The history of theatre arts can be dated back to as early as the period of ancient Greek. Since then the various eras witnessed changes in the types of theatre stages, which affected the actors and also gave rise to different forms of acting.
In ancient Greece, plays were staged to mark a religious occasion in theatres where only prestigious men were allowed as at that time women and slaves were looked down upon in the society. Theatres popularly known as amphitheatres housed a large round stage which was encircled three-fourth by audience. This is how a stage would be set in the Greek Era. Amphitheatre could accommodate an audience of 25,000 at a time which made it very difficult to see what’s going on for the audience at the back. To overcome this obstruction the actors would be loud with grandiose voice and enormous gestures and to be more noticeable wore mask and symbolical attires. High pitched chorus was used to as a means of cautioning of an upcoming event or to advice co-actors. To improve the visibility and to give a deception of reality to the plays they were held in daylight and a real landscape acted as the background of the play.
In the medieval era facilities were more commonly available to many of the inhabitants of the community. Theatres too were no longer reserved for the rich. Plays were held on wagons better known as pageants. The wagon would be dragged into the marketplace where the play was decided to be held. Spectators would surround the stage from all sides and would watch the play. The themes of most of the plays at that time were the daily happenings and day to day experiences depicted as an ironic comedy or as a genuine mime depending on the taste of the audience. This created an interaction between the audience and the actors with the audience expressing their views on the theme.
During the Renaissance Period theatre performance took the form of professional performance more than an artistic one. The blueblood of England started investing into performing groups and theatres with an apron stage. The apron stage had a rectangular platform with nearly an audience of 2,000 surrounding the three sides of it and was in close proximity with the actors performing on stage. With the wealthy aristocrats funding the plays the costumes were designed with more details and were elegant. Plays were enacted at daytime which made the creation of illusion of nighttime difficult which was overcome by dispatching the information as a part of an actor’s dialogue which is termed as word scenery. Denizens from all sects of the society attended these plays so an effort was made to please a large array of spectators by taking different storylines into consideration.
The period around the seventeenth and eighteenth century was known as the Restoration period. The theatres around this time were smaller than those of the Renaissance period and held up to 500 spectators at a time. This period gave an end to daylight lit auditoriums replacing them with closed rooms lit completely with man-made light. Stages were bounded with decorated frames but with no curtains like the modern times. Although the audiences weren’t in close vicinity of the stage, a small stage protruded into the auditorium so as to increase the interaction between the audience and the actors. Lack of curtain hindered the privacy of changing of scenes which affected the realistic illusion. Performances by the restoration period were character driven with more emphasis on the perfectionism, social issues, and scenery.
The stage in the later centuries evolved into what is known as the proscenium stage or picture frame stage. It’s designed and named after the technique of how one visualizes a picture. There is a defined separation between the spectators and the actors with the introduction of ramp. Curtains added to this and the same time gave privacy to change scenes thus creating a realistic and elaborated picturization. The auditorium is darkened during the performance there by increasing the concentration of the audience. Modern technologies and aids have made illustration more interesting and realistic and made the art even more interesting and popular.