Theater of the People

Theater of the People

DAVID KAWALKO ROSELLI
Copyright Date: 2011
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/723948
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  • Book Info
    Theater of the People
    Book Description:

    Greek drama has been subject to ongoing textual and historical interpretation, but surprisingly little scholarship has examined the people who composed the theater audiences in Athens. Typically, scholars have presupposed an audience of Athenian male citizens viewing dramas created exclusively for themselves-a model that reduces theater to little more than a medium for propaganda. Women's theater attendance remains controversial, and little attention has been paid to the social class and ethnicity of the spectators. Whose theater was it?

    Producing the first book-length work on the subject, David Kawalko Roselli draws on archaeological and epigraphic evidence, economic and social history, performance studies, and ancient stories about the theater to offer a wide-ranging study that addresses the contested authority of audiences and their historical constitution. Space, money, the rise of the theater industry, and broader social forces emerge as key factors in this analysis. In repopulating audiences with foreigners, slaves, women, and the poor, this book challenges the basis of orthodox interpretations of Greek drama and places the politically and socially marginal at the heart of the theater. Featuring an analysis of the audiences of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Menander,Theater of the Peoplebrings to life perhaps the most powerful influence on the most prominent dramatic poets of their day.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73469-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. CONVENTIONS and ABBREVIATIONS USED
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION THEATER and PEOPLE in ATHENS
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the middle of the performance of Aristophanes’Peacein 421 BC at the City Dionysia, the comic characters, Hermes and Trygaeus, survey the spectators’ faces. They single out the crest-maker, sword-maker, sickle-maker, mattock-maker, and spear-maker along with the farmers (543–555). The passage provides valuable testimony to the increasing specialization of labor in Athens, but it also points to the presence of urban laborers—among other kinds of workers—as spectators at the dramatic festivals. In this passage, the urban laborers associated with the making of military equipment are not just specialized in terms of their production, they are...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The IDEA of the AUDIENCE and ITS ROLE in the THEATER
    (pp. 19-62)

    Audiences can be quite powerful. According to Aristotle, the audience expelled from the stage an actor in a play by the tragic poet Carcinus because of a staging mistake made during the performance. That was the end of the production. A complex communicative act, theater requires a high degree of collaboration between performers and the audience. In this light, the spectators are productively viewed as co-creators of the performance.¹ This busy twoway street between performers and spectators during a performance forms part of an ongoing relationship: as actors develop a sense of the audience’s expectations, the audience in turn acquires...

  7. CHAPTER 2 SPACE and SPECTATORS in the THEATER
    (pp. 63-86)

    The organization of space in the theater was (and is) anything but innocent. In the social space of the Athenian theater, the ways in which people interacted constituted a form of political action: audience space was a means of producing ideas about the community. The theatrical venue conditioned not only relations between performers and spectators but the very social practices constituting the festival.¹ From the Classical to the Hellenistic period relations of power were continually negotiated and new social relations constructed in the space of the theater—a space for working through the contradictory mediation between daily life in the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The ECONOMICS of the THEATER: THEORIC DISTRIBUTIONS and CLASS DIVISIONS
    (pp. 87-117)

    The limited amount of available physical space in the theater created a series of barriers to attendance. Attempts to transcend these limits produced new spatial arrangements and enabled, if not promoted, the articulation of new views of society. Directly related to the space of the audience in Athens were the financial relations between spectators and the theater; these relations constituted another crucial aspect shaping the makeup of the audience. Money did not define the audience, but it had a determinant role in constituting relations among spectators, and in conditioning their relationship, in turn, to the theater and the state. As...

  9. CHAPTER 4 NONCITIZENS in the THEATER
    (pp. 118-157)

    The theater audience was a motley group. It did not merely reflect certain parts of the civic body, it also reflected the various groups of residents and visitors to the city. In addition to its citizen population, Attica was a community that comprised various sorts of noncitizens vital to the life of the polis. Both non-Athenian Greeks and non-Greek foreigners engaged in periodic and regular travel to Athens; many of them resided in the city. In contrast to much recent work on the theater with its emphasis on citizens, this chapter seeks to repopulate Classical drama in terms of the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 WOMEN and the THEATER AUDIENCE
    (pp. 158-194)

    Discussion of women’s presence in the theater audience has a long history in Classical scholarship. There has been much debate surrounding this issue and the ways in which it has been framed, and recent discussions have led to an impasse. The continuing influence of Enlightenment thinking about the role of women in society has unduly shaped scholars’ use of the available evidence and the ideas it has been allowed to generate. Often the problem is anachronism: the uncritical projection of dominant ways of thinking in the modern age about class and gender relations obscures ancient practices. Both the idea and...

  11. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 195-202)

    As co-creators of theatrical performance, audiences ultimately determine the reception of drama. The relationship between poet/performers and audiences is thus something more than a collaboration or mutual dependency. At dramatic festivals in Athens, bored, uncooperative, and even reluctant spectators—a group often overlooked in semiotic analyses of plays—posed special problems for poets and performers. Despite Athenian “theater-mania” and the widespread popularity of the theater among the public, attending to recalcitrant spectators posed additional problems for poets/performers.

    Whether spectators were eager for performances or not, a performance needed to be attuned to a number of factors, among which were the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 203-250)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 251-274)
  14. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 275-282)
  15. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 283-288)