February 16, 2007
Greek Theater and Comedy
Around twenty-five hundred years ago, before Shakespeare, Western theatre came into existence in Athens, Greece. About 600 BC, Greece had been divided into city-states, which are separate nations in major cities and regions. The most well-known city-state of the time was Athens, which had at least 150,000 people lived. Athens was located in a region called Attica; therefore, Greek and Athenian theatre were sometimes referred to as Attic Theatre. Around 600 and 200 BC, ancient Athenians created a theatre culture whose form, terminology, and technique have lasted throughout the ages into our modern day society. Some of the plays they created are still considered today among the greatest works of drama.
The Greek tragedies and comedies were always performed in outdoor theaters. The outdoor theaters consisted of four basic parts which include the following: orchestra, theatron, skene, and the parodos. Although over time gradual evolution towards more elaborate theatrical structures, the basic layout pretty well stayed the same.
The orchestra, which means dancing space, was normally circular. The orchestra was a level space where the chorus would sing, dance, and interact with actors who were on the stage near the skene. Early orchestras were made out of hard earth, but in the Classical period orchestras began to be paved with marble and numerous other materials. The center of the orchestra consisted of a tymele, or an altar. The orchestra of the theater of Dionysus in Athens was about 60 feet in diameter.
The theatron, which means viewing place, was where spectators sat to watch the plays. Theatrons usually wrapped around most of the orchestra, and sometime they were a hillside overlooking the orchestra. Most spectators sat on cushions or boards, but by the fourth century Greek theaters had marble seats.
The skene was a building behind the stage...