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Lighting used in Greek Theatre
Transcript of Lighting used in Greek Theatre
The evolution of lighting in theatre began during the times of Ancient Greece. The performances were outside in an open-air space, which the use of natural light was the primary source of illumination. The production would take place during the day so the sun could be used.
The 16th and 17th centuries introduced dimming of candles by using metal cylinders lowered onto them. This process was a manual process and took a lot of stagehands to make this possible.
The Greek open-air theatre was first a circular, flat orchestra pit in the hollow between two hillsides. In 465 B.C. a small wooden hut called a skene where the actors changed costumes was built behind the playing area. When stone structures were built the seating area was cut to little more than a semicircle and the skene became a two-story building with three doorways in the front and an entrance by either side.
Stage lighting is often unappreciated. Not only does light illuminate the action you’re watching, it also directly affects the emotion and and subtext of a scene. Many techniques are used in order to give the correct lighting to help demonstrate the right emotion but none as creative as those used in Greek theatre.
Use of Mirrors
The Greeks also used large mirrors with the sun's light to alter the lighting for their plays. If they wanted to establish any type of moods then there would be an intermission until the 'time of day' and sun's angle would suit the need for the production. Parabolic mirrors were also used in helping to reflect moonlight for performances in the evenings.
The invention of parabolic mirrors were accredited to Archimedes, who supposedly used one to set fire to the sails of a ship attempting to attack his home city.
"The old man constructed a sort of hexagonal mirror. He placed at proper distances from the mirror other smaller mirrors of the same kind, which were moved by means of their hinges and certain plates of metal. He placed it amid the rays of the sun at noon, both in summer and winter. The rays being reflected by this, a frightful fiery kindling was excited on the ships, and it reduced them to ashes, from the distance of a bow shot”
Greek plays were performed in daylight and the dramas were frequently designed to take advantage of the position of the sun. Theatre sites were well-placed to gain the best effects of the natural light. The plays could begin in the morning and last until the evening, so there was no need for artificial lighting.