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9 Cards in this Set

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intro
the Greek theater remains one of the most recognized and distinctive buildings in the world

size, shape, and functions of the various pieces, though analogous to the modern theater, were quite different in ancient times

evolved to fit the changing specifications of tragedy

At the same time, the overarching simplicity of the Greek theater, despite the many changes, demanded certain features of the tragedies

As tragedy evolved from choral songs to works such as Oedipus the King, a unique, reciprocal relationship developed with the theater
choral songs
The earliest Greek theaters recall tragedy's origins in choral songs sung to local heroes and divinities

Choral songs were an early Greek performative art, in which a large group of people, the chorus (in Greek, literally = "dance"), would dance and sing raucous songs in honor of a god.

Choral performances in honor of the god Dionysus evolved into what we know as tragedy

These performances took place in a large, circular orchestra, or dancing area, in which the chorus performed.
the orchestra
The orchestra was simply a flattened patch of earth, unpaved, and delimited by a rim of large stones.

At the center of the orchestra stood an altar to Dionysus, the patron god of tragedy.

the altar acted as a focal point around which the chorus danced and sang.
the skene
A simple, undecorated wooden tent, or skene, stood behind the orchestra and provided a place for the chorus to store instruments or other props needed during the dance.
the seating...
Audiences began to attend these performances, and orchestras started to be built against hillsides.

The rising earth formed a natural seating area, a theater (in Greek = "wathcing place"), from which spectators could view the performances.
the evolution of the tragedies
These choral songs evolved into tragedy with the addition of actors.

The actors, naturally, needed some way to physically separate themselves from the chorus and the orchestra. The small tent gave way to larger wooden buildings.

These new and improved skene provided a degree of separation for the actors, as well as doors through which the actors could enter and exit.

These wooden platforms, though still temporary, were painted with architectural features; though our word "scene" comes from the Greek skene, these paintings were purely decorative and in no way influenced the tragedy or its content.

First, the orchestra was sunk just below the level of the audience, thus formalizing the stone rim; the orchestra was also paved with large, flat stones.

Second, rows of wooden seats were built on the hillside. These benches wrapped more than halfway around the orchestra and began the Greek theater's distinctive architectural form.
the actors become more important than the chorus
Over time, the actors supplanted the chorus as the dominant characters in tragedy, and theater design reflected this important shift.

The skene evolved again, this time into a complex and permanent stone structure.

This generation of skene allowed the actors to perform on stage level as well on the roof.

The building became large and sturdy to accommodate the various machines that became popular in tragic performances

As the prominence of the chorus diminished, the orchestra got smaller and smaller; late Greek and Roman theaters often reduced the orchestra to a semi-circle

Stone seating replaced the wooden benches, and large walkways partitioned the seats for easy access.
old vs. modern (communication)
First, the Greek theaters were much larger than their modern counterparts

Body language, facial gestures, and vocal tones, though very effective in a small, modern theater, would have been lost in the sheer size of an ancient one

Instead, the actor wore a huge tragic mask to roughly depict his state of mind and relied on his speech to do the rest.

Lengthy monologues were the only means available for character development.
old vs. modern ("special effects")
the theater provided no special effects, save a crane in the skene capable of raising and lowering characters onto the stage

Instead, all "special effects" had to be done through the script

Murder, sex, natural disasters, suicide, and battles all took place offstage; messengers then reported the results