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Introduction to Theatre Online Course

Dr. Eric W. Trumbull, Professor, Theatre/Speech

This page last modified: November 16, 2007

Special Qualities of Theatre


Objectives for this lesson:

Students will examine:

distinct characteristics of theatre

essential elements for theatre to exist



Theatre is lifelike and familiar -- it is an imitation of humans in action.

Theatre is also exotic -- characters are different from us.

Verisimilitude -- lifelikeness

"Eros" -- Bentley says the fact that humans are before us on stage is inherently "erotic."

Ephemeral -- not recoverable -- one performance cannot ever be like the rest.

Objective:  the audience gets only what the characters do or say -- does not have vantage point of prose fiction, where the author can comment on action / characters.

Complex: -- uses complex means -- all art forms -- to convey.

Theatre is Immediate: happens to us now and never again the same way.

The "home of the now."

Robert E. Jones : "aware of the now" but the experience will last.


Essential Qualities of Theatre

1. Audience:

We bring our own experiences with us and help dictate the kinds of theatre done.

We participate -- our presence affects the event.

2. Performers: have different training, experiences, talents, perceptions, and imaginations.

3. What is performed: usually a script (play) -- but not always written down --

Improvisation -- "action" embodied by performers and seen by audience.

Bentley's simplified definition of a theatrical event: A does to B with C watching.

Structure of plays and acting styles will influence.

4. Performance:

All elements together -- performers, sets, costumes, lights, makeup, sound, audience, what is performed, environment.

5. Environment:

Physical environment: Click for Stage Spaces Presentation.

Social -- can affect attitudes

can make a nonpolitical play or non-socially-significant play political or significant.

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Important terms:




theatrical action

Next Section: The audience in the theatre


This page and all linked pages in this directory are copyrighted Eric W. Trumbull, 1998-2007

This page last modified: November 16, 2007