Roman theatre was very influenced by Greek theatre. It was inspired by Greek art, culture, and theater. The theaters were built on ground level, like the Greek theaters. It was built with a wall at the back of the stage, which had doors and openings. The Romans built about 125 structures. Roman theatres became less philosophical and focused more on other genres besides drama, such as comedies. The plays presented on the stage began to include stage violence and crude humor.
The first permanent Roman theatre was built in 54 AD. By 550 AD, more than 100 permanent theatre structures were built. The Roman theatre could seat tens of thousands of Romans. There were no front curtains or performances done in the orchestra, where the Greeks used to perform the plays in the orchestra.
Roman theaters were built on ground level, with the audience raised, much like the Greek. But there were many differences between Greek and Roman theatres.
The skene becomes the seanea where the skene is joined with the theatron to form one architectural unit. The paradoi becomes the vomitorium, a series of entrance or exit passages into the orchestra and audience. The orchestra is changed from a semi-circular shape to a half-circle. Roman theatre also had a frons scaenae, in which the part facing the audience was decorated with many things, such as columns and statues. The stage is raised to five feet and is much larger than the Greek stage. Trap doors began to be commonly used in Roman theatre. Romans also started using painted stages, which were covered with a roof. There was also on awning over the audience, to protect the people from the sun.
Here is a link showing an article that analyzes the growth and downfall of the Roman theatre:
Titus Maccius Plautus
Titus Maccius Plautus lived from 254-184 BC. The plays that he wrote were mainly comedies. Plautus was known for the use of Greek style in his plays, but instead of using Greek allusions, Plautus used Roman allusions and Latin dialog into his comedies. He also used witty jokes and varied the use of poetic meters. He also avoided current politics in his plays. Some of his plays are Pot of Gold, The Meanechmi, and Braggart Warrior.
Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)
Publius Terentius Afer was a Roman playwright, but he is also known as Terence. He was brought to Rome as a slave, but as time went by, he was eventually freed by his master. Terence also used Greek stories in his plays, but he combined them with Roman stories, creating more complex plots. He also created double-plots in his plays and used Greek characteristics. Though he was less popular than Plautus, his six plays were able to be preserved. . Some of his plays are Adelphoe (The Brothers), Andria (The Girl from Andros), and Hecrya (Mother-in-Law).
One quote by Terence is, "I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." This is in his play called Heauton Timorumenos.
This is a video showing an example of the remains of a Roman theatre in Orange, France. From this video, you can see how the seating of the audience was.
*Credit:mmsrobertson @ youtube
Here is another video that talks more about the history of the Roman theatre in France. It shows how there are people trying to restore the theatre in Orange, after years of erosion.
*Credit:UNESCOVideos @ youtube
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