The Origins of Theatre
Have you ever wondered when and where theatre first began? It all started at the beginning of the 5th century in Greece. The first plays were performed in the Theatre of Dionysus, built in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens. Theatres proved to be so popular they soon spread all over Greece.
The first plays were performed by just one actor (called a protagonist) and a chorus of people who helped him tell the story. The playwright Aeschylus later added a second speaking role (called an antagonist) and reduced the chorus of support from 50 to 12. His play “The Persians”, first performed in 472 BC, is the oldest surviving of the Greek plays. His pupil, Sophocles, went on to add a third actor, while Euripides added both a prologue, introducing the subject of the play, and a divine figure who wrapped up any loose ends at the close. Wealthy citizens would sponsor plays by paying a tax called the choregia. Choregia interprets to mean, I lead, or I try to make the chorus happen. Choregia was instrumental to the success of theatrical performances.
Most early theatre in England evolved out of church services of the 10th and 11th centuries. It became a truly popular form around 1350 when religious leaders encouraged the staging of mystery cycles (stories from the Bible) and miracle plays (stories of the lives of saints).
One of the most famous playwrights is William Shakespeare who published 37 plays. His plays were first performed between the years of 1590 – 1613. His works spanned the genres of tragedy, history, comedy and tragic comedy. His plays have been translated into every language and continue to be enjoyed by audiences around the world today.
In more modern times, The Phantom of the Opera, is Broadway’s longest running musical. It opened in 1988 to rave reviews and is performing still. There are currently 41 Broadway (New York not VA) shows currently selling tickets. This includes 22 shows that are currently appearing and all the future shows that have a Broadway theatre assigned.
Here in Broadway, Virginia the Off Broadway Players have been offering shows to the community since 2010. Our theatre started in New Market and moved to Broadway in 2017. OBP’s partnerships with the town of Broadway and J Frank Hillyard Middle School have allowed us to bring live theatre to our community with the same enthusiasm the ancient Greeks had for their audiences.
While we do not have a sponsor tax, or choregia, today, there is still an opportunity to be a patron of the arts and support theatre in your community. Off Broadway Players will be presenting three mainstage plays this year – Steel Magnolias, Walking Across Egypt and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. OBP offers you the ability to sponsor a show. You can partially sponsor for $500 or you can fully produce a show for the total production cost of $5000. We would love to feature your name or business as a show sponsor. If you are interested in having your name in lights and supporting an art form that has been around for thousands of years, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.offbroadwayplayersva.org
See you at the theatre –
President – Off Broadway Players