Theatre in Greece: From Athens to Epidavros

If you are learning about the history of drama and the performing arts, school trips to Greece should be high on the list of places to go. Greece is a Mediterranean country in southern Europe with a history that dates back to the cradle of ancient civilisation. It is the birthplace of western philosophy, political science, western literature, and western drama, including both tragedy and comedy, just to name a few. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there are plenty of reasons to go to Greece, but especially so if you are interested in the performing arts. There’s no doubt that on school trips focused on delving into drama and the stage you will explore Athens, where you will learn about both ancient and modern theatre. Then you may head southwest to wander the ancient city and marvel at the theatre of Epidavros.
Theatre in Athens
Ancient Greek Drama was a theatrical style that evolved in Greece between 550 and 220 B.C. In the early years, Greek tragedy was born in Athens prior to 532 B.C. when the first actor, Thespis, was recorded as performing. Tragedy was a big thing in Greece as a whole, and several cities even held tragedy competitions for the best written plays! After Athens was almost destroyed by the Persian Empire in 480 B.C., theatre became a more formalised and important part of the culture of the city. Before long, the playwriting competitions included both tragic and comedic entries. While in Athens, be sure to visit the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus (roughly 3-400 B.C.), which is one of the earliest preserved theatres in Athens. It is located on the southern slope of the Acropolis and was the host of the City of Dionysia Festival, from which we get the preserved works of Sophocles, Aristophanes and Menander. However, students on school trips should be careful not to confuse the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus with the later, and better preserved, Odeon of Herodes Atticus – another stone theatre located on the southern slopes of the Acropolis. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was built in 161 A.D. and was originally a three story amphitheatre with a back wall and a wooden roof.
While Athens is undoubtedly one of the most important destinations to visit on school trips to Greece, Epidavros should not be overlooked. Famous for its asclepeion dedicated to the Asclepius, the small city was able to build a huge theatre that was used for baths, a banqueting hall, theatrical productions and palaestra. Built in the fourth century B.C., it is one of the best preserved theatres in Greece. Originally, it had 34 rows of limestone seats, with an extra 21 added in Roman times, and it seats 15,000 people. The theatre itself is quite famous for its acoustics, which are top rate. It is said that tour guides spread their groups around the theatre and still, they can hear a match being struck on the centre of the stage.

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