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Theatre is an art, part of a larger subject called “performance art.” After Aristotle divided Poetry into epic, lyric, and dramatic, the next question was what is the function, and therefore structure, of theatre (the “seeing place”). Basically, theatre is the performance of dramatic literature, by means of imitation of an action. The elements are a text, a “spectacle” (by which is meant a visual representation in the form of a set, lighting, and costumes) and a performer-audience relationship. The 20th century group, the Living Theatre, changed the order of these theatrical elements by giving the script and the spectacle less importance and concentrating on the performer-spectator relationship (which often became political). Theatre, then, is imitation of an action by action – drama is imitation of an action by language. The other elements of theatre are music, dance (by which is meant blocking, movement, etc.), and costume (a language in itself). The 19th century movement toward realism and social responsibility took theatre away from its original roots – catharsis in the audience – but kept its basis, metaphorical stories and actions designed to change the spectator’s view of the social world (incidentally, modern scholars choose the word “witness” over “audience” or “spectator” to designate a member of the viewing of theatre.)
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