Darwin In Theater Essay, Research Paper
Darwin and the Theatre
Charles Darwin made himself known in the late 19th century when he published his book On the Origin of Species. He challenged the religious philosophies of Creationism which became a very controversial topic of that era. He did not mean to attack any theological systems, but merely introduced a new theory on how human beings came to be. His studies showed that species evolved from simple organisms into more complex organisms. The two main factors included in his theory was survival of the fittest and natural selection. Natural selection states that a species will acquire attributes that it needs to survive in its particular environment and will shed attributes that it does not need. Survival of the fittest states that the species that were strongest would naturally survive, while the weaker species would die out. This thought process can be applied to many parts of our civilizations history, one being theatre.
I am not a thespian. I rarely ever go to any theatre performances, nor have I ever had any type of class about theatre. Yet, as I read through the modules about the development of theatre, or the evolution of theatre, a past event in my life immediately is remembered, probably one of my only memories concerning theatre. The people that started first grade with me are the same people that walked down the aisles by my side to receive their high school diplomas. In my small town, every student knew everybody. Being an artist at heart, theatre interested me, but never too terribly much. I never really attended my high school plays when I was a freshman or a sophomore probably because I did not think that it would be worth the $10. I’d just be seeing these people I’ve gone to school with forever on stage. I remember quite well our little plays in grade school. Cute, but this was not my idea of a fun Saturday night. So I never went. It was not until the end of my sophomore year that I decided to see my high school production of Grease. I think that throughout the whole entire play my mouth was partially open from my shear astonishment of the whole thing. Who knew that my friends could sing like that? I could not believe that these once shy 10 year olds were up in front of such a big audience like it was no big deal. I was amazed, to say the least. The reason that this event in my life reminded me so much of Darwin’s theory of evolution concerning theatre, is because I saw very clearly that night that the people that I had grown up with were, well, evolving into people I never knew that they could be. Great actors.
As I re-write this personal story I wonder if the early actors and creators of theatre, and I use that term loosely, would ever imagine how far along it would come. Theatre today is huge! Productions contain so many aspects that all take great thought and attention to detail. I wonder myself what possibly the future can hold for the fate of theatre. Or even yet, where did theatre and the idea of theatre begin? How primitive was it. Of course this is a question for not only theatre, but also the world itself. I often watch the Discovery Channel’s programs on Amazonian tribes, and African tribes, that still live in a very archaic civilization. A big part of their culture is tribal rituals. They have different dances and dress for different events. Whether it’s to rid their tribe of illness, or talk to the god of fertility, there is no doubt that they put on a very well organized performance.
Charles Darwin spent his whole life trying to find where and how our existence began. He went to unconventional measures to prove that there are other answers out there. The history of theatre can, in the same way, be rigorously researched and disassembled. Every aspect of our history and our own person lives is evolved. The difference is that some things evolve within our lifetime, and some things take centuries, never really ending. These are the events that need the most attention. And that is precisely what Darwin set out to do. We have to really understand that theatre centuries ago was not the same as it is today. But, how far off is it? Watching Amazonian tribes act out their rituals is not that different. Similarly, Greek drama can be traced back to the worship of Dionysus. Historians have looked at this as the beginning of the evolution of present theatre. Generations after generations may have seen their ancestors worship rituals, and perhaps began to mimic. Again this goes back to Aristotle’s belief in human nature’s tendency to mimic. Perhaps though, they were no longer doing the movements of the rituals to call upon their gods, but rather, this was a way to remember their dead. And then even later, not doing it to remember their dead, but to entertain their living. I think that this is the basis of what theatre is today, and maybe tomorrow it will be something completely different. Fortunately people of the future will have great advantages of knowing where they’re theatre derived from, and why we performed like we did. We, on the other hand, are still trying to figure it out. We will never know, of course, the exact origin, but like most everything else in our past, missing pieces of the puzzle are going to have to be filled with temporary guesses. But most importantly, we need to remember that these are just mere guesses, not facts, and no one theory is ever going to be right or wrong.