Cohen (2005) in Chapter 1 “What is a Theatre”, has analyzed the concept of theatre, its history, and what it has come to represent. The author has provided some information about the development of theatre in ancient Greece where ancient dramatists perfected the art of narrating a story by using human actors. Cohen describes the theatre as a fount of creativity where different genres of plays are enacted in front of an audience. To the author, the theatre is not just a static building with stages, props, and other objects but it is a living art form that symbolizes the highest level of expression. Again Cohen gives importance to the play and the expression of the actors and he has suggested that whether a play is enacted in a huge auditorium or the streets, it is essentially a theatre form. Calling a theatre as a test of expression and will over the body, Cohen calls theatre as an opportunity for artistic expression even when teams must stretch financial resources and physical facilities creatively to meet the needs of the text.
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According to toe Cohen, the theatre presents the perfect medium and setting for people to exhibit their artistic skills and power of expression. He speaks of the Theatre Team that has playwrights, Producers, Directors, Designers, and Actors. Each of the team members forms a close-knit integrated team and while there are lead actors, the responsibility of making a play successful depends to a large part on how effectively the team can cooperate. Cohen uses the term theatre to suggest that it is a participative effort on the part of not only the team members but also the audience that has to appreciate, criticize and applaud as the play is enacted. Speaking of different genres of plays, Cohen speaks of the opportunities that the theatre provides and he speaks of different drama genres that make up the theatre, such as tragedies, comedies, musicals, Shakespearean, and other dramas. Cohen has suggested that each drama form and genre forms an essential part of the Kaleidoscope that makes up the theatre. The play, the interaction of the actors, the playwright, and the Director create a culturally rich fabric where freedom of expression is not curtailed but controlled. Cohen has also suggested that while a theatre has clearly defined roles and entities, many symbiotic activities act cohesively to make the theatre full of life. The theatre teams in the 1940s and 1950s demonstrated particularly disparate patterns of interaction and strikingly diverse results in their presentations. He has argued that with realism and naturalism coming into popular mainstream theatre in the late nineteenth century, social misery was dealt with on a broader scale and drama regained its importance as a major genre, albeit one which is intricately interwoven with developments in fiction.
Writing at length about the major developments in the theatre of the twentieth century, Cohen suggests that the theatre took the form of reactions to early movement, which favored a realistic representation of life. The expressionist theatre and the theatre of the absurd did away with the illusion that reality can be truthfully portrayed on stage, emphasizing more abstract and stylized modes of presentation. As with the post-modern novel, the parody of conventional forms and elements became a striking feature in many plays of the second half of the twentieth century. Cohen has also written about the extent of adaptation in dress, language, and forms of expression that are needed in a theatre and he calls theatre a medium of visualizing the thoughts of a playwright and an author.
The Chapter will help students who wish to know the extent and depth that a theatre represents. The chapter also sets the foundation for the rest of the book and integrates the various other chapters in the book.
Cohen Robert. (2005). Theatre, Brief Version. McGraw-Hill Publications.