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The origins of our stage

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1 The origins of our stage
Greek Theatre The origins of our stage

2 Ancient Greeks held ceremonies to honor the gods
In one ceremony, to honor the god Dionysus, a group of chanters called a chorus danced around an altar upon which a goat was sacrificed. mg/html/ html The members of the chorus were called the “goat singers” and their ritualistic chant was called the tragos seido or “goat song.” Tragos seido—”trah-gos say-do” These ceremonies evolved into dramatic contests with written plays.

3 Who? Average citizens What? Performances When? c. 500 B.C.
Where? Greece Who? Wealthy citizens bore the cost of production as a means of paying income tax. Audiences watched from sunrise to sunset, brought lunch and entire families. Everyone was expected to attend because drama was such a religious spectacle. (Actors were only men. For hundreds of years, men performed only for men. Women were only allowed to attend after 4 B.C. and were never allowed to perform) What? Performances lasted 7 days. Plays and chants. When? Several times a year, especially at religious holidays Where? Several theatres around Greece. The Theatre of Dionysus was just below the Acropolis in Athens.

4 One of these celebrations paid tribute to Dionysus,
Why ? ? ? ? To worship the gods Greeks worshipped their gods by performing on religious holidays One of these celebrations paid tribute to Dionysus, God of Fertility, Wine and Rebirth Other gods include Apollo, Athena, etc. (pagan, worshipped several gods) The competition was held once or twice a year, on religious holidays Festival of Dionysus held in spring for 3-6 days Statue of Dion. Was placed at the front of the stage so “he could enjoy” Centuries later, actors were considered heathens, on the same level as prostitutes, etc. because acting was associated with pagan worship

5 in the festival competition
The Festival of Dionysus The Festival was held in Athens, Greece each Spring Each year three playwrights were chosen to present 3 tragedies and 1 satyr play (comedy) in the festival competition Satyr play provided comic relief and rounded out the festival with mirth. The satyr play is so called because of its chorus which consists of satyrs, grotesque woodland spirits having human form with a horse's ears and tail. Only one satyr play survives, the Cyclops of Euripides, which parodies the story of Odysseus and Polyphemus in the Odyssey. Playwrights submitted scripts to jury of 10 citizens—those judged most worthy were performed—1 playwright/day (Thus, each playwright and his actors performed four different plays in one day!) ~our Oscars or Tony Awards, but the award was a little different—the winning playwright was given a goat which was then sacrificed. Later, gold was given as a prize Question: Do we worship in the same way? Yes, Easter, Christmas programs often incorporate dramatic performances. Some churches even incorporate dance, flags, skits as regular Sunday worship. Lots of church groups have drama troupes. vienne/en/theatre3.htm

6 Three major Greek playwrights
Sophocles Oedipus Rex Euripedes Medea Aeschylus Prometheus Bound Playwrights were considered prophets and teachers of the age—wrote about the relationship of man and the gods. Aeschylus won thirteen first place victories, Sophocles, twenty four, and Euripides, five. Euripides's relatively small number of victories is due more to his unpopularity among the Athenians because of certain radical themes in his plays than any lack of ability as a tragedian. Medea—by Euripedes--Medea discovers husband Jason is unfaithful. She rages and to punish him kills their own two sons and chops them up Prometheus—by Aeschylus—the god Prometheus gives mankind the gift of fire, and with it, knowledge. Zeus exiles Prometheus to the outer reaches of the known world and orders him chained to a cliff. Prometheus is stubborn and courageous, mocks the strength of the chains that bind him. “This my body/let him raise up high and dash it down/…death he cannot give me.” Oedipus Rex—by Sophocles—King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes have been told by oracle that their child will kill his father and marry his mother. They try to trick gods by leaving child to be killed. He is not killed, but is named Oedipus. When grown, he meets man on street and kills him. Solves riddle of sphinx and thus lifts plague from Thebes and becomes king, marries queen, has children. In search of killer of former king, he and Jocasta realize the truth of the original prophecy. The man Oedipus killed was the king, his own father, and now he has married his mother. She commits suicide. He gouges out eyes and wanders earth.) Of the 1000s of Greek plays written, only 50 survive today Playwrights were actors, too. They often played multiple roles in their plays. Won 5 times Won 13 times Won 24 times These three men were often the playwrights chosen to present their plays.

7 The Festival of Dionysus is considered the birthplace
of true tragedy. The drama “language” we use, and the structure of our plays are patterned after the Greek theatre. Question: Since the purpose of the plays was to celebrate the gods, what do you think the subject of most of the plays was? Human beings’ ultimate relationship to gods/universe/ fate/destiny

8 Common Themes of Greek Theatre
Man’s Relationship to the Gods and the Universe Limits of knowledge Moral responsibility Human suffering Most of the surviving Greek tragedies are NOT about Dionysus. Some plays seem to ignore conventional deities but all the plays “testify to man’s subservience to forces greater than himself, however we may choose to describe these forces.” (The Stage and The School) This Greek influence has even formed the basis of our theatre language

9 The Structure of Greek Tragedy
Greek plays begin in medias res, in the middle of things, and build toward a climactic ending with alternating episodes and odes. Odes feature the chorus explaining or reflecting on the action of the play. Episodes carry the plot forward. The action of the play occurs here. Prologos (1st episode) Ode (strophe and antistrophe) 2nd Episode Ode (strophe and antistrophe) In medias res—in may-dius rayss (Tragedy generally contains 5 episodes.) Another term: Kommos—lyrical exchange between chorus and actor Note other words seen here that we have adopted from the Greeks. How are their original meanings similar to the meanings now? 3rd Episode Ode (strophe and antistrophe) 4th Episode Ode (strophe and antistrophe) Exodos (5th episode)

10 Chorus The chorus traveled back and forth across the stage narrating the story in chants and dance. The leader of the chorus was called the choragos. Choruses originally contained 50 actors, but Aeschylus reduced the number to around 15. This chorus was an integral part of Greek theatre—stood on side of orchestra and explained action, introduced characters, began each scene with a kind of prologue Sang and danced, again, because more entertaining that way. Slow, stately measures. Accompanied by flutes The modern parallel for tragedy is actually opera (along with its descendant, musical comedy), which is a dramatic form containing song and dance. The chorus, unlike the actors, were non-professionals who had a talent for singing and dancing and were trained by the poet in preparation for the performance. The standard number of members of a chorus was twelve throughout most of Aeschylus's career, but was raised to fifteen by Sophocles. The chorus, like the actors, wore costumes and masks. Strophe—stro-phee Antistrophe—antee-stro-phee Choragos—kuh-ray-gus—the leader of the chorus, steps out periodically from group to speak Strophe and Antistrophe Stanzas delivered as chorus moved first in one, then in the opposite direction.

11 Tragedy According to philosopher Aristotle, tragedy is…
a dramatic representation of an action, severe, which evokes pity and fear and leads to a catharsis in the audience. A central figure in evoking this catharsis is the main character, or tragic hero. A catharsis is a release of emotions, a purging or cleansing. In other words, a kind of “soul therapy.” Aristotle drew his conclusions about tragedy by reading the plays In order for a play to be considered a tragedy, the audience must be led to feel a catharsis.

12 The tragic hero… is a man of Arête who possesses Hamartia
noble stature, or high estate The most common hamartia, or tragic flaw is hubris, excessive pride. who possesses Hamartia some error of judgment which causes his Perepeteia Arete—ah-rayt Hamartia—ha-mar-tee-uh Perepetia—par-uh-puh-tee-uh Anagnorisis—anagnor-I-sis reversal of fortune but leads to his Anagnorisis. ultimate discovery or recognition

13 Thespis…our first “actor”
In 534 B.C., a man named Thespis of Attica “invented” acting by designating one member of the chorus to stand apart from the others and respond to them. Thespis, an actor/ playwright won the first dramatic contest at Festival of Dionysus. ai/ forschung.html At first the plays were just a chorus telling the story and singing Thespis stepped away and spoke on his own. He won the 1st dramatic contest which evolved from this Festival of Dion. First actor to carry on dialogue with chorus He is also credited with introducing masks to the Greek stage. who_is_thespis.asp Thespians are those like Thespis.

14 Theatre as we know it has its
roots in the Greek theatre. We perform its plays… we speak its language… we wear its masks… and we perform on its stage.

15 Ways to “Travel through time” to ancient Greece
Travel to a local outdoor amphitheatre that is structured like the ancient Greek theatres and… …perform scenes from a Greek play. …compare and contrast your local amphitheatre with the ancient Greek theatres. Don’t have a local outdoor amphitheatre? Find a hillside and create one using your imagination!

16 Amy Pugh Patel Created by S.R. Butler High School Huntsville, AL

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