The Ancient Greek Theatres evolved from religious rites which date back to at least 1200 BC. The Greek Theatre history began with festivals honoring their gods. Dionysus was honored with a festival called by “City Dionysia”.
Ancient Greek Theatres
By 600 BC Greece was divided into city-states, separate nations centered in major cities and regions. The most prominent city-state was Athens, where at least 150,000 people lived. Athens was the main center for these theatrical Greek traditions.
Athenians spread these festivals to its numerous allies in order to promote a common identity. It was here that the Rites of Dionysus evolved into what we know today as theatre. Since Athens was located in a region called Attica. Greek and Athenian Theatre are sometimes referred to as Attic Theatre.
Theatre of Dionysus
As plays were an important part of the festivals, almost every Greek city had a theatre.The Greeks enjoyed singing and dancings theatres were built on hillsides in the open air and could often hold more than 18,000 spectators.
The theatres were built in a semi-circular shape with rows of tiered stone seating around it. In the center of the theatre was a circular dancing floor (orchestra), with an altar for sacrifices dedicated to Dionysus. The stage was a raised area within this circle.
At the early Greek festivals, the actors, directors, and dramatists were all the same person. After some time, only three actors were allowed to perform in each play. All the actors were men. Later few non-speaking roles were allowed to perform on-stage.
Due to a limited number of actors allowed on-stage, the chorus evolved into a very active part of Greek theatre. Music was often played during the chorus’ delivery of its lines.
Tragedy, comedy, and satyr plays were the theatrical forms
Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres. Satyr plays dealt with the Greek tree of a mythological subject in a comic manner. Aristotle’s Poetics sets out a thesis about the perfect structure for tragedy.Three well-known Greek tragedy playwrights of the fifth century are Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. Aristophanes wrote most of the comedy plays.
In Ancient Greek Theatres, buildings were called a theatre. The theatres were large, open-air structures constructed on the slopes of hills. They consisted of three main elements: the orchestra, the scene, and the audience.
During this time the actors have to use loud hand gestures and be very loud in their speech so as to make themselves audible to their audience as there were no microphones or any such devices.
Greek Theatre Masks
The actors had to use exaggerated masks and colorful costumes to make it visible to the audience as the audience sat far away. The masks were made of linen or cork. The shape of the mask amplified the actor’s voice, making his words audible to the audience.Plays were either sung or spoken in rhyme.