The Lion King, Hamilton, Wicked- these are all well-known theatre performances that are popularly discussed amongst various social groups, but I became exposed to the hype of theatre recently through my friend’s obsession with the soundtrack of the musical Hamilton. Hamilton represents an introduction to this generation’s form of theatrical entertainment, and I started to appreciate the soundtrack of the musical because it portrays the power of captivating someone so much to the point of them memorizing every verse of every song from the musical through one element of theatre.
Role and History of Theatre
Previously, my knowledge of theatre was extremely limited to plays written by Shakespeare through English classes in high school and The Nutcracker from several remakes and productions, and I assumed that theatre was only for entertainment, business, and freedom of expression; however, this new exposure to a soundtrack of a musical also reminded me of my obsession with High School Musical and my interest in United States history, so my perspective of theatre began to morph. Theatre is not merely just a form of entertainment or freedom of expression for certain individuals but symbolism of how performances can change and develop the perspective of a narrow-minded college student, like me, on several societal and political issues in our society. The purpose of theatre is its power to captivate individuals in the society to evolve and broaden understanding of others in this world.
Theatre allures individuals by being relatable: it enables people to easily take away lessons about various issues and topics introduced through the performances by making the experience understandable in a simplistic but unique way for each individual. For example, during the English Restoration Theatre in 1660 to 1700, several members of the community watched theatrical plays for entertainment because they genuinely enjoyed the content of the plays: the content consisted of the well-known characteristics of each social class, and the themes were relatable and humorous to the congregation. The two popular genres during this time period were the comedy of manners and the comedy of intrigue. Specifically, the comedy of manners satirizes the upper class, and the wealthy audience members were laughing at themselves because of how relatable the plays were to their daily lives; however, poor people laughing would be frowned upon because they are a different social class than the wealthy, so it was socially unacceptable to do so.
English Restoration and the Italian Renaissance Theatre
An example of the comedy of manners would be The Country Wife. The other popular genre during the English Restoration Theatre, which is the comedy of intrigue, contained plots about people on grand adventures in different places, and a female character would often disguise herself as a man while wearing breaches, exciting the audience because they are able to see female legs. The revealing of female legs was seductive to the men, so many male audience members were drawn to these plays, allowing the men to have something in common. Another monumental period was the Italian Renaissance during the fourteenth century, and the types of plays shown were written in two genres: tragedy and comedy. Plays about tragedy were mainly for the royal and involved themes of disaster, destruction, and death while plays about comedy were for the common people and involved resolutions about social order being upheld or having a positive or negative impact. Additionally, the three unities in the Italian Renaissance, which consist of the unity of action, unity of time, and unity of place, reiterate how relatable theatrical performances can be. For instance, the unity of action reveals how the work has only one focus and one story, so people would be familiar with the plot, and they will grasp the ideas more easily. The plays from the Italian Renaissance charmed the audience members through the reoccurring and familiar ideas and formats. Both the English Restoration Theatre and the Italian Renaissance incorporate characteristics that make the theatrical experience relatable for the audience: the approachable aspect of theatre enables audience members to seek comfort and enjoyment in theatre, so they gain more exposure to several different ideas, which can widen their views in this world.