It’s All Greek To Me …..

Greek Theatre

Theatre was invented in Greece, and so naturally there are many theatre-related words that find their origins in Greek. Our blog today looks at 6 of these words and where they began.


Greek Word:  theasthai
Greek Meaning:  to behold

The Greek theatres were large, open-air structures constructed on the slopes of hills. They consisted of three principal elements: the orchestra, the skene and the audience. Behind the orchestra was a large rectangular building called the skene (meaning "tent" or "hut").  The skene was literally a tent or hut, put up for the religious festival and taken down when it was finished. Later, the skene became a permanent stone structure. These structures were sometimes painted to serve as backdrops, hence the English word scenery. In front of the skene there may have been a raised acting area called the proskenion, the ancestor of the modern proscenium stage.  Rising from the circle of the orchestra was the audience. The audience sat on tiers of benches built up on the side of a hill.  This has created a legacy which continues till today, as most current day theatres also have sloped seating. A typical theatre was enormous, able to seat around 15,000 viewers. Seems such a ‘slight’ difference to our 50 seat theatre at The Lamb Inn.


Greek Word:  khoros
Greek Meaning:  company of persons in a play

The chorus was an essential part of any Greek play. There were only a few actual actors, never more than three, so the responsibility of taking the story forward fell solely in the hands of the chorus.  In many of the plays, the chorus expressed to the audience what the main characters could not say, such as their hidden fears or secrets


Greek Words:  monos and logos
Greek Meaning:  alone and speech/word

As there were only a few actors in Greek plays, each actor usually had a lengthy monologue, and often the lead actor’s final monologue would be highly emotional. Of the modern playwrights, Shakespeare was particularly famous for adopting this technique. Our last production of Spine was an 80 minute monologue!


Greek Word:  dran
Greek Meaning:  to do

The three genres of drama were comedy, satyr plays and, most important of all, tragedy. Greeks took their entertainment very seriously and used drama as a way of investigating the world they lived in and what it meant to be human.

Like the Greeks, we at The Green Room Productions take our entertainment very seriously too and we have certainly covered the drama genre this year with Someone, Somewhere and Spine and are definitely hitting the comedy genre directly on the head with our December production of Breeders.


Greek Word:  thespis
Greek Meaning:  inspired by the Gods

While thespis means inspired by the Gods, the word thespian owes its roots to a person by the name of Thespis. He was both a playwright and an actor.  He was also considered the first person (in the world) to ever have acted.


Greek Words:  panto and mimos
Greek Meaning:  all and imitator

The word and the theatrical association with it began by simply meaning ‘acting without using words’. The Romans took on the style of performance, using the word pantomimus in Latin, which also translated as ‘imitator of everything’ as one actor took on every role just changing masks throughout.

So, there you have it, the Greek origins of theatre and the words we use around it today.  We’d like to think people will use this knowledge to deepen their appreciation and understanding of theatre but we imagine that they may just use it to impress their friends.