Multimedia theatre before the digital age | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2044-3714
  • E-ISSN: 2044-3722



In this article I intend to provide a short overview of the historically rich interrelationship between theatre and multimedia, up to the present time where a set of similar practical and theoretical questions has reappeared following the influence of digital multimedia on contemporary performing practice. My aim is to trace the roots of multimedia theatre. I will argue that the most important and vital feature of theatre is its ability to absorb all other media, in other words, its totality and multimediality. I will explore the role of the projected moving image used in theatre projects from the invention of cinema to the film-theatre of Josef Svoboda. I will also provide a short historical overview of the development of the concept of ‘total theatre’ and in particular, analyse the role of the projected image in this context.

I will first address the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk – ‘total Artwork’ and Wagner’s understanding of theatre (opera) as total art. Subsequently, I will analyse what influence the invention of film had on the theatre, discussing various approaches to the application of the moving image to the theatre from the first part of the twentieth century, which seems to have been ‘reinvented’ in contemporary multimedia theatre. My examples are drawn from the work of the film pioneer Georges Méliès; the German theatre maker Erwin Piscator; Bauhaus artists Oskar Schlemmer, Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, and Frederic Kiesler; and the Czech film-theatre of Josef Svoboda.


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