The Greek theatre (AE theater) or Greek drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. Athens, the political and military power in Greece during this period, was the center of ancient Greek theatre.
Attending the theater in ancient Greece was a great festive occasion. The statue of Dionysus, god of wine, was carried through the streets, leading a procession to the outdoor hillside theater where the plays were to be performed.
Several plays, all religious and nationalistic in character, were shown in one day. The spectators thrilled to the dramatic stories of gods and heroes and had the added excitement of witnessing a contest, for the best playwright was awarded a prize.
Greek theater had its origins in song and dance. The song was the ancient dithyramb, a choral narrative in honor of Dionysus, sung to the accompaniment of the lyre. The dances depicted the harvest work and festivals honoring dead heroes.
According to legend, Greek tragedy as we know it was created in Athens, ca. 530 BCE by a man known as Thespis. Thespis' true contribution to drama is unclear at best, but he is forever immortalized in a common term for performer, thespian.
More is known about Phrynichus. He won his first competition between 511 BC and 508 BC. He produced tragedies on themes and subjects later exploited in the golden age such as the Danaids, Phoenician Women and Alcestis. He was the first poet we know of to use a historical subject. He is also thought to be the first to use female characters (though not female performers).
It is in ancient Greece that the origin of western theatre is to be found. It developed from a state festival in Athens, honoring the god Dionysus. The Athenian city-state exported the festival to its numerous allies in order to promote a common identity.
The word τραγοιδία, from which the English word tragedy is derived, is "goat-men sacrifice song". Until the Hellenistic period, all tragedies were unique pieces written in honor of Dionysus, so that today we only have the pieces that were still remembered well enough to have been repeated when repetition of old tragedies became fashion. It was considered a decline of the original, one-time-played tragedy.
Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (~486 BC), and satyr plays were some of the theatrical forms to emerge in the world. Greek theatre and plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture.
Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres, and no plays ever merged aspects of the two. Satyr plays dealt with the mythological subject matter of the tragedies, but in a purely comedic manner.
The masks were used to show the emotions of the characters in a play, and also to allow actors to switch between roles and play characters of a different gender.
Melpomene is the muse of tragedy and is often depicted holding the tragic mask. . Thalia is the muse of comedy and is similarly associated with the mask of comedy.
The Greek theaters were magnificent structures. Fifteen or twenty thousand spectators sat in bleacherlike tiers built on a hillside in an arc around the acting and dancing space, called the orchestra.
These theaters had remarkable acoustics. In the theater at Epidaurus, which still stands, a match struck in the orchestra can be heard in the farthest seat.
In the beginning no scenery was used. As the theater developed, a skene structure of columns with three entrance ways was added behind the orchestra space. (A number of our theater words began with the Greeks. Skene has become the English word scene. Theater is from a Greek word meaning “a place for seeing.”)
The theatre was originally founded in 1880 with a grant from George I and Efstratios Rallis to give theatre a permanent home in Athens. The foundations for this new project were laid on Agiou Konstantinou Street and the building itself was designed by the famous Austrian architect noted for many other public buildings in Athens at the time, Ernst Ziller.
The foundations for this new project were laid on Agiou Konstantinou Street and the building itself was designed by the famous Austrian architect noted for many other public buildings in Athens at the time, Ernst Ziller.
Despite problems getting the building done in time, it was eventually completed in the late 1890s and in 1900 Angelos Vlachos is appointed as the Director.
The National Theater began to expand it's operations and in 1901 a Drama School opens, in the same year The Royal Theatre opens its doors to the public with a monologue from Dimitris Verardakis.
Following the first performance the theatre begins to expand in popularity among Greece's upper and upper middle classes and stages more productions. One of the most famous of the period was Aeschylus.Oresteia is staged in a prose translation by Yorgos Sotiriadis.
The production sparks off a long linguistic conflict, as students from the School of Philosophy, incited by their classicist professor, Yorgos Mistriotis, march down Agiou Konstantinou in an attempt to halt the performance. The episodes that follow, known as the Oresteiaka, result in one death and ten injuries.
The Royal Theatre announces that it is stopping its performances indefinitely. The theatre remained closed, occasionally playing host to foreign theatre companies, until 1932. It remained closed until The National Theatre was founded, under an act of parliament signed by the education minister, Yorgos Papandreou, on 30 May. remained closed, occasionally playing host to foreign theatre companies, until 1932. It remained closed until The National Theatre was founded, under an act of parliament signed by the education minister, Yorgos Papandreou, on 30 May.
Russia came late to theater. By the time of the first professional theater performances in Russia in the mid-17th century, the Spanish, English and French theaters had already experienced their Golden Ages and produced playwrights such as Shakespeare, Calderone and Moliere.
The earliest entertainers were the skomoroki, itinerant court -attached jesters-musicians- singers-story-tellers, who often performed with bears and puppets, perhaps as early as the tenth Century. The theater's roots were folkloric rather than liturgical.
The church was by turns friendly and hostile to the theater. They abhorred the skomoroki but encouraged church-sponsored theater. One of their earliest predictions in the 1400s was the church produced "Fiery Furnace" in Kiev where townspeople masquerading as Chaldens burned three choirboys impersonating Israelite youth in a pulpit-cauldron.
The skomoroki were officially attached to the court in 1572, but their performances were forbidden by order of Tzar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1648. The people thought they possessed magical power and Alexei's advisors viewed them as a threat to the court.
They fled to the north, continued to perform in the countryside and centuries later their skills reappeared in public performance in the circus, the fairground balagan and variety arts estrada theater.
The Kiev Academy helped establish a formal dramatic repertory in late 17th and early 18th Century. Their plays on biblical and historic themes, expressed pro-tzarist sympathies and incorporated realistic elements, songs and dances.
Some private theaters were built in Kiev, in Saikonospanssky cloister, in Novgorod seminaries and at the bishop's house in Rostov. Novices were actors and performed in plays such "Sinner," "Christ Christmas and Resurrection," "Saintly Martyr Evodia," "The Second Lord's Advent."
In 1672, Tzar Alexei Mikhailovich, who had banned the skomoroki in 1648, changed his attitude toward the theater and invited a German Lutheran pastor, Johann Gottfried, to stage a play in honor of his son's birth, the future Peter the Great.
Alexei's daughter, Princess Sophia Alekseevna, was the author of the first Russian tragedy "Martyr Ekaterina." After the death of Alexei in 1674, the theater was closed.
Peter the Great sponsored the first secular public theater under the leadership of the German actor -manager Johan Kunst. Plays were produced in German and Russian. Attendance was encouraged by eliminating road taxes on performance days, offering free admissions and issuing Royal decrees.
Peter favored plays dealing with the victories and deeds of the Russian army and allegories of his reforms performed by the students of the Greek-Slavonic Academy which had been established in 1701.
A theater constructed in Red Square in 1702 called "The Comedy Chramina" ("The Temple of Comedy") was used by Kunst's German troupe and performed plays by Moliere, Calderone and other European playwrights. Comic interludes were popular. No formal theatrical tradition was established and the theater was closed in 1704.
Empress Elizabeth invited the Yaroslav actor Fyodor Volkov , his brother Grigory and the dramatist director Alexander Sumarokov to establish the first permanent professional theater in Russia in 1756 on Vaslievsky Island in St Petersburg.
Plays were written in Russian by Sumarokov and Lomonosov and others but they were conceived in a lusterless neoclassic pattern in imitation of the French comedy and tragedy and failed to remain in the Russian repertory.
Catherine loved the theater and it thrived during her reign. She viewed the theater much as Peter I had. In 1777, Catherine authorized the building of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and in 1779 added the Imperial School for the training of Russian actors, singers and dancers.
During Catherine's reign, Denis Fonvizin wrote "The Brigadier" (1769) and "The Minor" (1791) establishing the Russian satirical comedy of manners and the first steps toward a national comedy of social realism with native character, linguistic and topical elements. This play is still regularly performed on Russian stages and remains a Russian favorite.
Under Alexander I and Nicholas I the number of theaters increased, "Russian Realism" became the leading aesthetic principle and important non-imitative plays were written in the Russian language.
Konstantin Stanislavsky, a textile magnate and amateur director and actor, and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, a prizewinning dramatist, critic and head of the drama section of the Philharmonic School met on June 23, 1897.
They wanted more realistic acting and stage design and plays appealing to the growing progressive urban audience desiring more than the light fare preferred by the bourgeois audiences of the Maly and commercial theaters. Their innovations were to eventually revolutionized world theater practice.