Gzsote's Blog

Performing Arts in a wholesome environment

Timeline of Western Theatre October 15, 2010

Filed under: Essays — gzsote @ 12:34 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Theatre Timeline – Brandon Rude (Editor’s note: In changing the format from an email to a blog, punctuation and spacing mistakes may have been made by the editor. Any spelling mistakes are the author’s.)

534 B.C.

Thespis (known as the first playwright) wins the first theatre tragedy competition in Athens.

508 B.C.

A semi-annual festival/tragedy competition is created in Dionysia.

486 B.C.

Playwrights had to start submitting a comedy to the Dionysia tragedy competition, in addition to the satyr and three tragedies they already had to write. It is also around this time that Aeschylus added a second performer, and Sophocles added a third. Before this, plays involved just a single performer  interacting with the chorus.

323 B.C.

During the Hellenistic period, the primary theatrical form in Greek was “New Comedy”, comedy focusing on everyday life.  This had a large influence on Roman theatre.

Sometime in Roman theatre history, women started being allowed to perform as well, before this all women characters were played by men. This lasted until the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages begin:

The Protestant Church started trying to stamp out Roman theatre, most specifically in England, in an attempt to undo Roman allegiance. I get the feeling that religious plays still existed, though I read actors were denied a Christian burial (which would’ve been a big deal.)

Moving forward a bit in the Middle Ages:

A renewed interest in Greek and Roman theatre started to emerge among the learned classes, leading to Greek and Roman plays being performed again, and also leading to plays being written that were heavily influenced be these older styles. This eventually lead to the creation of Commedia Dell’arte.

1551 A.D.

Commedia Dell’arte, The Granddaddy of improv. While the first recorded performance of this theatre style was in 1551, it didn’t start to flourish until the 1560’s. Commedia Dell’arte is a style of theatre that focused on spontaneity, using scenarios and not scripts. Also, because performers of this style traveled for a majority of their performances, they used very few props.

There are a few major theatre styles that were shaped by Commedia Dell’arte, Including Punch and Judy, and Pantomime (although Pantomime performances date back to ancient Greece, it still owes it’s modern styling to certain Commedia Dell’arte Characters, namely Harlequin.)

1564 A.D.

William Shakespeare Was Baptized on April 26, 1564, his birth date is unknown. Shakespeare would later write some of the most well known plays in history, including: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth (never say the name while inside a theatre!) While dating all his plays is problematic, many claim that his first play was Richard III. Shakespeare also performed with The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later called, The King’s Men.)

1642 A.D.

The Puritan movement closes all London theatres.

1660-1700 A.D.

London theatres are re-opened. A theatrical renaissance begins, women start performing again, the first theatrical celebrities emerge, and the first woman playwright, Aphra Behn, starts penning plays.

1829 A.D.

The first theatre opens on Broadway.

1866 A.D.

The first Musical, The Black Crook, is performed in New York. It was five-and-a-half hours long and ran for 474 preformances.

1881 A.D.

Vaudeville as we know it is born!!! (Trust me, this deserves exclamation points.) Vaudeville was a clean genre of theatre, and the jumping off point of many well known stars; including: Abbot and Costello, the Andrews sisters, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Etc. (Editor’s note: Vaudeville was “cleaned up” burlesque, started by Tony Pastor.)

1888 A.D.

The first motion picture, Roundhay Garden Scene, is shot. It had a total duration of 2 seconds.

1906 A.D.

Stanislavski (known as the father of theatre technique) started work on his ‘system’. It is also around this time that the first full length film, The story of the Kelly Gang, is released. It was also in this year that the first radio broadcast went out.

1920 A.D.

Most films now have music composed specifically for them. Also, the first talkies (films with a sound track played alongside the movie), are released.

1921 A.D.

The first made-for-radio sketch if aired.

1928 A.D.

The first television show, The Queen’s Messenger, aired. It was also in this year that the first sound cartoon, Mickey Mouse in Plane Crazy, was aired.

1930 A.D.

The Group Theatre in New York City popularizes Method Acting

1932 A.D.

New York City’s Palace Theatre, Vaudeville’s epicenter, shifts to a movie house, thus putting one of the final nails in the coffin of Vaudeville 😦

1935 A.D.

The first full length color film, Rouben Mamoulian’s Becky Sharp, is released.

1940 A.D.

Lee Strasberg begins and continues to Refine Method Acting until his death in 1982.

1951 A.D.

The first color television program was aired.

Sometime in the late 1960’s:

Color films are now the norm.

2001 A.D.

Final Fantasy X (my personal favorite Final Fantasy game) is released, with voice overs! And it was the first it pull it off in a convincing manner. This allowed the characters come to life in ways never seen before in video games, and started a revolution in video gaming, allowing games to rival (and in my opinion beat) movies for compelling narrative and presentation. (Editor’s note: the author barely managed to sneak this in. I decided most mercifully to let him.)

2007 A.D.

The Genesis Zero Stage Class begins. (Editor’s note: Brandon, you’re weird!)

2009 A.D.

Jack Came Back is performed at Boones Ferry Community Church. A great time if had by all. (Editor’s note: See Editor’s note above.)


3 Responses to “Timeline of Western Theatre”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Brandon is a wise man! “Dating plays” is indeed a bad thing. Courting plays? Maybe…but they weren’t created in the image of God; and Shakespeare did not have theologically sound plays 😉

    To comment on the “Editor’s Note” from 1881; isn’t it the 1860s when it started? Sure, Tony Pastor made the “Polite Vaudeville” the big swell, but resources show the 60s as the beginning:

    “The American Vaudeville Museum, originally based in Boston, features recordings, sheet music, videos, costumes, posters and other artifacts dating back to Vaudeville’s beginnings in the 1860s.”
    {Visited 9:32pm, 10/14/2010: http://uanews.org/node/19369 }

    Concerning the “cleaned up”, that may be attributed to Mr. Pastor; but that would not define the whole of Vaudeville. I quote the following paragraph:

    A handful of circuses regularly toured the country; dime museums appealed to the curious; amusement parks, riverboats, and town halls often featured “cleaner” presentations of variety entertainment; and saloons, music halls and burlesque houses catered to those with a taste for the risqué.

    {Visited 9:15pm, 10/14/2010: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaudeville }

    When Wikipedia later mentions Tony Pastor, they say, “…Pastor famously staged the first bill of self-proclaimed “clean” vaudeville…” What would ‘”clean” vaudeville’ mean if their was not previously a dirty vaudeville?

    And, of course, it got worse…but I would attribute the “worse” to solely the (American) burlesque:

    “In 20th century America the word [burlesque] became associated with a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction. Although the striptease originated at the Moulin Rouge in 1890s Paris and subsequently became a part of some burlesque across Europe, only in American culture is the term burlesque closely associated with the striptease.[8] These shows were not considered ‘theatre’ and were regarded as ‘low’ by the vaudevillians, actors and showgirls of neighbouring theatreland.”
    {Visited at 9:15pm, 10/14/2010: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlesque Edit “[Burlesque]” mine. I caution you of the horrible ‘indecency’ of one of the pictures}

    To quote about the sadness of these:

    Chicago … had a fierce pioneer gaiety that enlivened the senses, yet underlying it throbbed masculine loneliness. Counteracting this somatic ailment was a national distraction known as the burlesque show, consisting of a coterie of rough-and-tumble comedians supported by twenty or more chorus girls. Some were pretty, others shopworn. Some of the comedians were funny, most of the shows were smutty harem comedies—coarse and cynical affairs.
    —Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography: 125–6
    {As found on 9:56pm, 10/14/2010: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlesque }

    [[[To clarify, British Burlesque has been clean. The word supposedly implies “Upside down” or something]]]


    Concerning FFX, what about when theatre (now motion picture theater) started entering video-games. It certainly did not start in Pong; but FF7, and even earlier games, had started involving such elements 😉


    Something I believe Brandon would have included if he knew is February 27th, 1988. After naming all those famous people and important dates; one would think he would remember the birth of one his favorites…

    • gzsote Says:

      Thanks for the clarification concerning the dates of vaudeville, Tommy.

      Throughout history, all kinds of theatre (and other forms of art) have been used both within God’s design and outside of His design.
      We can see this in the bawdy origins of Japanese Kabuki theater (now cleaned up), in the jokes of Commedia Dell’arte, in the content of Shakespearean plays, and, of course, in the plays and movies today.

      We should be careful in our own creativity to honor God.
      This probably isn’t the best verse for that, but 1 Corinthians 14:12:
      Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.

  2. Brandon Rude Says:

    Thanks for the reply Tommy! The reason I didn’t include the first cut-scene in a video games is because it isn’t really acting, I chose FFX because it had voice acting. (Also, I figured I was stretching the rules a bit by adding a video game.)

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