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June Epstein , Marjorie Howden

The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13

YEAR: 1951

COUNTRY: Australia

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Title of the work

The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13

Country of the First Edition

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

1951

First Edition Details

June Epstein, The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13. Melbourne: Robertson and Mullins Ltd, 1951, 92 pp.

Genre

Drama
Illustrated works
Instructional and educational work
Mythological fiction

Target Audience

Children (age 11-13)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au, brom_ken@bigpond.net.au

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, ehale@une.edu.au

Lisa Maurice, Bar-Ilan University, lisa.maurice@biu.ac.il

Female portrait

June Epstein , 1918 - 2004
(Author)

Writer, June (Sadie) Epstein was born on June 29th, 1918 in Perth, Western Australia. After finishing school at the age of seventeen she was the first person in Australia to be awarded a three year scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London. In 1936 she undertook a teacher’s diploma at Trinity College. However, her studies for the Bachelor of Music were interrupted in 1940 by World War 11. She returned to Australia to work for the Australian Broadcasting Company as a recitalist and on ABC children’s educational programmes. From 1946-1949 she was Director of Music at Melbourne Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, which is when she wrote and produced this work. 

The Nine Muses is Epstein’s first published work. She went on to publish more than fifty works in a variety of genres, including short stories and plays written for children as well as biographies and her autobiography. Her writing and publishing career has been significantly informed by her personal experience as the parent of a young child who became severely disabled after he contracted encephalitis and another child who died of a brain tumour. Active with people with disabilities, Epstein was awarded an Order of Australia in 1986 for her service to the arts and the welfare of people with disabilities.



Bio prepared by Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au,  brom_ken@bigpond.net.au


Female portrait

Marjorie Howden , 1911 - 1988
(Illustrator)

Illustrator, Marjorie Howden, was born in 1911 in Melbourne, Victoria. 

The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13 by Joan Epstein includes one illustration by Howden, a black ink drawing of The Nine Muses, holding their props, centred around Apollo. Howden’s work is associated with the contemporary approach to learning in the 1950s which embraced full colour illustrations in class readers for first and second grade children, such as the John and Betty early readers. Typically, works for older readers such as The Nine Muses were more sparsely illustrated, often in black ink drawings. 


Bio prepared by Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au  brom_ken@bigpond.net.au


Summary

A playscript about Ancient Greece that brings classical composers to Mount Olympus for child performers and audiences. Includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of classical music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians. 

The prologue of The Nine Muses summarises the play’s action. Greek characters are incorporated with the classical composers, Beethoven, Bach, Handel and an unknown musician as they argue about who should be honoured in the great concert hall. Apollo, the god of song and music is called upon to adjudicate. He calls on the Nine Muses to assist with choosing the greatest musician. Musical interludes allow the composers’ works to be aired, sometimes accompanied by dance. Finally, Music itself is awarded the greatest honour. 

The props of the players reference iconic associations: Apollo, a lyre; Hermes, rod with wings and twisted snakes, winged helmet; Calliope, tablet and stylus: Erato, lyre; Thalia, comic mask, staff, ivy wreath; Terpischore, a lyre or garlands for her dance; Melpomene, tragic mask and sword, wreath of vine leaves; Euterpe, flute; Urania, staff and globe; Clio, scroll of paper; Pallas Athanea, helmet shield and golden staff. 

The Muses educe and obviously enjoy a wide range of music, including traditional folk songs, classical, sacred, as well as the Faery Song from the modernist opera The Immortal Hour by Rutland Boughton (1912). The latter has intertextual references to the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. The Muses’ refusal to align themselves with any one composer and nominate the best musician sustains the dramatic tension in the play. 

The work includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians.

Analysis

The production of The Nine Muses by a small publisher of locally produced books was reflective of the post war educational and artistic renaissance in Australia. Educators perceived a need to introduce children to the wider world of cultural experience, which included the classical stories of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome and recognised the universality of the characters and their predicaments. Parallels or inspirations by Aristophanes’ Frogs are part of the play.

The Nine Muses is published in a collection of five plays in the series Mullins’ Plays for children for production by upper primary and lower secondary school children. The dialogue of “The Nine Muses” adopts an archaic, formal discourse associated with antiquity and serious discussion amongst characters. Movement is static, with the exception of some dancing and singing performances. Music used in the original 1947 school production is listed at the end of the play. 

In the post-war period primary school teachers were expected to play the piano and secondary schools encouraged school choirs. (Saxby, 2002, pp 742-744). “The Nine Muses” potentially includes a range of performers as actors, musicians, and chorus. The drama offers a segue to Greek mythology and musical repertoire. 

Included in the anthology are “The Secret Plans” in which a schoolboy delivers secret documents so that “total war’ might be avoided. “Adventures in Bush Valley” has a specifically Australian setting in which children capture an escaped convict. “The Boy Sebastian” depicts the jealous relationship between older brother Christopher Bach and his younger brother, Sebastian, a child prodigy. “The Nightingale” is an adaptation of the story by Hans Christian Anderson. Hence, local dramas are presented alongside traditional European stories and classical mythology. 

Apart from the bush adventure, the anthology reinforced English models in many of the plays published in Britain. All plays are set for the proscenium stage, typical of school halls across Australia. In the educational context of the era, the plays form part of the syllabus, intended for special occasions and school assemblies.  The foreword, by Principal of Melbourne Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Dorothy Jane Ross endorses the plays as “…a method of learning by doing, by research, by discussion, and, above all, by co-operation…To invoke the Muses has always been the joy of youth”.


Further Reading

Saxby, Maurice, Images of Australia: A History of Australian Children’s Literature, 1941-1970, Sydney, Scholastic, 2002.

Addenda

Playscript:

The Nine Muses (pp 80 – 91) gives the title to the collection but it is the only play in the collection with a classical theme.

A playscript about Ancient Greece that brings classical composers to Mount Olympus for child performers and audiences. Includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of classical music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians. 

Yellow cloud
Leaf pattern
Leaf pattern

Title of the work

The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13

Country of the First Edition

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

1951

First Edition Details

June Epstein, The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13. Melbourne: Robertson and Mullins Ltd, 1951, 92 pp.

Genre

Drama
Illustrated works
Instructional and educational work
Mythological fiction

Target Audience

Children (age 11-13)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au, brom_ken@bigpond.net.au

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, ehale@une.edu.au

Lisa Maurice, Bar-Ilan University, lisa.maurice@biu.ac.il

Female portrait

June Epstein (Author)

Writer, June (Sadie) Epstein was born on June 29th, 1918 in Perth, Western Australia. After finishing school at the age of seventeen she was the first person in Australia to be awarded a three year scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London. In 1936 she undertook a teacher’s diploma at Trinity College. However, her studies for the Bachelor of Music were interrupted in 1940 by World War 11. She returned to Australia to work for the Australian Broadcasting Company as a recitalist and on ABC children’s educational programmes. From 1946-1949 she was Director of Music at Melbourne Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, which is when she wrote and produced this work. 

The Nine Muses is Epstein’s first published work. She went on to publish more than fifty works in a variety of genres, including short stories and plays written for children as well as biographies and her autobiography. Her writing and publishing career has been significantly informed by her personal experience as the parent of a young child who became severely disabled after he contracted encephalitis and another child who died of a brain tumour. Active with people with disabilities, Epstein was awarded an Order of Australia in 1986 for her service to the arts and the welfare of people with disabilities.



Bio prepared by Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au,  brom_ken@bigpond.net.au


Female portrait

Marjorie Howden (Illustrator)

Illustrator, Marjorie Howden, was born in 1911 in Melbourne, Victoria. 

The Nine Muses: Five Plays for Ages 11 to 13 by Joan Epstein includes one illustration by Howden, a black ink drawing of The Nine Muses, holding their props, centred around Apollo. Howden’s work is associated with the contemporary approach to learning in the 1950s which embraced full colour illustrations in class readers for first and second grade children, such as the John and Betty early readers. Typically, works for older readers such as The Nine Muses were more sparsely illustrated, often in black ink drawings. 


Bio prepared by Margaret Bromley, University of New England, mbromle5@une.edu.au  brom_ken@bigpond.net.au


Summary

A playscript about Ancient Greece that brings classical composers to Mount Olympus for child performers and audiences. Includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of classical music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians. 

The prologue of The Nine Muses summarises the play’s action. Greek characters are incorporated with the classical composers, Beethoven, Bach, Handel and an unknown musician as they argue about who should be honoured in the great concert hall. Apollo, the god of song and music is called upon to adjudicate. He calls on the Nine Muses to assist with choosing the greatest musician. Musical interludes allow the composers’ works to be aired, sometimes accompanied by dance. Finally, Music itself is awarded the greatest honour. 

The props of the players reference iconic associations: Apollo, a lyre; Hermes, rod with wings and twisted snakes, winged helmet; Calliope, tablet and stylus: Erato, lyre; Thalia, comic mask, staff, ivy wreath; Terpischore, a lyre or garlands for her dance; Melpomene, tragic mask and sword, wreath of vine leaves; Euterpe, flute; Urania, staff and globe; Clio, scroll of paper; Pallas Athanea, helmet shield and golden staff. 

The Muses educe and obviously enjoy a wide range of music, including traditional folk songs, classical, sacred, as well as the Faery Song from the modernist opera The Immortal Hour by Rutland Boughton (1912). The latter has intertextual references to the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. The Muses’ refusal to align themselves with any one composer and nominate the best musician sustains the dramatic tension in the play. 

The work includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians.

Analysis

The production of The Nine Muses by a small publisher of locally produced books was reflective of the post war educational and artistic renaissance in Australia. Educators perceived a need to introduce children to the wider world of cultural experience, which included the classical stories of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome and recognised the universality of the characters and their predicaments. Parallels or inspirations by Aristophanes’ Frogs are part of the play.

The Nine Muses is published in a collection of five plays in the series Mullins’ Plays for children for production by upper primary and lower secondary school children. The dialogue of “The Nine Muses” adopts an archaic, formal discourse associated with antiquity and serious discussion amongst characters. Movement is static, with the exception of some dancing and singing performances. Music used in the original 1947 school production is listed at the end of the play. 

In the post-war period primary school teachers were expected to play the piano and secondary schools encouraged school choirs. (Saxby, 2002, pp 742-744). “The Nine Muses” potentially includes a range of performers as actors, musicians, and chorus. The drama offers a segue to Greek mythology and musical repertoire. 

Included in the anthology are “The Secret Plans” in which a schoolboy delivers secret documents so that “total war’ might be avoided. “Adventures in Bush Valley” has a specifically Australian setting in which children capture an escaped convict. “The Boy Sebastian” depicts the jealous relationship between older brother Christopher Bach and his younger brother, Sebastian, a child prodigy. “The Nightingale” is an adaptation of the story by Hans Christian Anderson. Hence, local dramas are presented alongside traditional European stories and classical mythology. 

Apart from the bush adventure, the anthology reinforced English models in many of the plays published in Britain. All plays are set for the proscenium stage, typical of school halls across Australia. In the educational context of the era, the plays form part of the syllabus, intended for special occasions and school assemblies.  The foreword, by Principal of Melbourne Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Dorothy Jane Ross endorses the plays as “…a method of learning by doing, by research, by discussion, and, above all, by co-operation…To invoke the Muses has always been the joy of youth”.


Further Reading

Saxby, Maurice, Images of Australia: A History of Australian Children’s Literature, 1941-1970, Sydney, Scholastic, 2002.

Addenda

Playscript:

The Nine Muses (pp 80 – 91) gives the title to the collection but it is the only play in the collection with a classical theme.

A playscript about Ancient Greece that brings classical composers to Mount Olympus for child performers and audiences. Includes plans for stage setting, notes on costume and props and a list of classical music to be performed during the performance. “Suggestions for original work” at the end of the play include dramatisations of one of the old Greek myths and writing a dialogue between two famous poets, painters or musicians. 

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