Monday, November 23, 2015

Chracter* (for Character*)

According to Wikipedia, on November 23, 534 BC, "Thespis of Icaria becomes the first recorded actor to portray a character onstage." It seems that on this date "competitions for tragedy" were instituted at the City Dionysia festival in Athens. Thespis is also the name of the first collaboration between W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It premièred in London on December 26, 1871. Here, Thespis wasn't only a "character" in the, uh, thespian sense of the word, but was also a "character" in the cut-up sense. Advertised as "An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts," Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old was originally conceived as ephemeral Christmas fare. The reviews were generally poor, and though it had a fairly long run into the next spring, it was never performed again while Gilbert and Sullivan were still alive. Most of the music of Thespis is lost to time, but the opera has generated renewed interest since the 1950s, with modern versions adapting other works by Sullivan or using new scores entirely. From 534 BC until now, there have been a great many characters on stage. There are also a lot of characters (third meaning of the word!) in our library catalogs. Both of these arenas are excellent places for ideas, but they also afford plenty of opportunities to flub a line. Today's typo (which is missing a character) was found 39 times in OhioLINK, and 980 times in WorldCat.

("Gilbert and Sullivan's Thespis, near the Act I finale. While Thespis demonstrates his haughty managerial 'Don't know yah, don't know yah,' the gods appear unto the actors. All flee except Thespis, who is too busy clowning around." By Adam Cuerden, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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