1. World Theatre Day was initiated in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI).
2. The word ‘thespian’ comes from the first person to have taken the stage in Ancient Greece, Thespis.
3. Repertory theatre came about during the World Wars, as an initiative sponsored by rich theatrical benefactors introducing audiences to a wide variety of theatre at a price they could afford. These sponsors also sought to support local writers and help train young regional actors. Some ‘rep’ companies took over existing theatres, with assistance from their sponsors.
4. The oldest and most haunted theatre in London is Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which currently hosts Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Man in Grey wears an 18th Century hat, wig and cloak and is seen in the fourth row of the Upper Circle between the hours of ten and six. When the theatre was being refurbished in the 1840s, a cavity was found that contained a skeleton with a knife in its chest.
5. The Ghost Light – A light, often a bare bulb, is still left on the stage of many theatres so it is never completely dark.
In the early nineteenth century theatres were lit by gas. There were hundreds of theatre fires before London’s Savoy Theatre becoming the first to be electrically lit in 1881. Leaving a flame burning overnight would prevent pressure building up in the gas lines and a subsequent explosion.
It also gives the theatre’s ghosts a light to perform by so they don’t curse the production.
6. The first woman to appear in a Shakespeare play was in 1660, 44 years after Shakespeare’s death. It was previously illegal in England for a woman to act on stage.
7. The first major use of revolving stages began in Japan in the 1750s, and is currently most notably used in Les Misérables, with 63 rotations per performance.
8. The word theatre comes from an ancient Greek word meaning a ‘place for seeing.’
9. The old superstition of no whistling on stage comes from the time when theatres used to hire sailors as stagehands and riggers, and cues were called using whistling commands. Whistling a happy tune backstage could be an accidental call cue causing an accident or early curtain call!
10. One of the most unusual theatres in the world is The Seebühne (floating stage) in Austria. Featured in a few scenes in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the theatre is the location for musical and opera performances on the shores of Lake Constance.
Header image: © Bregenzer Festspiele/Karl Forster
Minack Theatre image: © VisitCornwall.com