Theatrical performances in ancient Greece originally served as a performance of a religious cult. There were often cemeteries near the theaters, and an altar in the center of the performance area. Later, the theater was used as a place for presenting laurel wreaths to honorary citizens, and then for civil performances. Until the 5th century, the Greeks used a mobile stage, which often collapsed right during the performance. After that, theaters became fundamental architectural structures.
The first experience of building a Greek theater was the Athenian theater of Dionysus. It is impossible to establish exactly what it looked like, since the building was repeatedly rebuilt, partially destroyed and re-erected. In Greece, theaters were usually built on the hillsides. This significantly reduced the cost of their construction. Each theater had a space for spectators in the form of benches arranged in several tiers in a semicircle (amphitheater), a place in front of the orchestra (skena) and a flat platform for actors.
Behind the theater you can see the sea and the island of Aegina. The orchestra looked like a free area where the choirs were located. In the center was the altar of Dionysus and the throne of his priest. There was no scene in the form familiar to a modern person. Instead, the audience saw a narrow platform against the background of Dorian columns. If a civil festival was held in the theater, then it was not decorated, and if there was to be a dramatic performance, then a light partition with a door was placed behind the tribune. Painted decorations were hung on the partition, and actors could pass through the door. All the mise-en-scenes were conditional, and the scenery was rather primitive.
During the Roman era, the location of the choir changed. Now it was located on the podium, and spectators could watch performances from the orchestra platform. Naturally, the width of the tribune also increased. The theater became such a popular entertainment that the altar was liquidated. To improve the audibility of the voices of the choir and actors, the wall of the rear stage was made higher.
There were curtains in ancient Greek theaters. Scientists suggest that they were hollow rods that easily fit into one another. The rods were fastened in a special recess in front of the proscenium and, if necessary, pulled out. It is possible that the fabric curtain on the rods covered the stage only from the audience sitting in the first rows.
To improve the acoustic properties of the stage, many theaters (for example, in Arles and Pompeii) had recesses in the form of a concave reflector. The door leaves at the back of the stage were positioned to make the voice more resonant. During the performance, the actors turned to them repeatedly to amplify the sound. In order to improve acoustics, the Greeks came up with another "trick". An array was removed from under the benches (in those theaters where they were static), and vases that served as resonators were replaced by them. Moreover, such vases caught and made louder only the main sounds in the musical accompaniment. This is due to the special structure of music, in which the notes of the tetrachord (4-note consonances) were harmoniously arranged in the order of their meaning. Acoustic vases were not used everywhere. Experts have found that they most often found application in the Aizani Theater and the Sagunte Theater.
Classical Greek theaters are considered to be:
- theater in Epidaurus;
- Theater of Chaeronea (places for citizens were carved into the rock);
- theater in Delphi (its main feature is a movable tribune);
- theater in Syracuse (there was a waterfall above the benches in the upper row).
In addition, in Greece there were also covered "odeons" - small theaters intended for chamber performances.