theatre brief version. 10th ed

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Chapter 1


  • C,'h .a,pl't,e',.i

    ga:r llS: rnrATRE? The *oril, comest from:ite'h'at: Is

    h.ertre?Greek rliiatian, 'or 'lgeeing place." A thiaire,is' ar placewhere,iomethingisseelr. : i' 'i' '

    Today we use the,word theatre in,many way.l.,,Iilhuse it',to desiribe the,buil,alingrrwrlele p14ts are put on:the architectufe, ihe,structure, the sp4ce fu ilramaticperforyqce;the plaea', wherirr 'leomething, is seen."We, also use,,,it',tor'iadicrte, whaie'fi1ms ate,'shown, as inlmovie riheatre,u,lhdr,We.ruse:riL.rretapholidy .to,iefer,to, .a,plae,,*hefe:,w.,afs, and sur$eries,occw:,&eritheeti,eof ,4erations', "t a''tha, |'opiraun$:, theatr,a;1,,?hese areil.,',&amplas:, 0f, ile'llhaidwartli' definition,'lof rihec'rrii

    y66,,lsef1wa*],&finitionr$e',rait tl:t ]ffiolved in,the *ib,farr,moreimpor nt.',iF6i tficrtns abo,,.@rslt*ltne,pqyrets &nA, owaeri; mintgers;limd,iiihnlcians)who,parform ia iuih a,spaedand to' playi,t&at sucha io.mpgny,iiodruies:. u/,lien wti qpeak of.::1thir:1,Gu${eThrtre;1r.,Wa.are, iefus44grnot mere-ly :to' n,buildin$'X4i4neipotist bAt:alrar,to'$e .stigA,arH-'s.''.ts,rnd,rd nihi$;iiatorS,,who ,worh,,!A,,661 buiiding,,erd' to,: tha,,body gfpays froduceJlrrei;r,we ;ro,*, iifat*;'io i boay orideai,;.--,a:r vlsion;ttrai,' animat"s',tt a ",,Guthrfe,' r Theimi,artists,,', ..,the,, plays.,,r,ihe;,.,E"ara'.... f*at';;1] .m'.. iiii;iinie;, is,,a, ta*60;::l.of ,pe;pii..1nd,,ideit;and the*i;Li r sf' ait ' ihit t;sult', fiom :thiJ' iollabor;iim: " ">i

  • We also use the word theatre to summon the pro-fessional occupation-and often the passion-of thou-sands of men and women all over the world. It is avocation and sometimes a lifetime devotion. A life in theTheatre is the title of one theatre artist's autobiography(Tyrone Guthrie, in fact, for whom the Guthrie Theatrein Minneapolis is named), as well as the title of a playabout actors by the contemporary American dramatistDavid Mamet. But A Life in the Theatre could also be thetitle for the unrecorded biographies of the theatre art-ists who have dedicated their professional lives to per-fecting the special arts of acting, directing, designing,managing, and writing for "the theatre" in all the sensesdescribed above.

    Theatre as a building, a company, an occupation-let's look at all three of these usages more closely.

    TL.iT TF{TATRT MUILD'NGA theatre is not always an enclosed structure. The mostancient Greektheatrorz was probably no more than a cir-cle ofbare earth, where performers chanted and dancedbefore a hillside of seated spectators. The requirementsfor building such a theatre were minimal: finding aspace to act and a space to watch and hear.

    As theatre grew in popularity and importance,however, its simplicity required further elaboration.Attention had to be given to seating larger and largernumbers of people, so the hillside soon became anascending bank of seats, each level providing a goodview of the acting area. And as the theatron grew, atten-tion had to be paid to acoustics (from the Greekacoustos,"heard"), so the sounds coming from the stage would

    National theatre buildings in many European countries, generally supp0rted by their 0overnments, are often palatial. The NationalTheatre in Cluj, Romania, is regarded as the most beautiful building in this Transylvanian capital, inthlch indicates ihe prominenceof live theatre in that country.

    8 Chapter t What ls Theatre?

  • be protected from the wind and directed (or reflected)toward the audience (from the Latin audientia, "thosewho hear").

    Often these spaces-for performing and for seeingand hearing-can be casually defined: the audience isup there, the actors are down there. Occasionally, thespaces are merged together, with the actors mingling-and sometimes interacting-with the watchers andlisteners. When the practice of selling tickets and pay-ing actors began (more than twenty-five hundred yearsago), these spaces became more igidly separated.

    Theatre buildings may be elaborate structures. Greektheatres of the fourth century B.c.-the period imme-diately following the golden age of Greek playwrights-were gigantic stone edifices, some capable of holdingup toseventeen thousand spectators. Magnificent three-storyRoman theatres, complete with gilded columns, canvasawnings, andintricate marble carvings, were often erectedfor dramatic festivals in the later years of the Republic-orrlylo be dismantled when the festivities ended. Grandfree-standing Elizabethan theatres dominate the Londonskyline in illustrated sixteenth-century pictorial mapsof the tor,rrn. Opulent proscenium theatres were builtthroughout Europe and in the major cities of the UnitedStates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Manyremain in full operation today, competing with splendidnew stagehouses of every description and serving as cul-tural centers for metropolitan areas around the world.Theatres (the buildings) are fundamental to urban archi-tecture, just as theatre (the art) is to contempotarylife.

    T}{M CfrMPANY, *[T TRTUI}H.OF PLAYTR$Theatre is a collaborative art, usually involving dozens,even hundreds, of people working closely together on asingle performance. Historically, therefore, theatre prac-titioners of various specialties have teamed up in long-standing companies, or troupes. Since the fourth centurye.c., such troupes of players (actors or, more literally,"playrnakers") have toured the countrysides and settled incities to present a repertory ofplays as a means of earninga livelihood. Generally such players have included actor-playwrights and actor-technicians, making the companya self-contained production unit capable of writing, pre-paring, and presenting whole theatrical works that tendto define the company itself. Some of these troupes-andthe works they produced-have become legendary: forexample, the Lord Chamberlain's Men of London, which

    This watercolor depicts the opulent interior of Booth's Theatre in New Yorkat its 1869 opening. This grand "temple o{ theatre" irias bu lt by America'sfinest aclor of the time, Edwin Booth (the brother of Ltncoln's assassin).Booth staged and performed in a cJassical repertory of Shakespeareanplays at his theatre for four years. The side boxes, similar to those that stillexist in older Broadway theatres, had p00r sight lines: spectators electingt0 sit there were interested more in being seen than in seeing the play. Theluxurious seating in the orchestra made this a particularly c0mfOrtable andelegant place to see classic theatre. Charles Witham, Booth's original stagedesigner, painted this watercolor; part oi Witham's scenery (a street scene)is visible onstage.

    counted William Shakespeare as a member; and the IIIus-trious Theatre of Paris, founded and headed by the greatactor-writer Molidre. The influence of these theatre com-panies has proven more long-lasting than the theatrebuildings that, in some cases, physically survived them.They represent the genius and creativity of theatre in away that stone and steel alone cannot.

    Theatre 9

  • Shakespeares Globe has been meticulously reconstructed near its sixteenth-century location on the south bank of Londons ThamesRiver. The reconstruction was spearheaded by the late Sam Wanamaker, an American actor who labored many years to acquire thefunding and necessary permits (the theatre has the first thatch r00f laid in London since the Great Fire of 1666). This is scholarshipsbest guess as to the specific dimensions and features of lhe Globe in Shakespeares time. Since its 1 997 opening this Globe hasproduced a summer repertoire ol the plays of Shakespeare's age, seen on a stage much like the stages they were written f0r.

    Tr"-{r eilcLjpATrcr'i or- TFi[ATR[Theatre is also the occupation of its practitioners. Itis a vocation for professionals and an avocation foramateurs, yet in either case, theatre is work. Specifi-cally, it is that body of artistic work in which actorsimpersonate characters in a live performance of aplay. Each aspect of theatre as occupation-work, art,impersonation, and performance-deserves individ-ual attention.

    Io Chapter r What ls Theatre?

    fd*ri".The "work" of theatre is indeed hard work. Rehearsalsalone normally take a minimum of four to six weeks,which are preceded by at least an equal amount of time-and often months or years-of writing, researching,planning, casting, designing, and creating a productionensemble. The labors of theatre artists in the final weeksbefore an opening are legendary: the seven-day work-week becomes commonplace, expenditures of money and

  • iGames and seri0us theatre have always been related, and some plays combine these ditferent "playing" motifs. Richard GreenbergsTake Me Outlakesplace in a baseball locker room in America, David Storey's The Changing Room in a rugby locker room inEngland. Pictured here, Andrew Lloyd Webbels musical The Beautiful Ganelakes place in Northern Ireland, on a soccer field,r,vhere it portrays contemporary violence and religious intolerance rampant between English and lrish teenagers in recent decades.

    spirit are intense, and even the unions relax their regu-lations to allow for an almost unbridled invasion of thehours the ordinary world spends sleeping, eating, andunwinding. The theatre enterprise may involve hundredsof people in scores of different efforts-many more back-stage than onstage-and the mobilization and coordi-nation of these efforts are in themselves giant tasks. Sowhen we think of the "work" embodied in the theatri-cal arts, we must think of work in the sense of physicaltoil as well as in the loftier sense of oeuvre, by which theFrench designate the sum ofan artist's creative endeavor.

    The work of the theatre is generally divisible into anumber of crafts:

    Producing, which includes securing all necessarypersonnel, space, and financing; supervising allproduction and promotional


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