I've written before about my love of musical theatre so I thought I'd investigate the history of one of my favourite words: thespian. It comes from Thespis, the 6th-century BC Greek poet, considered the traditional father of Greek tragedy. The name literally means 'inspired by the gods' – the Greeks clearly loved their theatre as much as I do!
I've brought up my daughter, Freya, to love musicals and she recently enjoyed Barbra Streisand's great film Funny Girl. This is the story of the vaudeville star Fanny Brice. I'd watched this film many times before and never once wondered where the word vaudeville originated.
Back in the 18th century, a vaudeville was a light song. It took its name from the popular satirical songs of a 15th-century French poet, Olivier Basselin, who lived in the valley of Vire which, in French, was the Vau de Vire.
It evolved to describe stage plays interspersed with comic songs in the USA, until it became a major cultural phenomenon with lavish theatres built to put on the extravaganzas. Some of these magnificent buildings still stand today. What a great era that was!