Scene Performance

With a small group of other students, you’ll perform a scene in Latin from one of the two main comedies we’re reading, Poenulus and Amphitruo. You’ll decide whether to use masks or costumes, how to distribute parts, and other performance matters. Then, you’ll lead us through a conversation about your performance. Altogether your performance and talk-back should occupy about half an hour of class.

Throughout your work on this assignment, take care to ensure an equitable distribution of labor. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone does exactly the same thing, but it does mean that everyone steps up to take an active role, and shares their concerns with the group if it seems like some people are doing too much.


Study the Performance Archive

Before you begin working with your group, spend some time exploring the “Roman Comedy in Performance” project organized by Timothy Moore and Sharon James. Read their description of the project, and watch some of the scenes, especially scenes in Latin. Note down aspects of the performance you think you could recreate here or that worked particularly well.

Select Your Scene

As a group, select a scene from the play you’ve been assigned to (either Poenulus or Amphitruo). Don’t choose a monologue; it should be a scene with interactions between at least two characters. Here are some questions to consider as you compare different scenes:

  • Is the scene important to the overall plot or themes of the play?
  • Does the scene connect in important ways with Plautine theatrical conventions, or with the broader themes of this course?
  • Is the scene funny?
  • Will the scene benefit in particular ways from being performed, instead of just read?
  • How long will the scene take to perform? Remember that you only have half an hour, so the more you perform, the less time there is for conversation.

Plan Your Performance

Once you’ve chosen a scene, plan your performance. Allot characters, doing your best to give everyone something to do (though remember that people who don’t perform in the scene can take a larger role in the talk-back). I suggest reading through the scene in Latin together as a group before you jump into planning the details of your performance.

Here are some aspects of performance to consider as you’re planning your scene:

  • Masks: I strongly encourage you to make use of masks of some kind. You can make simple masks by cutting them out of paper and decorating them, produce something more elaborate with papier-mâché or other crafts, or even buy masks online (e.g. carnival masks). If you’d like to make masks yourself, consider drawing on the resources of the Haverford Maker Space.
  • Costume: What other aspects of costume do you want to employ? Authentic Greco-Roman palliata? The inevitable toga? Modern dress? Some other period costume?
  • Blocking: How will your characters move through the space of the classroom? Will you make use of doors? How will you stand in relation to one another and your audience? How will you use gesture, posture, and other aspects of physical motion?

You also need to give careful thought to your script. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Rehearse: You do not need to memorize your script, but you should rehearse it. You should rehearse your own lines privately until you are perfectly comfortable delivering them, and you should rehearse them as a group until you can perform them as a genuine dialogue.
  • Elision: You do not need to perform your lines in meter, but you should correctly pronounce all elisions. Consider marking these in your text, or typing up a new version without elided syllables.
  • Performance: It’s hard to perform in a mask while reading from a tiny text. Consider making larger texts, cue cards, or other tools to help you with your lines during the performance.

Plan Your Talk-Back

After the conclusion of your performance, you should plan to guide the class through a conversation about it. People who took less prominent roles in the performance itself should take on larger roles during the talk-back. Here are a few prompts to consider:

  • You might begin by talking with the class about how you planned your performance. What decisions did you find difficult? What attracted you to this scene? What ended up working or not working? What were you most proud of?
  • Make a point of involving the class in conversation. You don’t need to ask them to evaluate your performance; instead, develop discussion questions that will help us think through the ways your performance improves our appreciation of the play.
  • You can give the talk-back as much or as little structure as you want (see the Scholarship Presentation instructions for some suggested structures), but you should have a clear plan. Don’t just finish your performance and say “What did you think?” Have a plan in place to foster conversation.


On the day of your performance, you’ll have about half an hour of class time to make use of. You can make some introductory remarks, you’ll put on your scene, and then you’ll lead us through a talk-back.

As presenters, be thoughtful about how you’re using your time and involving the class. As audience members, be appreciative of the risks your fellow students take when they perform for you, and show that appreciation with enthusiastic involvement in the talk-back.

If you need things like music, lighting, slides, or other technical support for your performance, be sure to make arrangements with me in advance.


Within one week of your performance, email me a brief (300-600 words) process letter in which you reflect on the work you did. Consider some of the following prompts:

  • What did you learn through planning and executing this performance?
  • What do you hope the class learned?
  • How did the group share the labor of this assignment? What steps did you take to ensure an equitable distribution of work?
  • Now that you’ve performed Plautus yourself, how will you read his comedies differently in the future?