The History of Theatre
Theater is a form fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event in front of a live audience in a specific place, usually a stage. The performers may communicate their story to the audience through gestures, speeches, songs, music, and dances. There is some equipment/props in the stage to help simulate their story such as boats, mist, lights, etc. Modern day performances usually include plays and musicals. There are also different types of theaters, which include the Roman theatre, Sanskrit theatre, and Chinese theatre.
The Roman theatre hadn't been used until 4th century BCE, and when it was first used, it had a performance with the Etruscan actors. It was a thriving and a diverse art form. Although Rome had a native tradition of performance, the Hellenization of Roman culture in the 3rd century BCE had a profound and energizing effect on Roman theatre and encouraged the development of Latin literature for the stage.
The earliest reference of Sanskrit drama dates back to the 1st century AD. A Treatise on Theatre (Natyasastra), supposedly written from 200 BC to 200 AD by Bharata Muni contains the most complete description of ancient dramaturgy, including dramatic construction, acting, costumes, dance, music, props, architecture, make-up, and more. This work also focuses on a mythological account of the origin of theatre. Sanskrit theatre performances were held on sacred ground to educate and entertain the audience. The first actors were priests who received the adequate training in recitation, music and dancing.
Chinese theatre that involved mimes and acrobatic shows appeared during the Shang Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty an acting school was created to produce mostly musicals. Later, during the Dynasty of Empress Ling, shadow puppetry first appeared in China. There were two different forms of shadow puppetry: Pekingese (northern) and Cantonese (southern). Cantonese shadow puppets were bigger in size than Pekingese ones and the rods that control Cantonese puppets were attached perpendicular to the puppets' heads not to visible by the audience. Pekingese puppets were smaller and made of thin, translucent leather. The puppets were brightly colored to cast a vibrant shadow. The thin rods used to control them were attached to the neck of the puppet and could be seen when the shadow was cast. Both types of puppets usually performed plays about great adventure and fantasy.
Theatre can be classified as drama, musical, comedy, tragedy and improvisation.
Drama is a special genre of fiction represented in performance. The term drama derives from a Greek word which means "action". Some of the greatest examples of the art of drama are the tragedy "Oedipus the King" (c. 429 BCE) by Sophocles and tragedy "Hamlet" (1601) by Shakespeare. An example of contemporary drama is "Long Day's Journey into Night" by Eugene O'Neill (1956).
Musical theatre combines music, dance and dialogue. Musical performances started from comic opera, vaudeville, variety and music hall genres of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Edwardian musical comedy of the late 19th and the Princess Theatre musicals of the early 20th century evolved into comedies of the 1920s and 1930s. In the following decades musicals became more dramatic. The most popular musicals of the late 20th century are "My Fair Lady (1956) ", "The Fantasticks" (1960), "A Chorus Line" (1975), "Les Misérables" (1980) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1986). Among the latest popular musicals are "Rent" (1994), "The Lion King" (1997), "Wicked" (2003), to name just a few. Musicals can be staged on a small scale in regional theatres, or be produced as a grand Broadway spectacle. Broadway and West End musicals are known for their lavish costumes and props that require multimillion-dollar budgets.
Comedy is a theatre production that relies on humor to tell a story. The example of a classical comedy is "As You Like It". Comedies also include a modern farce ("Boeing Boeing") and a black comedy the plot of which is related to bleak, controversial or taboo subject. Black comedy can be classified as slapstick humor, dark and sarcastic comedy.
Tragedy often opposed to comedy is a genre of drama that can be traced from the theatrical performances staged in Athens 2,500 years ago. Unfortunately, only part of the works by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides survived. The genre of tragedy is vividly represented by the literary masterpieces of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Racine, and Schiller, as well as in the more recent naturalistic works of Strindberg and Beckett with their meditations on death, loss and suffering.
Improvisation emerged from the Commedia dell'arte performed in the sixteenth century. It gained popularity thanks to the genius acting of Nobel Prize Winner Dario Fo and such troupes as the Upright Citizens Brigade. Today improvisational theatre continues to develop and is represented by numerous streams and philosophies. The two principal teachers of contemporary art of improvisation are Keith Johnstone and Viola Spolin. While Johnstone viewed this form of theatrical art as an alternative to scripted theatre Spolin used improvisation principally as a means of developing dramatic skills or as a form for situational comedy. Spolin also researched how learning improvisation impact the development of human potential.