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Pictures

stage, theatre, modern, mechanism and to-day

PICTURES.

and all that may be arranged upon it should be preservative of the lines of sight and hearing of the spectator and auditor.

From earliest times either an elevation or platform, or a depression or pit, have been usual for representation or entertainment before spectators. The earliest choral dances in the circle or pit evolved into the Greek classic theatre, with its skene or house of two or three stories, which filled the background of the scene, the action being within the semi-circular chorus place or pit in front.

The. mechanism of the ancient theatre was very exact in every respect. The religious char acter of the performance established fixed and usually theologic meanings for everything done or said in the play. The scenery was probably limited to painted curtains at the back and re volving triangular prisms at entrances. Machin ery for startling effects was, however, usual. The Roman invasion resulted in the extension of the stage more and more forward, until it became a platform sufficiently large to hold the chorus and entire group of performers.

The ancient Greeks bore the same relation in art and theatricals to the world of their time as the modern French do to-day; consequently even the traveling companies of the various na tions followed crudely the methods of perform ances usual with the Greeks, and, indeed, the general conduct and character of the modern theatre has in many important respects followed the original classic traditions. The entrances and exits on the modern stage, much of the symbolic values of parts of the stage and the arrangement of stage movement are directly inherited from the old Greek theatre: In later medieval times a portable stage or cart was used. But little advance can be noted in stage

mechanism until after the time of Shakespeare and of Moliere, when modern inventions began to appear. Richard Wagner and the Germans revolutionized stage settings and theatrical architecture, as notable in Wagner's Theatre in Baireuth and the Burg Theatre in Vienna. The Germans' leadership in applying science to and otherwise improving stage mechanics has been followed by every European nation, notably in England, by Sir Henry Irving, whose system of lighting is especially remarkable in the con veyance of the feeling of atmosphere to the senses of the spectators. In America Steele Mackaye was progressive in improving the mechanism of the stage. Later, the proprietors of the New York Hippodrome developed most elaborate and complicated mechanisms for spec tacular productions.

While the use of gas and movement of scen ery in grooves had been universal during the past century until 1875, yet in many theatres to-day such modes of lighting and scene shift ing are still retained. In the theatres of to-day, where electricity and the most modern ma chinery are employed, the following are the terms and uses of the stage machinery: