eliza or the sims) and to provide real psychological interactions without a human mind behind it.

So theatre etc. are still an important source for humans to (re-)simulate all sorts of psychological implications, especially with respect to specific cultural and societal norms. It is thus also in principle a possible place to study rather utopian or future life forms. Moreover – looking at old theatre pieces may be a good mean to understand historical processes. But of course it is a hard task to replay old pieces in a way that they reflect the struggles at a historical time in an appropriate manner.

A piece which I saw and which stuck in my mind as giving a superb glimpse on an ancient world was Ariane Mnouchkines cycle “Les Atrides” – which were three ancient greek plays (I think I saw Iphigeneia) of one story: namely Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris and the first two parts of the Oresteia by Aeschylus.

The story is wild. It is about a father (Agamemnon) who sacrifices his daughter (Iphigeneia) to Artemis in order to proceed with a warfare. Iphigeneias mother (Klytaemnestra) takes revenge for that sacrifice and kills her husband Agamemnon and his lover Kassandra when he comes back from the warfare and finally reigns together with her lover Aeghistos until Agamemnons son (and brother of Iphigeneia) Orest kills her and her lover. Orest in turn is then chased by goddesses of revenge and so the cycle of vendetta carries on.

For a modern human there seem a lot of things in this play very ancient, like e.g. the issue of a vendetta, but in fact unfortunately vendettas seem still to take place even in nowadays Berlin.

For Ariane Mnouchkine it was interesting to discover aspects, which didn’t appear at first hand to be an issue, like the battle between ratio and emotion (incorporated in Agamemnon) or between men and women in general. These aspects were emphasized only afterwards in the reaction of the audience, as she pointed out in the below booklet.

The role of the chorus in greek tragedy as being something in between a moral institution, an explaining authority, and an element to stir emotions was of special interest for me.

atridesiphigenie.JPGIphigenie and her father Agamemnon

Chorus (Agamemnon)


atridesmnouchkine.JPGAriane Mnouchkine with actors

All images from the booklet of the play at the Berliner Festwochen 1991

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