Role Of Church In TheaterS Development Essay

Role Of Church In Theater`S Development Essay, Research Paper

Grant Kohler

1. The Roman Catholic Church is important in the history of theatre for many reasons. First, church services were beginning to be more theatrical and performances would be staged in the churches. Secondly, the stories from the Bible were the material that the plays of this time were based on, liturgical drama. The churches would later aid in the organization of these dramas outside of the actual churches. Thus, without the Roman Catholic Church, theatre history may have been different.

2. The church architecture was important to medieval theatre in that the churches were used as performance areas for liturgical dramas. The performances used existing structures that were modified to serve as Christian locales in the empyrean heaven. These were structures were called mansions, sedes, loci, etc., and were representative of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the clouds, etc. depending on where they were placed in the church’s floor plan. Now, one might ask why the churches were used to perform plays? Well, for centuries, disease droughts, shortages of foods, and wars had caused all of the conventional theatres to be abandoned or destroyed or ruined. Without stability in life, there isn’t a place for theatre. It was not until the sixth century that the monasteries and churches began to stage these religious dramas. With that, the church became the stage and that is why the architecture was important to medieval theatre.

3. Liturgical drama is a religious drama emerging from Christianity in the Middle Ages when the church added theatrical elements to worship to revitalize the ceremonies and to attract newcomers, especially Pagans, to Christianity. Examples of this are the ostentatious procession on Palm Sunday, making a figure eight through the center aisle and two halves of the pews. On Maundy Thursday, the altar is stripped and all religious markings, i.e. crosses, Chiros, are covered with a black cloth and the candles are extinguished. The aforementioned visual symbols were also a product of this time, when the followers could recognize elements from the Bible, (which is a drama itself). Music was also added to the services, in which there would be several a day, and a Greek-like chorus in which the celebrant would sing to, and the chorus would sing in response. This differs from vernacular drama in that it still has the purpose of worship behind it, whereas the latter is for mere entertainment. The Greeks did use these dramas at the festival for Dionysia, but it was the festival itself that served to honor the god, not the drama. The Greek dramas did have their element of religion in them, but the Greeks had characters that were more human the divine.

4. Guilds then were similar to the present day United Auto Workers. They originated between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and were not just limited to theatre. Butchers, bakers, and even candlestick makers set up these protective organizations against the hierarchy of feudalism. These guilds regulated working conditions, wages, standards of quality and dental plans (well, not really). The rise of these guilds came with growth in towns and migrant workers. The liturgical drams were still sponsored per se by the churches, but they were moving outdoors now and became more independent, with jurisdiction of the matters of the production being to the master within the guild. Thus, there was more theatre available in more locations, with a rise in quality, (although from what I have seen, the quality was still low), and mobility, which is what contributed to the popularity of these guilds.

5. An Episodic plot structure is one that contains periods of elapsed time, or that jumps between present and past. This was radically different from the continual plot structure that the Greeks used, in which there was no elapsation of time anywhere. This became acceptable in the Middle Ages because of the rise of liturgical drama. Both the Old and New testaments of Christianity contain large spaces of time between events, such as the span of a week in which Jesus is sentenced, crucified, and resurrected, known as the station s of the cross. This couldn’t possibly be staged unless the empty parts, when Jesus walks for miles, were trimmed done or deleted form the drama. That is why episodic plot structures became acceptable.

6. In medieval drama there were ways of staging a play. There was the stationary way, in which the play would be performed on a single wagon with as limited acting space and the entire wagon would be moved from town to town and everything needed for the production was part of the wagon. The processional way of staging a play was to have several wagons use a common acting space belonging to the town, and thus making the stages larger and more complex, making the productions more complex and with a larger cast.

7. The weakening of the church was the main reason why the medieval drama to a decline. Inside the church, the Pope was losing power as urbanization brought the formation of states and provinces, thus the governors of these areas wanted individual power. This and many other crumbling within the church, including Henry VII forming the Anglican Church were partly responsible for the decline. People also began to abandon religious subject matter, the crucifixion, the birth of Christ, etc., and interest was revived into the Greek and Roman plays of the yesteryears. With this abandonment of religious matter also came the decline of international theatre, because Christianity was and still is a drama and/or topic that crosses cultures, as does any religion. With all of these simultaneous declines and a new interest in the classics, the Renaissance began.

8. The appearance of established truths in theatre is the concept of verisimilitude. Under these ideals, all plays should be realistic, be underlined by morality, and have an element of universality to them. This of course provided limitations, limitations such as: Violent scenes of combat or large crowds were kept offstage, the good guys won and the bad guys lost, the element of fantasy and mystery were avoided, and soliloquies were discouraged.

9. Commedia dell-arte became so popular because it was accessible to people and involved little “overhead”. By this I mean that it was spontaneous in nature and had slapstick humor, and was available to almost all people during this time period.

10. Opera came into existence from its progression from “intermezzi”, which were short interludes of music between play performances. This renewed the interest of the public in music, and the first full length Opera was conceived by an Italian musical academy.

11. Four words: oil paints, and perspective drawing.

12. Sebastian Serlio’s contribution to scene design was three styles of sets, tragic, comedic, and satyric. All three used the same floor plan, which consisted of 4 sets of wings and a backdrop, a sloped stage creating the appearance of depth, and from what I see, a t-shape in the acting space, closing in with large buildings or trees.

13. The groove system is a method of systematically withdrawing flat wings from the visible area of the stage in order to reveal a new set of wings, thus depicting a new setting. The pole and chariot system called upon machinery to execute precise scene changes, without obstructing the view from the audience. These chariots were below the stage; attached above them were poles, which passed through slots in the stage floor.

14. Teatro Olimpico is the earliest surviving example of a permanent Renaissance theater and was built in an effort to recreate the feeling of a Roman theatre, only indoors. The Teatro Farnese is the oldest extant theatre with a permanent proscenium arch.


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