Hermes on the brain
June 4, 2011 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I volunteered to do some performance art with a group where I would portray a greek god, Hermes to be specific. I could use pointers and resources on how to do this successfully.

I'm going to be in a scenario where there is a lot of people playing roles from the classical era of Greek history both real and mythological. My aspect isn't scripted in the sense of someone handing me lines, it's something I can run with in any direction. I've found directions online for creating Greek clothing from the classical age, and there are representations of Hermes to be found. I need to create a visual look as well as a behavioral and spoken syntax for this that allows me to be in a performance art type of scene where things could be come low comedy, vaudeville or speechifying at the drop of the hat. Or just hanging out with the crowd as Hermes. Help me out here, hivemind. I'm in a bit of actor's block about this.
posted by diode to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A common problem with the classical Greek setting is that you get a lot of guys with similar costumes. In order to be easily recognizable as Hermes, you might want to put together a Caduceus (or maybe some winged sandals if you want free hands, though it looks a bit silly).
posted by Winnemac at 5:19 PM on June 4, 2011

A costume consisting entirely of a brass fireman helmet and a pair of Keds?
posted by Nomyte at 5:21 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Winged sandals will be enough of a tipoff for anyone with even moderate knowledge of Greek mythology.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:24 PM on June 4, 2011

Hermes also often wears wings on his hat. Winged sandals, winged hat and the stick thing - that should be all you need. Plus maybe one of those nude suits.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:30 PM on June 4, 2011

I like the idea of a performance-gear-wearing 21st-century Hermes. Winged sandals and Under Armour. Basically Lance Armstrong in this Dick's commercial. Fast and ruthless.

"We're gonna do negative splits in Hades, you mortal. The stakes of this steeplechase are Mt. Olympus, you got that? Get hungry, we're going to Athens fast."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:32 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Acting-wise, keep in mind that Hermes is quick-witted, loquacious, and tricky to the point of being downright devious. Wordplay, card-tricks, logic puzzles -- stuff like that.
posted by hermitosis at 5:37 PM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've also seen Hermes-themed tattoos, with wings on the calves and a large Caduceus down the back with wings extending onto the shoulders. Drawing on something like that might be more practical than prop wings.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:42 PM on June 4, 2011

I'd be sorely tempted to incorporate a silk tie.
posted by oddman at 7:01 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

He's a messenger, so dress like a messenger. UPS, FedEx, or even EΛTA if you need it extra Greek.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:17 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

character-wise, you might want to look at some of the actual myths -- from those, I always think of Hermes as the playful, practical joke type, so for many interactions, "get a good laugh out of this guy/at his expense" might be a plausible objective to play... also seems reliably loyal to Zeus, you might be able to work with that.
posted by paultopia at 11:11 PM on June 4, 2011

(As for spoken syntax, I'd imagine this isn't going to be very constraining, as long as it works well w/ whatever the other actors are doing. It's not like a period kind of speech thing [e.g. shakespeare], seeing as, you know, it's from another language -- I think most translations of ancient greek plays these days are into fairly ordinary contemporary English FWIW. Certainly this is true of the comedies.)
posted by paultopia at 11:17 PM on June 4, 2011

from a costume designer: nobody's looking at your feet. concentrate on the hat. hat+wings=hermes.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:43 AM on June 5, 2011

If your comedy can go this low, Hermes was often represented with his dick out. The Athenian worshippers of Hermes put busts by their doors with the god's head on a tall square base – with an erect penis mounted on the front of the base at crotch level!
posted by nicwolff at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2011

Okay, thanks for all the suggestions. I started out looking at the Mercury character in the movie 'The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.' Great outfit and lots of overacting. After reading this thread, I'm thinking purple Converse with added wings, helmet plus wings, cadeuceus on the back with wings on the costume , and perhaps a trident/cadeuceus for extra effect, all dressed in a kind of Fedex/messenger/nude suit kind of thingey. Lots of room to play with this, so thanks for the input.
posted by diode at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2011

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