In recent blogs we talked about Classical Greek Drama – especially the works of the most famous tragedian Euripides and the comedy writer Aristophanes, and how successful their plays were when performed at the prestigious Dionysus festival. One wonders how they might have fared today. Euripides’ plays were always considered a little too radical, often using strong women characters to have, perhaps, a too-close-to-the edge pop at the Establishment.
Aristophanes plays were often considered too bawdy. Would producers in the 21st century have been keen to stage him if, as in LYSISTRATA, he introduced actors wearing phalloi (false penises) to simulate huge erections by the men desperate for sex after the women of Athens had banned the activity until the men agreed to peace (Though some recent productions have been brave enough to take this option).
And how did you get produced anyway? Like today there were barriers you needed to overcome. You looked for good contacts with local theatre companies or influential producers able to submit work successfully to the festivals for performance.
A writer would have first of all needed to ‘hire’ trained slaves (called scribes) to copy them out by hand. The scripts would have been in scroll form, with pages pasted end to end rather than bound between covers. Later, In Rome, the copying became more of an industry with the advent of scriptoriums where groups of slaves copied out books. This procedure was obviously very labour-intensive, which is why books were rare and expensive up until the development of printing presses.
Barriers to publishing still exist of course but are more ‘prejudiced’ than practical. If you’ve written something and submit to a publishing house it is likely, if you are lucky, it will be read by someone spotty and shallow, fresh out of a Cambridge who has been instructed to routinely reject it and write you a nice pre-scripted letter saying ‘thanks but we get lots of these and we can’t take any more stuff on at the moment.’
One alternative to the normal publishing journey is to consider self-publishing. Have a regular look at the i-Witness Facebook and Twitter pages. We are looking for work that sails close to the edge – that dares to be different. We’ll also offer help with editing and formatting for channels such as Kindle and amazon.