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The Origins of Theatre
• The history of drama is closely related to the
history of humanity itself. Why?
• The earliest record of a theatrical performance
came from Egypt 4,000 years ago.
The Origin of Western Theatre?
• Why do we say that Greek Theatre is the origin of “Western Theatre”
• Western Theatre is our theatre. The theatre of Europe and eventually
the theatre of America.
• The Theatre of the “East” including Asia and India had their own
theatrical traditions which evolved separately.
Greek Theatre
Developed from rituals to honor Dionysus - God of
Wine and Fertility
The Chorus danced around an altar where a goat was
The Chorus was called “goat singers” and the chant was
called tragos “goat song”
From tragos we get the word tragedy
From these ceremonies developed dramatic contests
Legend says the Thespis was the winner of the first
contest when he stepped out of the chorus and
engaged them in dialogue becoming the first actor
We get the word thespian from Thespis.
Greek Theatre
The Chorus –
A group of performers who wore masks. They
sang and chanted in choral odes, commented
on the action of the play, and provided back
ground information
The Actors –
Usually three
All Men
Wore masks to change characters
Greek Theatre
Three Main
Portions of Greek
Skene – Portion of
stage behind where
actors performed
(included 1-3 doors
in and out)
Orchestra –
“Dancing Place”
where chorus sang
to the audience
Theatron – Seating
for audience
The Stage
The Stage
Theater at Epidaurus
The Stage
Deus Ex Machina
• Deus Ex Machina
God in the Machine – A device that lowered the Gods
into a scene
Now refers to a plot device that conveniently resolves
a conflict late in a play
ie: An unknown uncle dies leaving a fortune to a
family who is about to lose the farm.
•The emotional purging an audience
feels after the downfall of a tragic
Your task is to create a choral performance
of a Greek Choral Ode.
You should –
Use a didactic style
Have choreographed movement
Create interesting stage pictures and formations
Speak in Unison
Focus on vocal projection
Warm Up
Historically what relationship does religion have to the theatre?
What relationship does
it have today?
Objective: Perform a choral ode in the
didactic style.
• Warm Up
• Notes – Greek Performance
• Rehearsal – Choral Odes
• Rehearsal Expectations/ Rubric Creation
• Begin Choral Ode Performances
• Closure
• Prologue: Characters speak directly to the audience. They tell us
what the play is going to be about, and what the audience will learn
from it.
• Parados: The Chorus, all together, tell us what has happened so far
in the story, up until the beginning of the play.
• Episode 1: Characters act out the beginning of the play. The Chorus
is allowed to interrupt to ask questions or make comments.
• Choral Ode 1: The Chorus speaks about something connected with
the theme of the story, but not necessarily about the story itself.
• Episode 2: Characters act out the next part of the story, again with
comments from the Chorus.
• Choral Ode 2 – same as Choral Ode 1
• More Episodes and Choral Odes
• Final Episode: Characters act out the end of the story.
• Exodus: The chorus tells us what we have learned from the story.
• Late point of attack
• Violence and death offstage
• Frequent use of messengers to relate information
• Unity of Time
• Unity of Place
• Stories based on myth or history, but varied
interpretations of events
• Hero has a tragic flaw that is responsible for his
• A wheeled cart which was rolled out from the scene which contained
• Violent Acts always occurred off stage and reports of those actions
were given by a messenger
Greek Masks
• Were used to change characters.
• Exaggerated expressions helped the audience see the
• Cone shape of the mouth worked like a megaphone
• Actors wore platform shoes to increase their size
• DECLAMATORY – Spoken loudly, focused on getting the words to
everyone in the audience
• GESTURES – Were big, and exaggerated
• Lines were often sung by both the actors and the chorus
• Three sided wall units, each painted for a different
What is the most enjoyable part
of the choral ode assignment?
Is there anything that you find
challenging or frustrating?
Objective: Compare and contrast
elements of Greek and Roman Theatre
in a Venn Diagram.
Warm Up – Quote Response
Notes – Roman Theatre
Review Assignment – Fairy Tale Tragedy
Tragedy of the Troll
Roman Theatre
Roman Theatre
• As a people the Romans were assimilators – known to adopt ideas and
practices of others
• The Romans therefore assimilated many of the Greeks artistic practices
including theatre
• Besides theatre the Roman citizens had a wide variety of tastes when it
came to entertainment including:
• acrobatics
• gladiators
• jugglers
• athletics
• chariots races
• mock sea battles
• boxing
• animal fights
Roman Theatre
• Roman theatre like that of the Greeks revolved around
religious festivals
• Actors were generally considered to have a lower
social status
• Some Roman emperors were known to sponsor as
many as 100 days of theatre performances as a way to
control the populace
• Masks similar to Greek masks were used in plays
• Roman Taste was more sentimental, diversionary, and
grandiose where as Greek Drama was more
Other Dramatic
• Focused on a solo performer
• Solo dance, with music (lutes, pipes, cymbals)
and a chorus.
• Used masks
• The story-telling was usually mythology or
historical stories, usually serious but sometimes
Other Dramatic Forms
Most common attributes of mime:
Probably performed by Slaves
Sometimes elaborate casts and spectacle
Serious or comic (satiric)
No masks
Had women
Violent and Sexual
Scoffed at Christianity
The End of the Western Theatre?
• In 692 A.D. a church council passed a resolution which forbade
theatrical performances of any kind.
• This event is often used to mark the end of classical theatre in the
•Create a Venn Diagram Comparing Greek
and Roman Theatre
•If you are super smart…add an additional
circle for theatre today.