Thursday, May 22, 2008

Theatricality and Ritual

We are going to start to focus a little on theatre's roots in ritual. The celebration of theatre came about out of need: religious need to explain the way things are, the need to have the story be heard, and the need for a community to come together to hear the story. Before we start into discussions of the modern applications of this thought, let us take a moment to remember theatre's origins.

Thousands of years ago, one man stepped forward out of the chorus in Ancient Greece and he was the first actor. Soon there were two actors and a chorus, then three. Theatre here was used to celebrate religious holidays and all the townsfolk usually attended. Theatre came out of the need of a community to come together and tell its story. It helped them understand their place in the world, their history, where they had been and where they were going.

Theatre is born out of the oral tradition. Records of great events were not written down so they had to be remembered in long poems. Imagine one person having the job of keeping the town's history in your head. That was a craft much the same way blacksmithing or weaving was; it served a purpose that advanced the communal good.

Of course, with the advancement of agriculture, humans had time to devote to things other than finding food. Leisure time was invented. Festivals were thrown to celebrate the harvest and pay homage to the gods who made it possible. Entertainment was a way of celebrating this. Enormous spectacles in front of huge crowds gave way to the organize dialogue that we have come to know as drama.

There is very little in our life that is ritualistic. We have unlocked the secrets of power, energy, and the universe. Science is able to describe most everything about the way things are. We are tied together by phone, internet, radio, and television. Coming together to share that sense of community and commonality has diffused over recent years. How does theatre fulfill this diminishing common forum? What other outlet do we have to come together and share our (for lack of a better word) humanity?

Happy Birthday: Lawrence Olivier (1907-1989)

1 comment:

  1. Theatre also has served the role of being societies replacement for human sacrifice.

    Since ancient times, society has always sought a means of purging itself of it's darker, animalistic nature.

    The idea is simple, select someone, or something that can serve as a vessel for the aspects of ourselves that we want to separate ourselves from. Then kill the person or animal as a means of saying- "I acknowledge my sins and remove them from myself."

    Theatre derives from these rituals. The word tragedy comes from the greek word tragodos or "goat song" since goats (scapegoats) were often used in these rituals.

    Theatre takes this process to another level. It is bloodless, yet it allows to not only release our evil, but also examine what makes us capable of it.

    Theatre takes simple ritual and turns it into something far more complex.