Ancient Voices: Curriculum Connections


(For more vocabulary ideas see
"All About the Crone" and "Crafty Crone's Quiz" )


In ancient Greece, the word "persona" meant "mask". Today, the word is most commonly applied to a fictional character in a novel or play, but it can also refer to the public "mask" or façade an individual presents to the world. Discuss the different "personae" or "masks" people wear and the various roles they represent in daily life.

Ancient Voices: The Art of the Mask
focuses on the art of masking as it was practiced in ancient Greece, a practice that led to the development of the drama and the first plays ever performed on stage. All modern theater arts are still based on innovations introduced by the Greeks thousands of years ago.

Below are a few terms used by the Greeks
to describe key elements of drama and stage craft:

  Dionysus's chorus
Dionysus watches over a chorus of dancers

  1. Chorus (KOR us):
    Twelve to fifteen dancing, singing actors who moved in unison and spoke as one voice. They performed by far the most important role in Greek drama; only two or three other actors appeared on stage in any play, and they all interacted directly with the chorus. We still use this ancient term today as well as the related terms choreograph, choreographer, and choreography.
  2. Orchestra (OR kes trah):
    The largest, most important part of the stage in Greek theater because it was the space where the chorus performed. (The word orchestra comes from the Greek word "orchesis," meaning "a place for dancing"). It is still used today to describe a large group of symphony musicians. In a modern theater, an orchestra "pit" is located in front of the stage to provide seating for musicians who accompany the performers on stage.
  3. Theatron (THEE ah tron):
    The semi-circular, terraced seating area where Greek citizens gathered to view the performances. Some theatrons could accommodate crowds of 30,000!
  4. Skene (SKAY nay):
    The stage building located behind the orchestra, directly opposite the theatron. The action of the play took place in front of this building, which resembled a modern stage set. Inside the building, actors could change costumes and rest before performing-much as actors do "back stage" today.
  5. Odeon (OH dee on):
    A domed recital hall located just outside the theater. It was the place where the dramatic poets would announce the titles of their plays and introduce their actors. Members of the chorus also waited here to make theirentrance. The words odeon and odeum are still used today to describe a concert hall for musical and dramatic performances. Another related term, ode, refers to a particular kind of lyric poem--one that is written in praise of someone or something.

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