Sunday, 3 August 2014

Theatre and History

The development of theatre over the past 2,500 years. Greek theatre, most developed in Athens, is the root of the Western tradition; theatre .  According to a Greek chronicle of the 3rd century BC, Thespis is also the first winner of a theatrical award. He takes the prize in the first competition for tragedy, held in Athens in 534 BC.Theatrical contests become a regular feature of the annual festival in honour of  Dionysus, held over four days each spring and known as the City Dionysia.  Four authors are chosen to compete. Each must write three tragedies and one satyr play. The performance of the plays by each author takes a full day, in front of a large number of citizens in holiday mood, seated on the slope of an Athenian hillside. The main feature of the stage is a circular space on which the chorus dance and sing. Behind it a temporary wooden structure makes possible a suggestion of scenery.  Western theatre developed and expanded considerably under the Romans. The Roman historian Livy wrote that the Romans first experienced theatre in the 4th century BC.  Rome encountered Greek drama
Liturgical drama: 10th century
During the centuries of confusion in Europe, after the collapse of the Roman empire, theatre plays no part in life.  In the late 10th century, Christian churches introduce dramatic effects in the Easter liturgy to enliven the theme of resurrection. In most of Europe the plays are done on fixed open-air platforms, usually along one side of a square, with little 'houses' or mini-stages set up for different scenes.  rom these small beginnings there develops the great tradition of medieval Christian drama. More and more scenes are enacted during church services,In about 1170, priests somewhere in France decide to move a performance to a platform outside their church and to give it in the language of the people.

12th - 16th century
In the spirit of theRenaissance, Roman plays are performed on festive occasions at the courts of Italian princes. Italy in the 16th century, home to the first stirrings of opera, also launches Europe's most vigorous tradition of popular theatre.

There were also a number of secular performances staged in the Middle Ages, the earliest of which is The Play of the Greenwood by Adam de la Halle in 1276. It contains satirical scenes and folk material such asfaeries and other supernatural occurrences.  At the end of the late middle ages, professional actors began to appear in England and Europe.Richard 111 and Henry VII both maintained small companies of professional actors. Their plays were performed in the Great Hall of a nobleman's residence. The end of medieval drama came about due to a number of factors, including the weakening power of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation  and the banning of religious plays in many countries. Elizabeth forbid all religious plays in 1558 and the great cycle plays had been silenced by the 1580s. Similarly, religious plays were banned in the Netherlands in 1539, the Papal States in 1547 and in Paris  in 1548. The abandonment of these plays destroyed the international theatre that had thereto existed and forced each country to develop its own form of drama. It also allowed dramatists to turn to secular subjects   .


Commedia dell'arte

 Commedia dell'arte troupes performed lively improvisational playlets across Europe for centuries. It originated in Italy in the 1560s. Commedia dell'arte was an actor-centred theatre, requiring little scenery and very few props. Plays did not originate from written drama but from scenarios called, which were loose frameworks that provided the situations, complications, and outcome of the action, around which the actors would improvise.
The plays utilised stock characters, which could be divided into three groups:
1.      the lovers,
2.      the masters, and
3.      the servants.
 The lovers had different names and characteristics in most plays and often were the children of the master. The role of master was normally based on one of three stereotypes.  The servant character had only one recurring role:  He was both cunning and ignorant, but an accomplished dancer and acrobat. He typically carried a wooden stick with a split in the middle so it made a loud noise when striking something. This "weapon" gave us the term "slapstick".
A troupe typically consisted of 13 to 14 members. Most actors were paid by taking a share of the play's profits roughly equivalent to the size of their role.

London's theatres:1576-1599

The theatres built in London in the quarter century In 1576 an actor, James Burbage, builds a permanent playhouse in Shoreditch - just outside the city of London . They named this theatre as “Globe”,  it is where many of Shakespeare's plays are first presented. It has been calculated that during Shakespeare's time one Londoner in eight goes to the theatre each week. A city of 160,000 people is providing a weekly audience of about 21,000.

 the Golden Age
The Spanish Golden Age was a period of high artistic activity and achievement that lasted from about 1580 to 1680. During this time period, the theatre also enjoyed a golden age in acting and playwriting, producing plays to rival those of the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists who were writing at the same time.
Theatre historians used to claim that the plays from the Golden Age were too traditional and too concerned with a narrow code of honor to appeal to a wide audience, but recent scholarship has proven that the plays are as exciting, challenging, and relevant as the works of most English and French playwrights of the time period. In fact, the plots for many seventeenth-century English and French plays were taken from Spanish drama.

The three major forms of Golden Age theatre are the comedia, the auto sacramental, and the entremés. Autos sacramentales are one-act religious stories, and entremeses are one-act ridiculous situation originally performed between the acts of a full-length comedia. Comedias are three-act dramas written in verse, which mix comic and serious elements in complex plots that often emphasize intrigue, disguises, music, and swordplay.