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Between the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the sixteenth century, dramatic performances, provided by itinerant entertainers, took place in found spaces such as halls, inn yards, fields, and town squares. In liturgical drama, representations of biblical narratives moved out of the church into public spaces.
The Renaissance saw the introduction of the indoor theater, at first in temporary makeshift structures and later in permanent independent buildings. Italian architects studied Vitruvius and examined the remains of ancient theaters. The proscenium arch theater became the dominant model for later centuries. Theaters developed spectacular scenic effects, appealing to the senses and emphasizing perspectival vistas. From being a largely improvised and participatory experience, drama in the theater evolved into a fixed product in a fixed space, with the world of the play clearly demarcated from the audience.
At the same time, Renaissance theater in the public sphere stayed close to its popular base and drew on older traditions of stagecraft. The magnificent architecture and ingenious effects of Renaissance theater draw attention to themselves, in a striking parallel to metaphors in dramatic texts, which frequently comment on the illusory nature of the theatrical experience, and notions of reality and illusion more generally.
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