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.”

Choice of Style

I’m going to be staying with the European theme. Last  year I explored Greek and this year I will work with Brecht.

Brecht is anti free enterprise. He is more of a communist and socialist. He believes we allow ourselves to be bought and sold as people. Giving ourselves to the industry of power. Uses historical events and people.

“Brecht created an influential theory of theatre—the epic theatre—that proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage. Brecht thought that the experience of a climactic catharsis of emotion left an audience complacent. Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience’s reality was equally constructed and, as such, was changeable.

One of Brecht’s most important principles was what he called the Verfremdungseffekt (translated as “defamiliarization effect,” “distancing effect,” or “estrangement effect,” and often mistranslated as “alienation effect”).[63] This involved, Brecht wrote, “stripping the event of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them.”[64] To this end, Brecht employed techniques such as the actor’s direct address to the audience, harsh and bright stage lighting, the use of songs to interrupt the action, explanatory placards, and, in rehearsals, the transposition of text to the third person or past tense, and speaking the stage directions out loud.[65]

–Beginning information to think about. From Wikipedia


Plays I could use:

Mother Courage and her Children — woman who sells goods to the soldiers. Soldiers take her child into the army and he dies.

Chalk Circle — two women both claim the same child. Written with long monologues.

Questions from Blog

Comment on these questions:

1.  What are two cultures you are personally interested in but have never studied?

I am interested in Eastern Europe and how that has evolved. Europe seems to be consistently changing. The Middle East is also a place of intrigue for me.

2.  Find an excerpt from Katie’s blog that connects with something re: IB Theatre. What is it and how do you connect with it?

In Kate’s post about Wicked from August 6, 2009 she said, “But as with most things, when you watch it again you always see something you’ve missed!” More and more I’m learning that this is very true in many arenas. When I read a book a second time I gain new insight. Even when just talking to someone twice about a certain topic I find there are new things to learn.