On May 24th, 2018 the lecture “Ancient Greek Drama and Theatre” given by Professor Steve Earnest. Lasting for nearly two hours, during which he deftly interwove various cultural elements of western drama and theatre with history, famous works and his own experience humorously while the students listened in rapt attention.
“This is a large room. I learned how important it is to speak loudly on stage when I worked as an actor, for it is the best way to make everyone hear you clearly. Therefore, I’m using my stage voice.” After this bit of joking, he shared his experience as an actor with Performance Riverside, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Birmingham Summerfest and other theatres.
Prof. Earnest first told students that ancient festivals served as religious and civic ceremonies. City Dionysia, the second-most important festival in the ancient world, was held in Athens in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine. During the three-day festival, there was a competition for the performance of tragedy which required each competitor to present their work in one day and then the best writer would win won. The most famous three tragedy writers were all participants of this competition, including Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles.
Also, Prof. Earnest asked 12 students to go on stage and they sang “Dionysus we love you, we will say our pray to you.” “Directors chose one person to lead the chorus and sing solo, which was the beginning of drama,” Prof. Earnest added. After being members of the chorus, students became fully involved in the authentic atmosphere of an ancient Chorus’ singing and gained a deeper understanding about song and dance, which are the roots of drama in the western world.
When talking about the theatres, Prof. Earnest showed students some pictures. “You cannot imagine when the theatre contained 12,000 to 15,000 people, how could the actors be heard?” Actually, mathematics played an important role in the construction of these theatres, creating acoustics in them so that the actors' voices could be heard throughout the theatre, including the very top row of seats. People appreciated them in a way “very similar to the modern ones”.
Prof. Earnest encouraged students to go see the marvelous theatres in person. “You will feel shocked by how wise people in the ancient ages were.”