Meaning of THEATRE, THE in English

first public playhouse of London, located in the parish of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch. Designed and built by James Burbage (the father of actor Richard Burbage), The Theatre was a roofless, circular building with three galleries surrounding a yard. It opened in 1576, and several companies performed there, including Leicester's Men (157678), the Admiral's Men (159091), and Chamberlain's Men (159496), who were associated with William Shakespeare. The Theatre also housed fencing and athletic competitions. After the death of James Burbage in February 1597, the theatre's lease ended. In 1598 the building was dismantled, and Burbage's sons, Cuthbert and Richard, used its timbers to construct the first Globe Theatre. The evolution of modern theatrical production Underlying the theatrical developments of the 19th century, and in many cases inspiring them, were the social upheavals that followed the French Revolution. Throughout Europe the middle class took over the theatres and effected changes in repertoire, style, and decorum. In those countries that experienced revolutionary change or failure, national theatres were founded to give expression to the views and values of the middle class, whose aspirations in these cases coincided with a more general movement of national liberation. In western Europe a different pattern of development emerged, varying considerably in each country but having the unified features of a demand for realism on the stage, which meant a faithful reflection of the life-style and domestic surroundings of the rising class in both its tragic and its comic aspects; an adjunct to this development was the demand for increased decorum and cleanliness in the auditorium. In England, where the Industrial Revolution was more advanced than in the other European countries, the middle class had to struggle for its own theatres against the entrenched power of the two patent houses (licensed by the Crown), Drury Lane and Covent Garden, which had enjoyed an almost total monopoly of dramatic theatre since 1660. As early as 1789, attempts were made to evade the legal restrictions on building new theatres. The Reform Bill of 1832, which enfranchised the propertied middle class and established its political power, led to the Theatres Act of 1843, which gave London a free theatre. The expected flood of new theatre buildings did not occur, and no major building took place for 16 years. This is probably because there were already sufficient illegal theatres in operation when the act was passed. The boulevard theatres of Paris experienced less trouble in establishing themselves. The rise of the middle-class theatres caused the decline of both the patent houses in London and the Comdie-Franaisethe national theatre of France. After much political struggle, centring particularly around censorship, the Comdie-Franaise, unable to compete with the boulevard theatres, capitulated and presented the plays of the new school for the new audiences. As the new class came into the theatres, the theatres were cleaned up. Samuel Phelps at The Sadler's Wells Theatre instituted audience controls that drove out the old audience and paved the way for respectability. The Bancrofts, as representative as any of the new movement, took over the run-down Prince of Wales' Theatre, cleaned up the auditorium, and placed antimacassars on the seats. They also dropped the melodrama and attracted a wide audience with the social comedies of Tom Robertson, making a considerable fortune in the process. Throughout the 19th century, cities throughout Europe and North America exploded in size, and industrial centres attracted labour to their factories and mills. The working-class suburbs of cities and the industrial towns created their own demand for entertainment, which led to the construction of large theatres. Accelerating this change was the growth of the railways. The pattern of theatre was disrupted in England as productions were mounted in London and sent on tour. The old provincial stock companies folded and theatres became touring venues rather than producing houses. A breed of managers arose who made money from the possession of the bricks and mortar property rather than by presenting their own productions. In the United States the Theatrical Syndicate established great fortunes from the New York theatres and the almost unlimited touring circuit that the railways opened up. The change in status from enterprise to industry gave rise to the commercial theatre systems of the West End in London and Broadway in New York City. Improvement in travel in general made it possible to increase the links between the two systems early in the 20th century, and the exchange of productions further extended the possibilities of profitable exploitation. Modern theatre began around 1885 with the revolt of the younger generation against the material injustices of society. Those in revolt founded so-called independent theatres to present a more critical or scientific view of the workings of society or so-called art theatres to rise above vulgar materialism with the establishment of aesthetic standards. The independent theatres took the Meiningen Players as their starting point. The art theatres looked to Wagner for inspiration. The new Naturalism The first of the independent theatres was the Thtre-Libre (Free Theatre) founded in 1887 by Andr Antoine, who made his living as a clerk for the Paris Gas Company. The Thtre-Libre was an amateur theatre with no home of its own. It hired rooms or theatres where they were available and sold tickets for its performances to a closed membership. In this way it avoided censorship. Antoine's original intention was to present plays that had been rejected by the Comdie-Franaise, and thus the repertoire was eclectic. The major impact the group made was with a number of naturalistic plays. The theatre was at this time lagging behind literature, and, although mile Zola had written an essay entitled Naturalism in the Theatre in 1881 and had produced what is seen as the first Naturalist play, Thrse Raquin, in 1873, no theatre devoted itself to a Naturalist policy until Antoine founded the Thtre-Libre. Following on the scientific developments and the philosophical skepticism of the 19th century, the social reformers of the last two decades of the century probed into the causes of human behaviour and postulated that the meaning of human character was to be found in its interaction with the physical, social, and economic environment. The new theatre demanded truthfulness not only in the writing but also in the acting and stage setting. The actors were expected to ignore the audience and to behave and speak as though they were at home. Antoine is normally credited with being the first to require an actor to turn his back on the audience; from this style of acting arose the concept of the fourth wall separating the stage from the audience. Behind this wallinvisible to the audience, opaque to the actorsthe environment portrayed was to be as authentic as possible. Antoine himself designed rooms and then decided which wall would be removed. In The Butchers, he hung animal carcasses on the stage. It is possible, however, to overestimate Antoine's commitment to Naturalism, since a great deal of his repertoire was not naturalistic and the descriptions of several of the Thtre-Libre presentations show an imaginative experimentation with lighting effects that goes well beyond creating realistic temporal and atmospheric conditions. The first production of the Thtre-Libre had no scenery at all but only a few pieces of furniture borrowed from Antoine's mother, yet it was this production that set the Naturalist style. Zola, the philosopher of the movement, had deplored the fact that the Naturalist theatre began by creating an external representation of the world instead of concentrating on the inner state of the characters. Strindberg showed that a few carefully selected properties could suggest an entire room. With the ideas of Antoine and Strindberg, the days of flapping canvas doors and kitchen shelves painted on the walls of the set came to be numbered. The more natural and detailed the acting became, the more it clashed with a painted background. Antoine's innovations did much to establish the principle that each play requires its own distinct setting. In 1906, as director of the state-subsidized Thtre de l'Odon, he produced classical plays in which he strove for realism not by means of period decor and costume but by re-creating theatrical conventions of the 1600s. The new pattern of theatre set in France was imitated in Germany during the same period. Otto Brahm modeled his theatrical society, the Freie Bhne, founded in Berlin in 1889, after Antoine's Thtre-Libre. Its first production was Ibsen's Ghosts. On the basis of this and other examples, it could be said that Ibsen pioneered the repertoire, Saxe-Meiningen the staging methods, and Antoine the organizational form for a range of small, independent theatres springing up throughout Europe. With both ideological aims and theatrical tastes in mind, members of the German middle-class theatre audience formed an organization called the Freie Volksbhne in 1890 for the purpose of buying blocks of tickets and commissioning performances and even productions for its membership, which included a large working-class element. Early in its history the organization split between the Freie Volksbhne, who were attempting to make theatre available to a wider audience, and the Neue Freie Volksbhne, who had specific Socialist attachments and policies. Eventually the two arms recombined and were able not only to subsidize performances but also to build their own theatre and mount their own productions. During the 1890s in France, a similar program of democratization was attempted. One of the prime movers in this was Romain Rolland, whose book The People's Theatre (Le Thtre du peuple, 1903), inspired similar movements in other countries. In England the works of Ibsen aroused great interest and attracted the attention of the censors. The first English independent theatre was organized by Jack Thomas Grein, and its first production in 1891 was Ibsen's Ghosts. Grein's intention of finding British writers of the new drama was frustrated until the arrival of George Bernard Shaw, the most famous Ibsenite of them all, in 1892, with his first play, Widowers' Houses. Shaw remained the mainstay of the independent theatre movement in Britain. His preeminence in the independent theatre in England coupled with the success of Arthur Wing Pinero in the commercial realist theatre led to a major innovation in staging in England. Both playwrights participated in the casting of their plays, which in Pinero's case led to a break away from the old stock company casting and the institution of casting to type. Shaw was able to impose his own interpretation and stage direction on the production of his plays. Russia also followed the pattern of the independent theatre movement that developed in France, Germany, and England (see below Developments in Russia and the Soviet Union). The evolution of modern theatrical production Developments in Russia and the Soviet Union The great directors Until 1883 there were only five state theatres in Russia. When the embargo on non-state theatres was lifted, private initiatives followed. The most important of these was the Moscow Art Theatre (after 1939 the Moscow Academic Art Theatre), formed in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. The repertoire of the Moscow Art Theatre was less contentious than those of the other independent theatres, and it was the first of these theatres to emphasize theatrical production rather than censored or neglected plays. Stanislavsky had been deeply impressed by the work of the Meiningen Company and particularly by the discipline imposed on rehearsals by the Duke's stage manager, Ludwig Chronegk. In order to produce theatre in which all the elements were fully integrated, Stanislavsky decided that an autocratic, if not despotic, director was necessary. His first production, Aleksey Tolstoy's Fyodor Ivanovich, which Stanislavsky had rehearsed on a country estate and designed on the basis of detailed research into costumes and historical settings, caused a sensation. Later Stanislavsky came to the opinion that the Meiningen approach was successful in creating an external unity of effect but deficient in transforming the internal techniques of the actors. The actors merely imitated the outward behaviour of the characters. With plays increasingly calling for a deeper understanding of psychological motivation, Stanislavsky saw the necessity for a more complex and subtle technique for transforming the thought processes and emotions of the actor into those of the character. The role of the director was thus transformed from that of despot to a combination of coach, teacher, and psychologist. Stanislavsky devoted the rest of his career to perfecting his famous method, by which actors assumed the identity of their characters; it must be stressed that his was a method and not a styleeach production was created in its own specific style. His early stage settings were overwhelmingly naturalistic, impressively detailed and accompanied by a vast array of sound effects. Fortunately, at the outset of the Moscow Art Theatre work, the plays of Chekhov formed a major part of the repertoire, and Chekhov argued successfully for a more selective style of setting and against the drowning of his plays by choruses of birds and frogs. Stanislavsky is credited with being the first person to produce a systematic study of the actor's craft. His influence and that of his Moscow Art Theatre are still to be seen in much of the theatre produced on the world's stages. Vsevolod Meyerhold was one of the actors in the original Moscow Art Theatre, playing among other roles Konstantin in The Seagull and Tussenbach in Three Sisters. In 1905 Stanislavsky, sensing the difficulties of approaching nonrealistic theatre through the acting methods of the Moscow Art Theatre, asked Meyerhold to open a studio to investigate nonrealistic approaches to acting. Meyerhold's work in the studio appears to have been more imaginative than disciplined, involving painters, poets, musicians, and actors in a series of multimedia experiments. Prior to the Revolution he was director of the imperial theatres in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). After the Revolution he became head of the Soviet theatre organization. In both these areas, Meyerhold carried on the experimental work begun in the Moscow Art Theatre. Meyerhold's early experimental work followed the patterns laid down by Craig, Appia, and Fuchs, committing him to a theatricalized theatre and anti-illusionism. In his production of Blok's Fairground Booth (1906) and his subsequent writings on this work, Meyerhold explored the concept of a theatre of the grotesque. A disjointed rather than a uniform stylethe contrasting of the comic and the tragic rather than their reconciliation in the tragicomic, the dispelling of illusion by blatant theatrical devices, the use of distorted perspectivesseemed to him the most appropriate style for 20th-century theatre. Other writers, directors, and artists were also concerned with the development of the grotesque at that time, but Meyerhold's productions of the Blok play and of Andreyev's Life of Man (1906) were high points, representative of a line of theatrical work that utilizes mixed forms in the theatre to express the contradictions and inconsistencies of life. The Theatre of the Absurd of the 1950s and early 1960s took this technique further to demonstrate that life is not merely inconsistent but fundamentally absurd. Meyerhold's staging of Molire's Dom Juan (1910) was a key production in the process of retheatricalizing the theatre. Meyerhold used his historical research to reproduce many of the features of the early Baroque theatre. He built over the orchestra pit and extended the stage area forward by about 20 feet. He abolished the curtain, so necessary to the theatre of illusion, and conducted set changes in full view of the audience. The stage was lit with hundreds of candles and the auditorium remained lighted during the performance. The intention was to extend the experience of theatregoing beyond the mere watching of a play. The disposition of the auditorium and the circumstances under which people arrived at the theatre were to be part of the experience. Meyerhold believed that bright light inspired a festive mood in the spectators when they arrived at the theatre and that this disposed the actors to respond with equal enjoyment. The Russian preoccupation with the physical aspects of performance not unnaturally led to a decline in respect for the written text, which became only one subservient means the theatre had at its disposal for creating enjoyable experiences. Of much greater importance to the Russians, since the text could be cut and reshaped and rewritten at will, was the physical technique of the actor. Throughout his studio period before the Revolution, Meyerhold was exploring circus movements, commedia dell'arte, and Japanese theatre in order to devise a new system of training actors. Both he and his younger contemporary Yevgeny Vakhtangov in their productions placed great emphasis on the rhythmic control of stage action and the physical agility of the actors. After the Revolution the demand for a popular theatre of ideology intensified this research and increased the numbers searching. Meyerhold codified his study of movement in a system known as biomechanics. The two roots of this term, in suggesting a living machine, also demonstrate the aim of the system. Meyerhold acknowledges a great debt to Frederick W. Taylor's work in all his writings on the subject. Meyerhold constructed a set of 16 tudes as the basis of biomechanics. These tudes were chosen from an eclectic range of sources, including the circus, Chinese and Japanese theatre, and sport, and they formed the basis of his extended movement vocabulary. The tudes were sequences of precise muscular movements intended to evoke particular emotions in the performer. This process attempted to systematize the kinesthetic relationship between outer movement and inner feeling, to enable actors to experience this relationship, and to train them to control it. Even after so short a time, it is not easy to reconstruct Meyerhold's biomechanics from the remaining evidence because of his fall from favour under Stalin. But, if the exact form of biomechanics has not survived, many of the underlying principles of Meyerhold's movement studies have, and the example of his training program is embodied in the work of many of the present-day advanced theatre groups. Less well known is the work of Vakhtangov, which is important because of the ways in which he combined the inner techniques of Stanislavsky with the external expressive techniques of Meyerhold. An investigation of the work of Jerzy Grotowski shows the continuation of this process and many of the specific techniques (see below The influence of Grotowski and the Polish Laboratory Theatre). Like Piscator, Meyerhold experimented with the use of film, projected images, and graphics in his productions, and there has been some largely irrelevant controversy as to who copied whom. The period after the Revolution saw many of the Constructivist ideas used in architecture and design taken over into the theatre. The settings from Meyerhold's Constructivist period featured complicated stage machinery. All attempts at illusion were stripped away to reveal skeletal frameworks with moving parts. The abstract platforms and steps of Craig, Appia, and Jessner had entered the machine age. The sets, whatever their other origins, are the logical outcome of Meyerhold's study of movement and his efforts to reveal the mechanics of the actors' articulation. But Meyerhold and his designers were not content to provide a neutral acting area. The Constructivist settings were incorporated into the action, and the actors' movement was coordinated with the shape, dimensions, functions, and movements of the setting. This emphasis on the rhythms of performance led Meyerhold to conceive of a theatre, designed but never built, in which all the dressing rooms opened directly onto the stage so that the actors could remain constantly aware of the stage proceedings. It has been said of Meyerhold that his rehearsals looked like performances and his performances looked like rehearsals. Against the prevailing approach of Stanislavsky, epitomized in the building of a character, Meyerhold instituted a holistic approach whereby the actors did not mark the actions but gave prototypical performances in rehearsal. Each rehearsal then produced a more complex prototype, and the process continued into the public performances. This approach is the one accepted now by many advanced theatre groups. What unites Meyerhold and Piscator is their concept of an infinitely variable theatre within an oval shell, which would provide the total means to construct the environment and stageaudience relationship best suited for each production. Piscator commissioned plans for such a theatre from Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus. The project was called Totaltheatre. A remarkably similar building was designed for Meyerhold. Neither were ever built. The Russian theatre during these years produced many other talented and innovative directors. Three who deserve mention are Nikolay Evreinov, Aleksandr Tairov, and Nikolay Okhlopkov. Like Craig in England and Meyerhold in his own country, Nikolay Evreinov looked to the history of theatre as the true basis for freedom and innovation. In 190708 he mounted a cycle of medieval plays through which he wished to capture the artistic essence of each kind of stage, unconfined by pedantic reconstruction. A cycle of plays from the Spanish Golden Age was presented in a large halleach play given an original setting to re-create the atmosphere of the original performances. One play was set on boards and trestles in an innyard, another given a court setting with the full effects of the Baroque theatre. Evreinov also began to explore the relationship between theatre and life, particularly how the processes of acting in the theatre related to social strategies. His work has had a considerable influence on the development of psychodrama and the therapeutic process of acting out concealed traumas. He also anticipated the sociological school of theatre analysts and acting coaches of the 1960s and '70s. Aleksandr Tairov used abstract settings of Cubist design and took the training of his actors so far as to posit the idea of the actor-dancer. The European tours of his Kamerny Theatre in the 1920s aroused special interest in France and sparked off a run of emulators. Nikolay Okhlopkov, claimed Meyerhold, was the ideal biomechanical actor. His later work as director of the Moscow Realistic Theatre was innovative in the manner in which he planned the shape and relationship of both stage and audience for each individual production. His centre-stage production of Gorky's Mother had subordinate stages and a walkway behind the audience. He experimented with stages in front of, behind, within, and above the audience. His intention was to revive the festival spirit and incorporate the audience into the spectacle, and his methods were not restricted to the spatial. In The Iron Flood, a play about guerrillas in the Russian Civil War, the audience was kept outside the theatre until the Red Army arrived to break open the doors and the audience flooded into the auditorium. The stage in this production was obliterated and replaced by an embankment running along one side of the room with small promontories jutting out into the audience, breaking up any fixed focus in order to make the audience follow the fluid action. The theatre laboratories of Grotowski and Odin Theatre follow the Okhlopkov tradition in their handling of space. Russian FuturismSuprematism The Russian Futurists, or Suprematists, declared their lineage from Jarry and their affiliation with the Italian Futurists in their first manifesto A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912). They differed from the Italians in that they were internationalist rather than nationalist in their politics and that their performances developed beyond the early antibourgeois, anti-art cabaret and variety shows that characterized both Italian Futurists and the Dadaists. The early Russian Futurist activities consisted of provocative street actions and cabaret performances, but with Victory over the Sun, an opera created in 1913 by the writer Alexey Kruchenykh, the composer Mikhail Matyuchin, and the painter Kazimir Malevich, they produced a work that expressed modern machine culture. The piece had affinities with Kandinsky's Expressionist pieces in that the setting consisted of geometric forms, pieces of machinery, and fragments of typography. The text consisted of nonsense syllables and words without syntax. The costumes and masks were designed to eliminate the human element by transforming the actors into machines. An offstage accompaniment of battle noises, cries, and discordant choral and solo singing provided the score. The whole work optimistically predicted a new age when man's mechanical inventions would supplant the Sun as the source of power. Later generations were to be more concerned with the dangers inherent in the realization of that proposition. According to the composer Matyuchin, Victory over the Sun represented the first occurrence on a stage of the disintegration of traditional text, staging, and musical harmony. In retrospect, this production and the other Futurist works, including the early works of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, appear as extreme examples of a feverish experimentation concerned with separating analytically the various components of theatrical performance and resynthesizing these elements into new relationships. This analytical investigation and experimentation characterized the work of Kandinsky, Oscar Schlemmer, and the Bauhaus group as well; the work of the Expressionists, Piscator, and later Brecht began the resynthesis. The theatre since the advent of Naturalism had been prone to producing manifestos of various kinds. As time went by, these declarations became less concerned with what theatre should be doing and more concerned with defining what theatre was. From Appia, Craig, and Fuchs onward there was a consistent body of theatre theory that had little to do with dramatic theory. The play and the playwright diminished in importance. The old dramatic criticism based on playtexts and how these were interpreted by actors lost relevance in the new world. The concept of genres such as tragedy, comedy, and farce collapsed as more and more theatre productions attempted to cope with experiences that could not be categorized so neatly. Film, declared Lenin, was the most important of the media. The availability of resources for films that had an educational purpose rather than a commercial one stimulated filmmaking and the study of film as an art form. The director Dziga Vertov's manifesto for Soviet film sets out to free film from intrusive elements such as music, literature, and theatre. The theatre that Vertov disclaimed was equally rejected by the theatre makers around him who derived inspiration from the developments in film. Sergey Eisenstein, who worked in theatre and film, developed further the Italian Futurist concept of the montage of attractions. The implementation of this theory would eliminate all the random, haphazard nature of theatre, which Craig saw as destructive to any concept of the theatre as art. Whereas Craig put his trust in the intuitive genius of an individual director, the Russians tried to find a generally applicable theory. The artist-genius was replaced by the artist-theorist.

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