elizabethan stage and audience pdf

Elizabethan stage and audience pdf

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Elizabethan Theatres

18 Pages, Grade: 3,0


The Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse located in Shoreditch part of the modern Borough of Hackney , just outside the City of London. Built by actor-manager James Burbage, near the family home in Holywell Street, The Theatre is considered the first theatre built in London for the sole purpose of theatrical productions. The Theatre's history includes a number of important acting troupes including the Lord Chamberlain's Men which employed Shakespeare as actor and playwright. After a dispute with the landlord, the theatre was dismantled and the timbers used in the construction of the Globe Theatre on Bankside.

Elizabethan Theatres

The two reconstruction projects, one successfully completed, the other under construction, represent two different approaches to the architectural past. The London theatre aims at reconstructing not only the physical conditions of the original Globe , but also the atmosphere and the staging techniques, thus creating a time-machine, which invites the spectators to a voyage in time. In this way, the theatre and its stage becomes a sine qua non of the performance, which cannot be staged in any other surroundings.

Instead of a voyage in time, the space of this theatre concentrates on the present and its relationship to the past. Apart from the thrust stage, the theatre contains two other types of stages, the box-stage and the theatre-in-the-round. With the Renaissance there appeared new interest in theatres, not only as places where plays are being staged, but also as places of interest.

Both merchants and nobles visited theatres in various cities and sometimes left their accounts of their impressions.

It has been observed that:. Whether it inhabits the center or the margins of the city, theater has always been deeply implicated in the structure and interplay of civic meanings. At times, theatre has constituted an overt reading of the urban text… But even when the theater has been characterised by a more familiar architectural immobility, it has often devoted itself to the city, its relationships, and its forms of life and culture, both exploring and constructing these meanings within a cultural imaginary.

The cities have become an important part of the lucrative aspect of the economy, and an engine for employment, growth, vitality and revitalisation. Thus location becomes a destination. Moreover, the attractiveness of the city is often estimated on the basis of the variety and quality of whatever the city is capable of staging. A major role in this relatively new phenomenon of creating new identities, often connected with re-writing history, is played by theatres of all kinds, ranging from the ancient Greek amphitheatres to old cinemas converted into commercial playhouses.

People come to watch a play staged in what seems to be true historical surroundings, so the focus is not necessarily on the play as such, but on the architecture and the interior design of the building, perhaps a combination of the two. One is the material edifice, which comes into being in our present time and is real in the physical sense; the other is the fictional past which is inscribed into the building, resulting from the role attributed to it.

The latter is done in a complex manner, reminiscent of stage acting. The city tells stories about itself, always set within preselected elements of the cityscape, which result in various historical narratives, depending on the selection and combination of the stories. The narrative of the city may be propagandist in nature, educational, commercial or artistic, or a combination of the four, depending on the choices made by those in power and the goals set before them.

Buildings become signs of narratives, signs of the past, the present and the future. This brings us to the basic question: do theatres as buildings have meaning? What follows is that even the same performance will generate different meanings when staged in different spaces. So, the narrative of the palace found its continuation and corroboration in the masque staged.

In this way, the palace staged its own ideology. Its function is the only meaning. Our basic concern in this context is whether and to what extent the building and its interior become part of the performance.

This space not only creates the atmosphere and provides the physical conditions for the performance to take place but can also refine, explain, negate and influence the receptive processes. It can provide an ideological context, which prompts the spectator how to read the performance text. It is therefore possible to distinguish theatre buildings and interiors which are independent of the performance, and those that are complementary and integrated with them.

Consequently, this enables us to distinguish theatres in which triple relatedness may be observed the staged spectacle vs. The first of these will usually characterise those theatres arranged in buildings that were either occasionally used for theatrical purposes, like Romanesque and Gothic churches, or were part of a more complex architectural structure, like all sorts of banqueting halls and theatres in royal or ducal palaces.

Buildings originally designed as theatres quite often reveal a conspicuous ideological programme that can influence the perception of a performance, as is the case of class-oriented edifices, aristocratic, bourgeois or working class. In practically all these interiors, the space of the auditorium is separated not only from the artistic realm of the performance, but also from the physical space outside.

The iconography of royal or ducal palaces was often a reflection of the then-current ideological programme of a given dynasty, and was usually designed to mark a rigid boundary between the semi-divine and super-human world of the palace and the ordinary human world outside. Thus, a performance staged in a space meaningful in itself is bound to create relationships and meanings peculiar to that space and the circumstances of the actual spectacle. In other words, the fictional realm created during the performance will inevitably be related to both the space of the theatre and the world outside it.

In many of those theatres the time and space of the auditorium is part of a larger whole, of empirical reality. Thus, we may distinguish two extremes of theatre spaces. One is oriented towards itself, and allows for a limited variety of performances which will tend to contribute to and complement the meanings of the interior, and, in this sense, this introverted theatre might be labelled autotelic: the primary function of performances staged in that kind of theatre will be to corroborate or elucidate or both the meanings generated by the theatre building and its interior.

In the case of reconstructions, however, it may be observed at this point that the original context is not and cannot be reconstructed, even if the reconstruction is carried out in minute detail. What this means is that the original context is suspended, altered or even annulled, and a new one provided, which may transform the theatre of one type to another, of the two types distinguished above.

It is not only because a historical monument is reconstructed, but one must not neglect the fact that the new building is given a new function that it never had. In many ways a reconstructed theatre, which is designed to revive the past in our present, assumes the metaphorical role of an actor and puts on its historical costume, and thus becomes a sign of the past brought into the present of the inhabitants or visitors to the building.

It becomes a sign of something it is not. And in this sense, we may talk of theatricality 6 and fictionality and of the theatre building being staged as if in a performance. We enter a space in which at least two time scales are in operation: the real present of the building in its usually new surroundings and always in a fluctuating political, social and economic context; and the fictional past-in-the-present which the building stages as a sign that is basically iconic, denoting a specific edifice set in its original context the latter cannot be retrieved or reconstructed, and may only be imagined.

This is why, among other reasons, reconstructed buildings create a theatrical atmosphere. It may be said that in the material substance of the building a layer of fictionality is inscribed, creating meanings that were not part of the original, 7 because the original was not a historical monument and it was not a reconstruction. It also functioned within its original, hence contemporary, context, which was not historical at all.

Thus, the semantics of reconstructed buildings is conspicuously different from that inherent in the original; they both tell different stories. This results in the specific performativity of architecture, which is staged in a historical costume for modern audiences. What exactly do we mean, when we say that something is being staged in a theatrical manner?

Since the latter may be seen as the art of creating fictional time, it is obvious that objects cannot act by themselves; they need a human agent to do that. Well, because on their own they cannot pretend or signal they are somewhere else at a different time.

So, how can theatres as pieces of architecture act? They cannot, but with the help of a human agent they can in fact become a part of the performance, a part of the material signifiers denoting fictionality. Through this, objects are transferred from the real time of the performance to the fictional time of the created world. There is no reason why the process could not include the stage and the whole theatre building.

Naturally, this needs further explanation, because this is the feature of all monuments of the past: they all become signs of some historical moment or period. But we must not forget that theatres are special, because during a performance, through the agency of live actors, a miraculous thing happens: the past is brought back to the present and begins to flow in a recreated stream of time, which shares the present time with the present of the spectators.

For in theatre we are dealing with a dual present time, the real one and the fictional one. And, as I intend to show you, the reconstructed theatre building reveals the ability to insert itself into this dual stream of time. This means that during the performance, the theatre plays an active role, and strengthens the ability of the space to bring the past into the present. Some spectators are known to have entered the theatre in historical costumes, thus becoming an iconic sign of the world outside long passed, a metonymy of the Elizabethan or Jacobean periods.

Even though performed by actors who belong to our present, the show aims to be perceived, at least to a certain extent, as if enacted by Richard Burbage and company, and consequently, the spectators travel in time: they, too, seem to become spectators of, say, the historical Hamlet , staged in Thus, the peculiarity of performances in reconstructed theatres lies in the fact that there appears an additional layer of fictionality or theatricality there.

The building is staged before an audience in what often appears a perfect costume and historical make-up. The space speaks to us in the language of the past, employing strange and obsolete phrases and words and long-forgotten proverbs and adages. The past is enacted in an extra layer of significance, which, ironically, is not an artistic or structural part of the play that is being staged. The original staging of Hamlet was not set in the historical context of a stage from a different epoch.

Inevitably, some people are enchanted or even fall under the illusion that owing to the magic of the theatrical time-machine, they move back to the times of Queen Elizabeth, or, conversely, the past is brought to their present. This adds a unique quality to the performances in reconstructed interiors, and what people pay for is the voyage through time. For it is time that becomes a commodity and unique experience. Theatre becomes a time-machine. Let us not forget, however, that this experience was not shared by the original audiences: for them the performances were not historical, but contemporary, and they did not experience any sensations comparable to what audiences in reconstructed theatres do.

The area around the Globe theatre now boasts of five hotels, clusters of restaurants and pubs, the Millennium Bridge for pedestrians, linking the theatre with the City, and hundreds of new luxury flats.

The whole area has been changed beyond recognition. The nearby Tate Modern has attracted more than five million people in , and has maintained that level until today! The criticism has come from artistic circles and from some theatre critics. In recent years academics have entered into the discussion, and a number of publications have appeared in which an attempt is made to tackle the topic from a serious academic perspective. What is missing in the ongoing controversy is a more theoretical approach, which would explain what exactly it means to stage a production in a reconstructed building.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about the performativity of a theatre? This is what prompted me to write this paper. Moreover, the fictional time and space, signalled by the actor, may be transferred on to other objects and phenomena appearing on the stage, and this is done through ostensive signals generated by the actors on the stage. In this way, a layer of fictionality may be superimposed on the materiality of the whole theatre. In certain circumstances the whole theatre, and not only the stage, may become a stage set.

And this is exactly what happens in reconstructed playhouses. The implication of all this is that it is predominantly the task of the actor to attribute temporal and spatial usually fictional dimensions to the space around him or her. Since the space in a reconstructed theatre is in its physical appearance and function similar, if not identical, to what we know about the historical space of the original stage, the usual conspicuous inadequacy of its physical attributes of the phenomenology of the stage is avoided.

The fictional Elizabethan actor, played by a live actor from the twenty first century, is surrounded by a space that may have been similar or even the same four centuries ago. The architecture of the stage is isolated from the productions staged in the sense that it does not create meaning of its own.

It is a semantic chameleon, constantly changing its meaning, due to its ability to absorb meanings from acting. The Elizabethan stage does not have a meaning of its own other than functional; it does not have an ideological programme, apart from being a place for staging plays. The latter, i. From this perspective, the space of the performance is limited to the physicality of the actors and the fictional spaces denoted by the language and acting. This further implies that the space of the stage and its physical appearance are to be transparent, if not invisible.

Thus the physical shape of the stage is not an inseparable component of the performance text. Since scenery was not used, the stage remains the same for different productions.

The same material signifier is used to convey totally different and unconnected meanings.

18 Pages, Grade: 3,0

The Allen Elizabethan Theatre has evolved since the founding of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when the first performance of Twelfth Night was presented on July 2, Bowmer based on his recollection of productions at the University of Washington in which he had acted while a student. Ashland, Oregon obtained WPA funds in to build it within the foot 3. Bowmer extended the walls to reduce the stage width to fifty-five feet, and painted the extensions to resemble half-timbered buildings. He designed a thrust stage—one projecting toward the audience—with a balcony. Two columns helped divide the main stage into forestage, middle stage, and inner stage areas.


Part One 1. The Control of the Stage 2. The Playhouses 3.

Histories, Tragedies and Comedies written by the greatest playwright of them all - William Shakespeare. What was a day out at the Elizabethan theater like for the audiences? Where did they sit?


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