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Classics Teaching Resources

Preparing the plays

Choosing the writers It took months to get the plays ready. First, any writer who wanted to have his plays performed took them to an official called an archon, who chose the three writers of tragedy and the three writers of comedy for the next festival.

Who paid for the plays? Instead of paying taxes, in ancient Athens rich people were told to pay for a warship or a choir or a play. It was a bit like getting a firm to sponsor a group of performers today. The rich person had to pay a lot, but he got the glory if his play was successful. The person who paid for a play was called the 'choregos.'

The choregos could not choose which writer he teamed up with. Each choregos would hope for a good writer, and each writer would hope for a generous choregos.

The choregos chose the members of the Chorus, provided a room for them to rehearse, and paid for their costumes and their training. He did not choose the three actors, but he did choose and pay for the 'extras,' the men who appeared in the play but did not speak.

Tragedies were more expensive for the choregos than comedies, because a comic writer wrote only one play, but a tragic writer wrote three tragedies and a satyr play.

Did the writers act in their own plays? One of the great tragic writers, Aeschylus, acted in his own plays. Another writer, Sophocles, had a weak voice, so he had to let other actors act his plays.

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