Directions: Now answer the questions.
1. What does the professor mainly discuss?
A. The history of set design in English theater
B. A French painter’s innovations in set design
C. A kind of play popular in eighteenth-century English theater
D. A leading playwright of the eighteenth century
2. According to the professor, how did Loutherbourg create a feeling of greater depth on the stage? Choose 2 answers.
A. He enlarged the stage area.
B. He used mainly dark colors in the painted backgrounds.
C. He carefully spaced separate pieces of scenery.
D. He used three-dimensional objects in his sets.
3. What can be inferred about theatergoers in late eighteenth-century England?
A. They did not accept Loutherbourg’s set designs at first.
B. They were accustomed to sitting in dark theaters.
C. Most of them attended the theater mainly to see popular actors.
D. Some of them used the theater as a substitute for travel.
4. What is the professor’s opinion about the relationship between English landscape painters and Loutherbourg?
A. He thinks English landscape painters were unfair in their criticism of Loutherbourg’s work.
B. He thinks Loutherbourg’s relationship with English landscape painters was less important than most experts think.
C. He thinks Loutherbourg and the English landscape painters probably influenced each other.
D. He thinks English landscape painters helped Loutherbourg’s work gain in popularity.
5. What are two notable features of the Eidophusikon? Choose 2 answers.
A. It was identical to the Drury Lane Theatre.
B. It did not make use of actors.
C. It used paintings made by Gainsborough.
D. It had a small stage.
6. Why does the professor mention a storm that passed over Loutherbourg’s home?
A. To demonstrate the authenticity of Loutherbourg’s sound effects
B. To provide context in a discussion about lighting effects
C. To mention one of the problems the Eidophusikon faced
D. To explain how Loutherbourg got an idea for a theater set
Listen to part of a lecture in a theater class.
As we have seen, the second half of the eighteenth century was an exciting time in Europe. It was not only an age of great invention, but social changes also led to a rise in all sorts of entertainment, from reading to museums to travel. And finding himself in the middle of this excitement was an accomplished French painter named Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg.
Loutherbourg arrived in England in 1771 and immediately went to work as a set designer at the famous Drury Lane Theatre in London. From his first shows Loutherbourg showed a knack for imagination in stage design, all in the interest of creating illusions that allowed the audience to suspend disbelief completely. He accomplished this by giving the stage a greater feeling of depth, which he did by cutting up some of the rigid background scenery and placing it at various angles and distances from the audience. Another real-istic touch was using three-dimensional objects on the set, like rocks and bushes, as opposed to two-dimensional painted scenery. He also paid much more attention to light-ing and sound than had been done before.
Now, these sets were so elaborate that many people attended the theater more for them than for the actors or the story. At the time people were wild for travel and for experienc-ing new places, but not everyone could afford it. Loutherbourg outdid himself, however, with a show that he set up in his own home. He called it the Eidophusikon.
“Eidophusikon” means something like “representation of nature”—and that’s exactly what he intended to do—create realistic, moving scenes that changed before the audience’s eyes. In this he synthesized all his tricks from Drury Lane, mechanical motion, sound, light, other special effects to create, if you will, an early multi-media production.
The Eidophusikon was Loutherbourg’s attempt to release painting from the constraints of the picture frame. After all, even the most action-filled, exciting painting can represent only one moment in time and any illusion of movement is gone after the first glance. But Loutherbourg, like other contemporary painters, wanted to add the dimension of time to his paintings. You know, the popular thinking is that Loutherbourg was influenced by landscape painting, but why can’t we say that the Eidophusikon actually influenced the painters? At the very least we have to consider that it was more… it was more of a mutual thing … We know, for example, that the important English landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough attended almost all of the early performances, and his later paintings are notable for their increased color and dynamic use of light. Loutherbourg’s influence on the theater, though … he was incredibly influential. The way he brought together design and lighting and sound as a unified feature of the stage can easily be seen in English theater’s subsequent emphasis on lighting and motion.
Now, the Eidophusikon stage was actually a box, a few meters wide, a couple meters tall, and a couple meters deep; that is, the action took place within this box. This was much smaller of course than the usual stage, but it also allowed Loutherbourg to concentrate the lighting to better effect. Also, the audience was in the dark, which wouldn’t be a common feature of the theater until 100 years later. The show consisted of a series of scenes, for example, a view of London from sunrise that changes as the day moves on. Mechanical figures, such as cattle, moved across the scene and ships sailed along the river. But what really got people was the attention to detail, much like his work at Drury Lane. So, for example, he painted very realistic ships and varied their size depending on their distance from the audience. Small boats moved more quickly across the foreground than larger ones did that were closer to the horizon. Other effects, like waves, were also very convincing—they reflected sunlight or moonlight depending on the time of day or night—even the colors changed as they would in nature.
Sound and light were important in making his productions realistic. He used a great num-ber of lamps and he was able to change colors of light by using variously colored pieces of glass to create effects like passing clouds that subtly change in color. Furthermore, he used effects to make patterns of shadow and light rather than using the uniform lighting that was common at the time. And many of the sound effects he pioneered are still in use today, like creating thunder by pulling on one of the corners of a thin copper sheet. One of his most popular scenes was of a storm … And there’s a story that on one occasion an actual storm passed overhead during the show, and some people went outside and they claimed Loutherbourg’s thunder was actually better than the real thunder!