Origins of Theatre
Theatre at its core is storytelling. Stories to unite, define, defend, express and imagine. Humans define themselves and their world with their stories. Humanity expresses the passage of time, the depth of emotion and the awareness of identity with the story structure. As such, theatre, is as old as humans and human civilizations. The many cradles of civilization:
Mesopotamia, Africa, China, Sumeria
Village elders would share stories and use the arts of theatre performance to enhance their storytelling.
Arts of Theatrical Performance:
Arts of Theatrical Performance or Active Storytelling:
Mimicry and Imitation - how we learn
Exaggeration - to make things more than what they are
Personification - to make things like us
Feats of Power or things doing the impossible - to astound us
Lighting - to draw our focus
Shadow Creation - to show us what is real and believable
Costuming - to show us relationships
Properties Use - to tell us the truth about a character
Movement and Dance - to create energy and express emotion
Vocal Projection and Modulation - so we can hear, and tell the difference between speakers and emotions
Singing - the emotional state of the character
Special effects - to single out a significant moment
Sound Effects - to help us feel like we are there
Visual Metaphors - meaning layered onto all that is designed to be seen
Allegories and Allegorical Characters - they represent something bigger and more complex than they are
Simplifications - to make things less than what they are
Timing - rhythm and speed and pace and pauses
Character Creation - who is chosen to be part of the story
Comparison - a way to study differences
Sequencing - the order in which the story elements are revealed
Expectation Recognition - knowing our audience and the kind of stories they like
Moral Deductions - applying a relationship between good and bad to the story
The reasons an elder or other tribe member would tell a theatrical story:
To identify with an object or event.
To express an emotion beyond words.
To unite a group toward a common goal.
To explain the explainable.
To share crucial lessons and information.
To give a group an identity separate from others.
To provide hope.
To lesson grief.
To excite and motivate.
To remember and to be remembered.
These are just a few of the reasons.
Not all entertainment is Theatre.
The four crucial elements a story must have to be defined as Theatre are: Idea, Actors, Audience and A fundamental change of the Protagonist.
This fundamental change is key.
This separates theatre from Performance Art, Sporting Events, Poetry Slams ect.
Nganalam Cave Painting
Cave Painting, Dance scene
Introduction to Theatre Origin Links:
Origins of Theatre
Active Storytelling – using the tenants of theatricality to transform a story into a theatre presentation.
Ritual – a religious ceremony with prescribed actions and dialogue.
Ceremonial – a ritual that marks a change of status or rite of passage.
Intercommunication – two way communication between two or more beings.
Culture – an accepted set of norms and way of life among a group of people.
Sub-Culture – a smaller group with varied vocabulary, rituals, and belief systems existing within a larger culture.
Allegorical – to represent something more than the parts involved.
Non-Verbal Communication – any and all communication that does not involve speech.
Acculturated – assimilation through experience or teaching into a culture or sub-culture.
Convention – a way of behaving that is accepted by the majority.
Expectations – a belief that a set of parameters will be met.
Archetype – an excepted symbol that represents the epitome of an example or type.
Personification – to apply human traits to non-human objects.
Divinity – pertaining to having the attributes of more than human nature but less than God.
Humanities – the study of what makes us human.
Origins of Theatre Project Options
1. An unexpected and most terrible storm floods your village. You are the village elder. You take everyone away to a safe cave. The people are scared and fighting and blaming each other for silly things. You need to calm them and grab all of their attention. How do you do this and what story do you tell them to bring everyone together and to calm them all.
2. Take a simple story and act it out for the class using the many arts of expressive storytelling.
3. Research ancient stories and legends and illustrate with the way you see those stories being told by ancient peoples. (hint: ancient special effects research).
4. List modern examples that fulfill the ancient reasons for storytelling in today’s arts media.
5. Divide the class into two groups, give each a well-known story to present and using the arts of theatricality have them try to outdo one another in the spectacular presentation of their story.
Created for OER Collective Commons Copyright Valerie Brugh VWCC