Skene (theatre)

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The stage of the South theatre in Jerash, Jordan, the structure at the back is the skene.

In classical drama, the skene was the background building to which the platform stage was connected, in which costumes were stored and to which the periaktoi (painted panels serving as the background) were connected.

The evolution of the actor, who assumed an individual part and answered to the chorus (the word for actor, hypokrites, means answerer), introduced into drama a new form, the alternation of acted scenes, or episodes. With this development, there arose the need for a place where the soloist could retire between appearances and change costumes whenever needed, and a place for the storing of various properties. The word skene means "tent" or "hut," and it is thought that the original building for this purpose was constructed of perishable material, such as wood, and was a temporary structure. The skene broke the circularity of design in the Greek theater. In the course of time, the skene underwent extensive alterations. At first it was a simple wooden structure; later it became a series of complex stone buildings (permanent) with such areas as the paraskenion, the proskenion, the hyposkenion, the episkenion with its thyromata, and the logeion.

The skene also served as another "hidden stage." At times some of the action went on inside, in which case it was up to the audience to decide what was happening based on the noises coming from the inside.

The proskenion was the main playing area. It was the area directly in front of the skene (pro [in front of] + skene). The skene grew larger as the interest in setting and backgrounds grew. Over the course of millennia the skene itself enveloped the playing area and all that was left of the original skene was an arch surrounding the proskenion; this is how modern theater inherited the proscenium arch.

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