History of Theatre 4 – From Greek to Roman Theater Architecture (Subtitles: English and Español)


History of Western Theatre From Greek to Roman Theatre The enormous importance of theatre in ancient Athens becomes evident in this graceful edifice. It was built by Lysicrates to commemorate the victory of the Dionysia. Lysicrates was the financer or ‘choregos’ of the winning play about a myth of the god Dionysus. The monument served in fact as a pedestal for the bronze tripod set upon its summit, a trophy for the victor of the contest. A copy of this marvellous monument, with a tripod on top, can be seen in Berlin. Ater the victory on the Persians, Athens was rebuild on a grand scale. Magnificent temples arose on the Acropolis. Pericles (495 – 429 BC), Athenian statesman at the time. Parthenon By this time, the orchestra of the Theater of Dionysus on the southern hillside of the Acropolis, was known to be circular. During the Dionysia festival, at the rear of the orchestra, a temporary wooden skene was placed. The theater was further excavated to make a more secure foundation for the wooden seats. It is likely that the seats were divided into at least ten different wedges (‘kerkides’), for the ten ‘tribes’ which made up the citizens of Attica. Within these sections one part may have been set aside for women. In the 440s BC, adjacent to the Theatre of Dionysus, one of the first permanent roofed European theatres was built: the Odeion of Pericles. It might have been used for a variety of dramatic activities and recitations, Using existing archaeology, one suggests that the roof would have been
supported by a ‘forest’ of columns, resulting in a sight line disaster for at least forty percent of the audience, Not until the fourth century BC – under statesman Lycurgus – the Theatre of Dionysus was rebuilt in stone. This was the time Menander began producing New Comedies. Also racked stone tiers were constructed, where wooden benches resided before, Conjectural reconstruction – 17,000 spectators Theater of Dionysus, 327 BC Orchestra – dancing place Skene – stage building Paraskenia – projecting wings ‘beside the skene’ Theatron – ‘seeing place (koilon / cavea / auditorium) Probably, foreign visitors sat in the upper part. Proskene, a low, acting platform ‘in front of the skene’ Sanctuary of Dionysus, with the old and new temple Paradoi – entrances into the orchestra Diazoma – upper and lower crosswalk The front row consisted of 76 marble stalls. Dionysus Theatre today Prohedria – ‘front-stalls’ reserved for priests, high ranking officials. Odeion of Pericles By the time the semi-barbaric king of the Balkans, Alexander the Great, took over the reign of all city-states in Greece, plays were no longer performed exclusively at Dionysion festivals. Many new theaters were built. The best preserved theatre in all of Greece is the theater at Epidaurus (14,000 seats) This theater retained its classical circular orchestra. Delphi, 350 BC, 5,000 seats, spectecularly sited. All these so-called Hellenistic theaters were not built in the classical style of the Dionysian theater in Athens. Pergamum, 250 BC, enlarged in 197-159 BC -10,000 seats Ephesus, stone skene 125-100 BC Hellenistic reconstruction (40 AD), 25,000 seats! Probably the most important Hellenistic inovation was the raised stage or ‘logeion’ (speaking place). It is not sure how in the plays this heightened stage was used as an acting space. Proskenion, lower story of the skene, 8 – 13 ft high Proskenion of the theatre at Priene Reconstruction of the Hellenistic Priene theatre Priene, 332 – 330 BC, 5,000 – 6,500 seats Episkenion, façade of the second story It is suggested that each of these ‘thyromata’ could have served as a miniature proscenium arc. The orchestra of Hellenistc theaters
often had a two-third circle shape. Also the classical Dionysus theatre underwent
a Hellenistic remodeling. second century BC And then the Romans came… veni, vidi, vici… (I came, I saw, I conquered) In 164 BC mainland greece became became a Roman province. And for the third time the Dionysus theater in Athens
was fundamentally renovated, This time by Roman emperor Nero in 61 AD. Striking differences with the Hellenistic style is the lowered stage with enlarged surface, and the heightened skene. The orchestra was surrounded by a stone barricade
in order to protect the spectators (gladiatorial combats), The skene was further adorned with
many statues and other sculptures. After the first century AD most of the existing theaters we remodeled to the Roman ideal of theatre architecture like this theater at Taormina (Sicily). In Rome for a long time the erection of theaters was thwarted. Only temporary, wooden theaters were built. Theater was deemed a threat to Roman morality. In Greece, the theater was a symbol of democracy, but the Roman Republic was aristocratic. The oldest truly Roman stone theater was not built in Rome, it was built by colonists in Pompeii in 75 BC, because they were out of the direct reach of the Roman Senate. At this square in Rome the few remains of the first Roman,
stone, open-air theater can be found. The distinguished, Roman general and political leader, Pompey was permitted to build this theater in 55 BC This architecture was copied for nearly all
future Roman theaters and amphitheaters A huge linen or woolen canvas (velum or velarium) was stretched over the whole of the auditorim, to protect the spectators from the sun and rain. This first Roman theatre was also for centuries
the greatest theatre in Europe, with seating capacity of 28.000 spectators. Rivalry between militairy leaders in Rome led to the erection
of two more theaters near the Tiber River. Theatres of Balbus (13 BC) and Marcellus (11 BC). As part of the infallible “bread and circuses” measures for controlling the crowds, under the reign of the emperors throughout the whole empire Roman theaters were built. Mérida (Spain), 15 BC, 6,000 spectators Orange (France), 10 -25 AD, 5,000 – 9,000 Bosra (Syria), second century BC,
6,000 seats, 2.500 stands Sabratha (Libya), 190 AD, 5,000 Aspendos (Turkey), 161 – 180 AD, 15,000 – 20.000 Greek theatres were not enclosed. The audience – especially in the upper part of the auditorium – could see the surrounding countryside as well as the actors and chorus. Contrary to the Greek theaters, most of the Roman theaters were free standing architectural structures. Classical – Hellenistic – Roman Orchestras=full circle, 2/3 circle, semi-circle Stages – Proskene, Logeion, Pulpitum Theatre of Orange (France) These are the remains where it all begun: The Dionysus Theater in Athens, with its Grecco_Roman orchestra. The first dramas were staged here in 600 BC, and the theater functioned until
at least the fourth century AD. “Thus ended a truly remarkable history, for few other theatres can boast a thousand years
of continuous usage”. These are the words of Oscar Brockett, without his famous book on the History of Theatre, our videos would not have been possible.

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