Theatre Appreciation Unit One

Theatre Appreciation Unit One


>>Most of us are likely to have
our first theatrical experiences with some form other than
actually attending theater, movies, television, video,
all sorts of electronic media. The list seems to grow
more quickly by the day. When we see these
electronic presentations, we may experience a wide range
of emotions, the same emotions that theater can evoke in us. So, the inevitable question
that arises is this, “Do we really still
need theater? Isn’t it an archaic,
difficult form of entertainment that’s
outlived its usefulness?” What is the point of
going to the theater today when we have all of
these other forms of entertainment available 24
hours a day, seven days a week? What most of us don’t realize
or think about is that all of these electronic media
types have their roots in live theater. Theater is the forerunner, the
foundation of everything we see. For more than 2500 years,
theater was the only form of dramatic art that existed. Around 1900, this began
to change and it continued to change throughout
the 20th Century as technology rapidly developed. Silent films, radio, sound
films, television, computers, DVDs, and streaming video
on computers appeared in relatively quick succession and transformed the
entertainment landscape. But it’s important
to keep in mind that the story-telling
techniques they employ were developed and perfected
during the long history of live theater. Over this span, theater
has undergone many changes and followed diverse paths. When we attend the
theater today, we and a few hundred
other people come together to see a performance that will
last approximately two hours on an indoor stage,
illuminated by artificial light. But theater going has
not always been this way. Our experience would seem
strange to Greeks living in the 5th Century BCE
as they assembled at dawn at an outdoor theater,
seating some 17,000 people to watch a series of
plays that lasted all day under the bright sunlight. Our experience would
seem equally strange to a 15th Century audience
in England gathered at various places along
a route to watch a series of short biblical plays
performed on wagons that moved from one performance
site to the next. Theatrical experience
has been as varied as the cultures in
which it appeared. This diversity raises
some questions about the appeal of theater. Why do people create theater? What attracts audiences to it? The impulse to create
theater is universal and theater developed
independently in Greece, India, China, Indonesia, and Japan
while elaborate theatrical rituals existed in many cultures
in Africa and North America. Theater deals with the
mystery, history, and ambiguity of human behavior and events. Plays speak to us as individuals
as well as of groups. Theater aims to provoke thought
while entertaining us rather than provide concrete
answers or solutions. The most important aspect
of what attracts people to the theater is the
fact that it is live, it happens at a given
moment with a group of people inhabiting
the same space. The performers and the audience
become a unique community and the interchange of energy between the two groups
is difference at each and every performance. It is unlike anything
that could be experienced with recorded media. In this Theater Appreciation
Class, we will look at the elements of
theater that contribute to making each performance
a singular, collaborative, social, and cultural event. We’ll begin by taking a look at
some basic issues, the nature and function of the theater,
the relationship of theater to other art forms,
and some criteria for judging theatrical
performances. We’ll study the various forms
and styles that developed over centuries and to
look at the contributions of the various artists
and technicians who participate in
each production. Most importantly, we’ll attend
a number of plays as a group and experience together the ways
that entering into a community with performers and fellow
audience members enriches our lives.

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