Renaissance Theatre-Acting and Staging

Topics: English Renaissance theatre, James Burbage, William Shakespeare Pages: 11 (1741 words) Published: April 28, 2013
Renaissance Theatre: Acting and Staging


Italian Staging of the Renaissance

Although Italians were strict about dramatic content, they were more flexible regarding the staging of their dramatic works. Italian staging of the Renaissance built not only on traditions established in Ancient Greece and Rome, but also scientific and artistic discoveries of the time.

Influences on Italian Staging
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In 1486, Vitruvius’ work The Ten Books on Architecture (De Architectura) was republished – this featured a chapter on theatre buildings. In art, the ancient concept of perspective was rediscovered and popularized. In the 1540s, Sabastiano Serlio interpreted and revised some of Vitruvius’ ideas in his treatise on architecture – this set some parameters for theatre buildings and design, blending outdoor theatre traditions with indoor ones, also incorporating perspective. 1580-85 – Teatro Olimpico – an enclosed theatre, built in Vincenza, Italy. In the early 1600s, Nicola Sabbatini created a manual wherein he pioneered and invented designs for

Teatros Olimpico and Farnese Teatro Olimpico was
designed by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Teatro Olimpico was created in an existing disused fortress and became the design benchmark for other Renaissance theatres in Italy. Teatro Olimpico’s design incorporated perspective in its creation of built-in scenery that gave the illusion of long streets receding into a horizon. Teatro Farnese built in Parma

Italian Renaissance Staging
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Incorporated single-point perspective. Framed by one or more proscenium arches to create a border around the performance area. Scenery was conveyed through wings and flats and was used behind the proscenium arch as a backdrop for performance. Stages themselves were often raked – higher upstage slanting downstage (see diagram right). Overhead rigging and machinery

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Since theatres were no longer open-air auditoriums, good lighting was essential and also artificial. Sconces and oil lamps lined theatre walls. Chandeliers hung over the house and stage. Candles, lamps (and later, candles with metal screens) were placed behind the proscenium arch but before the performance space, ie, on the apron of the stage, to act as footlights.

Audience Areas
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Auditoriums were usually shaped in the form of a “U”. Audience members sat in fixed bench sets in the curve of the “U” and in box seats along the sides. Most theatres contained undivided galleries behind the top row of seats where servants and lower classes could view the dramatic action. Orchestra pit was not an elite location for spectators until the 1700s-1800s. Spectators in the orchestra could move about as a

Chariot and Pole System
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This system involved the placement of wagons on tracks beneath the stage. Long poles came up through the slots that were cut parallel to the stage. Scenery and wings were attached to poles and could be shifted from beneath the stage using a system of ropes and pulleys. Since dramas were required to be realistic, very few special effects were needed.


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Since Italian Renaissance theatre was modelled after and fuelled by that of ancient Greece and Rome, performance also reflected this inspiration. Acting was unrealistic by today’s standards. Like in Renaissance England, female roles were played by male actors. Character nuances and voice inflection could not be detected as actors often wore masks, especially when performing in the tradition of Commedia dell’ Arte. Therefore, acting was very formalized – consisted of broad and unrealistic gestures


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After much controversy, confusion and chaos during the reigns of Henry VIII (broke with Catholic Church, created the Anglican Church and established England as a Protestant country) and Mary I (reverted the country back...
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