Theatre Lesson for Kids: History & Timeline

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson tells us about the history of theater and how it all began in ancient Greece. It also talks about how theater spread across the world and how it came to America.

Taking the Stage

Have you ever been in a school play, or a children's theater show? Have you ever gone to see a play performed, maybe The Lion King on Broadway? It's fun to watch a play or be part of one, right? I bet you didn't know where it all started or how theater came to be what we enjoy today.

Where Theater as We Know It Began

Theater as we know it today comes from ancient Greece. Around 2,500 years ago a Greek named Thespis (THES-pis) decided to add an actor instead of just having a group of people recite stories on stage. This is where we get the term thespians (THES-pee-uhns) to refer to actors. The main character, created by Thespis, was the hero and we call that character the protagonist. After Thespis, another Greek, named Aeschylus (ES-kuh-luh s), added a second actor in 472 BC. This actor played the villain, which we also call the antagonist. An easy way to remember this is pro, like being pro-ice cream, means someone is positive about the it (the protagonist) in some way. But anti, which is similar to the beginning of antagonist, means someone is against something, like being anti-bedtime when you really want to stay up late.

But how did theater get to the rest of the world? That's where the Romans come in. The Roman Empire grew from their home in Rome, which is in the country we call Italy today. They had a mighty military and conquered many people. When they invaded Greece, they adopted Greek theater. As they traveled, they brought it with them, introducing theater in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Sadly, when the empire ended, theater stopped being popular for hundreds of years.

Ancient Greek Theater
Ancient Greek Theater

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