Technical Theater During the Restoration Lighting and Scenic Design England 1660-1800

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Technical Theater During the Restoration Lighting and Scenic Design England 1660-1800 The Restoration in England was an era ripe for the development of new ideas in the arts. The return of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II marked the end of eighteen years of almost dictatorial control by Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan parliament. Cromwell had campaigned actively to halt all theatrical activity. In the end, however, his laws were actually responsible for helping move England forward in theatrical history. Actors, under Cromwell's laws, were to be apprehended a rogues if they were caught "in the act" so to speak of performing their trade. Some left their careers and sought employment elsewhere. Most, however, remained undaunted by parliament's threats. Productions continued quietly in tennis courts, inns and private houses. Officials were bribed to keep silent their knowledge of violations. The theater in England had moved indoors as it had already done in France and Italy. Although the reasons for the move were different, the end result was the same. Up until this time plays had always been performed outdoors in the early afternoon. Performances traditionally relied on sunlight, natural scenery, and minimal set pieces that could be easily transported from one location to another. Indoor productions required something much more elaborate. The preliminary concepts of scenic design and lighting design began to form in England in the late 1650's. During the Restoration, as controls were lifted, technical theater began to flourish. Many early examples of modern stage techniques were born between 1660 and 1800, making the Restoration a significant era in the history of scenic design and lighting for the theater. The art of scenic design did not begin in England. As early as 1570 the Italians were giving elaborate opera performances in the ducal courts using perspective scenes and various types of stage machinery. The French mimicked the design ideas of the Italian's and gave them a name, la scene a l'italienne. (Southern 221) Although Cromwell had banned public theater, opera was still considered a lawful art form. In England, just prior to the Restoration, John Webb designed the scenery for William D'avenant's 'opera' production of The Siege of Rhodes.

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