Discovering Ilium

Last weekend was our first big rehearsal for the Iliad. We called it a rehearsal weekend but really it was more a workshop, a space to explore and experiment and really delve deeper into the text, rather than practicing lines. We were asked to prepare about five minutes of our segments and then each had about half an hour during which we were pulled and pushed (even physically) out of our heads and into our bodies to better feel what was happening in the story. And it worked.

One thing that I was asked to do was to imagine a backpack that was placed before me was the armour of Achilles and that I was Hector, putting it on and presenting myself before the armies of Troy and her allies to inspire them back into the battle. I knelt down in front of the bag, picturing the engraving on the armour and the fine workmanship, a symbol that struck such fear into the men of Troy that now would be turned against the Greeks and Achilles himself. Then I picked it up, stood up and put it on. Then I was asked to walk around the circle of tellers so that they could see Hector in that armour. As I circled before them, urging them on to battle, they started to stand and then fall in line behind me, eager for the fight.

There were many moments like this, such as when the ghost of Patroclus appears to Achilles and Achilles mourns again that he shall never hold his friend, or after Hector is killed and Andromache reflects on the fate that lies before her as a slave once Troy falls, as it surely must. It made for an intense weekend, and a rather draining one, but our tale shall be all the stronger for it.

In some cases these exercises brought to light a new perspective on a moment in the story. For example, I commented in my last post about my passage where Zeus watches Hector putting on Achilles’ armour and Zeus states that Hector is doomed to die in battle. What came out for me more in this was Zeus’ pity. He starts, “Unhappy man. Little knowing how close you are to death…” It’s a line that applies not just to Hector in this moment but to all of mankind. In the eyes of the immortal gods, the lives of mortal men are but brief flashes. What I saw emerge this weekend is that, in the eyes of Zeus, the lives of all men are filled with pointless suffering, and his pity for them. Throughout the Iliad you see the other gods and goddesses siding with the Greeks or Trojans, or one man over another, and even fighting with each other for their fate. But not Zeus. He does not toy with man in the ways that other gods do, but must weigh instead the desires of gods, so much larger than man.

There are so many layers within the text to play with and so many angles. There will still be a lot of work in taking all these things that we played with this weekend and applying them to the remainder of our respective texts, as well as simply learning the rest of the lines. We should have the chance to work with the directors again as well as in the smaller groups of our sets. The next big, full-weekend rehearsal is in late May, which will be our dress rehearsal and the chance to double check that all the pieces fit and flow together.

But for now I will need to shift out of Troy and make my way over to Britain to find King Arthur and legendary excalibur in time for my Tea Party show with Marie on March 11.

A few fellow tellers have blogged about the weekend.
Marie Bilodeau:
2Women Productions:
and Kate Hunt went into more detail about the first meeting and the great war-cry as well as preparing for the rehearsal weekend: