Categories
Culture

Acting and Greek Theatre: Honoring Dionysus

Over the last few centuries, acting has developed into visual art that entertains people around the world in the form of stage plays or, in recent times, through the mediums of television and film. However, acting as we know it originated thousands of years ago with quite a different audience in mind. It developed as a weeklong competition ushering in the spring season and honoring the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine, music, and drama, and in some other interpretations, god of fertility.

The Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece, photo by Carole Raddato (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Theater_of_Dionysus_on_the_South_Slope_of_the_Acropolis,_Athens,_Greece_(14031455532).jpg)
The Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece, photo by Carole Raddato

The festival often began with a procession through the city. This was believed to be a blessing of the crops of Athens so farmers would have a fruitful harvest. As the procession progressed toward the temple of Dionysia, some Athenian citizens rejoiced, dancing and playing tambourines, while others were much more solemn, displaying their dignity and wearing very lavish robes. The festival began with dithyrambs, or songs sung by a large chorus of usually 50 men. The remainder of the festival was dedicated to dramatic competitions in which five new plays were performed and judges gave prizes to the best authors and actors.