Early theaters in Rome were temporary and set up for specific religious festivals. General Pompey constructed the first permanent theater in Rome in 55 B.C. It held a crowd of 27,000 spectators. Another, the Theater of Marcellus, was built around A.D. 12 and held 14,000 people. This theater is still standing which gives good insight into the theater of ancient times. Unlike the openness of the Greek stage, the Romans built two or three-story backdrops behind the stage. The theaters may have had an awning, which shaded some or most of the audience.
The Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks in both the style and the content of their plays. The actors wore masks like in Greek theater and they and played multiple roles. They performed tragedies and comedies written either by the Greeks or their own playwrights. Actors were usually slaves or freed slaves, because acting was not seen as a respectable career. Good actors, like today, did achieve a type of recognition among the Roman public.
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