?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Judges for Greek Plays were Randomly Selected

« previous entry | next entry »
Aug. 21st, 2010 | 03:41 pm

When folks criticize the competitive nature of the poetry slam, I often mention Greek classical theatre as an example of a competition that inspired artistic excellence. I always assumed that these competitions were judged by some panel of experts, clerics, or former playwrights. Nope. These competitions were judged by randomly selected citizens, not unlike the slam.

The Athenians were much more interested in creating a panel of unbiased judges, than a panel of experts. If you were a citizen of any of the ten tribes of Athens, in good standing, and didn’t have any special relationship to the playwrights themselves, then you could be selected as a judge.

Even after the ten judges had ranked the playwrights, their ballots were placed in a urn. Five were drawn and used to make the final decision; the other five were destroyed. Another use of random selection to insure fairness, although this might also have been done to protect the judges themselves. If a judge was cornered by an outraged spectator, they could always say their vote wasn’t drawn and the results weren’t their fault.

From The Making of Theatre History by Paul Kuritz (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988):

Later in the day the city council met with the choregoi [1] to begin the selection of judges. Ten lists of judges from among the ten Athenian tribes were deposited in ten urns, one for each tribe. Sealed and deposited under guard in the Acropolis, the urns were protected by a sentence of death to anyone who tampered with them. On the first day of the festival, the urns were placed in the Theatre of Dionysis, the site of the performances, before all whose names were in the urns. The archon [2] drew one name from each urn; each of these ten judges took a solemn oath to render an impartial verdict.

[1] The choregoi were wealthy citizens who paid a part of the cost for theater productions. It was considered a form of public service.

[2] The archon, or archon eponynus, was Athen’s chief civil magistrate, essentially he was the managing director of the City Dionysia festival, the competition where most of the greatest works of Greek drama were staged.

Link | Leave a comment |

Comments {10}

(no subject)

from: icecreamemperor
date: Aug. 21st, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Link


I wonder how significantly the scores would change if slam were judged anonymously -- or as semi-anonymously, at least, as described. Among other things, judges wouldn't know what scores the other judges were giving.

Reply | Thread

faust_mckenzie

(no subject)

from: faust_mckenzie
date: Aug. 23rd, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
Link

Not sure how it would change things, or if it would make them more honest. In some ways, I like the personal aspect of it. And I like booing them. I guess the biggest concern is that it would slow down the slam... although I suppose this is the 21st century, and you could figure out a way for the judges to instantly tweet their scores, which could be read anonymously by the host. Possible, yes, but booing anonymous scores wouldn't be half as fun.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: icecreamemperor
date: Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
Link

It's true that the lack of booing would be a bummer, but it would be interesting at least from an experimental perspective. This post also made me wonder whether anyone had created a statistical model/analysis of score creep. Or, really, kept any kind of comprehensive scoring/judging statistics. All in all it will have to be filed under 'something semi-scientifically interesting I wish somebody else would go through the trouble of doing, because I cannot myself be arsed to.'

Reply | Parent | Thread

faust_mckenzie

(no subject)

from: faust_mckenzie
date: Aug. 23rd, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
Link

The only statistical study I know of was done at NPS in the team format. They kept records of how teams in the A,B,C, and D slots did respectively. It was the B-slot that proved to be the worst, not surprisingly, because you had to go first in the second round, so you could easily have 2 poems before the flash point hits. I think NPS may have adjusted its rotation for team bouts because of that study. Not sure though. No studies done in an indies bout that I know of.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: icecreamemperor
date: Aug. 23rd, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
Link

Yeah -- ideally you'd want to get enough data to track scores on a team-specific or even piece-specific level, to see if there's anything going on beyond just 'you want to be after it starts'. Does score creep peak and then decline, or is it simply a straight line upwards, etc. Kind of makes me think of stock market analysis (sadly) -- stocks operate with upper and lower bounds, until something prompts them to 'break through' to a higher or lower level, at which point they go back to fluctuating between their new upper/lower limits. Sounds a lot like slam scoring, except of course that there are really only two levels -- generous (7-9) and crazy (9-10).

Reply | Parent | Thread

Twisted Bonsai Tree

(no subject)

from: stefan11
date: Aug. 22nd, 2010 02:24 am (UTC)
Link

the question still remains: how do ten judges selected from "among the ten Athenian tribes" compare to five judges selected from among drunken patrons of a bar?

Reply | Thread

faust_mckenzie

(no subject)

from: faust_mckenzie
date: Aug. 22nd, 2010 05:45 am (UTC)
Link

The similarity is that they both result in a random cross-section of the citizenry who were attending a cultural event. The ancient Greeks did not have the magistrate appoint a jury of the most cultured, or most wise, to judge the competition. They believed that a more appropriate set of judges would be found through random selection of citizens. Even their method of having some representation from each tribe is mimicked by the poetry slam where boutmasters always try to get judges of different genders, ethnic backgrounds and ages. Their judging methodology shows an amazing similarity to the way that poetry slams operate!

Reply | Parent | Thread

Christian Drake

(no subject)

from: johnnylexicon
date: Aug. 22nd, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
Link

Considered a form of public service? Judging plays was sort of like jury duty, then.

This was enlightening. Thank you!

Reply | Thread

monkeypudding

(no subject)

from: monkeypudding
date: Aug. 22nd, 2010 09:22 am (UTC)
Link

I read this with 10 other people looking over my shoulder we all agreed that we enjoyed shishkabob to varying degrees.

Reply | Thread

Shannon

(no subject)

from: shannons_words
date: Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Link

:)

Reply | Parent | Thread