Outline of theatre

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Historic Outdoor Forest Theater in Carmel, California, at sunset

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to theatre:

Theatre – the generic term for the performing arts and a collaborative form of fine art involving live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event (such as a story) through acting, singing, and/or dancing before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of speech, gesture, mime, puppets, music, dance, sound and spectacle — indeed any one or more elements of the other performing arts. Elements of design and stagecraft are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience.[1]

Nature of theatre[edit]

Theatre may be described as all of the following:

  • One of the arts
  • Source of literature, in the form of plays, operas, dances, literary adaptations as presented in front of a live audience. Theatre scripts are not the same as film scripts.[2]

History of theatre[edit]

History of theatre

Western tradition[edit]

Chronological movements of the Western tradition include:


African theatre includes:

  • Ancient Egyptian quasi-theatrical events – earliest recorded quasi-theatrical event dates back to 2000 BCE with the "passion plays" of Ancient Egypt. This story of the god Osiris was performed annually at festivals throughout the civilization.
  • Yoruba theatre – origins are traced back to the masquerade of the Egungun (the "cult of the ancestor").[9] The traditional ceremony culminates in the essence of the masquerade where it is deemed that ancestors return to the world of the living to visit their descendants.[10] In addition to its origin in ritual, Yoruba theatre can be "traced to the 'theatrogenic' nature of a number of the deities in the Yoruba pantheon, such as Obatala the arch divinity, Ogun the divinity of creativeness and Sango the divinity of the storm", whose reverence is imbued "with drama and theatre and the symbolic overall relevance in terms of its relative interpretation."[11]


Asian theatre

Middle Eastern[edit]

Types of theatrical productions[edit]

Genres of theatre[edit]

There are a variety of genres that writers, producers and directors can employ in theatre to suit a variety of tastes:

Styles of theatre[edit]

There are a variety of theatrical styles used in theatre and drama. These include:

  • Absurdism – presents a perspective that all human attempts at significance are illogical. Ultimate truth is chaos with little certainty. There is no necessity that need drive us.
  • Expressionism – anti-realistic in seeing appearance as distorted and the truth lying within man. The outward appearance on stage can be distorted and unrealistic to portray an eternal truth.
  • Melodrama – sentimental drama with musical underscoring, often with an unlikely plot that concerns the suffering of the good at the hands of evildoers but ends happily with good triumphant. Featuring stock characters such as the noble hero, the long-suffering damsel in distress, and the cold-blooded villain.
  • Modernism – a broad concept that sees art, including theatre, as detached from life in a pure way and able to reflect on life critically.
  • Naturalism – portraying life on stage with close attention to detail, based on observation of real life.
  • Postmodern theatre – originated in Europe in the middle of the 20th century out of the postmodern philosophy as a reaction against modernist theatre. Postmodern theatre raises questions rather than attempting to supply answers or definitive truth.
  • Puppetry– an ancient form where performers/puppeteers manipulate performing objects. Puppetry has many variations and forms.
  • Realism – portraying characters on stage that are close to real life, with realistic settings and staging.

Types of stages[edit]

  • Opera housetheatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building. While some venues are constructed specifically for operas, other opera houses are part of larger performing arts centers.[21]
  • Black box – usually used for student productions or presentations. A small, square space with minimum amount of lighting and sound equipment needed. Often painted black or another neutral color.
  • Proscenium – The proscenium arch was the most common form of theatre building in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The “arch” acts like a picture frame through which the action can be seen.[22]
  • Theatre in the round – a theatre in which the audience surrounds the stage.[23]
  • Thrust stage – a stage that has the audience sitting on three sides and is connected to the backstage area by its upstage end.[24]

Participants in theatre[edit]

General theatre concepts[edit]

  • Act – plays are separated into acts with the acts separated into scenes.
  • Acting – the art of performing
  • Cold reading – reading a script for the first time. Usually the designers have read and analyzed the text for design purposes before a cast has been selected. Sometimes a cold reading involves the entire cast, crew, and designers who are experiencing the script for the first time as an ensemble.
  • Curtain call – taking a bow at the end of the performance. Actors will generally acknowledge the orchestra pit (if there were any musicians) and the running crew as well as the audience.
  • Drama therapy – the use of theatre as therapy for a variety of issues.[25]
  • Everyman – the concept of the universal person that the audience can relate to.
  • Footlights – originally lighting was placed at the front edge of the stage under hoods so as to not bother the audience. It is now a musical[26] and also a Theatrical Comedy Troupe at Cambridge University.[27] It can be a generic term for anyone wanting to be involved with theatre.
  • Theatrical property – Props are the items actors pick up, use, move, etc. on stage. These can include consumables such as drinks, food, etc.
  • Stage – The surface upon which the sets are built upon and the actors stand to tell the story. Can be raked (that is, at an angle).
  • Stagecraft – usually refers to the design aspect of theatre. Examples: lights, sound, props, costumes, makeup, set.
  • Theatrical constraints – budgets, time, allergies
  • Theatrical scenery – also referred to as the set or the scenic elements. The physical representation of the world of the play.
  • Theatrical superstitions – some theatre spaces have their own superstitions; there are universal ones that many theatre people adhere to.
  • Ticket – this is the domain of the Front of House, as well as the programs, ushers, and seeing patrons (the audience) are seated before the lights are darkened at the beginning of the play, but also at intermission.
  • Striking a set – the act of taking apart the set, putting away all the props, lights, costumes, etc. after the run of a production is over.
  • Analyzing the text – Actors analyze the text (the script) for motivations, clues as to how their character behaves, or what their purpose is. Designers analyze to find out how many set changes are needed, lighting cues, sound cues, costumes needed, props, etc. Costume designers also have to analyze the script like the actors as the text can give clues as to how a character should be clothed.
  • Spectacle – what the audience experiences.
  • Rehearsals – where the actors and the director (and sometimes assistant director) start to plan the movements, the tempo, timing, the energy level of all the scenes.
  • Dress rehearsals – where all the components (costumes, lighting, set, props, actors) come together to run through the play from start to finish, not only to get issues such as set and costume changes finalized and timed correctly, but to smooth out any minor issues with lighting, sound, tempo, etc.
  • Tech rehearsals – rehearsals where the actors are not involved. They give the sound, lighting, and running crew a chance to rehearse and create a rhythm that is proficient and smooth prior to dress rehearsals.
  • Run-throughs – The meaning of this term depends on the director. Generally, it can mean just running through an act with the actors (no technical aspects involved). Sometimes it can involve costume changes, as those can become complicated if wig changes are also required. Costume changes can be rehearsed and done in as little as 30 seconds to 2 minutes (if a wig is involved).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. Carlson, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, [1], 2011
  2. ^ "Screenwriting vs. Playwriting | TheaterMania".
  3. ^ Brockett and Hildy (2003, 293–426).
  4. ^ Christopher Innes, 'West End' in The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp.1194?1195, ISBN 0-521-43437-8
  5. ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary."Ask Playbill.com: Broadway or Off-Broadway—Part I" Playbill.com, February 7, 2008
  6. ^ League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers Inc. & The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. "Off-Broadway Minimum Basic Agreement" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  7. ^ "Off-Off-Broadway, Way Back When". Retrieved 2007-12-13.
  8. ^ von Geldern (1993, 27).
  9. ^ Adedeji (1969, 60).
  10. ^ Noret (2008, 26).
  11. ^ Banham, Hill, and Woodyard (2005, 88).
  12. ^ Richmond, Swann, and Zarrilli (1993, 12).
  13. ^ Brandon (1997, 70) and Richmond (1998, 516).
  14. ^ Richmond (1998, 516) and Richmond, Swann, and Zarrilli (1993, 13).
  15. ^ Moreh (1986, 565-601).
  16. ^ Merriam-Webster, Inc (1995) Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of literature, entry black humor, p.144
  17. ^ Weld, John. (1975). "Meaning in Comedy: Studies in Elizabethan Romantic Comedy" SUNY Press. pp. 154-155. ISBN 0-87395-278-2.
  18. ^ Pearson, Jacqueline. (1980). "Tragedy and tragicomedy in the plays of John Webster" Manchester University Press ND. p. 13. ISBN 0-7190-0786-0.
  19. ^ Bill Johnson. The Art of the Romantic Comedy Archived 2016-03-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Aleks Sierz, In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today (London: Faber and Faber, 2001).
  21. ^ "Home".
  22. ^ "Proscenium | theatre | Britannica".
  23. ^ "What are the types of theatre stages and auditoria?".
  24. ^ "What are the types of theatre stages and auditoria?".
  25. ^ "Drama Therapy | Academics | Theatre | School of Music, Theatre, and Dance | Kansas State University".
  26. ^ "Footlights – Broadway Musical – Original | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Archived from the original on 2020-03-20.
  27. ^ https://www.cambridgefootlights.org/

External links[edit]