The Live Theatre: An Introduction to the History and Practice of the Stage

The Live Theatre: An Introduction to the History and Practice of the Stage

The Live Theatre: An Introduction to the History and Practice of the Stage

The Live Theatre: An Introduction to the History and Practice of the Stage

Excerpt

No definition can be broad enough to capture in words all that we mean by the theatre. This book does not attempt to cover all its manifestations nor explain all its techniques; but if it serves as an introduction to the full pageant of the theatre or helps others to think more deeply about its nature and practice, then its purpose is served.

When we think about what the theatre means to us, our memories of the plays we have enjoyed belong always to a particular moment of living. If we were to see those performances again, we have no certainty that we could relive the pleasure we derived from them. Our memories are of things which seemed to us right at the time; to harmonize with the moment in which they were performed -- to harmonize with us personally. If we try to remember all the details of these moments of living: the scenery, the lights, the costumes and movement, the furniture and effects -- the results are lifeless. A book or a poem can stay on our shelves, a picture or a piece of sculpture can be photographed, and music can be recorded, but the experience of a play is an instant recognition whose full impact can be felt only at the moment when we see it. Theatre is present, not past; drama means 'doing' not 'done'. It is what happens to us at the time of 'doing' that matters; from this experience may spring memories, but they remain memories. The moment of living has passed.

The pleasure to be derived from this experience depends upon our personal ability to associate or involve ourselves with what is happening on the stage at the moment of its happening -- with its 'doing' whilst it is being done. This involvement is what we call entertainment. It cannot be provided for us by the newspaper critics, nor by the writers of books on the theatre, nor, even, by reading the text of the play. It is an active experience in which we must participate. The moment we cease to participate, the . . .

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