Theatre most likely started as people doing rituals. People used masks and costumes to entertain people in the rituals. Later people started to leave out the ritual part of the performances. Theatre started around about 2500 years ago. The word theatre comes from the Greek word “theatron” which means “seeing place.” Greek theatre mostly developed in Athens.
Plays were very important. Thousands of people went to the plays in ancient Greece. Even prisoners were released from jail for a short while to go and watch the plays. In Greece plays were important because they started off as events when they honoured Dionysus, the Greek god of the harvest and wine
In early Greek theatres the directors and actors were all the same person. All actors were male and had exaggerated masks and costumes. These exaggerated masks and costumes helped the people who sat very far away see and appreciate the details and characters of the play.
Early Elizabethan actors were not seen as nice people. They were thought of as thieves and homeless people. The contents of the plays were checked to see that they did not have any religious or political parts in them that might offend people or threaten the country. Later the actors and people involved in the plays became known as better people. They became famous and some of them became rich men and performed for the nobility.
Some of the early theatres were amphitheatres. They were very big, with seats all the way around the stage. The seats were higher than the stage and sometimes built into a hill. This kind of theatre was outdoors and it usually had no roof. Theatre lighting was not used because the plays usually took place in the day, so that they could make use of the daylight. They also used mirrors to change the light. The theatres often had trap doors where people and props could enter and exit. The props for the plays were usually easily moveable small things such as swords. In some Roman theatres there were curtains painted with scenery that were lowered at the start of the play. There were also moveable stages for Greek comedy where people just stood around in the middle of the street to watch the play.
© Copyright Sebastian Schultz 2013