Roman Theatres

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  • Created by: MaaB
  • Created on: 13-06-16 11:25

The Buildings

  • Much of the architecture, structure, design, buildings and the plays shown in the Roman theatre were influenced by the Greek theatre.
  • The semi-circular design enhanced the natural acoustics of the theatre.
  • The first permanent theatre in Rome was built in 55BC by Pompey.
  • The first stone theatre was Pompey's Theatre built in 55BC.
  • Theatres were open-air venues and performances were held during the day as artificial light was poor.
  • In modern times, theatres have been built with padded seats and are completely enclosed, with the exception of amphitheatres that are specifically built in the old style.
  • Performances were at night with afternoon performances on weekends only, and the artificial lighting was a large part of the design and presentation.
  • By the first century, the primitive scenery and equipment of earlier theatres had been replaced by machinery to create realistic effects.
  • Curtains were used for scene changes just as they are today.
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The Shows

  • Entertainment available in Roman Theatres included mime/orations/dance/choral events and different types of plays including farce/tragedy/comedy.
  • Romans attended theatre performances of Greek style dramas and comedies, but the most popular were mimes/pantomimes/variety-type shows.
  • Pantomimes were more similar to modern ballet than plays, and dancers performed mythical scenes with no dialogue.
  • Variety shows featuring a mixture of dancers, music, recitations of poetry and famous speeches and pantomimes were also very popular.
  • In modern times, people think of theatre almost exclusively as presentations of comedies and dramas.
  • There are dance-based shows that are similar in some ways to Roman pantomimes, such as 'Stomp!' where there is no story or plot.
  • Variety shows were popular in the early 20th century in Europe but they have died out - the closest now is 'Britain's Got Talent'
  • Roman audiences would often heckle the performers if they felt they were talentless or not entertaining.
  • Theatres were one of the few places where Romans could engage in political debate and question the authority of those that led them.
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The Actors

  • Actors/performers in Roman times were often slaves owned by theatre managers or rich patrons.
  • This meant people thought they were worthy of contempt.
  • This contrasts with modern opinions of them as they are considered professionals who spark interest.
  • Some actors in Roman times became the object of public adulation - like today.
  • To the Romans, theatre events were idle entertainments that had delirious moral impacts.
  • The performances, especially pantomimes where women were allowed to perform, included graphic sex/violent scenes.
  • Ostensibly, the upper classes' concerns were for the moral health of the people but they actually feared large gatherings of the lower classes.
  • This contrasts with the modern belief that attending theatre is a high-brow form of entertainment suitable for the whole family.
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