READ: Beginning History
1 READ: Origins and Structure
At certain times of the year, Greek people held ceremonies or made sacrifices in honor of the gods – sowing, harvest and vintage. These were celebrated in song and re-told through stories delivered by Choruses. Choruses delivered the narration through song. They didn’t identify themselves with the person, or character being sung about. Basically they stood there and told the story through chanting and song, until one day, a member of the chorus stepped forward and spoke the words attributed to a god or hero. Once this happened, it was the birth of Drama!! This man was Thespis. It is because of him that actors are often referred to as “thespians.”
During this time, there was no permanent theater building like we have today. Plays or choruses were only held during times of celebration. They were not commercialized and were mainly religious. They were not considered to be a form of entertainment, but were considered to be an act of worship. It was the right and duty of every citizen to attend. Drama is further associated with Dionysus, “god of the vine.” Dionysus is the Greek God opposite of Apollo who is the “god of reason.” Dionysus became the center of a mystical cult whose followers began to get together to seek release from the inhibitions of the time. They got together and began to discuss and celebrate things which were outside the realm of normal conversation and religion of the time. Dionysus was further known as the “god of tragedy,” and his statue was placed in the entrance to the area in which people gathered to watch the plays or choruses.
Brockett, O.G., (1999). History of the Theatre, (8th ed). MA: Allyn & Bacon