How would contempory theatre be different if Thespis was never born?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The problem with this question is that Thespis was not exactly a real person, but the name we give to the putative first actor, a starting point for our discussion of theatre history, and a source for the word “thespian”.  There is no “biographical” information, other than Solon’s mention that he may have pulled a cart around Athens acting street plays (tragedies “that would soon occur in real life”, Solon says); he may have been the winner of the 534 BCE City Dionysia, but the trouble with that conjecture is that the prize was designed to honor the producer/financier of the trilogy, not necessarily the actor in it. The description of Greek tragedy given to us by Aristotle in The Poetics, and the Greek tragedies left behind—Oedipus, Electra, etc.—are still our best starting points for Western notions of drama.  Anthropologists argue that prehistoric hunters were the first actors; they would return to the clan fire and re-enact the hunt for the children, women, and elders.  One hunter/actor (unnamed of course) draped himself in the hide of the deer and acted out its part—the first stage costume.  In other words, humans would still have the mimetic impulse without “Thespis.”

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