Live Theatre Production: historical context

Live Theatre Production: historical context

Ancient Theatre Traditions

  • Live theatre has a rich and varied history dating back thousands of years to Ancient Greece and Rome.
  • The Greek theatre tradition was divided into Tragedy and Comedy; significant playwrights included Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes.
  • Roman theatre added the genre of farce and satire, promoting plays by Plautus and Terence.

Transition into Medieval and Renaissance Theatre

  • The Medieval period saw the rise of mystery and morality plays, often organised by guilds and performed in the community.
  • The Renaissance heralded a return to the classical conventions of Greek and Roman theatre, especially in the work of Shakespeare.

Elizabethan Theatre and its Relevance

  • Elizabethan Theatre is a key era for drama, and understanding the socio-political climate of the time (e.g. attitudes towards monarchy, religion, and gender) can enhance interpretation of plays from this era.

Major Periods from 17th Century onwards

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, French neoclassicism, English restoration comedy, and Italian drama became predominant.
  • The late 19th and early 20th centuries brought innovations such as realism, naturalism, symbolism, and expressionism, revolutionising the way stories were told onstage.
  • 20th Century theatre further innovated with absurdism, postmodernism, and physical theatre, pushing boundaries of what theatre can be.

Importance of Historical Context in Understanding Theatre

  • Understanding the historical context of a play can help you appreciate the themes, characters, and structures inherent in the work.
  • In modern times, live theatre encompasses a wide range of styles and genres, and it is constantly evolving.
  • Note down key dates, innovations, playwrights and socio-political contexts for each major era - this information can provide unique insight into performance choices.
  • Consider that certain techniques and conventions have origins in particular historical periods; for instance, the use of a chorus originates from Ancient Greek theatre.
  • Always remember the audience for which a play was originally written; a play would not be the same without its original social and historical context.

Practical Tips for Revision

  • Remember that live theatre is not just a text or a performance - it is also the social and cultural context in which it is created and performed.
  • The keys to successful revision are to understand the key concepts, remember the details, practice recalling them, and apply them actively to your understanding and interpretation of live theatre.