Acting known as ‘Comedy of the Artists’ originates


Acting
can be dated as far back as ancient Greece (1200BC – 500BC) where the first actor
is widely regarded as Thespis of Icaria. Aristotle writing two centuries later
suggests that Thespis stepped out of the dithyrambic chorus and addressed the
audience as a separate character. To distinguish between these two different
modes of storytelling (enacting and narration) Aristotle uses the terms
‘mimesis’ (enacting) and ‘diegesis’ (narration). (1) The city of Athens produced three genres of drama: tragedy (late 500
BC),comedy (490 BC) comedy, and satyr plays, which became significant cultural,
political and military power during this time as it was centred, where
it was institutionalised as
part of a festival called
the Dionysia,
which honoured the god Dionysus. (2) Athens exported the festival to its numerous colonies and
allies in order to promote a common cultural identity. (3) The style of the Greek play in the Dionysia was comprised of amateurs,
whom were all male. (4)(5) Performances were held in open air amphitheatre’s that can
hold large audiences therefore actors had to gesture majestically so the whole audience could see and hear the entire story
whilst on set. However, most Greek theatres were cleverly constructed to
transmit even the smallest sound to any seat. (6) Notable key
practitioners from this time include Aristophanes, who is known as the most
famous writer of Greek comedies: Lysistrata. As
well as the first great tragedian, Aeschylus, who produced the Oresteia
trilogy. (7) The Commedia Dell’arte or most commonly known as ‘Comedy of the
Artists’ originates from Roman Farce in 1510 to 1650 and was a form of
professional theatre. (8) This particular type of theatre became popular within
Europe during the 16th to the 18th Century. This type of theatre emphasized ensemble acting. It was characterized by improvisations that were set in
firm frameworks of masks and stock situations. Actors improvised
performances based on sketches or scenarios. Professional actors who specialized in one role developed
an unmatched comic acting technique, which contributed to the approval of the
itinerant commedia troupes that travelled throughout Europe. (9)(10) Playwrights of this time include
Carlo Goldoni and Molière who did not write Commedia but was greatly influenced
by it in his own work.(11) There were no purpose-built theatres
until 1576 when carpenter and theatrical entrepreneur James Burbage built ‘The
Theatre’. ‘The Globe’ became one of only four theatres in London that had
opened by 1600. Whenever the Puritans came to power in 1642 and punished
actors. They issued an ordinance suppressing all stage plays, and then
abolishing all theatres across London. (12) When Charles II was King of England
in 1660 he reopened theatres, which also seen the first female appear on the
stage in England, Margret Hughes. And after time, more women performed on stage
in theatres. (13) Famous playwrights during this era include William
Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. During the
Romantic Age of the 19th century melodramas became very popular in
theatres as at this time in London there was only two theatres permitted to
present dramas that had been registered by the king.  Melodramas were serious plays in which good and evil are clearly separated and
there was a prominent genre during the Restoration which
included songs during the performances and during the intervals. (14) The
genres of plays varied between romantic, supernatural and exotic. (15) Melodramas often overwhelmed audiences with dark dungeons, mysterious
temples and lurid tales of ruined abbeys. Another style of theatre at the time
that was common was naturalism. Stanislavski established his acting system that
became the foundation for much of the realistic and naturalistic acting of the
20th Century. This was known as ‘method acting’. This brought more realist
outlook to theatres, it seen acting style change due to a prevalence of wicked
villains, high-minded heroes and pure-hearted heroines. The set effects were
extravagant, exaggerated and inventive which made the audiences more excited
and emotionally moved by the performance. (16) Key playwriters at this time
included Anthony Hope and Douglas Jerrold. (17) In the late
50s and early 60s, a British cultural movement known as the ‘kitchen sink
drama’, used a style of social realism, which often depicted domestic
situations of working class Britons exploring social issues and political
controversies. Brecht developed the theatre of the absurd aimed to make the
audience think, and remind them that they were watching a play rather than real
life. The staging is usually funny and terrifying, making the audience feel
emotionally connected to the situation and adding depth to the performance. (18)
During the
1960s, a new style of contemporary theatre known as Happenings became popular.
This included unique performances and no two performances were ever the same. This included performances combining elements of painting, poetry,
music, dance, and theatre and staging them as a live action. The term Happening
was created by the American artist Allan Kaprow. Often Happenings of the
same performance, will have completely different outcomes as each performance
depends on the action of the audience, for they are a key factor in where the actors
decide to lead the performance. (19) Theatre today had
changed. It’s no longer the traditional performances that we expect to see.
People are now thinking outside the box to challenge audiences. It has results
in the development of many new theatre styles such as impressionism, expressionism, modernism, political and other forms of experimental theatre. With a
constant growth in other media outlets such as film and television, it has
caused a decline in theatre productions. However, with new technical advances,
performances are now becoming more extravagant and interactive which can be
seen from Broadway and West End performances such as Wicked and Hamilton. Today’s
theatre is and can be anything and everything. As styles continue to merge,
blend, morph, reconfigure, all theatre remains essentially one of two forms representational
(realism) and/or presentational (stylized). Individual artists will continue to
explore old and new forms so long as audiences come. With playwrights such as Andrew
Lloyd Webber, the musical theatre industry is thriving across the world.
Musical theatre gives actors an opportunity to incorporate different styles of
theatre and drama together to create a captivating performance. (20)

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