History of Western Theatre: Greeks to Elizabethans/The Greek Festival

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Anthesteria The oldest of Greek festivals, was a three day festival celebrating Dionysis, occurred during the middle of the month of Anthesterion (around the end of February). The first day was devoted to everyone including slaves, to join in festivities and join in wine drinking. The second day, participants dressed gaily and went around visiting friends, and participating in drinking competitions. The third day was a day of reverence, devoted to honoring the dead. Although this festival did not have dramatic elements, its structure influenced that of the Dionysia.

Dionysia The Dionysia was the first known dramatic festivals, consitsting of several smaller festivals held in each deme, or subdivision of Attica. The largest of these was the City Dionysia. The smaller Rural Dionysia festivals were normally in the month of Poseidon (around December). This festival's focus was centralized around the procession escorting a phallos brought in to encourage fertility within their autumn crops or of the earth in general, and slaves were allowed to attend the festivities.

Ticketing and admission fees in greek theatre were not introduced until the middle of the fifth century B.C.E.

City Dionysia The City Dionysia was a festival to celebrate the God Dionysus, who's cult name is Elutheria, meaning freedom. It is related with what is thought of as the home of the God, Eleutherai, which is located between Attica and Thebes. The festival would take place at the beginning of March/End of April and was kicked off by a procession. The procession on the first day, would go through the city, and the statue of Dionysus would be carried to the theater, which was built on the south slope of the Acropolis near the temple. The clothing of those in the procession would consist of bright colors and jewelry, and they would often wear masks. Those who were in the procession were the Ephebi, Canephori, and the human sacrifices. The Ephebi are men who carry shields and lances and escort the statue of the god. The Canephori are virgin women who carry baskets on their heads which contain things necessary for the sacrifices. The human sacrifices are provided by the state, individuals, or different population classes. Upon arrival to the theater, the sacrifices were made. At the end of the day, the procession (now lacking the human sacrifices) would follow its route back through the city, leaving the statue of Dionysis in the Orchestra.

The performances consisted of dithyrambs & narrative poems performed by choruses, as well as satyr plays, tragedies, and comedies. There were two types of competition. Dramatic competition, and choral competitions. Within the choral competitions, there were two seprerate ones. One for men, and one for boys. They were called cyclic choruses due to the circular formation in which they stood. There were five choruses of men and boys alike, composed of fifty members each. The choruses were provided by the tribes of Attica, making the competition a tribal one, and each chouragus (the leader) was from one of the ten tribes.