The Romans loved all forms of
entertainment. Sports contests, chariot races, gladiators and live
theater were all very popular. Plays were performed during religious ceremonies and to
honor the gods. Since Rome had over 200 religious days every year,
it was possible to see a play on almost any day.
Since the actors were professional and
did receive pay, someone had to pay to sponsor the play. As a way to
honor the gods, some wealthy noble would pay for the play and then allow
people to come and watch the play for free.
every town had a forum, which was used as an open air market, this was
usually where the stage for the play was erected. The stages were
made of wood and had little or no scenery backdrop.
actors were always men; there were no female actresses. Since an
actor might have to play several parts, costumes were simple and easy to
get on and off. To help the audience understand what was going on,
and the mood the actor was portraying in the play, the actors would hold up happy or sad
faces. Roman actors developed the art of pantomime or acting
without words. They also used dance, music, elaborate gestures, sets,
and costumes to get across the meaning.
of this was done because the ancient Romans felt free to talk out loud
during a play. The Romans
would discuss what was going on in the play with their neighbors. They
might compare it to last years' play or even discuss business and weather
during the play, the stage area was very noisy.
The audience would also
voice their displeasure if they did not like the play. They might
even throw food, sticks, or even stones at the actors. Acting in
Rome could be dangerous. Acting was also just above begging as an
occupation and actors were not well paid.