Classical Greek Theatre: New Views of an Old Subject (Studies Theatre Hist & Culture)
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Many dogmas regarding Greek theatre were established by researchers who lacked experience in the mounting of theatrical productions. In his wide-ranging and provocative study, Clifford Ashby, a theatre historian trained in the practical processes of play production as well as the methods of historical research, takes advantage of his understanding of technical elements to approach his ancient subject from a new perspective. In doing so he challenges many long-held views.
Archaeological and written sources relating to Greek classical theatre are diverse, scattered, and disconnected. Ashby's own (and memorable) fieldwork led him to more than one hundred theatre sites in Greece, southern Italy, Sicily, and Albania and as far into modern Turkey as Hellenic civilization had penetrated. From this extensive research, he draws a number of novel revisionist conclusions on the nature of classical theatre architecture and production.
The original orchestra shape, for example, was a rectangle or trapezoid rather than a circle. The altar sat along the edge of the orchestra, not at its middle. The scene house was originally designed for a performance event that did not use an up center door. The crane and ekkyklema were simple devices, while the periaktoi probably did not exist before the Renaissance. Greek theatres were not built with attention to Vitruvius' injunction against a southern orientation and were probably sun-sited on the basis of seasonal touring. The Greeks arrived at the theatre around mid-morning, not in the cold light of dawn. Only the three-actor rule emerges from this eclectic examination somewhat intact, but with the division of roles reconsidered upon the basis of the actors' performance needs. Ashby also proposes methods that can be employed in future studies of Greek theatre. Final chapters examine the three-actor production of Ion, how one should not approach theatre history, and a shining example of how one should.
Ashby's lengthy hands-on training and his knowledge of theatre history provide a broad understanding of the ways that theatre has operated through the ages as well as an ability to extrapolate from production techniques of other times and places.
the ekkyklema.” Taplin’s “presumably” is a more hedged declarationthan most would make; T.B. L. Webster writesthat “it is not however clearthat any door except the central door was needed for fifth-century tragedy.” Audrey Stanley is particularly emphatic on the subject: The presentation of the Oresteia in 458 B.C. can scarcely be overemphasized in importance within the history of theatre architecture. AU three plays demand a building with acentral entrance: Agamemnon’s palacein the first two
dimming systems, resulting in a period when many performances were lit spasmodically-and some not at all. However, there is no evidence to indicate that Classic Greek theatre ever became aprisoner of the technician. Vase paintings show little variation in theatrical structures through the fourth century, if machinery had come to the forefront, some changes wouldbe evident. Given a slow speed of scenic innovation in Classical times, the limited technology available, the absence of masking curtains
military and naval service and, generally, safety of person and property any offender against them, and even the city in which the offence wascommitted, being made responsible to the Arnphikty~ns.”~~ In other words, the artistswere granted luissezpusser to tour the territories of the Amphiktyonic stateswithout regard to borders or hostilities. Actors had traveled freely before this proclamation, much in the manner 112 T H E O R I E N T A T I O N O F G R E E K T H E A T R E S that athletes
theatre. n the literary values of the plays is c 8 LIMITS OF E V I D E N C E I : T H E W R I T I N G S actors from his R to an actor encountere only as a buffoonish straw man for ~ocratest he actual theater, as known can in the last analysis be is destined to b e c o ~ the e cornerstone only now, after two and a half le, shows a comparable aversion to thea~refo Aristotle, as Plato’s ionysiac artists generally y,” he asks rhetori in the theory of wisdo Is it because they have least ractice for
Numerous libraries allowed me the use of their facilities and the assistance of their capable staffs: the University of Missouri, the University of Washington, the University of Texas,the British Library, Princeton University, the American School of Classical Studies, the British School at Athens, and the Institute for Advanced Studies. The Texas Tech University library provided ahome base, and the interlibrary loan staff was particularly helpful in locating nearly forgotten volumes gathering