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Theater

THEATER

THEATER in America started as ritual performance by Native Americans and then, upon the arrival of the first white, Spanish settlers, became another sort of ritual, based on medieval European Christian morality plays. For many years, theater was outlawed in Colonial America, although the proscription hardly called a halt to performances. As everywhere, theater ranged between high and low: early "high" theater attempted to duplicate what was going on in Europe and included rewritten ("improved") Shakespeare and other, mostly British dramas, including School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. "Low" theater included riverboat shows, vaudeville, minstrel shows, and Wild West shows. It was not until the late eighteenth century that an authentic "American" voice began to emerge in the theater. This voice continued to develop throughout the nineteenth century and found itself being embraced on the world stage during the twentieth century.

Early American Theater

While there are no records of the earliest Native American performances, Indian rituals were noted by the early white settlers. Native Americans performed most of their theatrical pieces in honor of various gods or to celebrate changes in seasons, harvests, hunts, battles, and so on. Among the many performances were the summer and winter rituals of the Pueblo Indians. Pueblo dramas included the Deer Dance, Buffalo Dance, Corn Dance, Raingod Dance, and the Eagle Dance. Variations on Native American performance were later played out many times with white settlers in rituals and ceremonies focused around treaties and other meetings. These dramas included gift giving, dances, and speeches. Later, Indians—and cowboys—became stock characters in performances ranging from melodramas to vaudeville. In "Wild West" shows of the nineteenth century, Indian rituals were recreated for white audiences in the eastern United States and in Europe.

The first recorded white colonial performances were morality plays performed by missionaries for Spanish soldiers in Florida in 1567. These plays were intended to show the supremacy of the Spaniards' religion and its ultimate triumph in the New World. Although no record of the actual play exists, it can be assumed that it took the stylized and ritualistic form of medieval drama.

In Colonial days, theater was looked down upon by many of the Puritanical white settlers, so it was not until 1665 that the first play performed in English was recorded. Ye Bare and Ye Cub was performed by three men in Accomack County, Virginia. Apparently someone was offended by the offering, or simply by the idea of theater, because the players were sued. After the play was performed in court, the performers were found "not guilty of fault." Quakers were especially opposed to theatrical performances and had laws passed against them in most of the colonies, beginning with William Penn's in Pennsylvania. Proscriptions against theater were not passed in Virginia, and that is likely why it became the home of the first professional American theater, the Company of Comedians, led by entrepreneur Lewis Hallam.

Hallam's troupe of provincial players arrived from England in 1752. Like most of the companies to follow, the Company of Comedians was run by an actor/manager. After performing Shakespeare in Williamsburg, Virginia, Hallam built the first theater in New York City in 1753 and in Charleston in 1754. Hallam's fare also included such English staples as Restoration drama, farce, and operetta. His company played Philadelphia and toured the South and eventually moved to Jamaica, where Hallam died. While in Jamaica, Hallam's wife married another theater producer, David Douglass, who had founded theaters in Philadelphia and New York. Under Douglass, the company moved back to the States, calling itself the American Company. Hallam's son, Lewis Hallam the Younger, often performed opposite his mother and proved to be a talented comic. In 1767, Hallam played the lead in the first professional American drama, Thomas Godfrey's Prince of Parthia.

In 1775, theater was again banned, this time by the Continental Congress. While the ban was routinely ignored, it did put off professional theater producers—including David Douglass, who moved back to Jamaica—and fostered more amateur performances, especially those featuring patriotic themes.

Theater in the Early United States

After the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the American Company returned to New York City and when David Douglass died, Hallam took over and produced what is widely believed to be the first important American play, one written by a Harvard-educated lawyer and army officer, Royall Tyler. Tyler's play, The Contrast, debuted in New York in March 1787. The characters in The Contrast include a Revolutionary War veteran and a man deemed a natural nobleman. The leading character, Jonathan, was the first in a long line of "Yankees" to grace the American stage. Tyler made comparisons between American and British attitudes that favored the American. In addition to its themes of patriotism and the belief that love conquers all, Tyler's play is filled with references to the fashions and topics of the time. The Contrast was an instant hit that was also performed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston and has seen revivals up to the twenty-first century.

During the early nineteenth century, touring groups continued to play a large role in American theater, and English actors were often imported to headline local productions. Among the more popular players were Edmund Kean and Junius Brutus Booth (father of actor Edwin Booth and actor/Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth). At this time, actors often specialized in one or two roles that they were known for.

The American-born actor credited with innovating a truly American style of acting was Edwin Forrest. After playing second leads to Edmund Kean, Forrest eventually became a leading man and played throughout the East, South, and Midwest. Forrest was an athletic actor who was a natural for heroic and rebellious roles. He found his greatest fame as star of Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags (1829), a play that he found by sponsoring a contest for a tragedy, "of which the hero … shall be an aboriginal of this country." Forrest played the Indian Metamora throughout his career, and the success of the play caused many other dramas featuring the noble savage to be entered into the American repertory.

For the most part, when Black Americans were portrayed, it was not as noble persons but as buffoons. The 1840s saw the rise of minstrelsy, in which mostly white, but also black, performers sang and danced while made up in blackface, achieved by smearing coal on the face. Minstrel shows remained popular until the early twentieth century. Also wildly popular in mid-century were "Tom Shows," melodramatic productions based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Other forms of diversion included vaudeville, which boasted such performers as Eddie Foy, W. C. Fields, and Sophie Tucker. P. T. Barnum sponsored singing tours by the "Swedish Nightingale," Jenny Lind, and opened the American Museum (1842) in New York City where he exhibited such freakish attractions as "Tom Thumb" and the Siamese twins Chang and Eng. Barnum, along with James A. Bailey, founded the Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1881.

Wild West shows were in vogue, especially Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, organized by former Pony Express rider William Frederick Cody in 1883. Cody's Cowboy and Indian show toured throughout the United States and Europe. Showboats were also a popular venue for all manner of entertainment from vaudeville to Shakespeare.

Theater of the Gilded Age

The last thirty years of the 1800s, often referred to as the "Gilded Age," were dominated by melodrama. Many Civil War plays were produced; they often focused on romances between Northern and Southern lovers but skirted the political issues of the war. Nonetheless, American theater was edging ever closer to the realistic style of performance that would come to dominate it in the twentieth century.

A trend in late-nineteenth-century drama, attributed largely to California-born manager/playwright/producer David Belasco, was to greatly enhance the production values of a play. Belasco built enormous and spectacular three-dimensional sets that he deemed naturalistic. Belasco was among the forerunners of a small group of producers who were breaking away from the romantic style of acting that marked the nineteenth century as well. These producer/directors encouraged actors to perform in a naturalistic style that suited the actors' own personalities.

By 1888, it was estimated that there were more than 2,400 professional actors in the United States. A few earned as much as $100,000 a year—a tremendous amount at the time. Among the highly paid actors were many who came from theatrical families, including descendents of the Booths, the Davenports, the Jeffersons, and the Drew-Barrymores (Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore all worked on the New York stage in the early twentieth century). Lesser-known performers were often badly treated; sometimes no pay was given for weeks or even months of rehearsal. Thus, in 1894, the Actors' Society of America, later Actors' Equity, was formed to negotiate standard contracts for actors. Even before this, other stage employees organized unions.

The number of actors grew to around 15,000 at the turn of the twentieth century. Along with the increase in actors came an increase in acting schools. Among the first was the Lyceum Theatre School, founded in New York City in 1884 and renamed the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1892. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts remains perhaps the most prestigious acting school in the country.

In the mid-nineteenth century, stock companies rose in number and often traveled. The opening of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 meant that productions could travel to the West Coast. Soon companies stopped developing a large number of new plays and instead produced long runs of a single, popular play that they often took on tour. By the early 1870s, there were about 50 resident stock companies in the country. In 1886, a group of booking agents and managers formed a partnership known as the Theatrical Trust (or Syndicate). For approximately thirty years, the Syndicate controlled virtually all bookings at professional theaters. Over 1,700 theaters were available to touring productions in 1905, according to Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide, making the Syndicate's sphere of influence very great indeed. By the turn of the twentieth century, resident stock companies were nearly nonexistent.

A challenge to the Syndicate's authority came from independent producer David Belasco, who wanted to stage a play set in Japan at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis and was blocked by the syndicate. Belasco booked a theater anyway and, typically, the Syndicate mounted a rival play on the same topic as Belasco's. Even an antitrust suit, filed after the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 became law, failed to loosen the Syndicate's grip. What did finally stop the Syndicate was another group of theatrical monopolists, the New York–based Shubert brothers—Lee, Sam S., and Jacob J. The Shuberts, who initially worked with the Syndicate, eventually joined forces with David Belasco, actress Minnie Maddern Fiske, and others to overturn it.

The nineteenth century did see some accomplished American playwrights, including Edward Harrigan, William Dean Howells, and Steele MacKaye. However, the time and country that produced such memorable writers in other genres as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau failed to nurture a truly great playwright until the twentieth century.

Theatre in the Early Twentieth Century

The early twentieth century mostly saw a continuation of commercialization and lack of originality in the theater. Melodrama, with subjects ranging from historical to romantic to Western to mystery, remained the form most often performed. Touring ceased to be the main way in which plays were presented and stock companies again formed. The continuing prosperity of America was reflected in the theater, and by 1912 there were some 8,000 theaters in America. By then, activities were focused in New York, especially off Times Square. Many of the theaters built during the boom of the 1920s were still used in 2002.

With the exception of some suffragist actresses, there were very few performers involved in political causes. However, in the Chicago slums, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr recognized the possibilities of theater as a force for social good and opened Hull House in 1889 as an alternative entertainment for impoverished youth. Similar theaters followed, including the Henry Street Settlement in New York.

As more and more of the theatergoing public became exposed to the work of such groundbreaking European playwrights as Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and George Bernard Shaw, a small but active theater intelligentsia was formed that looked for more sophisticated plays. In the teens, "Little Theaters" began to open around the country. Some of these were formed for the purpose of offering standard commercial fare at cut rates, but many were formed with a higher purpose in mind—to produce serious, realist drama. These little theaters, including Chicago's Little Theatre, New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and Washington Square Players, and the Cleveland Playhouse featured work by both contemporary European and American playwrights and were modeled after European art theaters such as the Moscow Art Theatre and Dublin's Abbey Theatre. American performances by these two theater companies and others greatly influenced the style of acting in America further toward naturalism.

In Massachusetts, the Provincetown Players were developing the early short sea plays (set on the sea) of the only American playwright ever to win a Nobel Prize (1936), Eugene O'Neill. O'Neill was the son of James O'Neill, a famous actor who felt he had squandered his talent playing mostly one role, in The Count of Monte Cristo, throughout his career. The plays were taken to New York and the Provincetown Players began a tradition of developing plays out of town before a New York opening. O'Neill was the first of many great American playwrights to work in the twentieth century. He is credited with first perfecting the realist voice of the American stage.

During the 1930s, the Great Depression brought a far greater interest in political theater. Such groups as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union put on plays, and even the government got into the act through the federally sponsored and ill-fated Federal Theatre Project, which attempted to put 13,000 theater people on the government payroll. Meanwhile, the unions were represented by playwright Clifford Odets in his Waiting for Lefty on the legitimate stage. Lillian Hellman and Thornton Wilder were among the other prominent playwrights of the time.

The postwar 1940s were also a fascinating time for theater. It was then that the heartbreaking dramas of Mississippi playwright Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie (1945) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), were staged. Marlon Brando, who studied the Stanislavski System of acting originated at the Moscow Art Theatre and taught at The Actors Studio (opened 1947), became an overnight sensation after starring in A Streetcar Named Desire. His intimate performance not only led to a long film career but also had a great influence on the way American actors performed.

Arthur Miller debuted works that deal with government corruption (All My Sons, 1947), the alienation of modern man (Death of a Salesman, 1949), and manipulation of public opinion through the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings of the early 1950s (The Crucible, 1953). In 1947, Julian Beck and Judith Malina formed the Living Theatre, an experimental theater devoted to producing avant-garde plays that promoted the ideals of pacifism and anarchy.

The 1940s also saw the development of the American musical, starting with Oklahoma (1943), written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein and choreographed by Agnes DeMille. Other musicals included Brigadoon (1947) and My Fair Lady (1956), by the team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and West Side Story (1957) by Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents, and later, Sweeney Todd (1979), by Stephen Sondheim. The musical was to become the most American of theatrical genres; immense productions began to dominate the large theaters in New York by the 1950s and continue to do so.

Theatre in the Late Twentieth Century

The Civil Rights Movement, the war in Vietnam, and the other upheavals of the 1960s provided a rich time for theater. Playwrights including Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) championed the Black Arts Movement with such in-your-face plays as Dutchman (1964), in which a white woman stabs a black man on a subway. David Rabe wrote about Vietnam in Stick and Bones (1971). The 1960s also saw the first of many plays dealing openly with homosexuality. The Boys in the Band premiered in 1968. Later plays to deal with the subject included Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (1985) and Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize–winning two-part epic, Angels in America (1991,1993). The 1960s also ushered in the work of Neil Simon, probably the most popular writer of comedies in the late twentieth century.

Among other important playwrights of the last part of the century, California born and raised Sam Shepard writes plays about those who, like himself, rejected the mores of polite society; Christopher Durang lampoons the Catholic church that he was raised in; and Marsha Norman writes of a woman so disconnected she is planning suicide ('night Mother, 1982). Performance artists such as Karen Findley, whose work dealt with her own sexuality, Anna Deavere Smith, who explores social issues such as Black-Jewish relationships, and performer/musician Laurie Anderson rose to prominence in the 1980s.

Many of these performances were produced Off Broadway, including the New York Shakespeare Festival, founded in 1954 by Joseph Papp for the purpose of mounting Shakespeare productions in Central Park that were free and open to the public each summer. When Papp died in 1991, the innovative African American director George C. Wolfe became director of the festival. Papp also produced the surprise hit hippie musical of 1967, Hair, at his not-for-profit Public Theater. Hair was then moved to Broadway and the profits used for other, less commercial productions.

Broadway is still dominated by musicals and revivals of musicals, and it has seen a tremendous decline since the 1980s, largely because of escalating costs in mounting a production. In the 1950s, a grand musical such as My Fair Lady might have cost half a million dollars to produce, and tickets were less than ten dollars each. By the end of the twentieth century, costs soared so that a musical such as The Lion King (1997) could cost $15 million to produce and a ticket could cost up to $100.

Broadway budgets and ticket prices have long provided much of the momentum for Off Broadway and later for even smaller—less than 100-seat—houses called Off Off Broadway. Greenwich Village's Caffe Cino, founded in 1958 by Joe Cino, is generally thought to be the birthplace of Off Off Broadway, but Off Off Broadway's most enduring and important producer is Ellen Stewart of Café La Mama, which was founded in 1962, and renamed the La Mama Experimental Theater Club. Stewart is known for giving fresh voices a place in her theater, not because she likes the script—she often does not read them in advance—but rather because she has a good feeling about the person bringing an idea for a production to her. Off and Off Off Broadway venues, in addition to many regional theaters including Steppenwolf in Chicago, Magic Theater in San Francisco, and repertory companies including Yale Repertory Theater, American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Missouri Repertory Theater, and Chicago's Goodman Theater, are thought by many to be the most exciting places to view theater in the twenty-first century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blum, Daniel. Great Stars of the American Stage: A Pictorial Record. New York: Greenberg, 1952.

Brustein, Robert. Reimagining American Theatre. New York: Hill and Wang, 1991.

Henderson, Mary C. Theater in America: 250 Years of Plays, Players, and Productions. New York: Abrams, 1996.

Hischak, Thomas S. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1969–2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Londre, Felicia Hardison, and Daniel J. Watermeier. The History of North American Theater: From Pre-Columbian Times to the Present. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1998.

Lorca Peress contributed information on Off Off Broadway.

Rebekah PressonMosby

See alsoDance, Indian ; Death of a Salesman, The ; Music: Theater and Film ; Wild West Show .

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Theater

THEATER

Although modern theater in Russia was imported from Europe in the seventeenth century, earlier traditions demonstrate the importance of spectacle in Russian lives. Russians participated in numerous rituals associated with life transitions, such as marriages, births, and deaths, as well as seasonal agricultural rites. These rituals had both pre-Christian and Christian origins. From the eleventh until the mid-eighteenth century, both elite and peasant Russians were most often entertained by skoromokhi, musicians whose singing, dancing, puppetry, acrobatics, and animal acts included bawdy material that was reviled by the Russian Orthodox Church. Western-style theater arrived in Russia in the mid-seventeenth century when Tsar Alexei and his court enjoyed numerous foreign performers in various genres, and the first court theater operated from 1672 to 1676.

Theater expanded as westernization accelerated in the eighteenth century. In addition to court theater, public theaters flourished in many cities in the first half of the century. The Kunst-Fuerst theater, considered the first public theater, staged translations using German actors from 1702 to 1706. Educational institutions established school theaters, the most influential of which operated in the Land Forces Cadet School. Its productions in the early 1750s included the works of Alexander Sumarokov (17181777), who also translated and directed plays in the style of classicism, the dominant trend in Europe at that time. Fyodor Volkov (17291763) organized a theater in Yaroslavl and moved his troupe to St. Petersburg in 1752. In 1756 Tsarina Elizabeth incorporated Volkov's troupe into the Russian State Theater (the future Alexandrinsky Theater). Sumarokov directed this first state-subsidized theater, and Volkov played the leads. Dramatic works of the era included comedies, chivalry tales, biblical adaptations, and plays that glorified the monarchy and Russian Empire. Monarchs typically believed that theater should serve a didactic function, an assumption that continued well into the twentieth century.

These trends continued during the reign of Catherine II in the second half of the eighteenth century. She built the Hermitage Theater in the Winter Palace. After the creation of the Imperial Theatrical School in 1779, Russian-born professional actors increasingly appeared on stage. Beginning in 1783 the Administration of Theaters oversaw and censored public theatrical activity. In addition to court theaters, St. Petersburg (and Moscow early in the next century) boasted heavily subsidized imperial theaters. Many provincial cities also maintained popular public (narodnye ) theaters that reached a broad audience with a diverse repertoire. Count Peter Sheremetev and other wealthy nobles also operated private serfs' theaters, which did not come under state supervision. Playwright Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin (17451792) is credited as the founder of authentically Russian drama, best exemplified by his comedy The Minor (1781). Classicism eventually gave way to sentimentalism, a style that emphasized emotion over reason.

Under Nicholas I, who reigned from 1825 to 1855, the Imperial Theater Administration developed an extensive series of rules and regulations for all aspects of theatrical activity. In spite of severe censorship, several outstanding dramas were written in an increasingly realist style. Alexander Griboedov (17941829) completed Woe from Wit (1824), an examination of the alienation of young disillusioned army officers who were scorned by a corrupt and superficial Russian elite after the Napoleonic wars. Other major Russian writers of this era wrote plays along with other genres. Alexander Pushkin (17991837) penned dramatic scenes, most notably his tragedy Boris Godunov (1825), in verse form. Nikolai Gogol (18091852) wrote The Government Inspector (1836), his most acclaimed work that satirizes corrupt officials and the supercilious elite of a Russian provincial town who mistake a stranger for a government inspector. Ivan Turgenev (18181883), also a well-respected novelist, wrote several plays, including A Month in the Country (18491850), that depict the everyday life of the elite.

As plays achieved greater realism, the role of actors in the theatrical process changed. They too attempted to portray characters with greater naturalism, and as a result relied more on the author's original intention and less on their own embellishment of roles. This evolution occurred in influential theater schools affiliated with the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and the Maly Theater in Moscow. The latter trained Mikhail Shchepkin (17881863), who is considered one of the greatest Russian actors. In the later part of the nineteenth century, new stars further developed the naturalist approach. The ranks increasingly included actresses, such as Maria Yermolova (18531928), Glikeria Fedotova (18461925), and Maria Savina (18541915). Their popularity was enhanced by the repertory system, whereby a theater with a permanent company alternated many productions, rather than the single, long-running play with contractual performers.

Alexander Ostrovsky (18231886) dominated playwriting in the 1860s and 1870s. His innovative depiction of all levels of society in his dramas was called "national realism" and often contrasted cruel, self-serving individuals with their simple, decent victims. He wrote almost fifty plays, including his most acclaimed, The Forest (1870). Another prominent playwright, Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin (18131906), followed the tradition of Gogol's satirical commentaries in Krechinsky's Wedding (1854), The Case (1861), and The Death of Tarelkin (1869). Later in the century, Leo Tolstoy (18281910), better known for his novels, wrote plays and adapted many of his didactic short stories for theater.

Popular and provincial theaters complemented developments in the nineteenth century. Circuses, Petrushka puppet shows, and fairground theaters (balagany ) amused spectators. Provincial theaters offered a wide variety of genres in an effort to appeal to a wide audience. In the latter part of the century after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 and their increasing migration to urban areas, the people's theater movement emphasized theatrical performance as a means to enlighten the masses. Beginning in 1882, private commercial theaters, such as the Korsh, were allowed in the capital cities and elsewhere, but censorship continued to hinder problematic plays. Amateur troupes provided added opportunities for performances.

The undisputed turning point in Russian theater occurred when Konstantin Stanislavsky (18631938), an amateur actor and director, and Vladimir Nemirovich Danchenko (18581943), a playwright who also taught at the Philharmonic Drama School, joined forces and created the Moscow (Popular) Art Theater in 1898. In productions that reflected trends in Europe at the time, an overall conception of the director united all parts of a production: script, actors, movement, costumes, sets, and lights. They also tried to create the impression that audiences were observing real people with psychological depth in realistic circumstances by incorporating historically accurate costumes, sets, and props. These hallmarks of naturalism were most successful in productions of Anton Chekhov's (18601904) plays, but the theater also staged works by Maxim Gorky (18681936), Henrik Ibsen (18281906), Gerhart Hauptmann (18621946), and many others in its long history. The theater fostered many outstanding performers, including Ivan Moskvitin (18741956), Olga Knipper (18681959), and Mikhail Chekhov (18911955). In a series of studios, Stanislavsky experimented with actors' training and developed his "system," also known as the Method, which has had a profound impact on theater and film in the West.

The era of 1898 to 1929 was the richest period for Russian theater. Stanislavsky's pupil, Vsevolod Meyerhold (18741940), rejected naturalism and strove to maximize the theatrical elements of performances, an approach that did not always enamor him to the public or to performers such as Vera Kommissarzhevskaya (18641910), a great actress of the day. Evgeny Vakhtangov's (18831922) brief career culminated in his Princess Turandot (1922), an example of his style of fantastic realism, which bridged Vsevolod Meyer-hold's abstractions and Stanislavsky's naturalism. At the Kamerny Theater, Alexander Tairov (18851950) created an atmosphere for the expression of the deepest emotions of performers through movement rather than naturalistic acting. While writing plays and theatrical theory, Nikolai Evreinov (18791953) directed at Kommissarzhevskaya's theater and his own Crooked Mirror, an example of popular small theaters at that time. Symbolism, a neoromantic movement that arose in reaction to realism and emphasized aesthetics and the spiritual, influenced some of the era's important playwrights, including Leonid Andreyev (18711919), Fyodor Sologub (18631927), and Alexander Blok (18801921).

Following the Russian Revolution in October 1917, theater experienced an outpouring of innovation. Theaters were divided into two groups: former important theaters became academic theaters with substantial subsidies and considerable freedom, while smaller theaters received less support with greater controls. In 1923 the government established Glavrepertkom, the organization responsible for censorship over theaters. Meyerhold developed his theory of movement known as biomechanics. Increasingly influenced by cubism and constructivism, he and other directors of the day often turned to abstract artists, such as Lyubov Popova (18891924) for set designs. The Jewish Habima Theater and the Moscow State Yiddish Theater also flourished. Important playwrights including Vladimir Mayakovsky (18931930), Mikhail Bulgakov (18911940), Nikolai Erdman (19011970), and Sergei Tretyakov (18921939) offered critiques of the young Soviet society.

Popular participation in theater exploded at this time. Proletkult, an organization that called for a new culture by and for workers, supported such activities as TRAM (Theaters for Working Youth), whose actors worked in chosen professions by day and rehearsed and performed during their free time. Other amateur troupes formed in army units, factories, and local clubs. Their performances sometimes involved courtroom scenarios, known as agit-trials, with audiences as juries to debate current issues. Traveling companies of "living newspapers" and "blue blouses" performed a series of short skits of news and other issues to illiterate audiences. Amateurs and professionals worked together to realize "mass spectacles" that recreated major historical events, such as The Storming of the Winter Palace (1920), which involved five hundred musicians, eight thousand performers, and over one hundred thousand spectators.

As Communist Party controls tightened in the 1930s, theater and all arts were expected to follow the guidelines of socialist realism, which called for upholding Communist Party policies in an easily understandable realist style. This highly didactic formula presented "positive heroes" for the public to emulate, and plays always pointed toward an optimistic socialist future. Experimentation in text and technique ended. In this environment playwrights such as Nikolai Pogodin (19001962), Alexander Afinogenov (19041941), Vsevolod Vishnevsky (19001951), and Alexei Arbuzov (19081986) managed to create meaningful dramas in spite of the limitations. A new generation of directors also attempted to offer interesting but safe productions: Nikolai Okhlopkov (19001967), Yuri Zavadsky (18941977), and Nikolai Akimov (19011968). Others suffered. Accused of "formalism," a euphemism for nonconformity, Meyerhold was executed in 1940. Playwrights Tretyakov and Vladimir Kirshon (19021938) met a similar fate. Tairov struggled to stage permissible plays. TRAM theaters came under state control as professional Komsomol theaters.

Although many professional troupes performed for frontline troops and new plays supported the war effort during World War II from 1941 to 1945, strict controls were reestablished after the war until Josef Stalin's death in 1953. Tairov was removed as director of his Kamerny Theater in 1949. As part of the rootless cosmopolitan campaign predominantly against Jews, Solomon Mikhoels (18901948), a famous actor and head of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, was killed. Dramatists were expected to adopt the no-conflict theory that corresponded to the supposedly new level of socialist achievement in the Soviet Union: no longer was society divided into bad opponents of the system and good supporters. Now socialism and drama reflected struggles between the good and the better. Without meaningful conflict, the quality of drama declined. Theater attendance fell, and the party renounced the theory in 1952.

The period following Stalin's death is considered the Thaw in Soviet society and culture. In the theatrical realm Glavrepertkom was abolished, and the Ministry of Culture assumed responsibility for censorship. Although socialist realism continued, theaters increasingly staged productions with nonrealist sets and pessimistic or ambiguous endings. Productions also began to breach the "fourth wall" by incorporating the audience in the action. Two important theaters emerged: the newly created Sovremennik under the leadership of Oleg Efremov (19272000) and the Taganka led by Yuri Lyubimov (b. 1917), whose group of recent theater school graduates performed Bertolt Brecht's Good Person of Sechuan and revived the moribund troupe. Its later productions included adaptations of Yuri Trifonov's (19251981) prose works and recent poetry by Andrey Voznesensky (b. 1933) and Yevgeny Yevtushenko (b. 1933). The Sovremennik emphasized new playwrights such as Viktor Rozov (b. 1913) and Vasily Aksenov (b. 1932). At the same time, talented directors Anatoly Efros (19251987) and Georgy Tovstonogov (19151989) took the helm at reputable theaters. Arbuzov and young dramatists, such as Alexander Vampilov (19371972), Alexander Volodin (b. 1919), and Eduard Radzinsky (b.1936), explored the dilemmas of everyday life. Many recent foreign dramatists were published in translation. Student theaters thrived.

After Nikita Khrushchev's fall from power in 1964, a more conservative approach to the arts ensued, but innovation continued. Although important directors continued to work, Efros and Lyubimov repeatedly had their productions banned or censured by the press. While socialist realism represented official policy, synthetic theater, which emphasized the use of music and lighting to augment the emotions and messages of a production, allowed greater flexibility in staging. By the early 1980s most professional theaters in Leningrad and Moscow created "second stages" that allowed for further experimentation. In this venue promising directors, such as Lev Dodin (b. 1944), Kama Ginkas (b. 1941), and Peter Fomenko (b. 1932), could stage new works, and young actors gained valuable experience because important roles on the main stage were reserved for senior performers. On the Taganka's small stage, Anatoly Vasilev (b. 1942) staged Viktor Slavkin's Cerceau, considered one of the most innovative productions of the 1980s. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's (b. 1938) plays, whose language has been described as "tape recorder" for its ability to copy natural speech, were first performed by amateurs. Both playwrights addressed the elusive nature of a meaningful life in modern Soviet society. Amateur stages provided rich alternatives for both professional and amateur directors as well as spectators who were seeking new approaches to theater.

The final decade of the Soviet era began with severe censorship, but the twentieth century ended with almost complete freedom. In 1982 Yuri Andropov became General Secretary of the party, and initiated a strict anti-Western policy that adversely affected theatrical repertoires. Under his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, Yuri Lyubimov was forced into exile in 1984. Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost policy reversed this trend, and by 1989 theaters operated without political censorship. Theaters attempted to operate under self-financing, which removed governmental subsidies. Lenin Komsomol Theater director Mark Zakharov (b. 1933) led the effort to establish independence for troupes. The number of theaters mushroomed when the government allowed the formation of theaters without official supervision. However, the success of some troupes depended on those earlier conflicts with the state, and Lyubimov's return to the Taganka in 1989 could not revive its former glory. The Moscow Art Theater split into two companies: Chekhov MAT, led by Oleg Efremov, who had led the combined troupe since 1970; and Gorky MAT, led by Tatyana Doronina (b. 1933). In the 1990s Vasilev and Fomenko formed their own troupes to accommodate their unorthodox approaches to rehearsals and performances. Like many troupes desperate for funds, Dodin's theater toured abroad extensively and was awarded the Europe Theater prize in 2000. However, most troupes, including former amateur companies, discovered the near impossibility of surviving without some government subsidy and sought to receive some support while retaining repertory freedom. Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian theater has operated under an economic censor, as in the West.

See also: andreyev, leonid nikolayevich; bolshoi theater; chekhov, anton pavlovich; gogol, nikolai vasilyevich; gorky, maxim; griboedov, alexander sergeyevich; meyerkhold, vsevolod yemilievich; pushkin, alexander sergeyevich; shchepkin, mikhail semeonovich; sumarokov, alexander petrovich; taganka; thaw, the; tolstoy, leo nikolayevich; turgenev, ivan sergeyevich

bibliography

Braun, E. (1995). Meyerhold: A Revolution in Theatre. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Gorchakov, Nikolai A. (1957). The Theater in Soviet Russia, tr. Edgar Lehrman. New York: Columbia University Press.

Karlinsky, Simon. (1985). Russian Drama from its Beginnings to the Age of Pushkin. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Leach, Robert, and Borovsky, Viktor, eds. (1999). A History of the Russian Theatre. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mally, Lynn. (2000). Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theater and the Soviet State 19171938. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Segel, Harold B. (1993). Twentieth-Century Russian Drama from Gorky to the Present, updated ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Slonim, Mark. (1962). Russian Theater from the Empire to the Soviets. New York: Collier Books.

Smeliansky, Anatoly. (1999). The Russian Theatre after Stalin, tr. Patrick Miles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Warner, Elizabeth. (1977). The Russian Folk Theatre. The Hague: Mouton.

Worrall, Nick. (1989). Modernism to Realism on the Soviet Stage: Tairov-Vakhtangov-Okhlopkov. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Susan Costanzo

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COSTANZO, SUSAN. "Theater." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

COSTANZO, SUSAN. "Theater." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404101368.html

COSTANZO, SUSAN. "Theater." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404101368.html

Theater

THEATER

Overview of the region's numerous traditional and indigenous dramatic art forms and performances.

The Middle East comprises four regions: The Arab world (22 countries), Iran, Turkey, and Israel. This area did not know theater (in the Western sense of a space containing stage and auditorium, and dramas with the three unities of time, space, and plot) in its pre-modern periods. However, the whole region had numerous traditional and indigenous dramatic art forms and performances. Through colonialism and cultural exchanges with Europe in the early nineteenth century, theater as a space and a mode of writing and presenting found its way into the various Middle Eastern cultures. In the modern period, as a form of cultural identity, many Middle Eastern theater artists have tried to honor their traditional art forms and rituals by incorporating aspects of them with their stage events. This endeavor is a prevalent feature, and an ongoing trend, in Middle Eastern theater.


Arab Theater

The ancient Arab literary tradition did not encompass dramatic texts; however, the countries that constitute today's Arab world have always incorporated dramatic and mimetic arts within their performance and literary traditions. Among the various Arab performance arts that thrived throughout the pre-modern periods are al-hakawati (storytellers), dance, ritual reenactments, shadow plays, puppetry, poetry recitations, maqama (outdoor dramatic enactments in poetry and prose), street performance by traveling troupes called al-muhabizun, and al-samir (village gatherings that included dramatizations). Many of these art forms continue, albeit in a state of decline, but others have died away as a result of competing modern entertainment.

In the nineteenth century, contact with the European theatrical tradition through colonialism, educational exchanges, and translations sparked a theatrical movement in the Arab world. In 1848, the Lebanese writer Marun al-Naqqash (d. 1855) mounted in his own home performances of plays based on Molière's dramas as well as adaptations of tales from A Thousand and One Nights. This process was continued in Damascus by Abu Khalil al-Qabbani (d. 1902), whose attempts to stage dramatic performances aroused the opposition of the religious establishment. Al-Qabbani moved to Egypt, where artists were able to exercise more freedom.

In Egypt, Yaʿqub Sanu (d. 1912), considered by many the father of Egyptian theater, formed a troupe of actors and in 1870 opened the first Egyptian playhouse under the auspices of the khedive. Sanu wrote and directed his own plays and introduced women to the Egyptian stage for the first time. His theater was an immediate success but was closed down by the authorities in 1873 on the grounds that his plays were politically subversive.

By the turn of the century, many theater troupes were presenting musicals, dramatic adaptations, and Arabizations of world drama, but no original plays in Arabic. A number of Egyptian poets wrote verse dramas; among them was the poet laureate of Egypt, Ahmad Shawqi. However, those plays were not stage successes, since their poetic merit exceeded their dramatic construction.

The towering figure of prose drama in Egypt and the Arab world is Tawfiq al-Hakim (18981986). His family sent him to France to obtain a doctorate in law. Instead, he spent his time there learning the Western theater tradition. When he returned to Egypt, he took up writing for the stage. His dearest wish was to establish a modern Egyptian dramatic tradition based on Western notions of the unity of space, time, and action. He spent five decades of his life working to enrich the Arab dramatic tradition, and enrich it he did. He wrote more than seventy plays of exceptional variety, experimenting with dramatic form and offering various dramatic styles. He also presented a variety of dramatic themes, some of which he categorized as the theater of ideas, the theater of social themes, and the theater of the absurd.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, many young playwrights emerged, theaters were built, and theater troupes were established around the Arab world. The 1960s is regarded as the golden age of Arabic theater for its impressive theatrical movement, which gave rise to great playwrights, actors, and directors throughout the region, including Nuʿman Ashur, Yusuf Idris, Alfred Farag, Mikhaʾil Ruman, and Najib Surur in Egypt; Saʿdallah Wannus, Walid Ikhlassi, and Yusuf al-Ani in Syria and Iraq; Isam Mahfuz and Roger Assaf in Lebanon; and Izz al-Din al-Madani, Ahmad al-Ilj, and al-Tayyib al-Siddiqi in the Maghrib.

In Palestine, under the watchful eye of the Israeli armed forces, theater troupes like the Balalin and Hakawati have produced highly experimental dramas that comment on the plight of their fellow countrymen. Alongside the male dramatists, directors, and critics, a large number of Arab women have contributed to the modern Arab stage, including playwrights Fathiyya al-Assal, Nehad Gad, Andre Chided, and Nawal al-Saadawi; director Nidal al-Ashqar; and critic Nehad Selaiha.


Israeli Theater

The Israeli theater is essentially modern; whereas pre-1960s theater was heavily influenced by Russian social realism, in the 1960s it diverged and presented experimental drama. Until the early 1970s, most of the theatrical repertoire in Israel continued to be European classics and modern plays. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, playwrights focused more on the contemporary Israeli's predicament and identity. From the 1980s onward a shift became noticeable in the Hebrew stage, from a commitment to the ideology of the Jewish national
movement to debates over secularization and cultural identity.


After the 1948 war, two Israeli playwrights rose to prominence in the newly established state. In 1949, Moshe Shamir wrote Hu Halah Basdot (He walked in the fields), and Yigal Mossinsohn produced Be'arvot Hanegev (In the plains of the Negev). The first is a stage adaptation of a novela prevalent practice in late 1940s and 1950s Israel due to the limited number of playwrights. The second is a war story that tries to uphold the ideals of the new Israeli society; its success was based more on audience reaction then than on artistic excellence.


In the 1950s, Israeli theater focused on realism and produced plays concerned with the social realities of Israel after the 1948 war. One of the major themes that preoccupied dramatists was the realities of coexistence between early and new immigrants, and between Palestinians and Israelis. Some of the playwrights who tackled these issues were Ephraim Kishon, Yigal Mossinsohn, and Hanoch Bar-Tov.

In the 1960s, Israeli theater departed from realism and created a non-mimetic experimental theater, opening itself to the influence of modern European drama as well as to new themes, forms, and theatrical devices. Using techniques from the Theater of the Absurd, Israeli playwrights set out to depict the grotesque and absurd in their society. Without reference to particulars, their criticism was conveyed through abstractions, symbolism, and distancing techniques. Among the most talented playwrights of that decade are Nessim Aloni (b. 1921), Ben-Zion Tomer (b. 1928), Yosef Bar-Yosef (b. 1933), and A. B. Yehoshua (b. 1936). Their efforts propelled Israeli theater away from a provincial outlook to universal themes.


In the 1970s, Israeli theater became self-reflective and began expressing doubts about the means of realizing the Zionist dream. For some, those were introspective years of self-reevaluation. Two new stars became the focus of the Israeli stage: Yehoshua Sobol (b. 1939) and Hanoch Levin (b. 1943). Sobol's writing style is naturalistic. Some of his earlier works are semifictitious and based on documentary material. Levin, on the other hand, is famous for his biting satire and tendency to break taboos. He continues to be one of the most provocative and controversial figures in Israeli theater.


The following decades show a variety of dramatic themes and approaches, from social and political disillusionment, as many Israelis call for an alternative to war, to fears about the demise of the Zionist dream. Common themes include nationhood, selfhood, and secularization. In addition, many theaters continue to present world classics and modern comedies. At the top of the list of thriving theater companies in Israel are the Habima (also ha-Bima), the Cameri, and the Haifa Municipal Theaters.


Persian Theater

Persian theater can be divided into three categories: traditional, which comprises ritual reenactments, puppetry, and improvised street theater; modern, which is primarily modeled on Western paradigms; and diasporic, which laments the separation from the homeland after the 1979 revolution.


The most famous traditional Persian theater is Taʿziyeh, which encompasses cycles of passion plays intended not for entertainment but rather to console the devout Shiʿite population by reenacting the events that led to the martyrdom of their beloved imam (spiritual leader) Husayn, grandson of the Prophet. The house of Husayn in its entirety was decimated in the city of Karbala, in Iraq, by Muʿawiyah, the governor of Syria, who the Shiʿa believe usurped the throne from Ali, Husayn's father, closest cousin and confidant of the Prophet. The suffering and death of this holy family is the central theme of elaborate mourning rites, in Iran and wherever there is a considerable Shiʿite population. Those rites take place on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

Two categories of Taʿziyeh plays deal with the tragic events of Karbala, and others refer to those events indirectly. However, those dealing with the martyrdom of Husayn and his family are the most popular and moving. Taʿziyeh is written in verse by anonymous writers and its stagecraft is extremely simple, with virtually no scenery. Settings are indicated symbolically, and men play the women's roles. The most important component of these plays is the music: Players chant and sing, and musical instruments are used to heighten the mood. Although professional Taʿziyeh players exist, the plays are frequently presented by amateurs as an act of piety.

By the turn of the twentieth century, and as a result of Western impact, Taʿziyeh went into a decline. Today, there is a great deal of interest in the performance and study of Taʿziyeh, both inside and outside of Iran.

During the early nineteenth century, Western drama found its way into Persian culture in the form of translations of European and Turkish plays. This was followed by a period of Persian dramatic and satirical composition that took reform as its main subject matter. During the first half of the twentieth century, a number of didactic dramas upholding the modernizing and educational efforts of Reza Shah Pahlavi were on the rise. Among the most popular playwrights of this period are Sayyed Ali Nasr (18931965), who founded and headed the Komedi-e Iran in 1918, and Sadegh Hedayat (19031951).

The second half of the twentieth century was characterized by severe censorship, which led playwrights to find refuge in symbolism, Theater of the Absurd, and psychological themes. Gifted playwrights emerged during this period and produced exciting works. Among them are Ali Nasirian, Gholamhossein Saʿedi (working under the pseudonym Gowhar Morad), and Bahram Beyzai.

After the 1979 revolution, a number of artists, disillusioned by the new regime, left the country with no intention of returning. Living in exile, they write dramas that are inherently Iranian and intensely nostalgic for the homeland. Among those is Parviz Sayyad, who continues to produce plays that have been categorized as theater of diaspora.


Turkish Theater

The first Western-style Turkish play performed in Istanbul was Vatan yahut Silistre (Fatherland), by Namik Kemal, in 1873. From that date onward theater in Turkey following the Western paradigm was a vital element in the country's cultural life.


Turkey has been home to a wide array of popular performance arts and entertainments since the thirteenth century, including dances, peasant plays, pageants, rites, processions, mock fights, festival acts, acrobatics, mime, puppetry, marionette performances, clowning, juggling, and magic. The most dramatic and popular of all are the meddahs (who are panegyrists, storytellers, and comedians), karagoz (shadow plays), and ortaoyunus (improvised plays). Meddahs were solo performers who told traditional tales of heroism and religious narratives. Karagoz, have the longest history and continued to be practiced until the 1940s. They are being resurrected in many contemporary plays. They were essentially a one-man act. The presenter manipulated flat leather figures behind a linen screen and played all characters. Ortaoyunu, the indigenous Turkish theater-in-the-round, is the most mimetic pre-modern performance art form. It borrowed many of its basic plots and characters from the karagoz, and the actors performed in the middle of a circle of spectators. The characters were presented as stereotypes, depending on wordplay and comic situations. All three ancient art forms had declined severely by the early twentieth century due to competition from Western-style theater and cinema.


The second half of the nineteenth century introduced Western theater into Turkey. A number of local theater troupes were created, mainly by Armenians, and they presented European plays in both their original languages and in translation. The first Turkish play published was Shair Evlenmesi (The poet's marriage, in 1860), by Ibrahim Shinasi, and the first produced on stage was Fatherland. In spite of the quick strides that playwrights made by the late nineteenth century, severe censorship by the sultan slowed the progress of Turkish drama. However, theater was given new vigor in 1908 by an era of political freedom under a constitutional government. Until 1923, Turkish theater featured a variety of new naturalistic and satirical plays reflecting social problems and expressing a need for political reform. One of the most celebrated playwrights of that period was Abdulhak Hamit (18521937), who produced verse and history plays. In 1916, the government-subsidized City Theater in Istanbul was established; it remained a vital core of Turkey's theatrical scene until the 1950s.

With the founding of the Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, theater received greater government support and funding. Mushin Ertuğrul, artistic director of the City Theater, shaped the modern theater movement in Turkey by creating a children's theater, encouraging young playwrights, and establishing a network of regional theaters. In 1936 the State Conservatory for Music and Drama was inaugurated, and in the 1940s the State Opera. Since the 1960s Turkey has established twenty-six state theaters in sixteen provinces, and state theaters are continually opening in Istanbul. In the 1950s and 1960s a number of private theaters were established in both Istanbul and Ankara.

In the 1960s, a number of excellent playwrights contributed to the Turkish stage, including Turan Oflazoglu, Necati Cumali, Gunger Dilmen, and Haldun Taner. In the 1970s and 1980s, the varying strengths and weaknesses of the Turkish theatrical scene reflected the political and economic situation. During the following two decades Turkish theater witnessed a rising number of experimental plays by a younger generation wishing to explore new ground and possibilities.

see also hakim, tawfiq al-; hedayat, sadegh; idris, yusuf; ikhlassi, walid; saadawi, nawal al-; saʿedi, gholamhossein; sanu, yaʿqub; shamir, moshe; shawqi, ahmad; sobol, yehoshua; taner, haldun.


Bibliography

Allen, Roger. An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cambridge, K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

And, Metin. A History of Theatre and Popular Entertainment in Turkey. Ankara: Forum Yayinlan, 1963.

And, Metin. Karagoz: Turkish Shadow Theatre. Ankara: Dost Yayinlari, 1975.

Badawi, Muhammad Mustafa. Early Arabic Drama. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Badawi, Muhammad Mustafa. Modern Arabic Drama in Egypt. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Ben-Zvi, Linda, ed. Theater in Israel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.

Chelkowsky, Peter, ed. Taʾziyeh, Ritual and Drama in Iran. New York: New York University Press, 1979.

Gouryh, Admer. "Recent Trends in Syrian Drama." World Literature Today 60, No. 2 (spring 1986): 216221.

Halman, Talat Sait, ed. Modern Turkish Drama: An Anthology of Plays in Translation. Minneapolis, MN: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1976.

Jaffery, Yunus, ed. History of Persian Literature. Delhi: Triveni, 1981.

Khozai, Mohamed A. al-. The Development of Early Arabic Drama, 18471900. London: Longman, 1984.

Offer, Rita. Literature in Pre-Revolutionary Iran: Golshiri's Prose Fiction, 1983.

Ricks, Thomas, ed. Critical Perspectives on Modern Persian Literature. Washington, DC: Three Continents, 1984.

Sayyad, Parviz. Theater of Diaspora: Two Plays, The Ass and The Rex Cinema Trial, edited by Hamid Dabashi. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda, 1992.

Urian, Dan. The Arab in Israeli Drama and Theater, translated by Naomi Paz. Amsterdam: Harwood, 1997.

Urian, Dan. The Judaic Nature of Israeli Theatre: A Search for Identity, translated by Naomi Paz. Amsterdam: Har-wood, 2000.

dina amin

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Amin, Dina. "Theater." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. 2004. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3424602670.html

Theater

Theater

FORM AND STYLE

HISTORY

TWENTIETH-CENTURY THEATER

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contemporary British director Peter Brook wrote of theater and its essence in his book, The Empty Space (1968), A man walks across this empty space (a bare stage) whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theater to be engaged (p. 9). By Brooks reckoning, the actor, the stage space, and the audience are the minimal necessary components for the art of the theater. At its most basic level, theater is a story presented in public by a performer or performers, for an audience.

There exists a distinction between the related art forms of drama (the written text) and theater (the process of performing the written text within a designated space). A difference must also be drawn between theater as a form of artistic or cultural entertainment and the existence of theatrical components within a culture. Performance occurs regularly in daily life (e.g., sporting events, political campaigns, weddings, and other social rituals), but these are not considered theater in the strictest sense. These routine presentations form the basis of performance studies, a discipline that uses terminology from the theater and that of anthropology in an effort to analyze how it is that people and cultures stage rituals and events.

Theater as society has come to think of it is a live artistic form, featuring many artists (dramatist, actor, director, designers, and audience) who collaborate to create performance events. Theater is also considered from a conventional viewpoint to be the most complete of all the art forms, in that it integrates many disciplines (dance, music, acting, visual spectacle, language, sculpture) in the presentation of a story. Theater occurs in a staging space, in front of an audience, regardless of the dramatic location of the event being enacted. Moreover, theater is performed in real time and usually requires a compression of the dramatic timeline, rather than a moment-to-moment literal reenactment of the event. Theater is an imitation of the human experience, drawing its characters and plotlines from dramatic events recognizable to the audience. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his critical text Poetics, described theater (or drama) as an imitation of men in action. Theater is an artistic form that lends itself easily to critiques of social problems, heralding the possible transformation of society in the wake of a public performance expressing new ideas for change.

One explanation for theaters origins lay in the ceremonial rituals of primitive cultures, usually linked to religious worship. Storytelling is an alternative explanation for theatrical origins, a performance in which a narrator such as a tribal leader or shaman recalled episodes important to the history of the tribe, acting out the events while interpreting the different characters for the shared enjoyment of the audience. The theatrical ritual achieved greater aesthetic sophistication as the cultures advanced, utilizing multiple actors, spectacle, dance, music, and costuming in an effort to make the performances more enjoyable. Society eventually began to prize these performances as much for their inherent entertainment and artistic values, as for their ritual significance.

FORM AND STYLE

Theater has developed different approaches to the creation of dramatic structure, utilizing a multitude of various styles and performance traditions. The plays form is the clearly identifiable organization of the plot elements, while the plays style is the means by which the form is interpreted for a contemporary audience. A theatrical form (e.g., comedy or tragedy) is a specific identifying plot structure as it demonstrates typical themes of human experience. A theatrical style (e.g., Shakespearian or expressionistic) is the representative interpretation of a form, based on audience expectations determined by place and time. Style may be associated with a specific historical period, playwright, culture, or artistic movement, whereas form is more universal and changes little from one culture to another.

The four distinct dramatic forms are: tragedy, comedy, drama, and mixed-forms. Tragedy concerns the fate of a main character who is caught up in events beyond his or her control, and is subsequently ruined as a consequence of a moral weakness or an inability to cope with difficult circumstances. Comedybe it satire or farce requires the happy or ironic resolution of a conflict involving an individual or a community. Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that the main difference between the tragedy form and the comedy form is that one imitates people better, the other one people worse, than the average (1967, p. 18). Tragedy and comedy were the dominant forms of theater until the eighteenth century. The form of drama emphasizes the moral seriousness of social issues, often through depictions of characters and situations drawn from daily life. Eighteenth-century French dramatic theorist Denis Diderot (17131784) advocated in his Encyclopedia (c. 17551780) that this new drama will encourage the light of reason, which everywhere grows brighter and the spirit of the century will advance the revolution it began (1967, p. 91). A mixed-form dramatic text combines elements of the comedy and tragedy forms and is a very uncommon form of theater. Theatrical styles, on the other hand, are many in number. Each style is associated with a specific time period (e.g., Restoration comedy such as William Congreves The Way of the World ), author (e.g., Shakespearian tragedy like Hamlet ), or artistic movement (e.g., realistic drama, as an example Anton Chekhovs The Cherry Orchard ).

HISTORY

Although the essential nature of theater is constant, the theatrical art form developed differently during various historical periods and throughout the regions of the world. Eastern (Asian) theater traditions predate Western (European) theater and utilize vastly different conventions (i.e., agreed-upon performance techniques). Asian theater forms rely heavily on the elements of musical performance and bodily expression to relate the story line to the audience. Chinese theatrical forms were first recorded in 1767 BCE during the Shang Dynasty. Popular entertainments of the time included shadow-play and puppet theaters, and live entertainers often performed at teahouses. Chinese theater was performed on a bare stage, accompanied by music, and characterized by a strict adherence to traditions. The most prolific contemporary expression of Chinese theater is the Beijing Opera, which employs a strictly ordered system of dance, singing, and acting to enhance the performance. Indian theater dates from the first century CE, and included Sanskrit dramas in which Indian actors performed specific codified gestures and chanted intonations with musical accompaniment designed to cultivate a balanced aesthetic, emotional state called a rasa within the spectators. Formal Japanese theater dates from the sixth century CE and includes variations such as Noh theater (1374), a stylized musical dancedrama with choreographed movements and masks; Bunraki theater (early seventeenth century), a puppet theater; and Kabuki theater (1603)the most popular formin which dance and spoken dialogue are used in conjunction with sets, stylized make-up, and costuming, to achieve the desired theatrical effect.

The formal Western theater tradition began in Greece with the ritual worship of Dionysus, the God of wine and revelry. The word tragedy evolved from the Greek word tragoidia (goat-song), the performance that accompanied ceremonies of ritual animal sacrifice. In 534 BCE, the city of Athens organized a contest to determine the best tragedy during the religious festival of the City Dionysia. At the festival, tragedies were performed in sets of three linked stories drawn from either history or myth, followed by a satyr play (a short farcical comedy utilizing burlesque). Comedies were introduced at the City Dionysia after 487 BCE. The earliest Greek theaters were temporary wooden structures built into hillsides. Permanent theaters made of stone began to appear in the fourth century and were capable of seating more than ten thousand spectators. Greek actors performed on a small circular area called the orkestra (dancing place), which featured a thymele (small altar) for the ritual sacrifice, surrounded by the risers of the audience area, called the theatron (seeing place). The first skene (small scenic house) appeared in 458 BCE. The fifth century is recognized as the Golden Age of Greek Theater, with more than one thousand different plays believed to have been performed. Only thirty-one tragedies survive from the periodall written by three playwrights: Aeschylus (525456 BCE), Sophocles (c. 496406 BCE), and Euripides (c. 484406 BCE). The Athenian playwright Aristophanes (c. 450-c. 388 BCE) is the only comic playwright of the time whose works have survived. Greek tragedies were written originally for just two actors, but in 468 BCE the use of a third actor was established. Each actor would play multiple roles, indicated by distinctive masks and representative props. Greek dramas also were the first to feature the chorus, a group of performers who chanted rhythmically, danced, and commented on the course of the action in the play.

Greek theater was appropriated by the Romans after 240 BCE but eventually gave way to more popular forms of entertainment. Roman citizens preferred spectacular and bloody events such as chariot races, armed contests between gladiators, wild animal fights, and mock naval battles (often staged in flooded amphitheaters). The rise of the Christian Church in the fourth century CE signaled a fierce opposition to theatrical practices, due to their origins in pagan rituals and their licentious subject matter. Organized theater all but disappeared by the sixth century, following the fall of Rome to the Visigoths, though some entertainment forms such as mimes, minstrels, and festivals continued in local communities until the Middle Ages and the re-emergence of theater as an art form. Liturgical dramas were performed during church services as a means of imparting religious doctrine to illiterate parishioners. The earliest recorded liturgical drama occurred during an Easter service around 925 CE, and included monks performing the discovery at the tomb. Plays moved out-of-doors and became part of religious festivals after 1300 CE, with performances staged on small, movable structures known as mansions. Local trade guilds took over the staging and financing of cycle plays (a group of plays featuring biblical story interpretations). Local vernacular language eventually replaced Latin as the spoken language of the performances, which also began to feature more secular subjects.

Religious strife and internal church conflicts changed the face of Europe in the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. Religious theater was eventually outlawed, and entertainments began to be provided by a new professional theater during the Renaissance. Permanent theaters blossomed in London during the late sixteenth century and were staffed by acting troupes maintained by wealthy noblemen. The performances had a broad and popular appeal and were attended by the titled and commoners alike. The most famous English playwright of the period was William Shakespeare (15641616), who is believed to have penned an estimated thirty-eight plays. The English Civil War closed the London theaters in 1642. Meanwhile, opera emerged in Italy as a popular Renaissance form and prompted innovations such as scenic stage sets incorporating perspective drawing, machinery for changing background scenery in view of the audience, and rigging created for the purpose of flying people and scenic pieces around the stage. A new style called neo-classicism emerged in France during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which drama was made to conform to critical principles based on contemporaneous interpretations of classical theater. Most important were the unities of time, place, and action (each play should have a single plot action that could occur within a twenty-four-hour period and in locations that could realistically be reached during a single day of travel). Neoclassicism also demanded that the characters practice decorum (behaving according to strictly established social etiquette) and was centered on the notion of verisimilitude (the appearance of truth).

This preoccupation with realistic action/behavior onstage foreshadowed the early nineteenth-century development of romanticism. Romanticism was a revolt against the rules of the neoclassical theater and featured plotlines inclined toward emotional truth rather than rational knowledge and characters drawn from the lower social classes rather than the nobility. Romanticism flourished through the 1850s, followed at the end of the century by realism. Realism was the result of two modes of intellectual thought: The first involved the application of scientific thought to theatrical life, resulting in lifelike portrayals; while the second mode centered on democratic political ideals precipitating the need for social transformation. Theater was viewed as a laboratory of humanity, a place to test new ideas of social behavior and reform. The theater of the period exposed contemporary social ills (such as the plight of women in The Dolls House, the best known of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsens realistic works), and made suggestions for reform (freedom from outmoded social structures). The director emerged as an artistic force during this period, bringing creative and visual unity to the stage performance. Also important during the late nineteenth century was the origination of musical theater (which uses song, dance, music, and spoken dialogue to relate a story). Musical theater remains one of the most popular entertainments into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

TWENTIETH-CENTURY THEATER

The avant-garde theater (also known as anti-realistic theater) was a strong presence in the early twentieth century, as writers and performers rejected realism and tried to reinvent the ideas of what constituted art. Avant-garde art pushed the boundaries of what is accepted as real, while at the same time attempting to document an individuals perceptions of reality. Twentieth-century avant-garde theater styles include expressionism, futurism, dadaism, and surrealism. Absurdism (life cannot be logically explained) is a style of the avant-garde that became very influential in theater following World War II. This eventually led to a backlash of radical experimental theater in the 1960s, meant to mingle political significance with aesthetic creation. This experimentation laid the groundwork for the contemporary post-modernism movement, which signals a break with the modernist movement and traditional portrayals of experience. Post-modernism theater utilizes a mixture of styles and advocates the primacy of the audience response to the formation of the work. Despite this growth and evolution of alternative styles, however, realism and musical theater remain the dominant mainstream theater fare of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aristotle. 1967. Poetics. Trans. Gerald Else. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Brockett, Oscar G., and Franklin J. Hildy. 2003. History of the Theatre. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Brook, Peter. 1968. The Empty Space. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Carlson, Marvin. 1984. Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Carlson, Marvin. 1996. Performance: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge.

Cole, Toby, and Helen Krich Chinoy, eds. 1949. Actors on Acting. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Diderot, Denis. 1967. Encyclopedia: Selections, ed. Stephen Gendzier. New York: J and J Harper Editions.

Dukore, Bernard. 1974. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Esslin, Martin. 1961. The Theatre of the Absurd. New York: Doubleday and Company.

Jones, Robert Edmond. 1941. The Dramatic Imagination. New York: Theatre Arts Books.

Roach, Joseph. 1993. The Players Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Stanislavski, Constantin. 1989. An Actor Prepares. New York: Routledge.

Vince, Ronald. 1984a. Ancient and Medieval Theatre: A Historiographical Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Vince, Ronald. 1984b. Renaissance Theatre: A Historiographical Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Vince, Ronald W. 1988. Neoclassical Theatre: A Historiographical Handbook. New York: Greenwood Press.

Margaret Coyle

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theater

theater, building, structure, or space in which dramatic performances take place. In its broadest sense theater can be defined as including everything connected with dramatic art—the play itself, the stage with its scenery and lighting, makeup, costumes, acting, and actors.

Ancient Greece

Theater in ancient Greece developed from the ceremonial worship of the god Dionysus (in which the death and rebirth of the god were celebrated) and was communal in nature. The focal point of the structure in which the ceremony took place was a level, circular space at the foot of a hill. Around this space, called the orchēstra, an auditorium rose in a large semicircle. Behind the orchēstra was the skēne, a building where the actors could change costume. Between the skēne and the orchēstra was a space called the proskenion, which later developed into the stage.

The original religious nature of Greek drama made audiences particularly receptive to the cosmic themes presented in classical tragedy. Greek actors performed in masks and stylized costumes (see mask). The chorus remained in the orchēstra throughout the play, performing intricate dances and chants while commenting on the dramatic action taking place on the proskenion. The date at which the proskenion became a raised stage is uncertain, but it had definitely achieved this status by the Hellenistic period (3d–1st cent. BC).

The years from the decline of classical Greece through the Hellenistic period to the Roman era saw the erosion of serious drama and a corresponding increase in the architectural grandeur of theaters. As the religious and thus the choral element diminished, the skēne became an elaborate structure and the orchēstra was increasingly reduced in size.

Ancient Rome and the Early Christian Era

In Rome, for the first time, theaters were enclosed within a single wall, making them architectural units. The Roman skēne (in Latin the scaenae frons) was frequently monumental in scale. Roman audiences never evinced an interest in serious drama but accepted romantic comedy as long as it included an element of farce. By the period of the Empire, Roman theater had degenerated into brutal and obscene spectacle, and it was finally banned by the Christian church.

While Greek actors were highly respected, their Roman counterparts were originally slaves. Although position of Roman actors had improved by the 1st cent. BC (as evidenced by the career of Quintus Roscius), later Christian antipathy to the stage led to the view of the actor as a social outcast. Until the 10th cent., theatrical performances were restricted to traveling acrobats, jugglers, mimes, and the like. Popular types of traveling theater, performed on plain wooden platforms, also existed throughout the Greek and Roman periods. Native farce and burlesque probably flourished before Aristophanes; it certainly did by the 3d cent. BC in the Greek phylakes and the Roman fabula Atellana.

Medieval Theaters

In the 9th cent. drama returned to the Western world in the form of mystery and miracle plays, which were performed in churches. Usually stories from the Bible, such plays were first acted by priests, their stage consisting of different platform sets arranged in rows along the side of the nave of the church. One effect of the church setting was to create a close relationship between audience and performer.

Later these plays were moved out of the church into the street, where the platform sets were arranged around an area in which the audience could stand or move from place to place in a prescribed order. Acting took place either on the platforms, in front of them, or between them, depending on the need. The platforms were often elaborate in their decoration and stage machinery. With the shift to the streets, acting was transferred from the priesthood to the amateurs of the guilds or professional players.

Renaissance Theaters

After the advent of the Renaissance in Italy there were various attempts to construct theaters on Roman models, the culmination of this movement being the Teatro Olimpico (1580–84) at Vicenza, designed by Andrea Palladio. However, the development of the theater form that was to dominate until the 20th cent. began with the Teatro Farnese (1618) at Parma, designed by Gian-Battista Aleotti. Of primary importance was Aleotti's use of the proscenium arch creating the picture-frame stage.

Italians also introduced painted perspective scenery, first outlined in the treatise Architettura (1537–45) of Sebastiano Serlio. While these developments were taking place in an academic and aristocratic milieu, the commedia dell'arte was carrying on a popular theater of improvisation, which did much toward developing professional acting as opposed to courtly amateurism.

In England and Spain, theories of theater construction were less tied to classical example than in Italy. The Spanish theater developed in the corral, or courtyard, of various large buildings, where plays were originally performed, while the innyard served as a similar model in England. These theaters offered greater flexibility of movement than did the Italian. The Elizabethan audience in England included all levels of society, and professional actors were treated with relative respect. By the closing of the theaters by the Puritans in 1642, English audiences had become overwhelmingly aristocratic, a tendency that continued in the Restoration period.

In 17th-century England the designs of Inigo Jones revealed Italian influence in their use of perspective scenery and the proscenium arch. However, English theater never indulged in the architectural extravaganzas that proliferated on the continent. In 17th-century Europe the trend in theater production was increasingly toward more elaborate machinery and scenery with less and less concern for the drama itself. This trend is illustrated by the triumph of opera in Italy and Spain and, later, by the popularity of the exuberant baroque architecture and scene design of the Bibiena family throughout 18th-century Europe.

Theaters in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The development of a middle-class audience in 18th-century France and England created a desire for more realistic settings and acting. Although some attempts were made in the 18th cent. (notably by David Garrick in England and Adrienne Lecouvreur in France) to combat the artificial, rhetorical style of acting then popular, it was not until the late 19th cent. that a more natural style of acting gained wide acceptance. Of great importance in the development of realistic acting was Constantin Stanislavsky, cofounder of the Moscow Art Theater, who stressed the actors' absolute identification with the characters they portray.

Similarly, realism in scenery and costumes was not popular until well into the 19th cent. The creation of realistic effects was facilitated by the introduction of gas lights in the early 19th cent. and of electricity later in the century. Electric lighting was, however, also used for antirealistic effects by such scene designers as Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig. The introduction of gas lighting made it possible to dim the auditorium lights, a practice that tended to make the audience more separate from the stage. Richard Wagner, in his opera theater at Bayreuth, attempted further to isolate the audience by means of a gap of darkness between a double proscenium arch. While most commercial theaters today still use the proscenium arch stage, there has been much experimental work to restore a vital relationship between audience and stage.

By the late 19th cent., theater was dominated by commercial playhouses in large cities, particularly in England and the United States. However, in the late 19th cent. several independent theaters, more interested in art than in making money, came into being, including the Théâtre Libre in Paris (1887), the Freie Bühne in Berlin (1889), the Independent Theatre Society in London (1891), and the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia (1891).

Twentieth-Century Theaters

Smaller independent theaters were also prevalent in the early 20th cent., as in the Provincetown Players (1915) in the United States. Concurrently, antirealistic expressionist and symbolic movements in theater were developing, such as Vsevolod Meyerhold's constructivism, the "theater of cruelty" of Antonin Artaud, and the "epic theater" of Bertolt Brecht. There was also a growing interest in Asian theater, which seemed attractive to many because of its relatively bare stage, symbolic stage properties, and stylized, nonrealistic acting (see Asian drama).

Theatrical developments since World War II, especially in noncommercial theater, have brought the stage more in contact with the audience. Theater-in-the-round became popular at American universities in the 1930s, and in the 1950s and 60s many "music tents" featuring theater-in-the-round sprang up in American cities. Experimental relationships between audience and acting space have also been constructed. Such groups as the Living Theater of Julian Beck and Judith Malina produced free-form events in which audience and actors mingled, thus removing completely traditional barriers between them.

Related Articles

For further information see separate articles on drama, Western; acting; directing; and scene design and stage lighting. See also articles on theaters and theater groups: Abbey Theatre; Comédie Française; Deutsches Theater; Drury Lane; Federal Theatre; Globe Theatre; Group Theatre; Habima Theater; Hôtel de Bourgogne; Meiningen Players; Old Vic; Royal National Theatre, and Royal Shakespeare Company.

Bibliography

See the general theater histories by G. W. Gladstone (1985), P. Hartnoll (1985), B. D. Grose (1985), O. G. Brockett (5th ed. 1987), and P. Kuritz (1988); A. Clunes, The British Theatre (1964); A. Nicoll, Development of the Theatre (5th ed. 1967) and The English Stage (1978); E. Mordden, The American Theatre (1981); P. P. Gillespie, Western Theatre: Revolution and Revival (1984); M. C. Henderson, Theater in America (rev. ed. 1996).

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theatre

theatre is a general term that covers plays, players, places, and spectators; although it is predominantly a pretence that entertains, with varying degrees of spectacle, themes in drama may reflect and challenge contemporary issues. There is little trace now of Roman theatre in Britain other than remnants of multi-purpose amphitheatres, a few masks, and the name of a player (Verecunda), but these suggest quite widespread, broadly based performance. Itinerant popular entertainers like dancers, mimes, minstrels, and story-tellers then preserved fundamental skills, while folk-plays developed out of seasonal celebrations and mimetic elements in dance, passed on through oral tradition; some of these became integrated into the church's liturgical calendar. The later middle ages saw a growing taste for civic pageantry and development of ‘mystery plays’ (biblical histories portrayed on fixed staging or pageant-wagons hauled through the streets, often under the auspices of craft guilds). Liturgical drama began to yield to more secular morality plays, ‘interludes’ provided a link between mimi and the early professional touring companies, mummings and disguisings were indoor and court-linked (later merging into masques), and, by the late 15th cent., nobles began to take players' troupes under their own protection. The creation of the royal household post of master of the revels (1494) not only legitimized theatre but established control over an institution that was increasingly secular and mainly professional.

In the 16th cent., companies of strolling players, performing in inn-yards on trestle stages or private banqueting-halls, flourished despite strong disapproval from puritan preachers and city fathers bothered about public order. The first public playhouse was built in Shoreditch, London (1576), by James Burbage, a member of the earl of Leicester's company of players, resembling a modified inn-yard with a raised platform stage, central yard usable for other activities but unroofed, and surrounding galleries with varying admittance charges. Others soon followed south of the river Thames (Rose, Swan, Globe) and prospered. The actors owned the theatres, ran a repertory system, and jealously guarded their unpublished scripts; absence of scenery, making act/scene divisions unnecessary, challenged playwrights' and actors' skills alike. All players had to be competent dancers and singers, but dramatists like Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson replaced earlier short, rhymed verse with poetic drama. As women were forbidden to perform, boy-actors took all female roles, hence their relative rarity and tendency to be breeches-parts. Private indoor theatres were mostly used by boy companies (Children of St Paul's or the Chapel Royal) presenting rather artificial dramas to a limited, wealthy audience. On James I's accession, the three leading adult companies came under royal protection, which inevitably led to adaptations tailored to royal rather than popular tastes. Anne of Denmark, however, encouraged development of the court masque, for which extravagant, one-off entertainments Ben Jonson frequently provided the words and Inigo Jones spectacular, Italianate scenery and costume.

Although playhouses closed briefly during episodes of plague, they were shut down altogether on the outbreak of the Civil War (1642). For the next eighteen years there was rigorous suppression, but players went ‘underground’ and short entertainments known as drolls were frequently performed. After the Restoration, Charles II, an avid theatre-goer, who had become familiar with European theatre during exile, issued two patents which granted a monopoly of performed drama in London until 1843. Killigrew (forming and running the King's Company) at Drury Lane and Davenant (the Duke's Company) at Lincoln's Inn Fields initially revived old plays (though with happy endings to King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, and singing witches in Macbeth) until their own playwrights ( Etherege, Wycherley, then Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar) created bawdy comedies of manners, played to fashionable rather than popular audiences. Aphra Behn, who produced fifteen plays (1671–89), was the first woman professional playright. Theatres were roofed, perspective scenery introduced, and actresses now permitted; initially untrained but quickly proving highly popular with the rowdy audiences, their make-up had to be exaggerated because of poor indoor illumination, and its excessiveness revolted Pepys when he visited Nell Gwyn.

Despite the success of marionette theatres, early 18th-cent. theatre was limited, dramatic rather than operatic but increasingly sentimental and mediocre, with audiences predominantly middle-class. Prompted by Fielding's attack on Walpole and his administration, especially in The Historical Register for 1736 (which virtually invented the satirical revue), the 1737 Licensing Act confirmed the monopoly of the two patent theatres, Drury Lane and Covent Garden (built 1732, inheritor of Davenant's Duke's House), authorized the lord chamberlain to act as censor, and hindered expansion of smaller unlicensed theatres. Ingenuity to circumvent this was boundless: a ‘concert’, or sale of chocolate, punch, or toothpaste, might be accompanied by free entertainment conducted as a ‘rehearsal’. Theatrical evenings became the norm, mixing full-length drama, songs, dances, and ever-popular afterpieces (farce, pantomime). Provincial theatre was provided by travelling companies on defined circuits— Tate Wilkinson ran the York circuit, Sarah Baker covered Kent, and Austin's company eventually covered c.1,100 miles each year in the north of England. These stock companies were training-grounds for young actors such as Garrick, who eventually introduced a more naturalistic style of acting, improved lighting, and stage-design (though contemporary costume still prevailed) at Drury Lane, banished spectators from the stage, and resuscitated Shakespeare. The comedies of Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, 1773) and Sheridan (The School for Scandal, 1777) typified the eventual reaction to sentimental drama, but there was a growing demand by unsophisticated audiences for popular entertainment, to be met by melodrama (to which even John Philip Kemble and Mrs Siddons had to submit), harlequinade in pantomime ( Joseph Grimaldi was a favourite clown), burlesque, and, later, music-hall and vaudeville.

Even before the Theatres Act (1843) broke the monopoly of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, many new, small theatres had arisen, increasingly specialized to cater for differing tastes, and lit by gas which provided more controllable stage illumination; more authentic costumes and stage settings were introduced, plush seating appeared, and auditoria were darkened. Competition from music-hall and the rise of the actor-manager encouraged bravura performances and flamboyant productions under brighter electric light (eventually necessitating stage-managers), but men such as Henry Irving helped to raise actors' status. The satirical libretti of W. S. Gilbert and brilliant but artificial comedies of Oscar Wilde in the late 19th cent. began to yield to the growing realism and concern with social problems that European dramatists such as Chekhov and Ibsen had begun to explore. Shaw's ‘plays unpleasant’, looking at some current abuses, were considered offensive, but the importance of the dramatist was regaining ground, as also were repertory companies and the idea of a supervisory director or producer. Farce, drawing-room, and musical comedy nevertheless continued to retain popularity.

British theatre after the Second World War was fragile. Many London theatres were bomb-damaged, an entertainment tax was imposed, and competition with film, radio, and television was increasing. Actor–audience relationships were challenged, and, although a brief revival of poetic drama occurred, plays such as John Osborne's Look Back in Anger (1956) rejected upper-class sophistication for local accents and ‘kitchen-sink’ drama. Experimental work such as free improvisation and ‘fringe’ theatre emerged, though reaction to such ‘alternative’ theatre led to revivals and new musicals (Oliver, Cats). Censorship was eventually abolished in 1968. The National Theatre finally opened on the South Bank in 1976, and its company, together with the Royal Shakespeare Company, has not only restaged classical plays but also commissioned new large-scale works ( Shaffer's Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1964; Nicholas Nickleby, RSC, 1980). Most professionals now graduate from drama schools. Arts Council subsidies have proved insufficient, and industrial sponsorship of productions is heavily encouraged.

A. S. Hargreaves

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JOHN CANNON. "theatre." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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theatre

theatre In Peter Brook's famous description of the essential ingredients for theatre as simply ‘the audience and the message’, the physical presence of actors is not judged strictly necessary. Yet the history of theatre worldwide makes clear that the first requirement of spectacle or drama is the performer's body. As the mime, Etienne Decroux, ironically put it: ‘When the actor ceases to appear on the stage with his body, he will be justified in disregarding the art of the body.’ Decroux condemned the use of elaborate scenery, lighting, costume, and properties (characteristic of the naturalistic or ‘fourth wall’ style of drama prevalent since the nineteenth century) — all of which, he held, obscured the bodily art of acting itself. Contemporary mime stripped the art to its essentials: to act naked on a naked stage, dispensing with all visual or musical support or accompaniment, and thus proving that the gesture can be self-sufficient. A mime, Jean Dorcy claimed, could portray the universe in two square feet.

Older theatre traditions such as classical Greek drama, the commedia dell'arte, and the Japanese Noh theatre, all influenced the development of contemporary mime. Whereas the Classical Greek tragic actor's physical movements were restricted both by his heavy costume and by the transcendant dignity of his roles, and he relied for expression on his voice, the actor in Greek comedy was expected to be something of an acrobat, displaying physical agility and skill in a primarily bodily form of theatre. The Japanese Noh was a drama of soliloquy and reminiscence, rather than one of conflict, in which the actor's stylized movements and stamping provided a rhythmic accompaniment to his narrative, with subjects taken from myth and legend. The commedia dell'arte was a mainly improvisatory form of theatre developed in sixteenth-century Italy: its influence has extended to the present in the stock characters its actors created — most famously Pantalone and Arlecchino — and the comic stunts and routines which evolved around them.

Contrary to the practice of Decroux and other mimes, these forms of drama do make use of spoken dialogue, costume, stage settings, and music. However, the feature these share in common with mime, and which epitomizes the non-naturalistic and body-based nature of these traditions, is the concealment or disguising of the face, by the use of a mask, or heavy stylized makeup which obscures the natural expression of the actor.

The purpose of this is to turn the eyes away from the face and towards the body of the actor. Dorcy once wrote of acting that ‘one cannot simultaneously and fully use the body and the face as means of expression without one of these two being overshadowed by the other.’ Perhaps it is appropriate, for a proponent of unspoken theatre, that the third instrument of the actor, the voice, is missing from the this statement. Indeed, practitioners of mime often claim a conflict between bodily movement, gesture, and attitude, and the spoken text, in holding the attention of the spectator. (This word is preferred by Dorcy and others over the word ‘audience’, for prioritizing the visual over the aural dimensions of theatre.)

Once the face is concealed, the spectator loses sight of what is commonly thought to be the most expressive part of the human frame. Attention is focused instead on the body, which becomes the sole vehicle of expression. Bodily movement, gesture, attitude are heightened and intensified in order to emphasize contrasts, and to eliminate superfluous movements and amplify or exaggerate the remaining motions.

The movement of the actor's body is inseparable from theatre, according to Dorcy: ‘The stage is a place where space changes nature, size and architecture according to the body occupying it; without a body in motion, the stage would be a desert.’ In such physical acting, each image created by the body, viewed separately, will reveal distinct emotions and circumstances. The gesture of the mime can conjure up absent objects; sometimes it serves as an interjection and expresses the psychological content of the moment: hesitation, joy, fear, etc. A successful attitude is like a condensed drama; perfect, complete, it is an image epitomizing identity, origin, destination, and intent.

The ideal intensity of bodily expression on the stage is summarized by Jean-Louis Barrault, who wrote that ‘As soon as I found myself … I was put to death. My life is an execution. My conduct will therefore be a struggle against death, against the clock, against time. A single watchword must be issued in this inner world of the body: to delay the hour of surrender, to delay the “moment of truth”. Accordingly, from head to toe, every part of this body is placed in a state of alert.’ Its enactment of the absurd and tragic collision between the inner world of the self and the outer world of destiny links mime to the plays of Beckett and Ionesco, in the Theatre of the Absurd. Its dictates, based on Jarry's 1896 play, Ubu Roi, held that human life was so illogical and language so inadequate as a means of communication that one was thrown back onto the body as the sole vehicle of expression, whether laughter, pain, or bewilderment.

Bodily confrontation is emphasized in the later Theatre of Cruelty movement, begun in the 1960s. Inspired by the writings of Antonin Artaud, it sought to free humans from the restraints of morality and reason, returning to a state of unfettered expression of power and desire. This was a precursor to the recent resurgence of ‘new melodrama’, which employs non-naturalistic, expressionistic styles of acting, and physical theatre, with its emphasis on extreme bodily states and forms of expression.

Natsu Hattori

Bibliography

Cheney, S. W. (1972). The theatre. Three thousand years of drama, acting and stagecraft. McKay, New York.
Dorcy, J. (1961). The mime, (trans. R. Speller and and P. de Fontnouvelle ). (5 vols.) McGraw-Hill New York.
Hochman, S. (1984). Encyclopaedia of world drama. Robert Speller & Sons, New York.

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COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "theatre." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Theater

Theater

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A New Theater Capital. By 1850 New York City, with a population of 500,000, had become the center of theatrical activity in the United States, a position formerly held by Philadelphia. The largest New York theater was the New Bowery Theater, featuring a large proscenium stage and four thousand seats. Twice as large as the largest theater of twenty years earlier, the New Bowery reflected not only the dynamic growth of American cities and their increasingly urbanized, middle-class populations, but also the democratic spirit that Walt Whitman was celebrating in the 1850s. Other cities with major theaters were Boston, Charleston, and New Orleans. At a first-class theater, ticket prices averaged from fifty to seventy-five cents for seats in the orchestra section, twenty-five cents for box seats, and twelve cents for seats in the galleries. Over the next two decades top ticket prices rose to a dollar and then to $1.50. Nearly all flourishing theaters had their own companies of actors, and by midcentury fifty resident theater companies were actively performing plays in the large and smaller cities of the United States. As a rule actors and actresses were paid poorly. Only stars such as Edwin Forrest (1806-1872) and Charlotte Cushman (1817-1876) commanded large salaries. African American actors did not perform in legitimate theaters during these years. The predominantly white theatergoing public refused to accept them, and, when a play called for a black characterwhether in Othello or Uncle Toms Cabin (1852)the role was performed by a white actor. Most theaters were located in the East, but San Francisco opened its first professional theater in 1850, and in the following decades western and midwestern cities such as Saint Louis and Chicago built theaters and paid salaries that rivaled those at the established theaters in the East. In addition to resident companies, there were also touring theatrical companies thataided by the growth and convenience of railroad travelcarried their productions to small towns.

The Great American Blockbuster. The dramatic version of Harriet Beecher Stowes best-selling novel Uncle Toms Cabin (1852) was a theatrical phenomenon unparallelled in American theater history. In 1852, the same year the novel was published, George L. Aiken (1830-1876) adapted Stowes antislavery story for the stage, and the first performances of Uncle Toms Cabin were held in Troy, New York. After breaking theater records by running for 100 nights there, the play moved to Purdys National Theater in New York City, where it opened on 18 July 1853 and ran for 325 performances. By 1854 traveling companies performing this melodrama in tents were traveling across the United States; at one point Uncle Toms Cabin was running in five New York theaters simultaneously. The play became the most popular of its era, and by the end of the 1870s, forty-nine theater companies were performing it nationwide. In 1878, twenty-six years after the premiere of Uncle Toms Cabin, Sam Lucas became the first African American actor to play the role of Uncle Tom.

Melodrama and Gradual Americanization. As in the earlier decades of the century, the plays of William Shakespeare and the other great British dramatists continued to be popular on American stages. Edwin Booth (1833-1893), often considered the finest actor of the American theater, made his reputation by performing the title role in Hamlet in New York in 1864. Yet melodrama became the reigning theatrical genre in the United States during the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, partly because of the extraordinary success of Uncle Toms Cabin and partly because melodramas imported from Europe won the enthusiastic applause of the theatergoing public. These melodramas typically featured stereotypical characters, improbable plots leading to dramatic climaxes, simplistic moral messages, happy endings, and sensational stage effects, such as storms or earthquakes. Meanwhile, the percentage of plays by American playwrights produced in the United States had risen from 2 percent at the beginning of the century to 19 percent by 1850. This trend continued over the next quartercentury, though slowly, as American playwrights began writing their own melodramas with American characters in American settings. These plays provided star vehicles for such celebrated American actors as Joseph Jefferson (1829-1905). Actor-playwright Dion Boucicault (1820P-1890) set The Octoroon (1859) in New Orleans. The play, which examines racial prejudices, opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York and was one of Boucicaults first successes, which also included Rip Van Winkle (1866), his adaptation of the story by Washington Irving (1783-1859), and Belle Lamar (1874), one of the first important Civil War plays. A firm believer in the sensationalism of melodrama, Boucicault noted: Sensation is what the public wants and you cannot give them too much of it. Another successful American playwrightrenowned also as a producer and directorwas Augustin Daly (1838-1899), whose Under the Gaslight (1867) featured a character tied to railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming train; Dalys highly improbable but effective theatricality inspired many imitators. Still, in the 1869-1870 season, only a half-dozen of the eighty plays produced in the first-class New York playhouses were American works. In 1869 William Dean Howells wrote sardonically in The Atlantic Monthly, There is nothing American on the American stage.

Sources

Gerald Bordman, American Theater: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1869-1914 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994);

Garff B. Wilson, Three Hundred Years of American Drama and Theater: From Ye Bare and Ye Cubb to Hair (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973).

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"Theater." American Eras. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Theater." American Eras. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2536601322.html

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theater

theater

The medieval religious plays performed for small audiences, blossomed into the theater, the most popular form of entertainment during the Renaissance. The new drama was given impetus by the discovery of ancient Greek and Roman plays, including the works of Terence, Plautus, and Seneca. In Italy, the new tradition of pastoral plays gained popularity along with the tragedies and comedies written on classical models. The Italian love for music and display emerged in the intermezzo, a piece performed between the acts of a serious performance, and the commedia dell'arte, a boisterous and improvised comedic romp with a familiar set of characters that was performed in city streets and squares. Eventually music, drama, and dance would be combined in the new form of opera; which emerged in the sixteenth century in the works of Claudio Monteverdi and other Italian masters.

In France, the leading playwrights included Estienne Jodelle and Alexandre Hardy, who defied the classical style. In the late Renaissance, however, there was a return to ancient forms of tragedy (in the works of Jean Racine and Pierre Corneille), and masterful comedies by Moliere. These playwrights wrote under the influence of Cardinal Richelieu and the Catholic Reformation, which resisted innovation and sought a return to tradition, whether that of religion or of art. The Spanish writer Lope de Vega authored hundreds of plays full of action and drama in the tradition of the medieval chivalric romance. Theater flourished in Spain through the seventeenth century, with the production of sacramentales, or one-act religious plays, comedias nuevas, or new comedies, and musical shows known as zarzuelas.

In England the first outdoor theater was established in London in 1576, and was soon attracting thousands of people, who paid a pittance to stand among the groundlings or slightly more for seats in covered sections raised above the stage. Previously, stages had been set up in public squares or marketplaces and were open to all; the Globe and other theaters of the late sixteenth century were the first structures devoted exclusively to public entertainment. Smaller, private theaters also operated, offering spectators an indoor venue and seating for all.

Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy was among the most popular plays of the Elizabethan era and set the standard for all later tragedies. The Renaissance drama reached the peak of its poetic and dramatic power in the works of William Shakespeare, as well as his contemporary Christopher Marlowe. Shakespeare was a masterful poet and dramatist who worked in many different forms, including tragedies, comedies, and historical plays. After the Elizabethan era, the English theater entered a period of slow decline until the Puritan government closed the theaters in 1642. The leading dramatist of this Jacobean era was the satirist Ben Jonson, who found humor in the follies of ordinary people.

See Also: de Vega, Lope; Marlowe, Christopher; Shakespeare, William; Tasso, Turquato

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"theater." The Renaissance. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Theater

638. Theater

  1. Abbey Theatre home of famed Irish theatrical company. [Irish Hist.: NCE, 3]
  2. Bolshoi Moscows premier ballet company. [Russ. Hist.: NCE, 327]
  3. Broadway famous theatrical district at New Yorks Times Square. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 107]
  4. Carnegie Hall New Yorks venerable theater for concert-goers. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 460]
  5. Comédie-Française (Théâtre-Francais) worlds oldest established national theater. [Fr. Hist.: EB, III: 33]
  6. Drury Lane London street famed for theaters; the theatrical district. [Br. Hist.: Herbert, 1321]
  7. Federal Theater provided employment for actors, directors, writers, and scene designers (19351939). [Am. Hist.: NCE, 932]
  8. Garrick Theatre famous London playhouse; named for David Garrick. [Br. Lit.: NCE, 1048]
  9. Globe Theatre playhouse where Shakespeares plays were performed. [Br. Lit.: NCE, 1094]
  10. Habima Theater national theater of Israel; its troupe is famous for passionate acting style. [Israeli Hist.: NCE, 1170]
  11. La Scala (Teatro alla Scala) Theater at the Stairway; Milan opera house; built 1776. [Ital. Hist.: EB, VI: 57]
  12. Lincoln Center New Yorks modern theater complex. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1586]
  13. Metropolitan Opera House famous theater in New York City; opened in 1883. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1761]
  14. Old Vic London Shakespeare theater (19141963). [Br. Hist.: NCE, 1999]
  15. Radio City Music Hall New York Citys famous cinema; home of the Rockettes. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2338]
  16. Shubert Alley heart of Broadway; named after the three Shubert brothers. [Am. Hist.: Herbert, 1322]
  17. Winter Garden a famous old theater in New York City. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 738]

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"Theater." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. 1986. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Theater." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. 1986. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2505500647.html

"Theater." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. 1986. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2505500647.html

theater

the·a·ter / ˈ[unvoicedth]ēətər/ (also the·a·tre) • n. a building or outdoor area in which plays and other dramatic performances are given. ∎  (often the theater) the activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays: what made you want to go into the theater? ∎  a play or other activity or presentation considered in terms of its dramatic quality: this is intense, moving, and inspiring theater. ∎  a movie theater. ∎  a room or hall for lectures, etc., with seats in tiers. ∎  the area in which something happens: a new theater of war has been opened up. ∎  [as adj.] denoting weapons for use in a particular region between tactical and strategic: he was working on theater defense missiles. ORIGIN: late Middle English (originally as ‘theatre’), from Old French, or from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron, from theasthai ‘behold.’

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"theater." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"theater." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-theater.html

"theater." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-theater.html

theatre

theatre Building where drama is staged. Its architecture evolved gradually from early times, when ritual was most often performed in the open air. In medieval Europe, churches were used as dramatic venues. Renaissance architects such as Palladio were commissioned to design private theatres with acoustics and perspective in mind. At the same time, popular open stages had evolved in Shakespearean England. By the Restoration, the proscenium arch stage had become established as the only viable form of theatre. Since World War 2, theatrical architecture has again stressed adaptability.

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"theatre." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Theatre

Theatre

an open stage; a series of passing scenes; an audience or house, 1602; the dramatic work of a playwright, collectively, 1640.

Examples : theatre of action, 1774; of all his brutalities, 1654; of violent earthquakes, 1850; of Gods, 1634; of hills, 1818; of misery, 1640; of public life, 1855; of rising terraces, 1886; of valour, 1615; of war; of water, 1645; of the whole world, 1581.

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"Theatre." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. 1985. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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theatre

theatre, U.S. theater in antiquity, open-air structure for plays and spectacles XIV; playhouse XVI. — OF. t(h)eatre (mod. théâtre) or L. theātrum — Gr. théātron ‘place for viewing’, f. theâsthai behold.
So theatrical XVI; sb. pl. XVII. f. late L. theātricus — Gr. theātrikós.

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T. F. HOAD. "theatre." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

T. F. HOAD. "theatre." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O27-theatre.html

T. F. HOAD. "theatre." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O27-theatre.html

theatre

theatre. Building for the public enjoyment of drama, etc. Antique Classical theatres were planned as segments of a circle, the seats rising in concentric tiers above and behind one another around the orchaestra separating the auditorium from the stage. See also amphitheatre.

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JAMES STEVENS CURL. "theatre." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 2 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

JAMES STEVENS CURL. "theatre." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O1-theatre.html

JAMES STEVENS CURL. "theatre." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. 2000. Retrieved July 02, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O1-theatre.html

theatre

theatre See Drama

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theater

theatertheatre (US theater) •realtor •amphitheatre (US amphitheater) •proprietor, rioter •breakfaster • comforter • Lancaster •Doncaster •Alasdair, baluster •bardolater, idolater •amateur, shamateur •schemata • stigmata • automata •traumata • covenanter •Mahabharata • orator • warranter •Alberta, asserter, Bizerta, converter, deserter, Goethe, inserter, kurta, perverter, reverter, subverter •frankfurter

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theatre

theatretheatre (US theater) •realtor •amphitheatre (US amphitheater) •proprietor, rioter •breakfaster • comforter • Lancaster •Doncaster •Alasdair, baluster •bardolater, idolater •amateur, shamateur •schemata • stigmata • automata •traumata • covenanter •Mahabharata • orator • warranter •Alberta, asserter, Bizerta, converter, deserter, Goethe, inserter, kurta, perverter, reverter, subverter •frankfurter

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