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In Elizabethan times, only men were allowed to perform in theatre’s because it was not a respected profession. Teenage boys who hadn’t gone through puberty yet would dress up and play the women. Because it wasn’t a highly paid or respected profession, actors were usually seen as trouble makers who promoted ‘hard living’ and sin. Actors used to travel around in a cart looking for audiences to pay to watch them perform.
Nowadays, men and women are allowed to perform in plays. Acting is now a highly paid for profession and it is appreciated and respected. Theatres are now set in a permanent location and people pay to go and see the performances.
Probably the most famous building you will think of when somebody mentions ‘Elizabethan theatre’ or ’16th century theatre’ is the Globe Theatre which was the theatre constructed for the playwright William Shakespeare. The architect was probably a man called Peter Street. Most plays were seen in the afternoon because there was nothing to light the theatre in the evening. If they had used candles, the stage might catch fire as it was made of wood. Going to the theatre was not considered fancy. Theatres would often compete with other entertainment such as bear baiting (which involved watching and betting on bears killing dogs). People expected to see a new play every day in theatres. Other theatres included The Swan and The Rose.
A theatre will now ‘run’ a play for weeks, months or even years which is much longer than back in Elizabethan times. The shape of the theatre is now very different. Now, they are shaped like a box. The stage is on one side and the seats are on the other three surrounding the stage. Although there are still some afternoon performances, nowadays people mostly go to the theatre in the night. In this picture, you can see only men on stage. In this picture, you can see men and women on stage. This is an Elizabethan theatre. This is a modern day theatre.
The most expensive seats in the theatre were in the top row of the theatre, farthest from the front. The cheep seats were directly in front of the stage, although people in this area stood. Rich people would want to have the most segregated and exclusive seats in the theatre, away from all the rowdy, poor people. Going to the theatre was a very lively event. The poor people would usually talk, yell and even throw things (rotten produce mainly) during the play. If the poor people didn’t like the play or the actors, they would let the rest of the theatre know it. Rich people would even sit on stage and make comments to the audience during the play.
Now, the most expensive seats are the ones that are close to the front and the cheaper seats are at the back due to the bad view of the stage. Going to see a play is now more a serious event. Audiences are expected to stay quiet during the play. They are reminded several times to be respectful and quiet. Going to see a play now is a sophisticated and elegant event and people will usually go for dinner before or after the play. Typically, going to a play is associated with the wealthy. Tickets are usually more expensive for the average person.
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