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Theater through the ages


Theater through the ages How we got to today – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theater through the ages

Theater through the ages
  • How we got to today

Beginning of Theatre
  • Myth and ritual
  • Need for food and explanations for the
  • Belief in magical or supernatural
  • Connections between their actions and the
  • Shaman, sacred place, specific movements or

Egyptian Theatre
  • Plays written called Pyramid Texts 55 were
    found in pyramids and tombs.
  • Coronation Festival celebrating a new Pharaoh.
  • Ritual Dramas
  • I-Kher-nefert the first stage director and
    actors mentioned in recorded history.

The Greeks
  • Theater festival to honor the gods especially
  • Multiple day events. Evolved from chanting
    dancers to plays.
  • Plays were written as contests. At first all
    were tragedies based on legends or history.
    Later satyr plays (comedies) were added. All
    were written on a theme.

Theatre of Dionysus
Orchestra or dancing place was the main acting
area. Skene was where the actors changed costumes
and eventually became a place to hang scenery
from. Pro-skene was added in front as an
additional acting area. Parodos entrance and
exit. The audience sat on stone seats on the
hillsides. The Theatron.
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Staging of Greek Drama
Chorus was a strong part of the drama. They told
the story. Thespis was the first actor to step
out of the chorus. Later two and then three
actors were added.
  • Since the theaters were large and the audience a
    long distance away the Greeks employed the
    following conventions to further the story
  • Masks depicting stock characters were worn by
    the lead actors. There were megaphones built
    in to the mouth area to help the sound carry.
  • Elevated shoes that had tall platforms on the
    soles to make the actor taller and more visible.
  • Tall headpieces helped define characters and make
    actors more visible.
  • Heavy costumes with many layers of cloth.
  • All of these things made it difficult for the
    actors to move. They had to walk and turn in
    geometric patterns.

Greeks did not use a great deal of scenery
because Plays relied on long speeches that said
more to the audience than to other actors.
Playwrights Aeschylus wrote about
gods. Sophocles wrote about heroes Euripedes
wrote about men Menander wrote comedies about
daily life.
Scenery developed slowly. Skene could be used to
represent several different locales by placing
pained panels between or in from of the
columns. Periaktoi or a three sided triangular
piece that could be turned was developed and used
to change the scene. Eccyclema or wheeled
platform was used to haul in bodies since the
Greeks dictated that all violence must take place
off-stage. Deus ex machine (god from the machine)
crane-like machine used to lower actors to the
stage for divine intervention.
Medieval Theatre
  • Catholic Church became the center of all things.
  • Ironic because it had caused the end of theater
    in late Rome.
  • Began using elements of drama as additions to the
    celebration of the Mass.
  • Made the liturgy easier for people to understand.

  • Tropes first one may have been Quaem queritas
    that tells the story of the three Marys finding
    the tomb empty on Easter morning.
  • Parts were played by priests and deacons.
  • These worked so well that they set up more areas
    of the church for larger scenes. These areas
    were called mansions.

  1. Tomb
  2. Joseph
  3. Caiaphas
  4. Hell mouth
  5. Center back Gallilee
  6. Gethsemane
  7. Pilate
  8. Herod
  9. Heaven

  • Mystery plays stories from the Bible
  • Miracle plays stories of Saints
  • Morality plays characters representing abstract
    values that taught right and wrong.
  • Passion play depicts scenes from the life of
  • As these plays increased in popularity they moved
    out of churches into public squares.
  • Eventually moved to pageant wagons to travel
    through the countryside.
  • The church became disenchanted with the plays
    partly because of the humorous depictions of
    Herod, Satan and other biblical villains and
    disassociated itself from the productions. So
    once again it withdraws its support frpm theatre.

Renaissance Theater
  • In Italy theater developed along two lines
  • 1. Commedia dell arte Theater for the
    masses performed by traveling troupes including
    the first female performers. Each troupe
    consisted of 7 men and 3 women. Each performer
    had his or her own character. These were called
    stock characters such as the clever servant, the
    foolish old man, the lovers, etc.
  • The cast was given the scene and
    improvised the dialogue and movement.
  • 2. Courtly drama for the nobility
    and wealthy families. Done in ornate, private
    theaters. These became the first permanent
    indoor theatres. Theatro Farnese was the first
    of this kind.
  • There are no surviving scripts form this time
    period. Mainly because of the development of

Elizabethan Theater
  • Public theaters were developed from the courtyard
    theaters of Medieval times.
  • Theaters were for everyone. Acting companies and
    playwrights were in it for the money.
  • The plays changed with the interests of the

The Building
  • The first theater was called The Theater. After
    it burned, The Globe and The Swan were built.
  • Theatres were made of wood and burned easily so
    it was believed that many had totally disappeared
    except for drawings made by visitors to London.
  • In the late part of the last century they found
    the foundations to two theatres including the
  • Globe was twenty-four sided. There were 3
    galleries of seats surrounding the yard (later
    known as the pit). The open area was where those
    who could only afford a penny stood. They were
    called groundlings or penny stinkers.

The Globe continued
  • The stage was raised at least five feet about the
    ground improving visibility and allowing for a
    trap door in the floor for special effects such
    as the appearance of ghosts.
  • Stage had its own roof sometimes called the
    heavens. A trap door in the ceiling allowed
    actors to be lowered to the stage.
  • Inner stage had a closed off curtain for small
    scenes. A balcony area above this was used for
    scenes as well.
  • Above that was a small hut where the machinery
    for lowering actors was located and this is where
    sound effects were done. Musicians may have sat
  • Above the hut was the turret for flying the flag
    on performance days. (extra credit if you find
    out which colors were used for which types of
  • Not much scenery was used to change of place was
    denoted by the actors dialogue.
  • Costuming was not important each actor dressed
    as they saw fit based on their character.
  • No actresses in the Elizabethan theatre. Young
    men dressed up as women to play female roles.

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