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The Greek Theater & Performances

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The Greek Theater & Performances. Anticipation Questions. From what you know of dramas, answer the following questions in a sentence or two to explore your knowledge of theaters and plays: - What does a typical theater look like? - How is a standard play structured?

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anticipation questions
Anticipation Questions

From what you know of dramas, answer the following questions in a sentence or two to explore your knowledge of theaters and plays:

- What does a typical theater look like?

- How is a standard play structured?

- What is used to help the audience to understand what is happening on stage?

Ancient Greek Theater began as a tribute to their gods. During festivals honoring their gods, Greek dramatists would perform reproductions of famous myths and legends about the gods. These performances became so popular, that people began to create their own stories, and contests for the best play would be held during these festivals.

- the god of wine, entertainment, and frivolity

His festivals became the focus of drama contests held in Athens as they became more about entertainment

Eventually, drama contests were only held in his name and he became associated with the theater

- Athens would spread these festivities to neighboring allies where they, too, would become widely popular

The traditions of the festivals and contests became more widespread as theaters began to pop up in all areas influenced by Greek culture.

Across the Mediterranean sea, Greek and Roman style theaters would be built in ancient cities of Libya and Egypt that can still be found today

the greek theater
The Greek Theater
  • The Greek theater, or theatron, was open-air, semi-circular in shape, and featured three key aspects:
  • - The Orchestra: A large circular or rectangular area at the center part of the theatre, where the play, dance, religious rites, and acting used to take place.
  • - The Skene: A large rectangular building situated behind the orchestra, used as a backstage. The skene would also be paintedas a backdropwhich was the only set decoration
  • - The Audience:Tiers rising up from the middle to give a full view of the actors and surrounding the orchestra from nearly all sides
  • Theatrons were often built into the side of hills to provide natural stadium seating – the largest theatrons could hold up to fourteen thousand people
  • Actors and the Chorus would stand in the orchestra to deliver their lines, and would exit by two aisles located to either side
  • “Theater in the Round,” as it is now called, challenged actors and playwrights to stage their drama in a way that the audience could hear and see all that was happening
Because of the shape and size of the theaters, actors would wear exaggerated costumes and masks to help the audience understand the actions and words.

Masks featured a large mouth opening to amplify the volume of their voice, which would also be aided by the shape of the theater

Costumes were also exaggerated to differentiate between characters, although the chorus would often be simply robed. Main characters would often use platform footings to make them appear larger than life.

An actor would also have to greatly exaggerate their motions in order for the audience around them to see and understand their actions


Three actors (male amateurs) would portray the main characters of the play. If more than three characters were involved, then the three actors would take on more than one role.

The Chorus would consist of eight to twelve individuals who always remained on stage

The events of the play would take part within the span of only one day and at one location, so there was no changing of scenes

the greek tragedy
The Greek Tragedy

Begins with a Prologue where one or two characters relate background information and sets the scene of the drama

The Paradosbegins when the chorus enters and sings the first song

The action of the play follows and is broken into three or more episodesseparated by choral songs, or stasimi, that explain the scenes and continue the plot

The play concludes with an Exodus which shows the dissolution of the story

exit ticket
Exit Ticket
  • Returning back to the anticipation questions, reflect on your new knowledge of Greek theaters and performances
  • In a short paragraph, discuss differences between your prior knowledge of the workings of the theater and performance to that of the Greek theater.
  • Make sure to provide details from the presentation to highlight differences that you note.