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A Theatrical Art History

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The history of theatre is concerned with the development and origin of theatre as an art form, over the past 2,500 years. Thus, it charts the performance and entertainment elements and traditions which have flourished and are nowadays present in every society. While it is generally acknowledged as an autonomous activity, since the 6th century BC of classical Athens, the custom distinction of the present is the vibration with which it has been spread all over the world.


The early theatre is linked to ritual and sacred as it was believed to bring healing and purify the spectator, typically including elements that created pleasure among the viewers, as well as entertain them. However, Aristotle attested that the performance did not require the spectator to fast, requiring no initiation, vision or mystery on behalf of the society. Since its inception, as the elements grew more and more complex, the shows began to figure out skill-made masks and costumes worn by the performers, creating a more spectacular vibe. The artists were thus transforming it into a form of art, using their voices and several objects as an artistic expression. This was the first step towards theatre as we know it today.

The theatre is often defined as a form of fine art that uses actors to present the experience of an event or action before a live audience, usually on a stage, creating a sense of self-contained drama. Theater, therefore, emerged from daily life ceremony. The history of drama is linked to the celebratory music and can be traced back to of the 6th century.


Greek Theatre

In order to understand the historical background of theater, we should take a look at the word itself. The terminology ‘theater’ has its origins in Ancient Greece, around 5,000 years back and the word can be described as ‘a place for viewing’. The ancient theater is therefore associated with Greece.

The origins of Greek theatre are connected to the god of wine and fertility, Dionysus, as people organized cult ceremonies where female followers used to dance carrying long phallic symbols and sing, sacrificing animals in order to eat their flesh. The songs were referring to Greek mythology, and in Dionysus’s honor, there are competitions of tragedy kept annual. In the 6th century BC, the priest Thepsis engages in a dialogue with the chorus, introducing in this way a new element and becoming, actually, the first actor.

Starting with 486 BC, Athens holds a contest as part of the Lenea (a festival in January that lasted three days). The auditorium used to stay on the bare hillside and watch performances on a temporary wooden stage. The actors used to enter from a central door in the “skene” or from the sides.

Later, nearly every Greek and the Roman important city had an open-air theater with a lovely view of the surrounding area and seats arranged in tiers. The Antic Greek Theater had an orchestra and a theatron and was frequently rebuilt, thus the surviving remains offer little information about the space available to the Classical drama.



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