Scarterran Theatre

In the real world, theatre was more popular before the advent of radio, film, television, and later the internet made entertainment much more accessible though live theatre remains fairly popular by professionals and amateurs despite all the modern alternatives.   Theater is very big in Scarterra. Whether secular or Nonagon sponsored, peasants and princes alike look forward to watching plays.  

Religious Plays

  Most, but not all, of Scarterra's many religious factions have some kind of in-house theatre tradition. Most clergy are literate, and they have more free time to write and rehearse plays than the general population.   Competition between religious factions has pushed Scarterran theatre to new heights as different groups are always trying new ways to appeal to audiences, and anything that catches on gets adopted by different groups.   Whether presented to the public at large, or if it's a private show for a group of nobles, there is a good chance that a play is followed up by a collection plate being passed around for donations. Even then, most religious plays cost more money to produce than they bring in.   The Rovers, Children, Lanterns, and Masks put a lot of effort into producing quality plays. The Testers, Keepers, Guardians don't put a lot of their resources towards producing plays. The Tenders and Stewards tend to fall in between the two extremes.   There are exceptions to the above generality based on individuals. If the highest ranking priest or priestess really likes plays, that temple is going to produce quite a few of them regardless of what their factional tendency is. Reverse it if the ranking priest or priestess dislikes plays.   For the religious organization putting on the play, the real payoff is not monetary, it is the messaging. They want to persuade their audience to adopt their values in their daily lives, or to persuade people to attend their worship services more regularly, or persuade people to send their children to them as recruits.   Most religious groups are happy to put on plays for the upper classes and the lower classes alike. Even supposedly apolitical religious groups realize that swaying the local rulers to their way of thinking is a very good thing, and even the snobbiest and most politically motivated religious factions want to convert the general population to their cause, and not just the elites.   The Testers, Tenders, Rovers, and Children lean towards influencing the general masses and the Keepers, Guardians, and Masks tend to focus on influencing the movers of shakers of society. Not too surprisingly, the Stewards are usually in the middle of the two extremes given that taking the middle ground is sort of what Korus does. The Stewards morality plays often show people succeeding taking the middle path and faltering when taking the extremes.   Most Scarterrans like plays so much that if they have the opportunity, they will watch a religious plays even they don't like the message, simply to enjoy the spectacle. It is noteworthy that the Children are not a very popular group ecclesiastically speaking, but their plays are among the mostly widely attended despite the fact that they are all Tragedies following the same formula. Did the protagonist suffer horribly for neglecting worship of Greymoria? What an unexpected twist!   Why are their tragic morality plays so popular? The Children have a lot of mages among their ranks, so their plays have the most impressive special effects.   On a similar vein, not everyone agrees with the Lantern plays' political messages, but most everyone agrees their plays have the best musical accompaniment .  

Secular Plays

  A majority of Scarterra's plays are sponsored by Nonagons, but not an overwhelming majority, maybe three out of five.   Secular plays are generally not performed at all if the playwrights and actors do not expect to make money, though they don't have to make a lot of money. Just like in the real world, Scarterra has many artists who are genuinely passionate about their craft and they would not want to hold another profession. More than a few actors or even whole acting troupes are barely making enough coin to survive.   Sometimes acting troupes will throw free shows, but then pass around a hat for donations. More often, admission is charged, though not a lot. Admission is often as low two people for a copper piece. Then they will still pass a hat around for tips.   Many lords and ladies eventually get tired of watching religiously biased morality plays just want to watch something entertaining, so they will commission acting troupes to put on private shows for them. For the most lavish feasts that last all day, it is commonly expected for proper hosts to provide entertainment and many such events will feature plays between or during the serving of courses.   Lords and ladies will often hire secular acting troupes to put on shows for the common people, so the commoners can watch shows for free or at steeply discounted rates. These plays are usually about patriotic things such as biased retellings of historical events in the nation. The actors always remind the audience how generous their lord or lady is for sponsoring them, and they will praise their sponsor often. It is very common that these plays are about great kings and queens of old and they will frequently make favorable comparisons to the current king and queen because the actors know which side of the bread their butter is on.   Not every secular play with a noble sponsor is a pure propaganda ploy. Some lords and ladies genuinely just want to bring joy into the lives of their subjects. Also, whether they admit or not, some lords and ladies secretly like low brow comedies and dramas and playing up a "Man of the People" gives them an excuse to watch these plays proving that not all people playing a role are on the stage.

History

Theatric traditions in Scarterra go way back.   Even the ancient dragons of the First Age enjoyed plays. A decent portion of the few written records that survived two Unmakings were plays. Some of them were to glorify the Nine, and more than a few of them were to glorify individual dragon rulers or nations.   Dragons staged many plays but they rarely constructed theatre buildings. Dragons have very good senses, so they can clearly hear and see things from great distances. Most draconic plays were in the sky with both the performers and audience flying in slow holding patterns.   In later eras, some humanoid thespians have tried to recreate ancient draconic plays or modern plays inspired by the ancient draconic works where the performers and and/or audience moved in slow circles, creating a uniquely Scarterran theatre style called Circular Plays. Circular plays are fairly unpopular with general audiences but they are something professional thespians still love to do for the challenge.   Dragons rarely built scenery or props, Most adult dragons sorcery, so most ancient dragon thespians used illusion magic to create scenery and props.   In the Second Age, elves continued to enjoy the theatre, and with far fewer of them being able to fly and cast illusion spells, they built more theatre buildings and props. Outdoor, open air amphitheaters were the norm for public theatres, often with the seats built into natural or artificial hills.   These amphitheaters are more difficult to knock down than houses and fortifications, so a lot of amphitheaters survived the Second Unmaking, and more than a few Third Age copied elven theatre architecture styles.   Modern humans and gnomes seem to like theatre more than the elves and dragons of yesteryear ever did. The Feudal Era of Scarterra has a huge variety of theatrical productions both secular and religious.

Execution

Many major holy days and festivals have morality plays built in as part of the festivities. Some secular holidays likewise are assumed to include secular plays, and attendees will be surprised and disappointed to not see plays.   Most of the time, plays are put where and when opportunity depending on when actors are available and when audience members are able to take time off of their day jobs.

Components and tools

Typically, secular and religious plays occur in the same locations, if a nearby location has good viewing and acoustics, why not use it as much as possible?   Even small villages will often construct a simple amphitheater for their own use. Larger cities with rulers that really love the performing arts might build elaborate theatre complexes or even coliseums. Often the best theatre venues are also used for sporting events, debates, patriotic rallies, music concerts, market days, and more. Waste not, want not.   Especially for small groups, acting troupes often have to make due with simple empty field as their stage or cram inside the corner of crowded inn or castle dining hall.   Costumes, scenery and props vary widely in style and design due to personal and regional tastes and also what the expense budget of the performers looks like.   Those that can, will use magic to spruce up their visual effects.

Participants

Most temples have a one or more priests and priestesses that really have a love of and knack for acting. That said, most religious groups don't have the numbers to maintain full in-house acting troupes. so they have to bring outside talent. Religious plays with large casts are probably mostly performed by parishioners not clergy. The parishioners may view this as religious duty or simply something fun to do or both. For their part, the clergy like that they generally don't have to pay their volunteer amateur actors.   In addition to amateur actors in religious plays, a lot of villages and towns will have amateur actors put on simple plays for their neighbors or their lords.   Professional acting troupes often have recruiters that will travel around and watch amateurs performing plays and if one seems to have "the chops", the acting troupe may invite them to join their acting troupe as a junior member.   The line between secular actor and religious actress is often very blurry.   Most professional acting troupes perform mostly secular plays, but temples with the discretionary funds to do so will often hire individual professional actors or whole acting troupes to add panache to their morality plays. Some thespian clergy will moonlight as secular actors (if that is allowed within the rules of their order anyway).   In real world Earth, there was a lot of all male or all female performance troupes throughout certain periods of history. In Scarterra this is rare, most amateur and professional acting troupes are unisex.   Third Age thespian traditions loosely follow Second Age thespian traditions which loosely follow First Age thespian traditions. Both the First Age dragons and the Second Age elves were fairly egalitarian with regards to what vocational roles men and women could partake in with both actors and actresses being very common.

Variations in Theater

  Are plays super serious where the audience sits in respectful silence or does the audience constantly hoot and holler at the performers? The answer is both, neither, it all depends.   Scarterra has dozens of different nations and ethnicities and hundreds of different organizations that might produce a play or watch a play and these groups all want different things. There are also differing play genres.   I can even make up if I want to talk about theater or theatre within this single article.     In the real world, a classical Japanese Kabuki play is going to have a different set of expected decorum than Sesame Street Live performance is.   It varies depending on the genre of the play being given and local cultural factors among the group producing a play and the group watching it. I'll cover these situations as I get in the weeds and eventually create future articles about very specific plays such as perhaps Greymoria Tragedy plays or Draconic Circular Plays or Maylar Improvisational Troupes.

Inspiration

  I took two, that's right two history of theatre electives in college, an improv class, and two politics of film classes, so therefore I am an expert on all things theatre!   Really I took enough to get an idea just how widespread and varied live theatre was and is around the world and different eras.   Admittedly my background in the history of theatre is very Western biased. For Scarterra, I was inspired by the fact that a lot of medieval European plays were morality plays sponsored by the Church and a lot of surviving ancient Greek plays were directly or indirectly dedicated to the Olympian gods and many of them were morality plays of sorts, but even religious inspired plays of yesteryear were considered entertaining.   My core assumption, is that Scarterran religious factions use theatrical productions as a means of trying to win hearts and minds of worshipers.   Scarterra has nine different gods, that, whether they admit or not, are in competition for worshipers. Since each of the Nine has a different interpretation on how to worship them "correctly" that, whether they admit or not, are in competition for worshipers. There are also different polytheist organizations.

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