The theatre as we know it took a long time to develop. The idea of drama itself had its beginnings in religion.
The chinese first performed drama-like dances in their temples. Later a playhouse was used. It was just a platform without curtains or changes of lights that had a roof decorated like the roof of a temple.
The Japanese also developed a form of theatre in ancient times. One type of drama was called No, and a popular form of drama was called Kabuki. They were performed on a platform with a temple roof.
In ancient india, dramatic performances were given on specially built raised platforms, with draperies as background.
The ancient greeks developed a very great form of drama. The audience was seated on a hillside. The action of the play took place in a grassy circle. There was a building called the skene, which was used for the entrances of the actors, for dressing, and for scenic background.
During the middle ages, the Christian church condemned all forms of drama, but later religious drama became an important part of church life. Priests in the middle ages acted out bible stories as part of the church services.
During the reign of Elizabeth I, the theatre in England took a great step forward. In 1576 an actor, James Burbage, built the first playhouse. It was known simply as the theatre and was patterned after the stages that used to be set up in inn courtyards.
Soon other theatres were built, and these included the globe, where many of shakespeare’s plays were performed; the red bull; and the blackfriars. The audience stood in the pit, in front or around the sides of the stages, or were seated in boxes around and above the stage. Our modern theatre had its beginnings with these early English theatres.