Topic 1 What is theatre?

The word theatre is derived from Ancient Greek which translates to a place of seeing. Although the origin of the word refers to a physical location, today’s definition is broader.

Theatre performances can be found in a variety of settings not just a traditional theatre setting which can include small regional theatres, large national theatres, concert halls and stadiums. Performances of theatre can also occur in parks, sidewalks, private residences, abandoned locations or even parking lots.

There is one fundamental difference between theatre and film; theatre is performed live whilst film is recorded and disseminated to audiences through multiple avenues.

Theatre in the context of performing arts is an art “concerned almost exclusively with live performances in which the action is precisely planned to create a coherent and significant sense of drama” (Britannica, 2022). We can also consider theatre as an “imitation of life” that is performed for other people, many scholars agree at least one audience member is required (KET Education, 2022). 

William Shakespeare Author - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

Although the exact origins of theatre are not known yet, evidence of theatrical performances span the globe from Asia, Europe and Africa starting from as eary as 15th century BC. Theatre as an art form (closely resembling what we consider theatre art form today) rather than theatrical performance, emerged around 6th century BC in Athens Greece.

In modern times, theatre is considered a collaborative art form; actors, directors, scene designers, costume designers, lighting and set designers all collaborate to create this art form together. Therefore words, voice, movement and visual elements all work together to create a theatrical performance.

Theatre can be performed with or without scripts and not all theatre performances are plays. For the purposes of this unit, we will focus specifically on plays and playwrighting.