Ancient Greek Theatre
Ancient Greek Theatre flourished between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. Its center was Athens, where it was part of a festival honoring the god Dionyus.
There were three main kinds of dramatic performances: Tragedy, Comedy, and the Satyr play. A play might last from morning to evening, and were quite elaborate. Audiences were large; up to 14,000 seats were available.
The size of the outdoor theatres presented several challenges. To solve the problem of visibility, theatres were built on hills, with the stage area at the bottom of the hill. Architects also had to consider acoustics when building a theatre, as an actor’s voice could be lost to the audience sitting furthest from the stage. Another problem of visibility was solved by the wearing of masks. This enabled the audience to determine a characters emotions by exaggerating the expression.
A chorus of 12-50 performers would represent an observer and commentator of the events through song and dance. Because the chorus usually played one character, they often wore identical masks.
The play itself was performed by no more than three actors, who often played multiple characters. Different characters and emotions were represented with different masks. Women were not allowed to act, so men had to play female roles.
Tragedy competitions were held as part of the festival. The first playwright to win this festival was Thespis; from whose name we get the word “Thespian”, meaning a dramatic performer.
Greek Theatre has contributed to modern Western theatre in many ways, including: use of scenery/backdrops, dramatic competitions, use of music and dance as part of theatre, special effects including trapdoors and cranes, the introduction of satire as an art form, and more.