Young actors tackle ancient comedy in latest offering from TheatreAC
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
One of the earliest plays ever written gets new life beginning Thursday at Amarillo College.
TheaterAC student actors will tackle Pseudolus, a comedy believed to have been written around 191 B.C., in performances set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the AC Experimental Theatre on the Washington Street campus. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors.
In the play, written by Titus Maccius Plautus, the slave Pseudolus (played by Joseph Hansen) tries to help his young master, Calidorus (Harrison Blount), prevent the sale of a young, virginal prostitute, Phoenicium (Tatyana Alexander), with whom he is in love. Her pimp, Ballio (Jason Driver), is a corrupt, abusive master, but Pseudolus doesn't have the money to buy the slave girl's freedom, much less his own.
Comic archetypes like the clever slave and greedy bosses were developed in such plays. (Pseudolus, in fact, later inspired A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.)
"They are the original stock characters, who other comedic characters are based on," said guest director Richie Garza, AC recruitment coordinator and former longtime high school theater director.
The script offers only the dialogue, Garza said, not any kind of stage directions that modern works always include.
"Pretty much all of the stage directions are my idea; it's all what I envisioned when I read the show," Garza said. "That gave more freedom to the actors. I said, just go for it and we'll tweak it as we go along."
That's been an exciting challenge for actors like Hansen, an 18-year-old freshman who is tackling his first-ever leading role.
"It leaves a lot of room that we can fill in with our own blocking and reactions," Hansen said.
He said he initially expected the script to be more like the Greek tragedies with which he was more familiar.
"I've never been in or seen any Greek comedies, so I was very intrigued," he said. "I read the script and was busting out laughing."