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Huh? Theatre? The Basics! (Part 1)

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What Makes Theatre?

I guess I'll ask you first. What makes theatre? What do you need? Think about it, then I'll let you know my own thoughts.


Okay, here's what I think:
To have a theatrical production, you only need a few things, and some things happen whether you need them or not.

  1. You need a perfomer! An actor, juggler, magician, robot—you need someone who is doing something on stage.
  2. You need an audience! If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a noise? It makes sound waves. And if a performer does not have an audience, it isn't theatre. I suppose that an actor can act for herself and her own amusement . . . Heck I do that in the shower—with my lovely singing voice! But then I'm my own audience, and there is still someone there to watch . . . or, uh . . . listen anyway: me.
  3. You need a text. This could be a play, a magic act, a juggling act, an actor could just walk in and fall down. These are all texts. It's an important word. Remember it!
  4. You automatically have a space. If you are performing, you're doing it somewhere. It could be a stage, a street corner, your girlfriend's house, a stripper bar—but it's somewhere! Space is one of the elements of theatre that is often altered to match the text. It is altered by the set, costume and lighting designers.
  5. You automatically have a context, or reason for performing. Perhaps you're proposing to your future spouse. Maybe you're trying to get your fellow workers to strike. Maybe you just want to help folks have a good time. But if you're a performer, you've got a reason to perform. This is a context. It manipulates, influences, and frames all of the other elements. Say your kid is in a school play. She makes a mistake—oops. Oh well. But what if your kid is on Broadway? Mistake? Yikes! It's all in the context.

These things make theatre. Altering or manipulating any of these elements can create new works of art. But these elements are found in your everyday life, too.

"What Makes Theatre"

Pretend that you are at the mall and you see a really good looking guy/gal that you want to go out with. There is your context. Now describe the rest of your performance using the other elements of theatre. How will you alter them to achieve your desired goals? (A short paragraph is sufficient).

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, October 06). Huh? Theatre? The Basics! (Part 1). Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License