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Theatre is that branch of the performing arts concerned with the creation of stories or narratives for (or with) an audience using combinations of acting, speech, gesture, music, dance, object manipulation, sound and spectacle — indeed, any one or more elements of the other performing arts. In addition to standard narrative dialogue style, theatre takes such forms as opera, musicals, ballet, mime, kabuki, classical Indian dance, Chinese opera, mummers' plays, improvisation, story theater and pantomime.

The term theatre (from the Greek theatron) enjoys the distinction of two spellings: "theatre" in British English and "theater" in American English. There is no technical distinction between the meanings of the two spellings, however most theatre artists prefer the English spelling because it creates a historical nod to the ancient Greek term. Some also use the American spelling to designate a theatre building and the English term to reference the art itself, as in the "art of theatre".

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The "gravedigger scene" by Eugène Delacroix
Hamlet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written between 1599 and 1601. Set in Denmark, the play tells how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle for murdering the previous king, Hamlet's father. Hamlet's uncle has since stolen the throne and taken Hamlet's mother, the dead king's widow, as his wife. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, incest, and moral corruption. Despite much literary detective work, the exact year of writing remains in dispute. Three different early versions of the play survived, which are known as the First Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the First Folio. Each has lines, and even scenes, that are missing from the others. Shakespeare probably based Hamlet on an Indo-European legend—preserved by a 13th-century chronicler, and retold by a 16th-century scholar—and a lost Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet. The play's dramatic structure and Shakespeare's depth of characterisation mean that Hamlet can be analysed and interpreted—and argued about—from many perspectives. Hamlet is by far Shakespeare's longest play, and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language. The title role was almost certainly created for Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time; in the four hundred years since, it has been played by the greatest actors, and sometimes actresses, of each successive age.

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Gilbert and Sullivan
Credit: Alfred Bryan

Gilbert and Sullivan created fourteen comic operas, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado, many of which are still frequently performed today. However, events around their 1889 collaboration, The Gondoliers, led to an argument and a lawsuit dividing the two. In 1891, after many failed attempts at reconciliation by the pair and their producer, Richard D'Oyly Carte, Gilbert and Sullivan's music publisher, Tom Chappell, stepped in to mediate between two of his most profitable artists, and within two weeks he had succeeded. This cartoon in The Entr'acte expresses the magazine's pleasure at the reuniting of D'Oyly Carte (left), Gilbert (centre), and Sullivan (right).

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Chikamatsu Monzaemon

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Cillian Murphy in October 2005
Cillian Murphy is an Irish film and theatre actor active since 1996. He is often noted by critics for chameleonic performances in diverse roles, as well as for his distinctive blue eyes. A native of Cork, Murphy began his performing career as a rock musician. After turning down a record deal, he made his professional acting debut in the play Disco Pigs. He went on to star in a number of Irish and UK film and stage productions throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, first coming to international attention in 2003 as the hero in the post-apocalyptic film 28 Days Later. Murphy's best known roles are as villains in two 2005 blockbusters: the Scarecrow in superhero film Batman Begins, and Jackson Rippner in the thriller Red Eye. Next came two contrasting, widely acclaimed starring roles: his Golden Globe Award-nominated performance as transgender outcast "Kitten" in 2005's Breakfast on Pluto and a turn as a 1920s Irish revolutionary in 2006 Palme d'Or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley. 2007 saw Murphy on the London stage in Love Song and onscreen in science fiction film Sunshine. Uncomfortable on the celebrity circuit, he customarily gives interviews about his work, but does not appear on television talk shows or discuss details of his private life with the press.

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Sen no Rikyū

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Spencer Tracy
Know your lines and don't bump into the furniture.

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Theatre

History: Sanskrit PlaysNatya ShastraNatya Shastra of BharataKoodiyattamBhasaKālidāsaKathakaliBhavabhutiHarshaChinese theatreCantonese OperaBeijing OperaRamakienNohBunrakuKabukiButohTheatre of Ancient GreeceTheatre of ancient RomeMedieval theatreCommedia dell'ArteEnglish Renaissance theatreRestoration comedyRestoration spectacularNeoclassicismTwentieth century theatre

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Types: ComedyDramaMusical theatreHip-Hop theater

Philosophy: AristotlePoeticsKonstantin StanislavskiAntonin ArtaudBertolt BrechtOrson WellesPeter BrookJerzy GrotowskiMeisner techniqueStanislavsky SystemMethod actingPresentational acting

Organization: Community theatreDinner theatreFringe theatreSummer stock theatreRegional theatreOff-Off-BroadwayOff-BroadwayOff West EndBroadway theatreWest End theatre

Unions: Actors' Equity AssociationSociety of Stage Directors and ChoreographersInternational Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Awards: Back Stage West Garland AwardsDrama Desk AwardEvening Standard AwardsGreen Room AwardHans-Reinhart-RingHelpmann AwardJoseph Jefferson AwardLaurence Olivier AwardsLondon Critics' Circle Theatre AwardsLucille Lortel AwardManchester Evening NewsMatilda AwardNew York Innovative Theatre AwardsMolière AwardObie AwardOvation AwardsSangeet Natak Academy AwardTheatre Pasta Theatre AwardsTony Award

Stagecraft: Theatre directorPlaywrightActorProduction teamSet designerLighting designerCostume designerSound designDramaturgStage managementProduction managerTechnical theatre

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