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Theatre's Troublesome History

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Although theatre was considered dangerous throughout various periods in History, I believe its one of the best things that could have happened to our society. That’s why, I believe, theatre is a necessary art form.

Its one thing to sit and read a political article in the newspaper at home, criticising the government for trampling on freedom; its another to absorb this idea in a room full of people all focused on the play unfolding before them. Sharing the experience and the moment with others can be enormously comforting and empowering. This is why I was finding it difficult to believe how much theatre and performance was despised by the church and state during the past eras. And also that Theatre was thought to be corrupting youth with the falsity of its emotions and was apparently displaying the manifestation of the devil and the worship of false gods. (Knowles)

Many Theatres and Performance allocated buildings had been burnt down to the ground, theatre books were set ablaze, and actors were extremely ill treated, to the point of being tortured and banished. Why have so many theatres have been destroyed by fire and other calamities? The number may seem very few, yet the accidents that befell them are distressing; the following are some examples of the tragic times this mishap has occurred:

- Drury Lane Theatre burnt in 1791, and again in 1809.

- Opera House, London. Burnt in 1789.

- Pantheon Opera House, London, burnt 1798.

- Saddler’s Wells, London, 18 people killed, Oct. 15, 1807.

- Brunswick Theatre allegedly fell down, Feb. 28, 1828. 11 people killed.

- Richmond Theatre burnt Dec. 1811. 100 to 150 lives lost.

- Philadelphia Theatre. Particulars unknown.

- Park Theatre, New York, 25th May 1820.

- 26th May 1828 came the destruction of New York’s Bowery Theatre, 2 lives lost.

The Bowery theatre revealed many alarming facts, relative to the influence of theatrical performances upon the public morals. Late 1827, the managers of the theatre imported a lot of French dancers, of a description which had not before been tolerated in the country, and exhibited them to as many as could be allured by low prices and eye-catching posters, to observe their indecent outfits and lustful gestures. On the 26th of May 1828, after having done more to corrupt the minds of youth then perhaps any other Theatre in existence within such a short period, it was suddenly burnt to the ground, and in its flames passed off the spirits of two immortal beings, who might otherwise have lied to be a blessing to society.

What I consider to have possibly been a few of the objections against the drama are as follows.

Firstly it may tend to give an unnatural glow to the scenery of human life, and modifies the general duties of everyday life in careers and domestic situations. For example, not everyone can be dramatically entangled in sentimental adventures, and then set free by some strange catastrophe - a fight or battle conquered with enemies, or the discovery of a knight in shining armour/goddess girlfriend. There may be small, indistinctive things we conquer daily, although these inadequate issues may be seen as unworthy of production. It’s all too intense, causing the mind to believe in a false sensibility and a self-pitying love for the romantic and extravagant characters. These situations are not considered to be our rational everyday situations we’re familiar with.

Secondly, there is the stereotypically, over-accentuated characters, which generally turn out quite predictable in some way or another. Although, I seems as if today, that the very essence of a play proceeds on excitation, therefore the more prominent points of a character must be expressed, to produce this effect on the audience. The more over the top characters, the more dramatic the situations will be, would make it almost impossible to contemplate with them the proper feelings. Admiration will insinuate itself, when the most powerful persuasion of character is portrayed by the performer. The darkness of sin becomes illuminated with the performer’s talent, by an unnatural overwhelming state of integrity.

Performance and theatre has so much passion expressed

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