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pageant

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Important events

(detail)13. century | Opening

History

During religious celebrations, theatre plays were performed on movable podiums, in pageants. These then moved with processions through the town and stopped at different points. One entire play would always be shown on one podium. Based on certain evidence, however, it would have been impossible to place all of the actors and props on this kind of vehicle. Consequently, a flat car would be parked in front of the vehicle where the main scenes would be performed with the vehicle serving as backdrop.

 

 

"Methods of staging passion plays differed in various parts of Europe. In some countries they continued to be acted in churches. In England they were performed on movable carts called 'pageants' which went through the streets in slow procession, stopping at certain points to act a scene and then moving on to make way for the next. The York Cycle, for instance, consists of forty-eight short plays. Each was the responsibility of a particular guild, often chosen because of some connection with the subject of the play—the story of the Ark, for example, was acted by the shipwrights, the visit of the Magi by the goldsmiths, and so on.

The pageants were elaborate structures of two storeys—'a high place', runs one contemporary description, 'made like a house with two rooms, being open at the top; in the lower room they apparelled and dressed themselves and in the higher room they played.' There was a way down from the pageant to the street, and the action often spilled over in this way. 'Herod rages on the pageant and in the street also', says one stage direction. Some of the pageants were given special shapes; that for the Noah play, for instance, suggested a ship, Hell was a gaping mouth, etc. The scenes were acted with as much realism as possible, and some surprising effects were attempted, especially in the Hell scenes. "

IN: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 37

 

 

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