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Theatre technique

Theatre techniques are procedures that facilitate a successful presentation of a play. They also include any practices that advance and enhance the understanding the audience brings to the action and the acting by the cast on stage.

Table of contents
1 Techniques
2 Trends and Movements
3 Theatre Presentation



One of the oldest techniques that has been used often, is that of teichoscopy or the "viewing from the wall", in which actors observe events beyond the confines of the stage, such as a distant battle, and discuss it on stage while the battle is taking place, as opposed to the event being reported by messengers at a later time after the event has happened.

The Playwright's Craft

However, theatre technique must also be part of the playwright's craft in that whatever is intended to happen on stage must be written into the play, such as acts and scenes, and changes of place. Entries, exits, where and when, the positioning of the cast, in fact all the stage directions must be given in the prompt copy, to instruct each actor of what is happening onstage, where exactly he or she has to be in relation to the back, front, left, or right of the stage, and what he is to do at any one time during the play. Cueing and prompting also are part of stage management.

Trends and Movements

The Three Unities

The Three Unities of time, action and place were the main principles of French neo-classical drama during part of the 17th century.
They were introduced by Jean Mairet after a misreading of Aristotle's Poetics, and the critic Castelvetro insisted that playwrights and directors adhere to the unities. In the Poetics Aristotle had merely recommended that action should consist only of the main plot without any sub-plots, and that the time represented by action should not stretch beyond the length of one day. Time merely entered into his recommendations as a hint as to the limits of the attention span the audience could be expected to have. The unity of place, that of the confinement of the action in a play to one locality only, was not mentioned at all.
The effect of the three unities on French drama during this period was that their presentation became very restrictive, and it was only when later dramatists began to avoid mentioning specific times and places that the presentation of plays became more creative again.

Theatre Presentation

Some dramatists and dramaturgists try to achieve particular effects that are not normally sought in a theatre presentation.

Defamiliarization Effect (Verfremdungseffekt)

Bertolt Brecht's Defamiliarization Effect or more inaccurately, Alienation effect (Verfremdungseffekt) tries to prevent the audience's succumbing to the usual illusion that is inherent in the presentation of a play, by distancing the spectator from what is happening on stage. The element of surprise such as actors moving and speaking from among the rows of the audience, or actors exchanging parts and characters in the course of a play, for example, is meant to confront, and make the audience aware of the usual mimetic presentation in a play and instead make them reflect on what they see.

See Literary technique