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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Latin Play celebrates classics and cookies in 'Mostellaria

By Kelin Loe
Opinion Editor


Friday, March 14, 2008

For the past 32 years, Professor Anne Groton has directed the Latin play for the St. Olaf Classics Department. The show runs biannually and tours colleges, high schools, middle and elementary schools. The play chosen this year, "Mostellaria," or, "The Haunted House," showed Friday and Saturday night this past weekend.

Written by Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254-184 BC), "Mostellaria" is one 20 surviving plays out of Plautus' 100 comedies. Plautus probably based "Mostellaria" on "Phasma," a Greek play written by Philemon (c. 360-262 BC).

n fact, Plautus left the play set in Greece, even though the characters speak Latin. Well, the characters from last weekend's performance spoke English, with some Latin thrown in. If the point of the performance was to raise Latin to conversational status, I'm afraid Latin remains dead, at least auditorally. However, the spirit of Ancient Greece definitely rose again. However, it did not manifest in the spoken Latin.

The students presented their own interpretation of the play, in English. Sometimes they would throw in Latin lines, quickly followed by the translation. Other times, the Latin would stand on its own, a joke for the learned. And, to highlight the more lengthy Latin lines, Professor Groton set the lyrics to music. Often, the audience was invited to sing a printed translation along with the players.

While the key was often challenging for the non-sopranos in the crowd, the music actually enhanced the performance's authenticity. "Mostellaria" is constructed in verse, with sections intended for singing.

In an ancient performance, a double-reed instrument would have provided accompaniment. Last weekend's performance included an oboe representation of this sound. While the Latin interjections and musical structure surely enhanced the play's Latin essence, they did not generate any feeling to take my imagination off the Hill.

The student's interpretation of the plot did success in transferring the show's atmosphere back to the shores of ancient Greece. The players wrote and preformed in such a way that plot recaptured the essence of the time: a slave's relation to their master, a master's relation to their neighbor, the general plight to out smart the guy next to you. They portrayed these behaviors well, an impressive feat for a colloquial adaptation.

Overall, the show was crackingly entertaining. The humor focused largely on puns. But, as with humor based on repetition, each pun was funnier than the last. The comedy also focused on addictive puella cookies, "Girl Scout Cookies," which represented suspicious substances.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at this St. Olaf institution. And I must admit, I found it refreshing to attend a non-traditional tradition.





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