B1 Intermediate UK 60 Folder Collection
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One of the things that the ancient Athenians
were and remain most famous for
is their amazing theatre,
their tragedies and comedies
that are still played on the stages of the world
all over the planet today.
If you go to Athens today,
if you go up to the Acropolis.
You can actually see the horseshoe shape
of the Theater of Dionysus.
Now that's a stone building with stone seats
surrounding the central stone circular stage.
That actually wasn't built until the fourth century B.C.
The second of the two great centuries
of the Athenian Imperial democracy.
But we know that the same place was already used
in the fifth century it's just they erected
wooden seats, much as we would today
for outdoor performances in Regents Park.
So when did the Athenians go to their theater well,
they went to two great festivals a year.
These festivals were for the God Dionysus.
So they're are called the 'Great Dionysia'.
The point was to perform plays
as part of worship for the god.
So in a sense it was a religious festival
like Greek Easter still is today
very important full of processions and Ceremonials
it was as much like the
Super Bowl
or Commonwealth Games.
And the plays were put on in three days running.
You had three tragedians compete against each other
and three comic writers.
But they were preceded by
enormously elaborate festivals
and enormously elaborate rituals for the gods.
It was on the cusp between a civic ceremony
because all the most important
men in the city were there
and also it had this massive religious element
so there were many sacrifices.
So who actually performed these plays?
They're written by aristocratic Athenians usually
who've had the benefits of lots of education
so they can write tragedy.
The chorus is by ordinary amateur citizen youths,
it's probably actually part of their military training
because dancing together and
reciting things together is actually
very very similar to military drill.
We actually think that this is part of their training
so that they can learn to move together
in perfect harmony.
The actors were professionals
and very very highly trained,
they often came from the same families
as the tragedians who wrote the plays
you had whole families whos
sort of professional business
was tragic theatre.
And they were trained
from boyhood in vocal delivery.
What is more important than in an open air space
the size of the theatre of dionysus
than getting your voice to hit
the very very back row
as well as for the people nearer the front
to hear you when you're wearing a mask
and you also have to sing.
People don't realise quite how much
of ancient Greek tragedy was sung.
It's somewhere nearer opera and ballet
combined with spoken theatre
than people tend to assume today,
it's sort of tragic musical theatre.
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What is Greek Theatre?

60 Folder Collection
Pei-Yi Lin published on May 5, 2019
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