Elizabethan Theater: First Professional Actors with Non-Religious Themes

The theater covered such diverse themes as history, romance, revenge, murder, comedy, and tragedy. Introduction Elizabethan theatre, sometimes called English Renaissance theatre, refers to that style of performance plays which blossomed during the reign of Elizabeth I of England (r. 1558-1603 CE) and which continued under her Stuart successors. Elizabethan theatre witnessed the first professional[…]

Sacred Street Theater in Medieval England

Doomsday, 1433. In York, after dark. A red curtain. Painted stars. Actors in hoses, wigs, and two-faced masks—some in angel wings, some with trumpets. Wooden clouds and pieces of rainbow, and an iron frame with pulleys meant to effect Christ’s movements between Heaven and Earth. a “hell mouth” billowing smoke and the smell of sulfur.[…]

The First Women to Make Movies

For decades, women’s contributions to silent movies were mostly ignored. Motion pictures began in the East in the 1890s, then settled in Southern California around 1910 where the sunny climate was perfect for filming. In these early years, across this country, in tiny towns and big cities, thousands of young women sat in darkened theaters,[…]

‘So Very Japanny’: The British Reception of ‘The Mikado’ in 1885

Examining the writings of The Mikado producers and opera reviewers in 1885, showing that the British were eager to create a quaint, picturesque, “authentic” image of Japan. In 1885 librettist William Schwenck Gilbert visited the Japanese Village, a London spectacle featuring Japanese natives performing their way of life.[1] Gilbert drew inspiration from his visit for the production[…]

Sentiment and Sensibility: Sheridan and ‘The School for Scandal’

Examining 18th-century satirist Richard Brinsley Sheridan and his most famous play, The School for Scandal. Introduction Perhaps Sheridan’s greatest play, The School for Scandal is one of the supreme triumphs of 18th-century theatre and is sometimes described as the greatest comedy of manners in the English language. A crackling satire on ostensibly polite society, it[…]

Staging Kingship in Scotland and England, 1532-1560

In terms of its staging of sovereignty, passivity distinguished the Scottish king from the English tyrant. Introduction ‘Quhat is ane king?’ asks Divine Correctioun in David Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis before supplying the answer ‘Nocht bot ane officiar’ (1613),[1] thereby articulating a commonplace of medieval Scottish literature on kingship that the monarch’s[…]

London’s 17th-Century Restoration Indoor Theater

This kind of theater allowed for more lighting and special effects that could enhance the performances. By Paula E. Thomson Introduction The Restoration in England took place from 1660 to 1700 (Avery & Scouten ). This time was a 40 year gap where there was a huge cross between politics and what happened in the[…]

The Woman in Green: A Chinese Ghost Tale from Mao to Ming, 1981-1381

An appropriate end, or beginning, for a ghost that will live many, many more lives. 1981 The film begins on a darkened set, billowing with fog, echoing with a woman’s cry to the heavens. Her figure comes into view and she zigs and zags across the screen, her diaphanous white robe glittering with silver fringe.[…]

Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design in the 20th Century

Exploring visual elements that deepens our comprehension of another world across the footlights and under the proscenium. Introduction Transporting an audience from their time and place to an entirely different world—tucked under and behind the proscenium arch—is the task of the theatrical designer. The designer must invoke the magnificent and the intimate with scenery, costumes,[…]

Stagestruck!: Performing Arts Caricatures in the Early 20th Century

Celebrities of song, stage, and screen were transformed into popular icons of American culture. Introduction During the early twentieth century, performing arts caricature came of age as an art form in the United States as celebrities of song, stage, and screen were transformed into popular icons of American culture. Caricatures played a prominent role in[…]

Edmund Kean and New Theatrical Forms in the Early Nineteenth Century

Kean’s acting style reframed the relation between the British theatrical tradition, the actor’s stage performance, and audience reception. In a conventional sense, Edmund Kean’s London debut at Drury Lane theater on 26 January 1814 matters because it marked the arrival to the metropole of the man who would become the early nineteenth century’s most important actor. In[…]

Paper Theaters: The Home Entertainment of Yesteryear

In the nineteenth century, enterprising toy makers developed a novel way to bring theater into the home. In the Regency era (early 1800s), live theater was so popular that it regularly inspired riots. In 1809, when the Covent Garden Theater tried to raise ticket prices, audiences were so incensed that they revolted. For more than two months[…]

Acoustics of Ancient Greek Theaters

The sound quality in ancient times was likely much better than it is today. By Brigit Katz It is often said that the acoustics of ancient Greek theaters were so sophisticated that spectators in the back row could hear the actors with perfect clarity, long before microphones came into the picture. In modern times, tour guides will[…]