- Publication Type:
- The Routledge Companion to Scenography, 2018, 1st, pp. 33 - 41
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In a general understanding, scenery locates the dramatic action on the stage in time and space and provides a physical and symbolic framing of events, thus operating as the driving visual force of the overall performance. Scenery may attempt to replicate reality through landscape elements, architectural structures, and interiors, or it can be comprised entirely of abstract configurations or immaterial elements such as projections. Scenery has functioned in widely different ways throughout theatre history. Extended towards heaven and the underworld in the Baroque, excessively detailed during nineteenth-century naturalism, and generally held in contempt by the historical avant-garde, scenery has had a recent comeback. The resurgence of practicable rooms, functional detail, and found objects on the stage warrants a new look at the history and present of scenery, its functions and potentialities, its varying relationship to reality and to the spectator, and at the different approaches developed to "read" scenery. The question of the treatment of reality in the theatre, namely through mimesis or artistic representation, has been heatedly discussed since Plato's denigration of mimetic practices as imitations of reality that are far removed from knowledge and thus inferior (Republic, Book 10) and Aristotle's subsequent defense, in his Poetics, of mimesis as an inherent human desire enabling catharsis. The attribution of relevance, function, and merit of mimetic realism over abstract expressive or symbolist scenery has moved through several shifts throughout theatre history and can be seen to be one of the leitmotifs of scenographic practice, thought, and innovation.
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