Theater was symbolized by two masks which represented the masks worn during comedy and tragedy. They also depicted the dual nature of life. The tragic mask had a painful and mourning expression and the comedy mask had a joyful and smiling expression.
Festivals were held to honor the theater arts. Every year at the Theater of Dionysia named after the Greek god of wine and fertility Dionysus, festival was held for ten days to please the gods. Writers and poets from all over Greek gather to perform. The schedule consisted of plays based on tragedies or comedies which were followed by a short farce. It was from the poetry of Aristotle. He wrote songs, known as dithyrambs, to praise god Dionysus out of which tragic stories began evolved.
In 500 BC, another theater art was discovered by Thespis. It involved a single actor playing various roles by wearing different masks to differentiate between the characters. Other than him there were narrators and commentators on stage with whom the actor used to collaborate. This type of theater arts was recognized as tragedy which meant goat skin in Greek. It was either named after the event of sacrificing goat to gods or after the goad skin worn by the performers. Competitions were being conducted in festival at theater of Dionysia. Thespis was the first known actor of ancient Greek.
Aeshylus, in 471 BC, introduced plays having two actors who interacted with each other using dialogue. A third actor was introduced by Sophocles in 468 BC and thus the plots too became complicated. But each actor was to enact different characters wearing mask accordingly. The masks were so large that it covered the entire face of the actor including his hair. The mask was carved with care because that increased audibility of the actor’s voice. These masks were made out of linen or cork, that’s the reason why the archeologist couldn’t find a trace of them. The sculptured statues and paintings depicted actors wearing mask this was how the information was collected. Props weren’t still were restrained from usage because the size of the theater were so large, it diminished the visibility of the spectators seated on higher levels. To make up for this, Pantomime was used by the actors. This also meant that the actors wore bright dresses and loud makeup to attract the attention of the audience. Along with that the actors wore high heeled boots and large gloves to make them more vividly visible. Stories not only revolved around Dionysus but also were based on other Greek mythological characters.
The structure of the theater at that time was known as Theatron. They were open-aired and were constructed on the slopes as the seating arrangement for the spectators was in the form of ascending circles. The theaters were designed such that the voice of the performers could reach the highest seated audience. In the theater at Epidaurus one can hear the sound of a dropped pin from the highest row. The three essential elements of the theater, in Greece, were orchestra or the platform, on which performance was done, the Skene, was a building which acted as the backstage as well as the background of the play and the last element is the audience.
The audience and performers at all theaters were only men as at that time women were considered to be the downtrodden sect. The actors as well as the chorus could speak dialogue or even sing as required. Detailed costumes and huge mask were worn while enacting the roles and was the trademark of Greek theater.