I would like to respond to Issac Butler's recent tribute to your favorite deity and mine, Dionysus. Bulter, while speculating on the unknowable reasons our art form originated as praise to this elusive god, made an excellent connection with the mythology of Dionysus's death and resurrection to the nature of death and rebirth in the theatre each time we close a show or begin a new production.
Accepting the perpetual awareness of the certain metaphorical death we must eventually experience each time we begin working on a play, I also think we're striving for a sort of immortality. A revival is not the only way to resurrect a dead play- if it was good it will live on kinesthetically and be expressed in the form of actions, ideas, memories and emotions. As Butler mentions that the rehearsal hall is a sacred place, I remember an extremely old director explaining to a student that she dressed up to attend performances because the theatre was her equivalent to church. In the sense that it provides us with emotional and intellectual enlightenment, I completely agree. Idealistically speaking, creating theatre should be an endeavor to make a memorable impact and to connect with something divine, much like the rituals of Dionysus's women.
It seems as though Dionysus was a Freudian. His world revolved around intoxication and pleasure. He would not tolerate anyone who did not believe in him and what he represented. Those who protested his divinity often went insane and met horrible deaths. Among the many examples, the most famous is portrayed in Euripides' The Bacchae, when Pentheus's head was ripped off by his own mother for doubting Dionysus. The myth of Dionysus explains that we can not afford to deny the sexual, ritualistic impulses we have. We must recognize and embrace them or else they will destroy us. Perhaps the City Dionysia was about embracing these feelings in a responsible manner. If so, the Greeks proved their civility in finding a religious place for this part of human nature, instead of degrading it as separate and non-holy.
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**Of course, these are just some connections I've made between Dionysus and my thoughts on theatre. I am not an expert in history or mythology and even the experts are not exactly sure how Greeks viewed their art form. I do not have enough knowledge to assert that these are actually possible reasons for the festival of plays to have been a tribute to Dionysus.