Introduction to Theatre - Chapter 001

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Theatre and Performance Studies

THE THEATRE 9 September 2013 Theatre vs. Drama While drama refers to the script, theatre is an event. It is the presentation of the script performed on a stagebyactorsforanaudience.Thescript,theliteratureofthestage,isonlyoneofthefactorsinatheatre performance. What is Theatre? Theatre is a reenactment of human action. It is a reenactment because it is not really happening for the first time. Theatre is action because something must happen during the event, having a plot and characters, unlike a painting of a sunset or a poem about a lily. Theatre needs human action, of people doing something. Theatre requires more factors than any other art form. If one of these four factors are missing, it will become a rehearsal, an improvisation, a play reading, a broadcast,or a film, and is not theatre. Four basic elements for a theater event to occur:  Actors needed for the reenactment; portray characters, deliver dialogue, performing action  Script is the blueprint telling them what to say and do  Audience watching them  Place must be the same as the actors, performers and spectators gathered together, unlike TV The Word Theatre There are two accepted spellings of the word, theatre and theater, which is used interchangeably. Many believe the place, theatre building, should be spelled with an er while the art form should be re. Theatre comes from Latin and Greek words meaning “to view.” Today most theatres are indoor auditoriums, in the past the theatre event took place outdoors. Most important thing is that actors and audience are brought together in one place. The Theatre Experience Theatre is a unique experience because it always takes place in the present tense. This does not mean a play is always set in the present, it means the story unfolds now; said vs. says. Theatre tells a story not by narrating a tale but by reenacting it. The audience observes, picks up information about past events, witnesses new events, watches the character in action, and is hopefully involved with the play as it builds to the climax. Because theatre takes place in the present tense, there is much more immediacy to watching a play than to reading a story in a book. Theatre is “literature for the illiterate.” From Page to Stage Prose fiction tells a story; theatre shows a story. The Origins of Theatre Some critics believe that theatre was a natural progression from storytelling. In prehistoric societies figures ofauthority (IE: Priests, shamans)told storiesaloud atsomesortof gathering. Moving from telling stories to a handful of actors showing a story is a logical step. Other scholars argue that theatre grew out of ritual. A ritual is a ceremony of sorts that is planned, performed, and repeated so that the spectators or participants become familiar with its words and movements (IE: Sporting events). It is said ritual led to theatre since both involve performers, audience, and story and occur in a specified place. Most rituals are connected with religion, and most religions require the reenactment of an event from the past or an illustration of a belief. The first well documented Western theatre production is in ancient Greece. Theatre as Change Auniqueaspectoftheatre,asopposedtootherliteraryandperformingarts,isitsabilitytochange.Classic plays, such as Macbeth, have been produced in different ways over the centuries. Theatre Conventions Although one does not need education or experience to appreciate a theatre production, there are unwritten rules and an unspoken agreement between the actors and the audience that are present in everytheatre.Theancientcustomofacceptingandbelievingthingsonstageiscalledatheatreconvention (IE:ActorcomesandsaysheisthekingofScotlandorwhenhedies,audienceknowsheisnotreallyaking but pretending, but we accept the pretense). Place convention of s
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