The stage manager is one of the most important technical people in the theater. He is truly responsible for the coordination of the various components which will make up the production. Through the headset he wears, which is plugged into the backstage theatre board, he has audio and visual contact with all the production components. He aids in the timing and the direction of the stage hands; raising and lowering the curtain, the removal or the addition of scenery at the proper intervals, the actors; for places backstage, and before
on-stage entrances, the lighting booth; directing the correct time for the proper light cues, calling to their places the orchestra and its conductor should there be music, as well as various other people and components befitting the particular production being mounted. The stage managers presence is necessary and required during all rehearsals for the two to three week period call production weeks. During this time period, all of the different peoples and their components and different functions, will assemble in the rehearsal hall and/or theater in order to bring to fruition the full production. During the actual performance, the stage manager is backstage, wearing his headset, to insure that under his direction all rehearsed cues and duties are performed properly and in their timely fashion as noted in his copy of the script.
Every country in the world had some form of theater. Because theater is an art, it is international and knows no boundaries and it is part of a country’s culture. Many countries have subsidized theaters or they are financed by their government. Some governments control their theaters. In addition to the government subsidized theaters, there are commercial theaters financed by individuals. Commercial and subsidized theaters are both important. However, the commercial production will continue only as long as it makes money. The important theater centers are where the largest number of theaters and theatergoers can be found. Some important theater centers of the world are Germany, France, England, Russia, and the United States. A short history of theaters in these countries will give the students some background information and will aid them in their research of some of the famous theaters.
West Germany has more than 200 theaters, over half of them built since 1950. They play to audiences every night for 10 months in each year. Most of the theaters have permanent acting companies, who perform in repertory.
Unlike other countries, Germany has no main theater center. One reason is that Germany was not a unified nation until after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Before that time each little kingdom or principality supported it own theaters.
In the 1920’s Germany’s theaters became noted for their imaginative staging. Noted directors included the Austrian Max Reinhardt, who later directed in the United States.
When Hitler took over Germany in 1933, theaters lost their freedom. With the end of World War II, theaters again became independent and presented the best in drama-by such writers as Goethe, Schiller, and Hauptmann.
East Germany has more than 80 theaters, of which the most famous is the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin. It presented several of the first productions of plays by Bertolt Brecht, one of the great modern playwrights.
France’s most famous theater, the Comedie-Franciase, began in 1680 under the patronage of King Louis XIV and has continued ever since. This repertory theater is noted for its production of the great French dramatists Corneille, Racine and Moliere. It is often called the theater of Moliere because it presents his works in a style that has never been surpassed.
Paris has 80 commercial theaters in operation. In addition to the Comedie-Franciase, there are two other important government sponsored theaters: the Theatre National Populaire, founded in 1920, and the Odeon-Theatre de France, formed in 1959. The government has established theater centers in five places in France so that theater would be able to people other parts of the country. Since 1959 France has had a minister of state for cultural affairs, who supervises all government-supported theaters and keeps the standards of production high. The theatrical companies of many of these cities tour neighboring cities for the benefit of the people who living in them. The oldest theater in the world, the Comedie-Franciase, is still operating in Paris.
Theater has flourished in England for centuries. It started there as in other countries, in religious ceremonies. Priests in the Middle Ages acted out Bible stories as part of the church services. Later, dramatized Bible stories were performed in churchyards and marketplaces. These drama became known as miracle and mystery plays. Tradesmen such as bakers, leather workers, and cabinetmakers, performed in these plays. They took pride in acting and handed down the privilege of performing in these plays from generation to generation.
From the marketplaces and streets, actors moved into the courtyards and palaces of the nobles and became professional actors. In the latter part of the 16th century, several important theatrical events took place. The talents of two great playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare came to the forefront. The first theater was built in London in 1576. Soon other theaters sprang up, including the Globe, where Shakespeare acted in his own plays. No Longer were plays performed only for the nobles. All the people enjoyed the performances.
During the early part of the 17th century the Puritans closed the theaters, but they reopened in 1660. New plays written and performed for nobles and fashionable society were called comedies of manners or Restoration plays. By the 19th century the theater again became a theater for all people. Amateur dramatic groups that were begun in that century helped popularize the theater by presenting plays for their own and the neighbor’s enjoyment. Today amateur groups number in the thousands in England.
Konstantin Stanislavski and Nemirovich Danchencko are the two people associated with the most famous theater in Russia, the Moscow Art Theater. It was founded in 1898 and shaped into one of the finest acting companies in the world and it has been called the theater of Chekhov because it staged the first productions of Anton Chekhov’s works, Russia’s greatest playwright.
The Soviet Union, now called Russia, has many theaters, all of which are financed and controlled by the government. The two main theater centers are located in Moscow and Leningrad. Leningrad is now St. Petersburg. Theaters in Russia differ from other independent theaters throughout the world because of their government regulations; however, today there are several independent theaters located in Russia.
Theaters in America began somewhat like those in other countries. After the Revolutionary War, theatrical companies were organized and began to perform in cities along the eastern coast and also traveled inland. Touring companies became a necessity because of the size of the country. In the early days few people living away from the eastern cities could not see theatrical productions, so the companies went to them. Stock companies flourished between 1890 and 1925. Two important organizations helped stimulate theater in the United States, the American National Theater and Academy, and the American Educational Theater Association.
One of the countries earliest theatrical performances took place at William and Mary College in 1736. The United States has more university theaters than any other country because of its many colleges and university theater departments.
New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the major theater centers in the United States. Small theaters can be found in almost every city and town.
Prior to beginning the lesson plans, I will have students read these two books, Plays Children Love and You Can Put on A Show. These books are in the school library and in the public libraries.
As the unit is being implemented and the lesson plans are being carried out the classes will be preparing to produce a one act play in conjunction with the drama teacher, Mekah-El Ben Israel at the end of the unit.