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Describe the theatre buildings and stage devices available to a playwright in ancient Greece. How do these compare with a modern theatre and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

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Introduction

Describe the theatre buildings and stage devices available to a playwright in ancient Greece. How do these compare with a modern theatre and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? The ancient Greeks held their dramatic shows in open air, but most modern theatres are enclosed buildings. There are a number of similarities, such as the acting area and seating; but some differences, such as raised acting areas. The open-air theatre at Epidauros. It is the most reliable theatre we have still standing, as the rest have been built over, or destroyed. The skene was situated at the back of the orchestra (dancing area), and was originally a simple tent or hut in which actors could store props or change costumes. This developed into a more complicated wooden structure which, whilst still only temporary, was fitted with at least one door for actors to move in and out. It would also sometimes be painted to represent the front of a building; columns suggested a temple or palace. By the 4th century BC, the skene was a permanent stone structure, with as many as three doors, and accommodated the new mechanical devices that were being used. ...read more.

Middle

P.67 Penguin Edition. Translated by Alan H. Sommerstein. For visual and audio effects, the playwright of ancient Greece would have relied on the imagination of the audience. Some analysts have suggested that for some sounds - such as thunder - rocks could have been used, but it seems unlikely, as the dialogue clearly describes what is happening to the audience. A messenger has just appeared to tell news of Hippolytus' death. Messenger speaking: "And it was here that a kind of rumbling underground, like Zeus's thunder, rose with a deep roar that was terrible to hear." Hippolytus - Euripides. P.120 Penguin Edition. Translated by Philip Vellacott. There would have been no stage lighting for the plays, as they were produced during the daytime in open-air theatres. Watchman: "I know the stars by heart, the armies of the night, and there in the lead the ones that bring us snow or the crops of summer." Agamemnon - Aeschylus. P.103 Penguin Edition. Translated by Robert Fagles. Another device used was the mechane - a stage crane, primarily used to lift actors playing gods from the roof of the skene, and as such was often called the 'deus ex machina' (god from a machine). "Jason batters at the doors. ...read more.

Conclusion

With the ancient theatres, the audience sat on a curved slope, which naturally carried sound; however, modern theatres tend to be in large rooms that are built with good acoustics, but actors still have to have powerful voices to carry the sound to the back of the audience. The more advanced rigging of modern theatres means that actors can do more dangerous and spectacular stunts on stage safely. On the other hand, the simpler nature of the ancient Greek plays - leaving the extraordinary happenings in the imagination of the audience - can give a more personal feel to the performance, and a good playwright would still be able to convey his message well. With the use of the more advanced technology in drama, the playwright can sometimes lose perspective and go over the top with amazing the audience, and not present his message - however, with ancient theatres; the playwright could concentrate on dialogue, and describing what's happening with actions. Modern theatres have more options open to them, it seems, for the extraordinary - having more advanced technology - but the ancient Greeks stayed in the audience's imagination, leaving the spectators more satisfied with what they'd seen. 1,029 Words. ...read more.

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