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Living Theatre: A History of Theatre

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  • Edition: 6th
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-01-10
  • Publisher: W. W. NORTON & COMPANY
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Supplemental Materials

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Living Theatre: History of Theatreconveys the excitement and variety of theatre throughout time, as well as the dynamic ways in which our interpretation of theatre history is informed by contemporary scholarship.This edition opens with, "Theatre: Its Origins and Its History", which establishes a contemporary context for the study of theatre. Biographical sketches in each chapter bring theatre history to life through the stories of the people who lived that history. Developments in theatre are examined through the debates between scholars and historians, emphasizing the living nature of this vibrant history.A full-color illustration program includes over 100 new photos and revised timelines. New sections on postmodern theatre and non-text-based theatre expand coverage of global theatre throughout the book. Living Theatresets each period in context through an exploration of the social, political and economic conditions of the day, creating a vivid study of the developments in theatre during that time.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Theatre: Its Origins and its History

Theatre in Everyday Life

Imitation, Role Playing, and Storytelling

Popular Entertainment

Ceremonies and Rituals

Theatrical Aspects of Ceremonies and Rituals

The Abydos Ritual in Ancient Egypt

Indigenous Ritual in Latin America

Nontheatrical Elements of Ceremonies and Rituals


Methexis: Group Sharing

“Participatory” Theatre

Prohibition of Theatre

How Historians Reconstruct the Elements of Theatre

A Playing Space

The Audience

The Performers

Visual Elements


Coordination of the Elements

Social Requirements

The Study of Theatre History

Traditional Chronological Narratives

Recent Historical Approaches

Revisionist Historians

Feminist Historians


Multicultural Historians

Gay and Lesbian Theatre Historians

Semioticians and Iconographic Historians

Marxist and Class-Oriented Historians

Performance Studies and Theatre History

Why Study Theatre History?

How Do Scholars Study Theatre History?

Where Do Theatre Historians Present Their Work?

Theatre in History: Points to Remember


Part one: Early Theatres

Chapter 2 Greek Theatre

Background: The Golden Age of Greece

Origins: Greek Theater Emerges

Theatre in the Fifth Century b.c.e.

Greek Theatre and Greek Religion

Festivals and the City Dionysia

Debates in Theatre History: Did Women Attend Dramatic Festivals?

Greek Theatre and Greek Myths

Greek Tragedy

Tragic Playwrights




The Chorus

Aristotle and the Tragic Form


Climactic Drama and Greek Tragedy

King Oedipus


Satyr Plays

Old Comedy


Greek Theatre Production

The Theatre Building

Debates in Theatre History: The Greek Stage

Scenery and Special Effects

Acting in Greek Theatre

Costumes and Masks

Music and Dance

Theatre in the Hellenistic Age 49

Hellenistic Theatres

Hellenistic Acting

The Rise of the Actor

Social Position of Actors


New Comedy



Chapter 3 roman theatre

Background: The Republic and the Empire

The Development of Roman Theatre: Popular Influences

Roman Comedy

Plautus (Titus Maccius Plautus)

The Menaechmi

Terence (Publius Terentius Afer)

Roman Tragedy

Debates in Theatre History: Was Terence the First Black Playwright?

Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Dramatic Criticism in Rome

Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus)

Theatre Production in Rome

Actors and Acting Companies

Theatre Buildings and Scenic Elements

Popular Entertainment in Rome

The Decline of Roman Theatre


Chapter 4 Early Asian Theatres

Background: The Theatres of Asia

Indian Theatre

Sanskrit Drama


Later Indian Drama

Chinese Theatre

Early Theatre in China

Theatre in the Yuan Dynasty

Important Plays from the Yuan Period

Theatre Production in the Yuan Period

Debates in Theatre History: Did playwrights in the Yuan period create tragedies?

Theatre in the Ming Dynasty

Li Yu

Later Chinese Theatre

Japanese Theatre

Early Theatre in Japan

Zeami Motokiyo

Characteristics of Nō Theatre

Producing Nō Theatre


Chikamatsu Monzaemon


Origins of Kabuki: Okuni of Izumo

Development of Kabuki

Producing Kabuki

Southeast Asia: Shadow Plays


Chapter 5 Medieval Theatres in Europe

Background: The Middle Ages

Byzantium: Popular Arts and Theatrical Preservation

The Middle Ages in Western Europe


Liturgical Drama

Development of Medieval Liturgical Drama

Debates in Theatre History: Why was Hrosvitha ignored for so long?

Producing Liturgical Drama 109

Debates in Theatre History: The origins of medieval theatre andthe role of quem quaeritis

Early Medieval Theatre in France 110

The Development of Religious Vernacular Drama 111

Mystery or Cycle Plays 112

The Second Shepherds’ Play 114

The Emergence of Episodic Form 115

Producing the Cycle Plays 116

Performers 116

Costumes 116

Pageant Masters 117

Stages 118

Processional and Stationary Staging 118

The Neutral Platform Stage 120

Secrets: Early Experiments with Technology 120

Music 121

Morality Plays 121

Everyman 122

Producing the Morality Plays 122

Secular Theatre in the Middle Ages: Popular Forms 122

The Decline of Religious Theatre 124


Part two Theatres of the Renaissance

Chapter 6 The Theatre of the Italian Renaissance

Background: The Renaissance in Italy

Italian Theatre


Tragedies and Comedies

Intermezzi and Pastorals

Debates in Theatre History: Adaptations as sources of drama


Commedia dell’Arte: A Popular Theatrical Form

Conventions of Commedia dell’Arte

Commedia Companies

I Gelosi

Influence of Commedia dell’Arte

Debates in Theatre History: Women performers in commedia dell’arte Italian Theatre Architecture

Theatre Buildings

Teatro Olimpico

The Theatre at Sabbioneta

Teatro Farnese and the Proscenium Stage

Audience Seating

Scene Design and Early Theatre Technology

Perspective in Scene Design

Sebastiano Serlio

Debates in Theatre History: What is the exact origin of the proscenium arch?

Advances in Scenic Techniques: From Serlio to Torelli

Giacomo Torelli

Special Effects and Lighting

Italian Dramatic Criticism

The Neoclassical Ideals

Decorum and Verisimilitude

The Unities: Time, Place, and Action

Genre and Other Rules

The Neoclassicists’ Influence

Issues of Dramatic Criticism

The Nature of Criticism: Descriptive and Prescriptive Criticism

The Nature of Drama: Should Theatre Be Didactic?

The Form of Drama: Neoclassical Structure

The Legacy of the Italian Renaissance


Chapter 7 The Theatre of the English Renaissance

Background: The Renaissance in England

The Early Drama of the English Renaissance

Elizabethan Drama

Elizabethan Playwrights

Marlowe and the Mighty Line

Christopher Marlowe

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Skill and Diversity

Elizabethan Theatres

Theatres and Production Practices: Problems of Research

Debates in Theatre History: Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?

Public or Outdoor Theatres

Audience Seating in Public Theatres

The Stage in Public Theatres

The Tiring House

Influences on the Public Theatres

Private Theatres

Debates in Theatre History: The campaign to save the rose

Scenery and Costumes

Elizabethan Acting Companies

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men

The Lord Admiral’s Men

Organization of Acting Companies

Acting Practices

Debates in Theatre History: Elizabethan acting style

Representation of Female Characters in Elizabethan Theatre

Jacobean and Caroline Drama

Ben Jonson

John Webster

Beaumont and Fletcher

Court Entertainment: The Masque

Inigo Jones


Chapter 8 The Theatre of the Spanish Golden Age

Background: The Spanish Golden Age

Religious Theatre in Spain 193

Religious Dramas: Autos Sacramentales

Producing the Autos Sacramentales

Secular Theatre in Spain

Lope de Rueda

Secular Dramas: Comedias

Spanish Dramatists

Lope Felix de Vega Carpio

Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Female Playwrights

Producing the Comedias

The Corrales

Scenery, the Stage, and Costumes

Debates in Theatre History: What was the appearance of the corral del principe?

Acting Companies

The Status of Actresses

Debates in Theatre History: A lost Spanish popular entertainment?


Chapter 9 French neoclassical theatre

Background: France in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

French Drama

Early Drama, Popular Theatre, and Pageantry

Neoclassical Drama

Establishing the Neoclassical Ideals

Pierre Corneille

The Triumph of the Neoclassical Ideals

Jean Racine

Neoclassical Comedy


Ballet at Court

Theatre Production in France

Architecture, Scenery, and Technology


Acting Companies

The Comedie Francaise

Debates in Theatre History: Should we envy Europe’s national theatres?


Michel Baron

Armande Bejart



Part three Theatres from 1660 to 1875

Chapter 10 The Theatre of the English Restoration

Background: The Restoration

Theatre during the Commonwealth

The Theatre of the Restoration Begins

William Davenant and Th omas Killigrew

Restoration Drama

Serious Drama

Restoration Comedy

Comedies of Intrigue

Aphra Behn

Comedies of Manners

William Wycherley

William Congreve

The Female Wits

The Decline of Restoration Comedy: The Transition to Eighteenth-Century Drama

Susanna Centlivre

George Farquhar

Restoration Audiences


Actresses and Actors

Eleanor (Nell) Gwynn

Thomas Betterton

Anne Bracegirdle

Acting Companies

Restoration Theatres

Government and the Theatres

Theatre Architecture in the Restoration

Debates in Theatre History: The Dorset Garden Theatre

Threads in Theatre History

The Drury Lane Theatre

Scenery, Scene-Shifting Technology, Costumes, and Lighting


Chapter 11 theatres in the eighteenth century 256

Background: The Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth-Century Drama

Middle-Class Tragedy

Denis Diderot

New Popular Forms: Ballad Opera and Comic Opera

Sentimental Comedy and Laughing Comedy

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The School for Scandal

Comedy in Eighteenth-Century France

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Storm and Stress

Realism and Antirealism in Commedia dell’Arte

Carlo Goldoni and Carlo Gozzi

Melodrama: A Popular Genre Emerges

Theatre Regulation

Regulation of Theatres in France

Government and Theatres in Germany

Regulation of Theatres in England

Theatre Buildings

Covent Garden

Theatres in Europe

Theatres in America

The Hallam Family

Theatre Production


The Bibiena Family

Scenic and Technical Experiments

Debates in Theatre History: When was the box set introduced?



Charles Macklin

Acting Styles

Dumesnil and Clairon

Acting Companies

Status of Performers

Caroline Neuber

The Early Emergence of the Director

David Garrick

Debates in Theatre History: Who was the first director?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Chapter 12 theatres from 1800 to 1875

Background: The Nineteenth Century

Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Life

Popular Entertainments

Debates in Theatre History: Is popular entertainment worthy of serious study?


Theatre Riots

Theatre and Nationalism

Anna Cora Mowatt

Nineteenth-Century Drama



The Well-Made Play

Nineteenth-Century Theatre Production

Acting Styles

Edmund Kean and Charles Kean

The Kembles

William Charles Macready

Acting Theory: Delsarte

The Acting Profession


Ira Aldridge

The Long Run and the Decline of Repertory Companies

The Rise of the International Star

Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse

Further Steps toward Directing

Actor-Managers and Playwright-Managers

Madame Vestris: Lucia Elizabetta Bartolozzi

Laura Keene

Two Early Directors

Richard Wagner

Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen

Theatre Architecture

Booth’s Theatre

Edwin Booth

Wagner’s Festspielhaus

Scenery, Costuming, and Lighting

Historical Accuracy

The Box Set

New Technology

Theatre in Russia Reflects Nineteenth-Century Trends


Part four modern theatres

Chapter 13 theatres from 1875 to 1915

Background: The Turn of the Century

The Emergence of Realism

Realistic Drama

What Is Realism?

The Founding of Realism

Henrik Ibsen

Ibsen’s Realism: A Doll’s House

Naturalistic Drama

Producers of Realism and Naturalism

Theatre Libre

Freie Buhne

George Bernard Shaw

The Independent Theatre

Moscow Art Theatre

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Realistic Acting

The Pioneer

Konstantin Sergeivich Stanislavski

The Stanislavskian Technique


Concentration and Observation

Importance of Specifics

Inner Truth

What? Why? How?

Through Line of a Role

Ensemble Playing

Stanislavski and Psychophysical Action

Visual Elements in Realistic Theatre

Early Departures from Realism


Departures from Realism by Wedekind, Ibsen, and Strindberg

August Strindberg

Producing Departures from Realism

Theatre Companies


Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig

Antirealist Directors

Vsevelod Emilievich Meyerhold

Meyerhold’s Theatricalist Experiments


Commercial and Popular Theatres

Henry Irving

Debates in Theatre History: Are women’s contributions to theatre history overlooked?

The Emerging American Theatre

American Playwrights after 1875

African American Theatre

African American Stock Companies: The Lafayette Players

African Americans in Popular Theatre

Global Theatres 1875–1915

Asian Theatres

Peking (Beijing) Opera: A Nineteenth-Century Development

Early Twentieth Century Chinese Theatre

Theatre in India

Rabindranath Tagore

Theatre in Japan


Chapter 14 theatres from 1915 to 1945

Background: A Time of Unrest—The World Wars

Theatre of Unrest: Dramatic Movements


Expressionist Drama

Expressionistic Directors

Futurism and Dada


The Bauhaus

Theatre of Cruelty

Antonin Artaud

Epic Theatre

Piscator and The Good Soldier Schweik

Brecht’s Epic Theatre

Bertolt Brecht

Mother Courage and Her Children

European Theatres during the War Years


Copeau and Text-Oriented Theatre

Jacques Copeau

French Playwrights: Giraudoux and Anouilh


Federico Garcia Lorca


Luigi Pirandello

Great Britain

Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, and John Gielgud

Theatres under Totalitarianism

Debates in Theatre History: Evaluating totalitarian art

American Theatre

Commercial versus Noncommercial Theatre

Commercial Theatre in the United States

Noncommercial Drama and Theatre in the United States

Eva Le Gallienne

Playwrights in the United States

Eugene O’Neill

Female Playwrights in the United States

The “Little Theatre” Movement

The Group Theatre

Stella Adler

The Federal Theatre Project

College and University Theatres

African American Theatre

African American Theatre in the 1920s

Ethel Waters

African American Theatre in the 1930s and 1940s

Paul Robeson

Global Theatres, 1915–1945

Asian Theatres

Mei Lanfang

Kathakali in India

Theatre in China

Theatre in Japan


Chapter 15 theatres from 1945 to 1975

Background: The Postwar World—A Time of Social Upheaval

Postwar Experimental Theatres


Theatre of the Absurd

Absurdist Drama

Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot

Eugene Ionesco

Harold Pinter

Directors of Absurdist Drama

Happenings and Multimedia

Environmental Theatre

Jerzy Grotowski

Grotowski’s Poor Theatre and Paratheatrical Experiments

Postwar Realistic Drama

Selective Realism

Arthur Miller

Tennessee Williams

Edward Albee

British Realism: Angry Young Playwrights

Documentary Drama: Fact-Based Realism

Postwar Eclectic Directors

Peter Brook

New Technology

Josef Svoboda

Postwar Developments in American Theatre

Musical Theatre

Off -Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway

The Living Theatre

Ellen Stewart and Joseph Papp

Regional Theatre

African American Theatre

African American Theatre in the 1950s

Lorraine Hansberry

Civil Rights and African American Militancy: 1960–1970

Amiri Baraka

African American Producing Organizations


Chapter 16 Contemporary Theatres: The Americas

Background: Worldwide Changes since 1975

Theatrical Diversity in the United States

Contemporary African American Playwrights

August Wilson

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Latino-Latina American Theatre

Chicano Theatre

Luis Valdez

Cuban American and Nuyorican Theatre

Asian American Theatre

Native American Theatre

Gender Diversity

Maria Irene Fornes

Gay and Lesbian Theatre

Charles Ludlam

Other Important Playwrights and Theatres

Sam Shepard

David Mamet

Developments in Regional Theatre Companies

Alternative Regional Theatres

Postmodernism Theatre

The Performance Group and Richard Schechner

The Wooster Group

Mabou Mines

Other Alternative Ensembles

Alternative American Directors

Richard Foreman and Robert Wilson

Des McAnuff, Peter Sellars, and Anne Bogart

Performance Art

Anna Deavere Smith

Commercial Theatre: Musicals

Stephen Sondheim

Canadian Theatre since World War II

Latin American Theatres


Chapter 17 Contemporary Global Theatres: Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia

Background: Approaching Global Theatre

Theatres in India, China, and Japan in the Modern Period

Tadashi Suzuki

Theatres in the Middle East

African Theatres and Drama

Portuguese-Speaking Africa

French-Speaking (Francophone) Africa

English-Speaking (Anglophone) Africa

Wole Soyinka

Northern (Arabic-Speaking) Africa

Russia and Eastern Europe


Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic

Tadeusz Kantor

Josef Svoboda

Western Europe, Britain, and Ireland

Western European Directors

Ariane Mnouchkine

Alternative Theatres in Western Europe

German, Italian, and French Dramatists

British and Irish Playwrights

Caryl Churchill

European and British Theatres

Alternative Theatres in London




pronunciation guide

selected bibliography


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