A Note on the Name of the Company


 

 

Theatre, as we know it today, developed in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. in Greece, as a natural outgrowth of the annual Dionysian festivals, dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine, celebration and, by extension, the god of the human subconscious. The most significant among these theatrical festivals was that of the Great Dionysia, held in Athens. These annual performances also contained religious rituals and, as a result, required a sacrificial altar, or thymele, which became the focal point of the activities. The thymele (pronounced “timely” or “ty-melee” and “too-meh-lay” in ancient Greek,) was a circular, raised platform in the center of the orchestra (dancing floor for the chorus,) used as a sanctuary and, during rehearsals, the director (usually the dramatist himself) used it, to better observe the overall action of each given production. For better acoustics, the thymele was also used by the flute players and other musicians in the performances. Those who surrounded this sacred altar were known as thymelians and, in the Hellenistic era, as thymelici. The dramatic competitions-festivals were a major component of the religious rituals in honor of Dionysus throughout Greek cities. Each city had its own amphitheatre. Archaeology provides evidence of such amphitheatres and, in certain rare instances, the precise location where the thymele once stood is revealed. Eventually, thymele was used as a term to denote theatre in general and it is cognate to the ancient Greek word themethlon as well as to the modern Greek word themelion, both words meaning “groundwork,” “basis,” and, in an architectural sense,  “foundation.”

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