Origins of Theater

Determining the origin of theater is not an entirely objective investigation. Much of the theories are based on speculation. The most prominent and widely-accepted theory claims that theater finds its origins in ritual and myth. Many years ago people did not have the scientific explanations for the world around them like we have today. People looked around for connections between the natural environment and occurring events.  Many events were attributed to supernatural or magical forces. Groups would engage in an action which would then be followed by a favorable event. These people would find a supposed connection between the two. This would thus lead to them repeating the action in hopes to receive the same beneficial outcome. As people continued to do this their actions became more elaborate and theater as an art form was created. Those engaged in the rituals would embody spirits by wearing costumes or masks. This showed separation between the mythical characters and the humans. Simple rituals to evoke actions transformed into entertainment valuing the aesthetic nature of the performance.

\text{action} \Longrightarrow \text{favorable event} \Longrightarrow \text{supposed connection} \Longrightarrow \text{repetition of the action} \Longrightarrow \text{sophistication of the action}


Another theory that lends itself to the origin of theater is founded on the idea that theater came from storytelling. Relating to each other as people via conversation is seen as a fundamental desire. People are naturally inclined to tell stories. these stories are accentuated by gesticulation and impersonation. The story comes to life as voices are adopted for different characters in the story. The retelling becomes life like. Some experts say this instinctive tendency is what evolved into theater.


Similarly, theater as an evolution from the natural desire for fantasy and a break from reality is another claim. One author describes it as, “the theatre, then, is one took whereby people define and understand their world or escape from unpleasant realities.”


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