Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Theater at Epidauros

Theater at Epidauros, c. 300 BCE

Greek art begins in geometry. By the time of the 3rd century BCE and later, after the death of Alexander the Great - known as the Hellenistic age - artists were moving away from the expression of abstract geometric harmonies. This design, however, is geometric through and through.

Theatrical productions began in Greece with ritual and communal dances performed by choruses. The circular orchestra here is the performance space. Originally, a squarish skene building (where we get our word scene) would have been just behind the orchestra. The audience sat in the amphitheater, which carved into a mountainside in conic sections. The combination of geometrical forms is basic.

It is as if, by the human mind’s capacity for abstract thought, nature has been transmuted into geometry. The orchestra becomes a perfect circle, the hillside the interior of a truncated cone, the backdrop a simple cubic form (Pollitt, 171).