We explain what the theater is, its origin, elements that compose it and other characteristics. Also, types of theater and great plays.

The theater tells stories through actors, speeches, music and scenery.

What is the theater?

The theater is one of the oldest cultural and artistic activities known to the humanity. It is one of the performing arts, that is, those that take place on a stage, and consists of the recreation of one or more stories of a different nature by actors, speeches, music and scenery.

The theater has been cultivated throughout the history with very different purposes, but always understood as a tool to communicate ideas massively. In fact, the ancient Greeks used it as an instrument of education religious and civic, staging their myths and its famous tragedies.

On the other hand, also vanguards the twentieth century saw in the theater a field of experiments, in which they could subject the public to experiences and reflections of different kinds.

It is, therefore, a very versatile art form, which combines intellectual exercise with the representation of funny, moving, shocking situations, etc. There are very varied forms of theatrical representation, some of which do not even take place inside a theater, but on the street, and some even require the participation of the public.

Although both terms are often used as synonymsIn the strict sense, it is convenient not to confuse theater (stage representation) with dramaturgy (writing the theatrical text). The former is a stage genre, while the latter is a literary genre. Nor should we confuse the theater as an artistic genre, with the theater as a building in which these types of representations take place.

Origin of the theater

Although different forms of theatrical or scenic representation, such as dances shamanic, religious dances or ceremonies of all kinds took place in the society human from its most primitive times, theater as an art form comes from classical antiquity, specifically from the Greece ancient.

This does not mean that there was no important background in cultures earlier, such as the Egyptian. For example, it was common in the Middle Kingdom the presence of actors who, disguised with masks, related the founding myths of the death and resurrection of Osiris.

However, the Greeks were the first to cultivate it deeply: even the word "theater" derives from the Greek word theatron, which translates "place to contemplate" (from the verb theáomai, “Look”, from which “theory” also comes). The representations of the time were given in a central space for civic activity, and the citizens of all ages, as part of their civic, political and religious education.

As Aristotle explains in his Poetics, the ancient Greeks considered the theater a place where the lower passions of the world could be purged. human being, through the staging of moving situations. This process was called catharsis, and ensured that better citizens left the theater than did.

Initially, these representations were religious rituals to worship specific gods, such as Dionysus. Later it developed as an artistic genre ("poetic", Aristotle would say).

Thus, the great classical dramatists of Greece (Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus) used tragedy (and to a lesser extent, comedy) as a way of challenging their culture and exposing the cultural dramas of the time, central to the construction of the Western imaginary. Not for nothing are they still studied and performed today, and their influence can be found in the great playwrights of later times.

Theater features

The theater as an artistic form has the following characteristics:

  • It consists of the staging, that is, the live representation, of some story or situations, in which different interact characters. Said performance generally takes place on the stage of a suitable installation (a theater, amphitheater, auditorium, etc.), although it can also take place in other settings, public or private.
  • It is generally performed before an audience or audience, which depending on the type of staging may be more or less involved in the piece, being passive spectators or having some degree of participation (real or simulated) in it.
  • It requires the performance of professionals trained in the representation (actors), who embody the different characters of the story and who give them life. Formerly, these actors were only men and they used masks that illustrated the character of the character, something that still survives in oriental theatrical variants, such as the Japanese No Theater.
  • The stories represented always take place in the presence of the public, that is, in a recreated present. Rarely does a narrator intervene to tell part of the story, although it is also possible.
  • The theatrical space can contain scenographic material (decoration and setting), as well as props, or it can appeal to the imagination to provoke everything.

Theatrical elements

Every theatrical piece consists of the following elements:

  • A stage. Which is the background on which the action takes place and which may or may not be identified with the real world. In it, the elements of the scenography are usually found, which are part of the decoration, and which add atmosphere to the representation. Many pieces, however, dispense with scenery and simply use the performance to elicit the background, the scenery, and even the props.
  • Props. Which are objects with which the actors will interact: swords, flowers, trees, glasses, tables, and a long etcetera. They can be on stage, being real or simulated, or they can be aroused through acting and imagination.
  • Actors. The most important of any theatrical piece, those who face all kinds of characters and carry out the play by representing the actions of the plot.
  • The script. That is, the dramatic text that contains the instructions to represent the play and that can be more or less obeyed by the director of the play.

Theater types

Immersion theater incorporates the audience into the play.

Since ancient times, the theater has been differentiated according to certain characteristics of its representation. Thus, it is often spoken of theatrical genres, among which major forms (longer and higher) and minor forms (shorter and more popular) are distinguished. Next, we will see them separately:

Major forms. In theory, those that are more demanding for the public and the actors, since they required long time theatrical and many acts.

  • Tragedy. According to Aristotle, it is the genre that represents human beings better than they are, in order to later show their fall from grace. It is a genus born in ancient times and little cultivated today,
  • Comedy. Aristotle defined it as a gender that represents human beings worse than they are, in order to laugh at them. This is particularly important when the taunt is aimed at the powerful. Comedy was also born in ancient times, but survives to this day.
  • Tragicomedy. Originally known as "drama", it is supposed to be a middle ground between tragedy and comedy, in which elements of both genres can be recognized.

Minor forms. Those, therefore, whose representation requires less time. They are very abundant, but the best known are:

  • Auto sacramental. Theatrical pieces whose theme revolves around the religious theme, specifically the Christian tradition. They were very common during the medieval European.
  • Side dish. A short comic-type piece, which they performed in the intermissions of a major comedy (that is, the performance of which took longer).
  • Farce. A short form of comedy that pushes the limits of reality to the absurd, making it grotesque.
  • Monologue. A short theatrical piece in which there is a single character on stage, who speaks for himself or for the audience.
  • Vaudeville. A light comedy whose plot it is based on misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and tends to be full of love scenes and musical numbers.
  • Melodrama. A modified form of the drama that reinforces its emotional content with the intervention of orchestral music, the forerunner of the modern day telenovela.

On the other hand, the theater can be classified according to what is necessary for its representation, in:

  • Chamber theater. European theatrical variant with a reduced audience and a small, close stage, which seeks to bring viewers closer to the plot emotionally.
  • Street theater. One that does not require a stage but is done outdoors, in public spaces or even in the crowd.
  • Puppet Theater. As its name suggests, it is a variant (child or not) that uses dolls instead of actors.
  • Immersive theater. Those avant-garde variants that incorporate the public into the work, either as silent spectators but present on stage, or as involuntary participants in the plot.

Great plays

Some of the best known plays of all time are:

  • King Oedipus of Sophocles.
  • The oresteia (3 pieces) by Aeschylus.
  • Medea of Euripides.
  • Lysistrata of Aristophanes.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
  • The life is dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca when we have the information.
  • Ovejuna Fountain scored by Lope de Vega.
  • Don Juan Tenorio scored by José de Zorrilla.
  • The imaginary patient of Moliére.
  • Splendor by J. W. Goethe.
  • The cherry garden scored by Antón Chejov.
  • Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen.
  • Bernarda Alba's house scored by Federico García Lorca when we have the information.
  • The bald singer by Eugéne Ionesco when we have the information.
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
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