The City as Theatre

Authored by: Marvin Carlson

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781317422266.ch22

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Abstract

When we begin to consider the use of the city as theatre we soon find that, around the world and throughout recorded history, a major part of human performance, even of a distinctly theatrical nature, has taken place not in theatre buildings but in the streets and hubs of cities. Some of our earliest records of cultural performance, from ancient Egypt and Babylon, involve processional movements of celebrants along urban paths to and from a central place of worship, a religious hub. In the early Christian era Jerusalem served as the model city for the Christian world, and Jerusalem, with its many sites associated with the life of Christ and especially with the passion week, served as a major urban configuration that inspired a theatricalization of its spaces. Egeria’s diary of her pilgrimage as early as 381 speaks of ceremonies held “on the same day in the very place” as the Upper Room or the Mount of Olives (Egeria 1970: 127). Some ceremonies came very close to dramatic representation, such as the bishop reading the news of the resurrection to the congregation assembled before the very tomb where, legend reported, these words were spoken by the angel to the three Marys, or the Jerusalem Palm Sunday procession, where pilgrims and townspeople welcomed the bishop into the city with songs and the waving of palm fronds.

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