18th May 2021
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World Theatre Day 2020: Celebrate with (Fun) Facts

World Theatre Day
By Iky Tai

This Friday, 27th of March, is World Theatre Day that has been celebrated since 1962 by theatre professionals, theatre lovers and theatre organizations. In honour of this special day, we’ve rounded up nine theatre-related facts and you will probably find some very interesting.

The Important Tradition of World Theatre Day

27 March 2020 (Fri) marks the 58th anniversary of World Theatre Day that was first celebrated on 27 March 1962, the date of the opening of the “Theatre of Nations” season in Paris. Many theatre events are organized nationally and internationally on this day to spread the World Theatre Day Message. This year, the message was written by Shahid NADEEM who is Pakistan’s leading playwright and the head of the renowned Ajoka Theatre. 

Beautiful Theatres in the World

  1. Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, Toronto, Canada(Left): It was opened in 1913 and is the last functioning double-decker theatre in the world. As the name suggests, two theatres were built on top of each other in the same building. Back then, the peasants watched shows in the lower section while high society did in the nicer, higher section.
  2. The Seebühne, Austria(Centre): It is a floating stage on the shores of Lake Constance with 7,000 seats. Since 1946, it has been used for large-scale opera or musical performances during the Bregenz Festival.
  3. Minack Theatre, Cornwall, England(Right): What makes the Minack incredible is the amazing view of the Porthcurno Bay alongside a live show in an open-air venue. Carved into the cliffs of Porthcurno, this theatre enables succulent plants to grow on the open cliffside, providing an added dash of colour to the Minack all year round.

World Theatre Day

Theatre Superstitions

  1. Say “break a leg” instead of “good luck.”: It is said that “breaking a leg” is the concept you’ve crossed from the backstage into the playing area, and entering the spotlight is the ultimate goal of an actor.
  2. Don’t wear anything in blue on stage: There is a saying that blue dye was very expensive back then so producers discouraged performers to wear blue. As time went on, it has become a rumour that blue costumes were unlucky in the theatre but it has not survived as strongly as other superstitions.
  3. No whistling backstage: In the good old days, stagehands whistled to cue each other for carrying scenery. A person whistled backstage could accidentally give a wrong cue to a worker who was lifting or dropping scenery to cause an accident.
  4. Turn on the ghost light before leaving: People working backstage say the ghost light, a small, single-bulb floor lamp shining on a dark stage at night, allows spirits to see or even ‘’perform’’ on stage after all people leave the venue. However, the more logical reason nowadays is to provide a light source in case someone still works on stage or backstage when the theatre is closed.
  5. Sleep with your script under your pillow: This practice is called ‘’Memorize by Diffusion’’ and said to help actors/actresses learn the lines faster. Science says no but theatrical superstition says yes!

Oldest Theatre in the World

The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza hosted its first performance in 1585. It was designed by the Vicenzan architect Andrea Palladio, a master of Renaissance architecture, and designer of many celebrated buildings across Italy. Although the Teatro Olimpico is still used for performances at present, its access is limited and only 400 seats can be accommodated due to the ancient building’s state. 

World Theatre Day

The Most Theatre-Crazy City

In terms of quantity, New York comes out top with 420 theatres followed by Paris (353) and Tokyo (230). London that has a reputation as a theatre-crazy city only ranks fourth with 214 theatres. New York is also top for theatre admission, reaching the number at 28.1M.

Ghost Stories

A couple of historical theatres around the world are believed to be haunted. The 107-year history of Palace Theatre in New York is said to have almost 100 spirits that stalk the theatre. Another noteworthy theatre is The Belasco. Mr Belasco in 1907 commissioned it to be built and died in 1931. He subsequently became the famous theatre ghost, watching rehearsals and wandering the hall. Some backstage workers appease him by saying ‘’Goodnight Mr Belasco’’ at the end of each night.   

In London, Theatre Royal, opened in the early 1660s, has a reputation as the world’s most haunted theatre. It has been reported there was an 18th-century nobleman dressed in a tricorne hat, cape and riding boots in the upper circle, telling audience members to “shhh”. Although it is terrifying to most of us, performers consider seeing ghosts a good sign.

World Theatre Day

Women in Theatre

  1. It was illegal for women to act on the English stage until 1660 where King Charles II said all female roles had to be played by women.
  2. The first musical featuring an all-female creative team was ‘’Waitress’’ that premiered on March 25 2016. The top 4 creative jobs along with the costume design and musical direction were handled by women.
  3. More women than men bought theatre tickets, accounting for 65% of the theatre audience, but only 39% of actors, 39% of directors and 32% of writers of plays performed were women in 2015.
  4. Since the backstage environment is male-dominated, safety equipment and workwear in women’s sizing is harder to find.

Longest-Running Broadway Show

The fact that ‘’Phantom of the Opera’’ is the longest-running Broadway show may not surprise you but the Phantom-related figures are sure to entertain you.

  1. 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the show.
  2. 15 actors have played the role of the Phantom on Broadway.
  3. The show was played to over 140 million people in 35 countries in 166 cities around the world with an estimated gross of $6 billion.
  4. The box office revenues are higher than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, ET, Star Wars and Avatar.
  5. It won over 70 major theatre awards.
  6. Each actor playing The Phantom has a mask custom-made from a mould of his face. As of the show’s 29-year Broadway run, 300 masks have been custom-made.
  7. 230 costumes and 111 wigs (made of human, yak and synthetic hair) are used in each production.
  8. Phantom has been performed in 15 languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Castilian, Hungarian, Dutch, Korean, Portuguese, Mexican Spanish, Estonian, and Russian.

Theatres and Entertainment Companies Adapting to the Current COVID-19 Crisis

To address the critical needs of temporary medical centres during the Coronavirus outbreak, Mountain Productions transformed one of its architectural designs that was originally built for theatre shows or other live events into a medical support centre to assist with the current crisis. 

Other entertainment entities around the world are offering logistical, technical and venue support to assist in the global fight against COVID-19.

Also by Iky Tai:

Female Stagehand: Equality…But Not Really

Workplace Safety Basics That Entertainment Staff May Forget

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