Greek Theater

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Ancient Greek Theater is the first historical record of "drama," which is the Greek term meaning "to do" or "to act." Beginning in the 5th century BC, Greek Theater developed into an art that is still used today. During the golden age of the Athenians plays were created, plays that are considered among the greatest works of world drama. Today there are thousands of well-known plays and films based on the re-make of ancient drama.

Theater originated from the religious rites of ancient Greek tribes. Located in northern Greece, a cult was formed to worship the God of wine and fertility, Dionysus. The cult held religious celebrations which included large consumptions of alcohol, animal sacrifices, and sometimes massive orgies. Theater was thought as a ritual to release powerful emotions and create pure ecstasy. The cult spread south into Greece and by 500 BC annual festivals in honor of Dionysus were held every spring.

A main part of Dionysus' rites was the dithyramb. It means a "choric hymn" and it was completely religious describing Dionysus' adventures. The performance would have a group of dancers, a chorus in costumes, an orchestra of drums, lyres, and flutes, and a leader/director. It all took place around an altar for Dionysus. Soon after the dithyramb became popular at Athenian festivals where poets would compete to create their own unique dithyramb. Soon the dithyramb ceased to be about Dionysus and his adventures. Famous poets chose subjects from several different periods of Greek mythology. Over time, the dithyrambs formed into stories to be performed thus creating drama.

During the golden age of Greece, city-states were developed, the most prominent being Athens with a population of at least 150,000. Here is where the rites of Dionysus created what we now call theater. We have the leader, the chorus, the dancers, and the orchestra. So where did actors come from? Around 525 BC a man from Attica named Thespis, added an actor into the...
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