Several days have passed since Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, was assassinated by his wife and her lover Aegisthus (his cousin) in his castle at Argos. Reporters and curious onlookers have flocked to the scene of the crime.

Breaking News

Before working on this, students should watch a cable news channel and see how it's structured. Study in detail the questions and answers between the anchor and the reporter on the scene. Notice how they say each other's names to show they've finished speaking, and how it takes a moment before the question reaches the reporter's headphone. If you are an anchorwoman notice the show of legs and tight dresses. Even without the sexy clothes hold yourselves as if you were wearing a short, tight dress (legs crossed to the side, back straight). Notice the guests almost always have their hands crossed on the table.

On one side of the stage is a long table and three chairs facing the audience, for the anchor and guest speakers. Center stage is the imaginary castle. The public will know its a castle by the way the tourists, reporter and cameraperson act and speak.

For the histoy of the Curse check futher down this page

A tour guide passes holding a flag (Right here, behind these very doors, is where King...) to tourists (real or imaginary.) The guide narrates briefly the "Curse of the House of Atreus". While speaking the guide never looks at the tourists who are following. In how many ways can the story be interpreted? Matter of fact or enjoying and embellishing the gory details? The real tourists will have the same reactions: curiosity, disgust, horror... They exit.

In the meantime the anchor sits and waits, immobile, facing an imaginary camera. Suddenly he/she smiles, thanks the viewers for watching KFGC.....and presents the "continued coverage of the Murder of King Agamemnon" only on KFGC News.

While the anchor speaks tourists walk onstage up to the castle walls, take pictures and check their maps. They exit or linger.

Research the geographic location of Argos

The anchor calls on the reporter stationed in Argos. The cameraperson walks onstage backwards, followed by the reporter. He/she stands center stage and explains where he is: Behind me is the castle of Argos... or...I'm standing in front of the castle where King Agamemnon was killed only two days ago.... Talk about the weather: It's hard to imagine such a terrible tragedy on such a beautiful day, or The weather is in keeping with the general atmophere after the assasination that occured behind me two days ago...

Bring up the irony of a man who survived a ten year war in Troy, only to die the minute he got home. Give some family history. 

The anchor asks questions about the city and the reporter gives a geographic description (pointing to an invisible map behind him/her) of Argos, Troy, Mycenae and the Mediterranean.

Guest speakers A and B are seated and introduced. A is a specialist, lived in Mycenae and wrote a book (that is plugged by the anchor) on Argos.  The anchor asks what the consequences could be for the region. He/she speaks of the grudge Aegisthus held against his cousin Agamemnon

The anchorperson calls on the reporter, who interviews some tourists on their impressions.

Guest speaker B, a specialist in behavior, is asked about Agamemnon's children. Orestes has disappeared from Argos after the murder. We don't know yet what will happen to Electra and her sister Chrysothemis who, unlike Electra, is taking the situation calmly. The specialist predicts she will move on while Electra will not, and may be considered a threat to her mother and her lover, already planning their coronation. 

Just as the anchor is thanking the guests the reporter and camera "hear" a loud noise. They hit the ground and look back at the castle. While one is trying to film the other speaks in hushed, intense tones to describe the sound and the commotion.

The anchor announces a commercial break, recommends the reporter and camera to stay safe and promises the viewers more after the break on the surprising turn of events at Argos.

Station Identification

Observe and classify commercials into catagories: Fitness, weight loss, fast foods, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, toyjs, the military.... Study the structure, for example the way pharmaceutical companies describe the side effects of their products.

The Interview

Two journalists want to get into Agamemnon's castle to find out more about the son's escape after his father was killed.

Two chairs

The journalists A and B see a guard and decide to bribe him/her but they are afraid the guard may be honest and decide to arrest them. How do they approach the guard? Discuss the options in low tones,pros and cons before deciding to divide the roles. Pretend to be tourists and ask directions, A suggests a gift to see the inside of the castle, while B pretends to be outraged at the idea. The guard is open to the concept of a bribe but waits until they actually offer him money before agreeing.

At the appointed hour the guard meets the journalists and leads them to two servants (cousins) and leaves. (Where do they meet, in the kitchen, a garden, a hallway...? What are the cousins doing?)

The cousins give them a detailed description of Orestes being hustled out of the palace to hide in a boat. They act out the scene because they don't speak the language well. In reality neither was there but they improvise a story, feeding off each other for ideas.

Electra appears on one side of the stage, still in shock over her father's murder. She hears them speaking and hides behind the "door".

As soon as the journalists pay the cousins for the information the guard appears with two (imaginary) soldiers to arrest them. The journalists "watch", terrified, as the soldiers approach. They're handcuffed and are "pulled" offstage. The guard gives the cousins money and leaves. Electra follows him.

The cousins figure if they can save the journalists they'll get paid a third time, but cannot come up with a plan. They do not hear Electra appear behind them. She reassures them she's willing to help rescue the journalists. They sneak back and forth a few times on and offstage, each time in a different pose, all with the same movements.

This scene can be timed so the final result is a choreography. Actors go over each of their movements individually and count the number of seconds from one action to the next. Then fit them with the other actors so it's coordinated.

The trio reaches the (imaginary) door where the journalists are prisoners, and hide behind an (imaginary) wall to observe the two soldiers (Are the soldiers standing or sitting, do they talk about family and salaries, play cards, sleep...?) The trio does not dare speak and communicates as if in a charade (Electra takes charge and shares her plan. he makes the cousins understand they're to wait, points to herself, walks two fingers in the air.... The cousins are only too happy to comply)

Electra walks down the hall, passes the door and faints. The soldiers try to lift her but she's a deadweight, making it impossible to get her to sit in a chair .She lifts an (imaginary) key off a soldier and slides it to the cousins. They sneak down the hall, pick up the key, fiddle with the lock. The cousin that doesn't have the key has his/her back against the (imaginary) wall, terrified. The door opens, they slip through and close the door just as the soldiers look up. Electra does her best to keep them occupied, she screams in pain.

The door opens with the journalists and the cousins filing out, walking sideways their backs against the wall. They forget to close the door,  sneak back as a unit (same foot movements) to close it and head offstage. Every time a soldier looks up they freeze.

Write an overview of the crime in a few sentences under the title: Sad Day for Citizens of Argos (or something similar).

Start the article with one or two sentences that will make the reader curious. Write an article for a tabloid: Agamemnon Assassinated by Wife and Lover!

While one actor reads the history of the curse other actors mime. This has to be rehearsed and performed very quickly, as a choreography with second pauses between each action.

Aeschylus' Agamemnon

First of three plays in the Oresteia Trilogy
performed in 458 BC.

  The following improvisations can be adapted to any story. I'm using Agamemnon because it is first on the list of summaries.
The Curse of the House of Atreus

The curse begins with Agamemnon and Aegisthus' grandfather Tantalus who serves his son Pelops (stewed) to the gods, who are horrified when they find out they almost ate the boy.

As punishment Zeus has him tied to a pole forever hungry and thirsty in front of tantalizing refreshments. The gods bring Pelops back to life; a piece of shoulder that had been tasted is replaced with ivory.

Pelops marries Hippodamia, which was no easy task. Her father Oenomaus has an unhealthy relationship with his daughter and already killed eighteen previous suitors in rigged chariot races. Pelops and Hippodamia plot to rig the next race and Pelops wins. Oenomaus will not survive his wounds and his last words are to continue the curse on Pelops’ house.

Pelops and Hippodamia have two sons, Atreus and Thyestes, and a daughter Nikippe. Pelops also has a son with a Nymph, Chrysippos, his favorite. Hippodamia, jealous, convinces Atreus and Thyestes to kill him. After the fact they go to Mycenae where king Stehenelos is married to Nikippe. It’s believed Hippodamia kills herself there. The brothers eventually take the throne of Mycenae, after their sister's son Eurystheus is killed at war.

Atreus marries Aerope (daughter of King Catreus of Crete) and fathers two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus (future husband of Helen).

Unfortunately Aerope falls in love with brother-in-law Thyestes and betrays her husband. When Atreus (the affronted husband) discovers the affair he kills his nephews and serves them to his brother for dinner.

Thyestes, banished from Mycenae, visits the oracle who tells him he will have a son by his daughter Pelopia who will kill his brother. Ashamed, Pelopia abandons her infant son Aegisthus. He’s found by a shepherd and Atreus raises him. When Aegisthus is grown Thyestes tells him the horrible thing Atreus did to his nephews, and Aegisthus kills him, vowing revenge on his children.   

Atreus' son Agamemnon marries Clytemnestra, daughter of the king and queen of Sparta (Helen’s half-sister). They have one son, Orestes, and three daughters, Iphigenia, Electra and Chrysothemis.

Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to set sail for Troy. When he returns to Argos he's assassinated by his wife with the help of her lover, his cousin Aegisthus.

In retaliation Orestes and Electra kill their mother and her lover. The curse ends when Orestes is exonerated in front of a jury, and the godess Athena decrees that from then on disputes will be settled in court.