By: STO Folarin Oyeleye, Foster High School, Troupe 7961
As actors, I’m sure we’ve all had to pantomime at one point. Whether it be because we forgot to bring a prop on or because we never had it to begin with, this type of performance is quite notable. Using only gestures or similar motions the art of pantomime was born.
Pantomime was born in Commedia dell’Arte’. It was a type of entertainment in 16th century Italy that focused on using the body and music to tell stories. Soon these stories would begin to take place on stage in the 18th century. Some notable characters include: Harlequin, Scaramouche, and Pantaloon. Their stories were brought to life on London stages, all without speech, but with music.
Harlequin was one of the most popular characters at the time. Being portrayed as a cunning merchant who wielded a magic bat, he was certainly quite loved by the public. It was then in 1732 when John Rich ( a famous Harlequin actor) built the Covent Garden Theatre.
Even more changes would come about as we entered the 1840’s and the Theatres Act was lifted. This meant that theatres didn’t need a royal patent if they wanted to produce a play with dialogue. This even sparked some of its later popularity towards the end of the century amongst families. With 5 hour long productions opening up on boxing day, this became a form of entertainment that could capture the hearts of citizens on different levels.
Pantomime has been a big part of theatre. Stemming from times when words were not available, they innovated and found new ways to keep telling stories. It’s honestly amazing seeing how this style of performance has survived for about 500 years. It’s definitely been fun seeing where it started, and it’s really interesting to see how it’ll continue to evolve. If this blog piqued your interest feel free to do some more research of your own! I’ll even help and provide a link down below. As always, thanks for reading!
Your 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers