Theater

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  • A word that combines the two ideas of spectacle and space, derived from the Greek theatron (“seeing place”). The etymology illustrates the influence Ancient Greece has exercised over Western theater. The earliest dramas probably comprised religious festivals in which the masses freely participated. Only with the emergence of the chorus out of the masses was the critical step taken toward the theatrical performance, with its division between actor and spectator. Theatrical space says much about the power relationship between the actor and the spectator. As theater became increasingly formalized and actors gained dominance over the chorus, purpose-built structures staged the plays. Stone amphitheaters, seating thousands, attest to the involvement of entire communities in these religious festivals. Despite Aristotle's deemphasizing of spectacle in tragic drama, the ...

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