Theatres of Different Periods
- The Classical Greek Theatre
Ans: Greek theatre could accommodate an audience of almost fifteen thousand. The structure was built with open-air. Unlike the theatres of our time, the Greek dramatic performance was very public and communal. The size of the theatre also required the drama to be conceived on a monumental scale and performed in a correspondingly emphatic style of acting. The actors wore large, stylized masks and costumes representing character types when their fortunes and emotions changed, their masks were also changed to suit the situation. Those masks were equipped with a mouthpiece to speak the dialogue. They had exaggerated gestures, bold movements, declamatory utterances. They were highly formalized, far from real life. The Greek theatre consisted of three parts – orchestra, theatron, and skene. The orchestra was a circular space sixty-four feet in diameter. It served as the primary acting area. Within this area, dramatic performance occurred. The actors entered this part through the skene. The chorus also danced and sang in this part of the theatre. The skene means literally the hut. It was a one-story building with three openings entering on the orchestra. Its wings were projected toward the orchestra. There was a slightly raised stage-like platform extending between the wings. Actors used to enter the orchestra from the skene and later returned into the same hut. It represented sometimes as a palace. It was used for storing properties, changing costumes, providing entrance and exist, and serving as a scenic background. The theatron was the seeing place that surrounded the orchestra. It was a semicircular terraced hillside equipped with benches. The Greek theatre developed from places of ritual celebration. It had much to do with the ceremonial quality of the production.
Chorus was also very important part of a Greek drama. They made their entry – the parados by marching in stately rhythm through the passage ways between the thratron and skene. They arranged themselves in rectangular formation. They sang and dance to the accompaniment of a flute. The chorus remained in the orchestra throughout the play. It performed in songs and dances as well as in episodes. They exchanged dialogue, made gestures and movements in sympathetic response to the action. It acted as a source os mediation between the audience and the actors. It retained the skills inherited from the ritual celebration of an earlier time. The members were also accomplished dancers and singers. The total performance was certainly as complex as a modern opera, though in Greek drama everything was subordinated to the action.
- The Renaissance English Theatre
Ans: The Globe theatre, a Renaissance English theatre, was a public playhouse capable of accommodating between two and three thousand spectators. Othello was first performed at this theatre. It was a circular or polygonally shaped building, about eighty-four feet in diameter and thirty-three feet high. There were three levels of galleries for spectators. The area enclosed by the galleries was approximately fifty-five feet in diameter. In this area there was an acting platform about forty-three feet wide and about twenty-seven feet deep. Some area was there surrounding the stage for standing spectators. This arrangement must have created an intimate relationship between actors and members of the audience. Drama in the Renaissance English theatre was a very public and communal affair. The yard area was open to the sky and the plays were performed in full daylight.
The stage had also two acting levels. The main area was the platform extending out into the yard. At the rear of the platform on each side were doors for entrances and exits. Between the doors was a curtained inner stage. It was used for “discoveries” and special dramatic situations. The gallery was used also for musicians, or even for spectators when it was not required for the performance. Directly above the gallery was roof covering the rear half of the acting platform. Thus, the theatre was very flexible one.
The scenery was not use in the Globe Theatre. The stage was understood to stand for whatever setting was implied by the action and whatever props were placed on stage. Nevertheless, it set forth a vividly human and symbolic spectacle. It presented a spectacle of universal significance about the conflict of good and evil.
- The Neoclassical French Theatre
Ans: the theatre of the Palais-Royal was fully enclosed structure within a beautiful palace. The Misanthrope was first performed at the theatre in 1666. The theatre itself was beautifully decorated. There were neoclassical columns on each side of the stage. There was decorative trim around the galleries. It was also decorated with the moldings of the upper walls, and there were chandeliers suspended from the ceiling of the auditorium and from the center of the stage. Thus, the actors on stage and the audience watching them were illuminated by candlelight. The theatre was a long rectangle in shape, with a rather deep stage at one end. Spectators viewed the action either from the main floor or from two levels of galleries located on each side of the hall. It accommodated six hundred persons in all. The audience was distinctly separated from the actors by the proscenium (part of the stage in front of the curtain) arch. The curtain was used to divide the separate acts of the play. It was different from modern theatres in one respect. Spectators seated in the galleries probably had a very restricted angle to view the stage. The neoclassical French setting were not designed to create the kind of high realistic illusion we associate with modern theatrical productions.
Acting styles of the period were also highly formalized. Commedia dell’arte, a popular form of drama of Italian Renaissance, had a strong influence on French actors. Comedia was an improvisional theatre built upon an array of type character, such as the clever servant, the braggart soldier, the ingenious maid, the foolish husband, the angry father, and so on. Associated with each type was a stylized, exaggerated mode of gesture and movement. The stylized form of production ideally suited to the social satire on aristocratic and sophisticated culture of the time.
- Setting and Symbolism in Modern and Contemporary Drama
Ans: Modern and contemporary drams invite us to imagine not only a particular location but also a highly detailed setting within that locale (scene of events). Detail of setting seems to be perfectly logical to us because as twentieth-century playgoers we have become accustomed to the vividly realistic stage illusions of our present-day theatres.
Before, there were virtually no attempts whatsoever to create a completely detailed visual illusion on stage. Shakespeare’s play were originally staged without sets at all and only a few props. Most of Moliere’s comedies were originally performed in front of a stock set – a flat painted to represent the wall of a drawing room with four doors cut in for entrances and exits. Though, Moliere and his contemporaries did not lack the technical means for creating detailed theatrical illusions within their plays, they simply did not choose to create them. But Ibsen’s case, the detailed setting is related directly to the naturalistic impulse of his play. He portrays psychological relationship and environment by the detail set. His elaborate set also symbolizes the impact of the Helmers’ environment upon their marriage.
When we recognize setting a potentially symbolic element of modern and contemporary drama, we shall find that our reading of plays is enriched when we pay close attention to the descriptive details concerning the make-up of the set. Just as they write in different styles, so they use their setting for different symbolic effects. We must make an interpretation of its symbolic significance in modern dramas.
- Write short notes on the following:
i. The Classical Greek Theatre
ii. The Renaissance English Theatre
iii. The Neoclassical French Theatre
iv. Setting and symbolism in modern dramas