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The civilizations of the Mediterranean basin in general, the Far East, northern Europe, and the Western Hemisphere before the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the second half of the 15th century have all left evidence of constructions whose association with religious ritual activity relates them to the theatre.Studies in anthropology suggest that their forerunners were the campfire circles around which members of a primitive community would gather to participate in tribal rites.The seats of honour were stone slabs with inscriptions assigning them to the priests.The background decoration consisted originally of a temporary wooden framework leaning against the front wall of the stoa and covered with movable screens.Karnak in ancient Egypt, Persepolis in Persia, and Knossos in Crete all offer examples of architectural structures, purposely ceremonial in design, of a size and configuration suitable for large audiences.They were used as places of assembly at which a priestly caste would attempt to communicate with supernatural forces.In later times there was a high stage, with a marble frieze below and a short flight of steps up from the orchestra.

Since ancient times the evolving design of theatres has been determined largely by the spectators’ physical requirements for seeing and hearing the performers and by the changing nature of the activity presented.By the latter part of the 5th century, scene changes were accomplished by means of movable painted screens.Several of these screens could be put up behind one another so that, when the first one was removed, the one immediately behind appeared.Painted screens set between the columns of the suggested the locale.In the beginning, scenery was probably altered slightly during the intermissions that separated the plays of a trilogy or a tetralogy or during the night between two festival days.

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