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How to Find The Best Seat in a Theatre destroyed 2000 Years Ago

Originally published - 24 January 1996

Researchers at the University of Warwick are preparing a unique computerised three dimensional record of many long dead but crucially important theatres that will significantly enhance our understanding of theatre history.

Called THEATRON (Theatre History in Europe: Architectural and Textual Resources On-line), the CD-ROM is a collaboration between Professor Richard Beacham in the University of Warwick's Department of Theatre Studies, a Berlin architect, and the Architecture and Building Aids Computer Unit at Strathclyde. Students and researchers using the CD-ROM will in effect be able to walk around theatres, many of which have long since disappeared.

Finding the best seat in a theatre is a difficult enough problem for most of us but trying to find such a seat in a theatre destroyed 2000 years previously is a bit more difficult. However that is exactly the problem faced by modern scholars of ancient theatre. Until now students and researchers had to make do with piecing together old plans and descriptions in books. It was extremely hard to really visualise what the experience of both actors and audience was in many long dead theatres. The CD-ROM will allow them to explore three dimensional models of the theatre and will provide insights that would be almost impossible to obtain from a flat diagram or description in a book.

The CD-ROM will look at ancient Greek and Roman Theatres, 17th and 18th century British Theatres and the birthplace of modern Theatre the Hellerau Festspielhaus near Dresden in Germany (nb Professor Beacham has recently a won a 250,000 dollar grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust to help restore that structure).

Italian Renaissance theatres and video sequences of modern performances of historic plays will also be in the CD_ROM The electronic models will also be able to recreate stage settings, scenery, and lighting conditions to in effect "test" ideas about how such things may have looked originally.

For further details please contact:

Professor Richard Beacham
Department of Theatre Studies
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 7652 3021