School Theater

School Theater


a form of theater that originated in the educational establishments of Western Europe in the Middle Ages as a means of general upbringing and of studying Latin. The school theater was subsequently used to strengthen Catholicism and Protestantism. The plays were eventually performed in the vernacular. School dramas resembled mystery, miracle, or morality plays or plays on historical and mythological themes.

The school theater existed in many countries in Western Europe from the 15th to 18th centuries and in Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries. It had its own basic theoretical principles and rules carefully developed by such humanist writers as G. Pontano in Italy, J. C. Scaliger in France, and the scholar and poet Feofan Prokopovich in Russia.

Because Polish Jesuits encouraged school drama in the 16th and 17th centuries, the art became highly developed in Poland and from there spread to the Ukraine. Many school dramas were written at the Kiev Mogila Academy. The founder of school theater in Rus’ was Simeon Polotskii. While outlining a project for establishing a religious academy in Moscow, Polotskii wrote of the need to organize a theater at the academy. He also wrote for the theater the plays A Comedy Parable About the Prodigal Son and King Nebuchadnezzar. Under Peter I, the school theater stressed political themes, glorifying the new undertakings of the government; a typical example is Feofan Prokopovich’s Vladimir . . . (staged 1705).

Presentations of school theater were given in educational establishments and in squares during festivals; between the acts interludes were performed, mainly comic scenes from everyday life.


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vols. 1–2. Edited by S. Mokul’skii. Moscow, 1956–57.
Vsevolodskii-Gerngross, V. Russkii teatr: Ot istokov do serediny XVIII v. Moscow, 1957.
Badalich, I. M., and V. D. Kuz’mina, Pamiatniki russkoi shkol’noi dramy XVIII v. Moscow, 1968.
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