In this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary study, Andrew Walker White explores the origins of Byzantine ritual - the rites of the early Greek Orthodox Church - and its unique relationship with traditional theatre. Tracing the secularization of pagan theatre, the rise of rhetoric as an alternative to acting, as well as the transmission of ancient methods of musical composition into the Byzantine era, White demonstrates how Christian ritual was in effect a post-theatrical performing art, created by intellectuals who were fully aware of traditional theatre but who endeavoured to avoid it. The book explores how Orthodox rites avoid the aesthetic appreciation associated with secular art, and conducts an in-depth study (and reconstruction) of the late Byzantine Service of the Furnace. Often treated as a liturgical drama, White translates and delineates the features of five extant versions, to show how and why it generated widely diverse audience reactions in both medieval times and our own.
Andrew Walker White is an American theatre artist, cultural historian, and theatre critic. As a performer his work embraces everything from Shakespeare and Chekhov to dance theatre and mime; he is a former company member of Source Theatre and Theatre Le Neon, both in the Washington, DC area. As a historian he has devoted himself to post-classical Greek culture, especially the theatre and drama of Byzantium, and has translated key late antique and medieval Greek texts. A veteran of the Fulbright Program, White has conducted research on site in Greece and Turkey, and has lectured in both the United States and Europe.
Introduction; Part I. Byzantine Spatial, Performance and Musical Practices: 1. Spatial practices in Byzantium; 2. Ritual versus theatrical performance in Byzantium; 3. Musical practices in Byzantium; Part II. A Study of the Service of the Furnace: 4. Origins of the Service; 5. The Service's historical context; Conclusion; Appendix 1. The Service of the Furnace, Athens 4027; Appendix 2. The Service of the Furnace, Athens 2406; Appendix 3. The Service of the Furnace, Iviron 1120; Appendix 4. The Service of the Furnace, Sinai 1527; Appendix 5. The Service of the Furnace, Lavra 165; Appendix 6. Archbishop Symeon's Dialogue in Christ; Appendix 7. The Russian Furnace Play; Glossary.