Monday, November 22, 2004

Question: The changing role of the audience in theatre, through the different ages

Theatre is unique as it is a collaborative art. The director directs not only the actors but also the audience. A production, no matter how painstakingly conceived and performed by the director and the actors is only 50% of the work done. If a work does not sell well, it will fail to attract an audience, and hence, it will lose force.

There is a tension between the silent audience and the actors. The expectation of the audience provides the energy with which the actors can perform. The imaginations of the audience provides the canvas for which the actors can work with. And the emotion and passion evoked by the actors, sound, set, under the direction of the Director, will be manifested through the laughter, sorrow, fear, anger of the audience. The audience in any production, is both an observer of the action as well as a participant. Both roles are equally important.

Through the different ages, the audience undeniably is the central role in theatre

Ancient Greek Theatre


Competitive, Ritualistic, Religious and Choral

Although information about Greek theatre is sketchy, the 4 main points above about ancient greek theatre only allows us to conjecture about the role of the audience in greek theatre. Audiences may have been the judges for the performances, they may have sung along to the choral parts if they were established works. There were few actors in the production. The imaginations of the audience were also important in making the production work.

Roman Theatre


For the masses. Ritualistic but less religious. Audience participation mainly to be entertained. Comedies more popular, but there was a shift at about 240 B.C to more Tragedic, and hence emotional and personally involving participation by the audience. Mimes in particular had realistic sex on stage, and satirized Christianity.

Dark Ages - Medieval Theatre

The Church killed theatre in the Roman form due to the uncertainty of the times. The Church was the only stable form of "government". During this battle between Paganism and Christianity, each used the theatre medium to share their religion to the masses. Pagans performed secular plays, Plays without religion, which was outlawed by the church by written edict. The church seeing an opportunity, started producing plays with altar boys, and expanded it to include more sophisticated effects and professional actors. Plays were used to reinforce church doctrine.

Finally declined in late 16th century.

Most of the information is elaborated about in the various hyperlinks.

However, my own take on this question.

Entertainment is always the main goal of theatre. Just assume its mentioned below because I can't keep emphasizing on the importance of entertainment.

There is an important shift over the ages from the ancient times to the modern times. There is a progression from ritual paganism to religion to our current philosophical sort of production. The purpose of theatre has moved from being a cultural phenomenon, as part of festivals, to a propaganda machine, much like Television is to us, to a form of creative expression. Modern theatre is about commentary, social and political, about the pushing of boundaries and topics. This is a sort of democratization of theatre, which is very exciting, when seen within the context of the past, when theatres were largely free entertainment, paid for by wealthy families and organizations of power.

Some of that still survives today in Singapore. Every 7th month of the lunar calendar, distinguished businessmen of the Chinese community would hold Ge Tais ( Or Song Stages ) Translated loosely. They used to perform traditional opera, which has been existing for about a century. Nowadays, the Ge Tai performers tend to perform popular music from long ago, as the traditional opera has lost it's crowd drawing powers among the MTV generation.



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Questions Answered for the Minolta Dynax 7D

Hi Everyone,

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