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9/16/2003 Linfield play to bring Cicero to life

McMINNVILLE ? A Linfield College professor will step into the sandals of one of history's great Roman speakers, Cicero, during "Cicero Speaks" on Oct. 3 and 4, at 7 p.m. in the Ford Hall Courtyard at Linfield.

Jackson B. Miller, assistant professor of communication arts at Linfield, compiled, directed and will perform the one-person play, which runs about an hour. Both performances are free and open to the public.

This original show focuses on the life and ideas of one of the greatest orators of the ancient world, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.). Cicero believed that oratory was a true art form, and throughout his career he attempted to perfect this art. The play features excerpts from five of Cicero's speeches and passages from his scholarly writings and letters, and provides a glimpse of this famous Roman orator and politician in action.

This will be Miller's debut performance of the play, which he began writing several years ago after becoming enthralled with the personality while teaching a unit on Cicero.

"Cicero is one of the predominant figures in the study of rhetoric," said Miller, who noted that the project combines his research areas of rhetoric and performance studies. "His speeches are fascinating when you read them but they're meant to be heard out loud. I hope to give the audience a feel for what it might have been like to see him deliver his speeches in person."

Miller pored over volumes of speeches while writing the script, hoping to choose excerpts that would demonstrate Cicero's development as a speaker. In the end, Miller focused on five speeches which span Cicero's career, including portions of Cicero's first speech in a criminal proceeding and ending with a series of well-known speeches delivered in the last years of his life as he spoke out against Mark Antony.

"The play is 95 percent his own words," Miller said, "and he did write a lot. He was one of the most published Romans of his time. Much of what we know about that era in Roman history is from Cicero's writings."

One of Miller's biggest challenges for the project has been "blocking" the play, or deciding how Cicero might have moved as he spoke.

"We have the documentation of what he said but we don't know how he said it," Miller noted. "The way orators delivered their speeches at that time is very different from modern speakers. They used their bodies and their voices to a much greater extent. It will present some interesting vocal and physical challenges."

For more information, call 503-883-2292 or email theatre@linfield.edu.