Case Study: Devising Artemisia


Mariah Freda as Artemisia in Artemisia's Intent
(Under St. Mark's - FRIGID Festival 2018)

Photo credit: Hunter Canning



The Anthropologists creates dynamic investigative theatre based on source material and research. We begin each process by examining cultural artifacts and source material using devising techniques, mining it for theatrical possibilities and dramaturgical discoveries.


Here, we track a moment in the play from the initial composition assignment to a scene in the final production.


Dinner Party (pictured above) 



Create a 30-60 second composition on the theme of the intersection of art and male power, specifically women being victimized by a man who could “make or break” her career.  Two collaborators (Melissa and Lynde) were instructed to use a portrait or engraving of Artemisia and text from her 1612 trial. The other collaborators were asked to do the inverse of this: choose a painting by Artemisia and pair it with text from a modern day trial.



Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, place setting for Artemisia Gentileschi (currently on exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum) 

 Image via The Brooklyn Museum



  • Text from Orazio Gentileschi’s 1612 trial against Agostino Tassi for the rape of his daughter and also theft of artwork; text from Artemisia Gentileschi

  • Testimony from the 2017 criminal trial against Bill Cosby; defendant Andrea Constand

Version 1

Staging: Melissa at a table setting inspired by the "Dinner Party" installation. She eats food off of a "canvas" place setting, using a paintbrush as a spoon, then eating off of the brush.

Text: "It is true. It is true, it is true, it is true. This is the ring that you give me." (Artemisia during trial, under torture - sibille.)


 Rehearsal photo of original composition by Melissa.


Version 2

Staging: Melissa dipping paintbrush into wine cup and painting canvas place setting. Movement gets more frenetic.

Text: "I don't recall how dim the lights were, but I did have to eat my dinner." (Andrea Constand)


Production Version

 Screenshot of scene in the script.



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