THEATRE HISTORY TIMELINE Dates / Period 600BC-600AD CLASSICAL Key Styles Greek Theatre Development of the classical genres of Comedy and Tragedy. The philosopher Aristotle established the classical rules of tragedy (unities of time, place and action). Aristotle identified the central purpose of theatre ± to arouse strong emotions in its audience (catharsis). Greek Tragedies were often based on explorations of conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. Masks were used for characters. A group of narrators called the Chorus would tell the story, comment on the actions taken by the protagonist as well as engage in dialogue.
Tragedies were in five acts. Plays were written within a closed structure. Aristotle considered Comedy to be inferior to Tragedy; comedies were bawdy, frivolous, based on chance, fantasy & comic errors. Provided an escape from the realities of life. The Greeks also developed Satyr Plays ±more informal, often crude, with phallic imagery. The plays satirised or were parodies of myths, legends, historical figures & tragedies. They combined songs, dances & sketches and laid the basis for the later development of Burlesque & Farce. Roman Theatre Particularly influenced by the Satyr plays.
The Romans developed new forms of theatre including Mime, Farce, and Spectacles (including gladiator contests. ) A model for Roman Tragedy was developed by the theorist Seneca. 600-1500 MEDIEVAL Liturgical Drama Certain parts of the Catholic mass were enacted in church, particularly in the Easter liturgy. These enactments were developed in the monasteries and later spread to other churches. The µplays¶ were performed by the community. Three principal forms of drama developed from this: Mystery Plays based on episodes from the Bible.
Miracle Plays based on the lives of saints & martyrs Morality Plays in which virtues like goodness & truth and vices like greed & sloth became characters in simple µgood triumphs over evil¶ stories. These became increasingly political & appealed to the socially oppressed peasant class. 1500-1650 RENAISSANCE Revenge Tragedy Plots involved murder, death, revenge. Plays often included nightmare visions of ghosts. Complicated subplots. Unrequited or unacceptable love. Gruesome actions. Sword fights. Poisons and potions. Madness. Key Playwrights Aeschylus: The Oresteia Euripides: The Trojan Women, Medea Sophocles:
Oedipus, Antigone Aristophanes: Lysistrata, The Frogs Plautus Homer: The Odyssey Ovid: Metamorphoses Anon: Everyman Anon: The Mystery Cycles Shakespeare: Hamlet, Titus Andronicus 1500-1650 Tourneur: The Revenger¶s Tragedy Middleton/Rowley: The Changeling Marlowe: Doctor Faustus Ford: Tis Pity She¶s a Whore Webster:The Duchess of Malfi RENAISSANCE continued« Elizabethan & Jacobean Comedy Shakespeare¶s comedies mix elements of farce, comedy of manners, romantic comedy and black comedy. Jonson¶s comedies were more Satirical, exposing the follies and vices of society through the use of biting humour.
Shakespeare: MSND, Much Ado, 12th Night Jonson: Volpone Commedia Dell¶Arte Began in C16th Italy. Used caricature half-masks for middle-class and servant characters. Hero and Heroine were unmasked. Stock Characters were placed in stock situations (scenarios). Ensemble playing allowed for free improvisation around the roles & situations. Depicted clashes between Masters & Servants. Used physical humour known as Slapstick or Lazzi as well as acrobatic & juggling skills to amuse the audience. Street Theatre. 1650-1700 RESTORATION Comedy of Manners Examined rules of the society of the time from a satirical standpoint.
Portrayed and commented upon the affectations of the upper classes. Based on the wit & banter of the aristocratic class. Thrived in time of material prosperity and moral laxity. Satirised the affected wit and self-importance of the minor aristocracy and a world where everyone thought that to better oneself was merely a question of speaking the right language and wearing the right clothes. Uses a heightened form of language. Courtship and Sexual attraction was an underlying theme. Plots were concerned with scandals and illicit love affairs. Women were allowed onstage for the first time.
This became an excuse for raunchy and titlating drama based on the manners of the court and featured licentiousness, adultery and cuckoldry. In the later C18th, this developed into Bourgeois Comedy which was targeted more at the rising mercantile class. In more recent years, Oscar Wilde & Noel Coward developed this into an intellectual form known as High Comedy. Burlesque / Ballad Opera Uses caricature and distortion almost to a grotesque extent to mock society, particularly respected society figures. First used in connection with Italian Opera in the C16th. Based on puns and humour of low wit. Music used as parody.
Ballad-operas were a popular new drama which appealed to all classes. They parodied / satirised the Italian operas which were popular at the time. They mixed popular songs and melodies together with action-orientated plots which often poked fun at the government & the establishment. Melodrama Most popular form of theatre for the majority of the C19th. Lighthearted entertainment as a means of escapism. Plays revolved around extremes of good & bad: characters were either heroes or villains. Dealt with sensationalist stories. Gruesome crimes were turned into theatre. Fast paced scenes with plenty of action.
Used cliff-hanger curtain scenes to heighten the audience¶s emotional response. Lack of subtlety in acting style. Large gestures and grand voices. Plays were invariably quite short & presented as part of an evening interspersed with other forms of entertainment, such as Victorian Music Hall. Goldoni: A Servant to Two Masters Moliere: The Hypochondriac Wycherley: The Country Wife Goldsmith: She Stoops to Conquer Congreve: The Way of the World Farquhar: The Recruiting Officer Behn: The Rover Sheridan: The Rivals, School for Scandal 1700-1800 BAROQUE Gay: The Beggars Opera 1800-1850 ROMANTICISM
Anon: Maria Marten (The Red Barn) Anon: Sweeney Todd 1800-1850 ROMANTICISM continued« Romanticism Reacted against the constraints of neo-classicism. Often base don the representation of the heroic individual¶s struggle to maintain lofty ideals and values in an imperfect and corrupt world. Themes included nature, the oppression of the poor, liberty and nationalism. Often dealt with extreme experiences like suicide, infanticide and incest. Goethe: Faust Schiller: Mary Stuart 20TH CENTURY & BEYOND Styles Realism & Naturalism Originated in Europe as a challenge to the melodramatic forms of theatre that preceded it.
Depicted ordinary lives in ordinary settings. Used everyday speech rather than verse. Sought to offer the µillusion of reality¶. Allowed greater depth to characters; believed personality and actions were based on family, background and circumstance (based on Darwin¶s theories of evolution. ) Concerned with political and social issues. Fascination with class and the way the upper classes could cover up the problems within society. Reliance on dialogue rather than action. Sets were highly detailed & very realistic. Chekov developed Tragi-Comedy which combined the funny with the sad, absurd, terrifying & the pathetic.
Symbolism Challenged realism & naturalism. Believed truth lay beyond mere appearances. Aimed to reflect the mental or spiritual life. Strong on atmosphere and effects, the influence of supernatural powers and the occult. Nonnaturalistic scenery. Expressionism Movement in literature & art which originated in Germany before WW1 and ended in 1920s. Erratic & explosive. Tried to destroy superficial ideas of reality and explore deeper meanings underneath. Surrealism Revised the definition of reality. Concerned itself with accounts of dreams, madness, the subconscious and the non-rational.
Playwrights Ibsen Chekov Strindberg Shaw Gorky Priestley Leigh Cartwright Ayckbourn Significant Plays Hedda Gabler, A Doll¶s House Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters Miss Julie, The Father Arms & the Man, Major Barbara The Lower Depths An Inspector Calls Two Thousand Years, Abigail¶s Party Road, Two, The Rise & Fall of Little Voice Sisterly Feelings, Norman Conquests, Confusions Pirandello Lorca Eliot Six Characters in Search of an Author Blood Wedding, Yerma, The House of Bernarda Alba Murder in the Cathedral Strindberg Buchner Wedekind (Stephenson) A Dream Play, Ghosts Woyzeck, Danton¶s Death Spring Awakening (The Memory of Water) Jarry Cocteau
Ubu Roi La Machine Infernale Theatre of the Absurd Influenced by Camus: µthe human situation is essentially absurd and devoid of purpose¶. Also by the horrors of WW2. Characters share a somewhat pessimistic view of the world in which humans struggle with their attempt to understand why they are here. Man inhabits a universe whose meaning is undecipherable. Structure is very loose. Rarely any plot or any sense of time passing. Non-linear. Language is disjointed; uses puns & repetition. Conversations go around in circles or are pure nonsense. Serious underlying discussion at a metaphysical level invariably to do with existence and death.
Technical elements use symbolism. Pinteresque Amalgamates Realism with Theatre of the Absurd. Characters merely exist. No explanation as to why things happen, or who the characters are. Dialogue is simple & sparse. Noted for the use of pause & subtext. Generally features working class characters & settings. Focuses on relationships. Characters are seemingly unpleasant. Epic Primary aim was to use theatre as a means to induce an enquiring, critical, objective audience. Main focus was µtelling a story¶. Often used a Narrator. Projections used to add commentary or to allow for modern or historical parallels to be drawn.
Puts a social or political message before the exploration of character. Often structured using montage form. Non-linear plot. Each episode is selfcontained. Uses Direct Address, Songs & Music. Usually involves a whole people¶s history, or many different characters, span across decades of time and be set in a number of places. Political Theatre Emphasises a political issue(s) in its theme or plot. Can also explore themes more universal and central to a society which defines itself as politically conscious. Deals with contemporary social & political issues. Aims to impress political truths upon the audience.
Can sometimes be polemic, or one-sided. Propaganda. Writers are often politically committed. Italian Political Theatre Critical of the deeply religious Italian world, with special vehemence for the position of women in such a Catholic society. Frequently censored & banned. Draws on traditions of Commedia Dell¶Arte ± characters are exaggerated, comic grotesques. Satirises the bourgeoisie. Uses elements of Farce. Sometimes uses a documentary style. Ionesco Beckett Genet Stoppard Sartre The Chairs, The Bald Prima Donna, The Lesson Waiting for Godot, Endgame The Maids Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead In Camera, Kean
Storey Pinter Home The Dumb Waiter, The Caretaker, The Birthday Party, The Room, The Homecoming, Betrayal Brecht Durrenmatt Wertenbaker Littlewood The Good Woman of Setzuan, The Threepenny Opera The Visit Our Country¶s Good Oh What a Lovely War Brecht Brenton McGrath Griffiths Bond Arden Mother Courage, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Arturo Ui Plays for the Poor Theatre, Paul The Cheviot, the stag and the black, black oil Comedians Saved, The Sea, Restoration Sergeant Musgrave¶s Dance, Live Like Pigs Fo Accidental Death of An Anarchist, Mistero Buffo, Can¶t Pay, Won¶t Pay, The Devil in Drag
Docudrama / Verbatim Theatre Used to describe plays based on fact. Doesn¶t normally distort or speculate the facts. Depicts real events on stage, usually narrated by representations of the original participants. Text is created out of sources and documents such as news reports, autobiographies, interviews, photos etc. Often includes narration & projection ± real documents & film footage. Major historical and political figures are represented. It has a political purpose. Editing process often favours one viewpoint; audience are not left entirely to make up their own minds. Hare Soans
Permanent Way, Racing Demon Talking to Terrorists Physical Theatre Berkoff adapted the main elements of physical theatre & mime & combined them with vocal exploration to produce his own style. Uses stylised, extreme physical work where the outer image creates the inner soul of a role. Shocking language and visual images. Use of rhyme, rhythm & other poetic conventions. Use of violence. Limited Set and props. High energy levels. Feminist Central themes are the place & treatment of women in society. Other themes include relationships, sisterhood, gender politics, anatomy, sexuality.
The intention is usually to promote a positive change for women. Sometimes uses historical figures & incidents to comment on modern-day society. Plot is often less important than content. Characters learn by altering assumed perceptions. In Yer Face Blatantly aggressive or provocative. Confrontational. Theatre of sensation. Uses shock-tactics. Controversial. Confronts ruling ideas of what can or should be shown on stage. Bold. Experimental. Mixes sex, violence & street-poetry. Critique of modernlife, focusing on the problems of violence, the questioning of masculinity, myth of postfeminism & the futility of consumerism.
Irish Drama At the end of the C. 19th there was a rise in Irish nationalism which began to inspire Irish playwrights to investigate their background as a Celtic nation and attempt to make some sense of the violent political and social upheaval. This became the focus of Irish drama from that point on. Since then, Irish drama has divided itself into two camps: plays that focus on the rural traditions of Ireland and plays that focus on the political uprisings & conflicts. Often makes poetic use of language. Examines the power of religion. Focuses on recent history & nationalism.
Kitchen Sink Many plays in England before the 1950s had been concerned with the middle and upper classes. In 1956, Osborne wrote a play that changed this situation. µLook Back in Anger¶ took working class men for its leading characters and was set in a working class environment. Plays generally expressed dissatisfaction with the socio-political order of the time, and were outspoken against the class system. The style was term domestic realism. Plays used the language of the working class. Atmospheres were grim, grey. Berkoff Frantic Ass. DV8 Complicite
The Trial, Metamorphosis, East, Greek, Decadence Rabbit Enter Achilles, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men. The Street of Crocodiles, Mnemonic Churchill Townsend Daniels Keatley Dunn Ensler O¶Malley De Angelis Page Ravenhill Kane Marber Pritchard Eldridge Williams Harrower Vinegar Tom, Cloud Nine, Top Girls The Great Celestial Cow, Womberang Masterpieces My Mother Said I Never Should Steaming The Vagina Monologues Once a Catholic Playhouse Creatures Tissue Shopping & F***ing, Citizenship Cleansed, 4:48 Pychosis, Crave Closer, Dealers Choice Yard Girl, Essex Girls Serving it Up Local Boy, Sing Yer Heart our for the Lads Blackbird
Synge O¶Casey McDonagh Friel McPherson Behan Playboy of the Western World The Plough & the Stars, Juno & The Paycock The Pillowman, Beauty Queen of Leenane Dancing at Lughnasa, Translations The Weir The Hostage Osborne Wesker Delaney Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer Roots, Chips with Everything A Taste of Honey Black Comedy Often based on farce but deals with grim situations & themes, and makes a mockery of them. It finds comedy in things that many people would find inappropriate, but allows an audience to laugh at their fears.
Characters & Situations are often exaggerated beyond the level of usual satire until they become grotesque. High Comedy See notes on Comedy of Manners Farce Particularly popular in France in C19th. Usually the protagonist is placed into a situation and/or location where they should not be & their increasingly frantic attempts to avoid discovery are what lead to the comedy. Actors play the ludicrous situations as real and dangerous. The potential for disaster is the key. Plots are often Increasingly complex & refer to sexual misadventure. Action is fast paced, and frenetic. Complex sets include many entrances and exits.
Physical Timing. American Drama Influenced the fashion for Realism in postwar British theatre. Often concerned with family tensions &/or sexual anxiety as well as morality and frustration. High-dramatic tension. Lyrical dialogue. Reflected individuals¶ response to the pressures exerted by the forces of family & society. Total Theatre Theatre that encompasses different forms, such as ritual, myths, mask, mime, music… Theatre of Cruelty is its basis. Aims to grab audience¶s attention and keep it through the use of so many different techniques. Complex combination of elements working in a unified way.
Often explores the relationship between protagonists. Orton Nicholls Loot, Entertaining Mr Sloane A Day in the Death of Joe Egg Coward Wilde Stoppard Frayn Orton Cooney Private Lives, Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit The Importance of Being Earnest Black Comedy, The Real Inspector Hound Noises Off What the Butler Saw Run for Your Wife Williams Miller O¶Neill Mamet A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, View from the Bridge The Iceman Cometh, Long Days Journey into Night Oleanna Weiss Shaffer Marat/Sade Equus, Royal Hunt of the Sun