When, in 1576, London saw its first theatre just outside Bishopsgate, it was circular, in imitation of existing bull-baiting arenas. So far as a stage projecting into the pit, the rear stage underneath the balcony, and the use of the first balcony itself were concerned, the actors merely duplicated conditions to which they had grown attached in the old inn yards. As under the older conditions, scenery was impossible except as painted cloths might be hung at the back of the balcony or under it. Hence the care of the Elizabethan dramatists to place their scene by some hint or description in the text. Moreover, a play lacking the stage settings of a century later must be given atmosphere, reality, and even charm from within. More and more, however, influenced by increasingly elaborate performances at court of the masks, the public pressed the theatre manager as far as possible to duplicate their gorgeous and illusory settings. But such settings at the court were on stages behind an arch like our modern proscenium. Consequently by 1660 the stage of 1590 to 1642 had shrunk behind a proscenium arch. Then follow two centuries of very elaborate staging by painted drops at the back, side flats set in grooves, and painted borders. It should be remembered that till the second half of the sixteenth century public performances were given by daylight, largely because of the difficulty in using flaring and unsteady links or cressets for artificial light. When evening performances became the vogue, candles gave the light till the discovery of illuminating gas made a revolution in theatrical lighting. About 1860, the so-called box set, a means of shutting in the whole stage, replaced for interiors a back drop and painted side flats. Undoubtedly, some of the splendid and imaginative settings of Macready, Charles Kean, and Sir Henry Irving, seemed the last word on the subject. Steadily, however, producer and dramatist have worked together to make the stage as illusive as possible. On the one hand, realism has strained it to the utmost; on the other, poetic and fantastic drama have forced it to visualize for us the realms of imagination. Responding to all this, modern science and invention have come to the aid of drama. Electricity has opened up ways of lighting not even yet fully explored. At present, particularly in Germany, most ingenious devices have been invented for shifting scenery as quickly as possible. There and elsewhere, especially in Russia and England, skill and much artistry have been shown in quickening the imagination of the audience to the utmost by suggestion rather than by representation of minute and confusing detail. Frequently to-day the elaborate scenery of the past is improved upon by a stage hung about with curtains, with some properties here and there or a painted drop at the back to give all the suggestion needed. Alert and responsive, the stage of to-day at its best, in sharpest contrast with the bare stage of the sixteenth century, is calling on architects to make it flexible, on physicists and artists to light it elusively, on great designers to arrange its decorations. In brief, the stage throughout its history, longing always and trying always to adapt itself to the demands of the dramatist, is to-day, as never before, plastic.

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