Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Helen Queen of Sparta: Scenes

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About the scene and clip:
The clips are taken from scenes of Theodora Skipitares’s production of Helen Queen of Sparta. Puppets of various kinds, storyboards, and other multi-media approaches to performance are used in this representation of material drawn from classical Greek epic, drama, and myth. We have included this clip as part of our concern with analogous traditions. It offers an innovative handling of important material drawn from Ancient Greek narrative and drama.

About the work:
Helen Queen of Sparta is based on the Iliad (attributed to Homer), Euripides’ play Helen, and other classical texts.

About the genre:
The epic is an ancient genre and is found in almost every culture. It is a long heroic narrative which tells of war and great deeds. Epics are generally composed in verse, and sung from memory or improvised in performance by professional performers with instrumental accompaniment. These narratives are created from traditional elements, commonly without recourse to writing, by poets whose names are often unknown to us. Among the famous traditional epics are the Iliad and the Odyssey, attributed to Homer; the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf; and the Old French Song of Roland. Many known poets adopt epic forms and themes for their literary verse (such as Virgil in his Aeneid).

About the edition/translation:
Text written by Theodora Skipitares (based on the Iliad, Euripides’ Helen, and other classical texts); music and sound design by Tim Schellenbaum.

About the performer/ensemble:
Theodora Skipitares is a visual artist and theater director who examines social and historical themes using many types of puppet figures. These puppets are the “performers” in large-scale works that include live music, film, video, and documentary texts. Among her works are “Age of Invention,” an examination of three centuries of American invention featuring 300 puppets, and “Optic Fever,” an exploration of Renaissance artists and their new way of seeing. The performers are collaborators of Theodora Skipitares.

About the production:
This video is an abridged version of a film made during a performance of Helen Queen of Sparta at La Mama Theatre in New York in February 2003. The video was produced by Kay Hines.