Spirituality and theatre

Authored by: Edmund B. Lingan

The Routledge International Handbook of Spirituality in Society and the Professions

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138214675
eBook ISBN: 9781315445489
Adobe ISBN:


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Contemporary understandings of “spirituality” as separate from religion have transformed, and continue to transform, how theatre artists, theatre critics, and audience members create, define, and understand theatre. Theatre is an old art form, and, from the time that it has existed, it has been closely associated with religion. In fact, the connection between religion and theatre is so persistent and tenacious that some theatre scholars have made the exploration of this relationship the primary focus of their working lives. This relationship was already established when the Greek tragedies were originally performed at the City Dionysia in the 5th century bce as part of a festival honoring the god Dionysus. By the first century ce, theatre became so valued in the Hindu tradition as an instructor of morality that it became the central subject of a “fifth Veda” titled Nātyaśāstra. The deity Brahma is said to have revealed Nātyaśāstra to the scribe, Bharata (Bharata 2000, 86). The relationship between religion and theatre was equally important in the biblical plays that were staged throughout Europe during the medieval ages. In 15th century Japan, the drama depicted stories involving interactions between priests, ghosts, deities, and demons, and the spiritual aspects of these dramas seem to have links to both Buddhism and Shinto. The relationship between religion and theatre is longstanding and global.

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