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Festival Theatre and Greek Theatre

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on 3 September 2014

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Transcript of Festival Theatre and Greek Theatre

More specifically Athens, also the birthplace of Democracy.
Location 2
Origins of Theatre
, and

Peoples become aware of forces out of their control, attribute them to the supernatural
Attempts are made to gain favor with theses forces by performing actions
These actions evolve into rituals
Stories and myths evolve from rituals to
explain, illustrate,
Performers then impersonate
human, animal,
supernatural characters
from the stories
These performances eventually became divorced from the ritual in which they evolved

These are not neccessarily the only sources theatre. They are the Western origins
A Potential Process
Uses of Ritual
Form of Knowledge- embodies a society's understanding of the universe
Means of
passing on knowledge and tradition
to next generation
beliefs, taboos and history
of the people

influence or control events
(battle, rainfall, general favor of a god)

glorify persons, gods, or totems

Pleasure is gained from the
(dance, music, make-up, costumes), as well as from the stories and communal tradition

Essential Elements of Ritual
. Highly skilled persons entrusted with the knowledge of how to perform the ritual during ceremonies

. Designated space for ceremonies (permanent or impermanent)

. Persons attending ritual or the desired supernatural element

The History of Theatre is the History of Human Thought
Humans seek order to formulate ideas and perspectives about the
gods, the universe, society and themselves
Religion, Science, Social and Political institutions, and
are formed from these perspectives
Throughout history Theatre reflects contemporary beliefs held by people and their point of view of the universe and society
Theatrical activity existed primarily within ritual (religious activity) as humanity believed that supernatural forces were the major determinant factors on events
Theatrical activity only began to divorce itself from the religious ritual as humanity gained greater confidence in its own powers
Festival Theatre
From its origins, circa 550 BC, until the 16th Century (1500s) Western Theatre was primarily a
Festival Theatre tradition
Occurring during Religious Festivals, theatre performances were funded by a community (
government, religious, or community organization
) as offering to a god(s) for the enjoyment of the population.
Where did Western Theatre begin?
Plays were performed at
multi-day Festivals
, the
god of Wine and Fertility
was often attributed with resurrection and rebirth, as such his festivals took place
four times a year
during the
change of the seasons
For obvious reasons the most important of these was the
spring festival
at the end of March called
City of Dionysia
Three of these festivals
included the performance of plays. These are the
only Greek festivals in which theatre was associated
City of Dionysia
First record of theatre
, 534 BC formation of contest for best Tragedy at the festival.
Origin for Thespian
First playwright/performer to step out of chorus and create character
Competition consisted of 3 competitors
Each wrote 4 plays to be judged
Three of which were Tragedies, one of which was a Satyr play
City of Dionysia - Festival
Festival of events over
many days during the end of March,
the transition from
Winter to Spring
One event being a
Tragic Play Competition
Of the over
900 Tragedies
known to have taken place during the 5th century BC,
only 32 survive, written by only 3 playwrights
The competition went from sunrise to sunset consisting of all 12 plays
Only 1 Satyr play Survives
- by Euripides
Other than
are also performed during the festival
Dithyrambs - hymns to Dionysus, sung and danced by a collection of 50 men or boys
-potentially, the origin of Tragedy
Greek Tragedy
May only have come into existence because of the advent of Democracy.
This is due to the fact that they usually emphasize the attempts of Human characters to control their own destinies. They often show failed attempts to escape fate, or the will of the gods
Theatre of Dionysus
Where competitions took place
Things to know
Built into hill below Acropolis in Athens
Included Temple and outdoor Altar for worship of Dionysus
Held 14,000-17,000 people
Orchestra- circular playing space for performers
Theatron- semi-circular seating for auidience
Skene- later 'scene house' backdrop for action with three entrances into orchestra. 2-3 stories tall. Also an implied area for the actors to change costumes
Paradoi- entrance into orchestra between theatron and skene
Machina- the crane like machine used to lift the god characters from the roof to orchestra and vice versa
Deus ex machina- convention of god coming into the end of a story to resolve a conflict
formed collective character of "the people"
expressed opinions, gave advice to characters
"ideal spectator" for playwright
POV standard for action to be judged
established mood
added to spectacle with song and dance
visible onstage after first entrance
3 per play by the time
Oedipus Rex
was performed
multiple roles assigned per actor
made entrances and exits
Oedipus Rex
by Sophocles regarded as the greatest Greek Tragedy
one musician, flutist
played for choral songs, and perhaps as mood underscoring
visible onstage after entrance
no Greek Tragic music survives
Greek Masks
included full headdress
differentiated characters for actors
helped males be believable as females
made age and type not matter for actor
conveyed information about character to the vast audience by accenting essential qualities
Greek Comedy
a brief overview
became part of a theatrical competition 50 yrs after Tragedy
competition took place during the Lenaia festival in the winter
5 playwrights competed. 1 play each
plays were about current issues, politics, art, war, peace, public figures. all were opened to ridicule
separated into chorus and actors. chorus was often non-human as opposed to tragedy
male characters often wore a short tunic with an enormous phallus strapped between his legs. added humor, as well as a fertility reminder
only 11 plays survive, all by
all involve slapstick, fantasy, lyrical poetry, personal abuse, parody, and serious social commentary surrounding a far fetched plot
most famous is
, which tells the story of women stopping war by going on a sex strike
Jump to ROMAN theatre
again, a brief overview
not as special. the Romans learned theatre from the Greeks, but had it in the same level with other entertainments including blood sports, singing, juggling, dancing, acrobatics etc.
still only occurring during festivals. 1 day a year in 240BC to 101 by 354 AD, but . . .
Theatres were temporary until 55 BC
All performers, besides musicians, still wore masks
created other forms including
(unmasked short topical comic improvised playlet, not silent) in which
women were allowed to perform!
Decline of Theatre
the decline of Rome beginning in
also meant the decline of theatre
500 years
theatrical activity was reduced to small bands of individuals traveling and performing wherever they could. These activities were eventually denounced by the Church as hangovers from the earlier pagan connections theatre had
Ironically, it was the
church's use of dramatizing biblical stories
in the latter half of the
10th century
which lead to the
revival of theatre
Medieval Theatre
Medieval Period's 3 Phases
Early- 900AD -1050AD
Mid- 1050AD - 1300AD
Late- 1300AD - 1500AD
3 Major Play Types
Morality Plays
- spoken text in common language about the spiritual trials of ordinary citizens rather than biblical or saintly tales. Took place in common areas, markets and squares, funded by community organizations.
Festival Theatre
things to remember
it is occasional, meaning only occurring on special days, unlike modern times
it is ceremonial, in conjunction with certain religious festivals
it occurred in large spaces, open to the public
it used a formalized backdrop, music, and male performers
it was financed by the state or a religious organization or wealthy citizens
Similarities - Greek, Roman and Medieval
Greeks emphasized moral values on significant issues
Romans were concerned with its use as popular entertainment
Medieval theatre was tied to the teaching of Christianity
Theatre cannot help but reflect prevailing notions about truth and reality
Can you guess who won?
Credited with inventing the
. Added
2nd actor
which allowed dramatization of conflict
3rd actor
, increased complexity of drama. Added
, created
, and defeated the previous champion, Aeschylus
Turned the prologue into a monologue. Emphasized psychology of characters, feelings and internal dynamics. Used female protagonists. Created the
Deus Ex Machina
City of Dionysia - Festival cont'd
Satyr Play - a short tragicomic play revolving around the exploits of Satyrs. Often involving bawdy sexuality and overt drunkenness. Costumes included animal skins, grotesque masks and hair
How do we know all of this?
Poetics (c. 335 BCE)
(384-322 BCE)
- Drama (specifically tragedy) is the highest of the forms and consists of
6 Elements
(in order of importance)
-Earliest known book of dramatic theory and literary philosophy
-Describes from his POV
Drama (Comedy/Tragedy, Satyr Plays) Lyric poetry, Epic Poetry and Dithyrambs
Philosopher, Scientist, tutor of A. the Great
Liturgical drama
- short plays chanted or sung in Latin by clergy or choir boys during church service, direct bible stories, financed by the church.
Early and Mid
Vernacular Religious Plays
- spoken text in common language performed by laymen financed by community which took place outside on church grounds and were stories involving angels, saints, and bible heros
Mid and Late
This theatrical form started to become secular with the rise of the Protestant and Catholic divide. The plays began to comment on society and religion.
Three Unities
must be confined to 24hrs
must take place in one space
must have no sub-plots
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