In 1210, the Early Christians deemed plays in the public as “brutal and stupid" forms of entertainment. The plays that were performed during this time were miracle, mystery and morality plays that were among one of the earliest forms of plays in Europe. These plays were first performed at church masses and then developed into theatrical performances among the whole community. This is to say that stages began being set up outside to involve more onlookers. Temporary stages and stands were built and people were expected to just stand or sit on the limited number of seats surrounding the movable or fixed stage. It is also important to acknowledge that many nobles contributed money towards the construction of such stages.
This is a layout picture of a typical Medieval Theatre Stage design before they resorted to movable structures out in the open:
For example, Everyman was an English Morality play performed on a similar stage as to the one above. Medieval performances outside of the Church became extremely popular with the use of flying techniques, trap doors and fire.
During the Medieval Times, many people were able to experience the thrill and joy of watching a theatrical performance almost anywhere they went. This was due to the stages being set up all throughout streets, private halls, market places and churchyards instead of in an actual theatre.
Two Major Types of Stages:
The physical stage was called a mansion, a small scenic structure which served as different locations and scene changes for during the plays. For example, Heaven and Hell were determined by opposite ends of the mansions. The platea was the acting area that was positioned adjacent to the mansion. In addition, machinery was used in lowering or lifting actors on stage. The mansions were very difficult to maneuver, however, they were stronger and safer for the actors. These constructions were made possible by many nobles whose names were not recorded, thus they are not acknowledged today.
"Pageant" being the physical stage and "Wagons" being the movable factor of the stage. Archdeacon David Rogers claimed that pageant wagons were over 12 feet tall - not only were they tall, they could hold several actors within its platform. The pageant wagons were built so that people could walk by in the market or at festivals and admire the plays so they were often positioned in and among masses of people. In addition, they were decorated with drapes and the props used on stage were limited to chairs and tables. Unlike fixed mansion, pageant wagons were not positioned together in large quantities so actors had to try to hide themselves when it was not there scene.
An example of a pageant wagon
(Follow this link to read a historic report on AS Associated Content News Website. It also depicts the two different types of stages if you would like to read more about it.)
The decline of the Medieval Theatre was bought about by affect classical learning had on the stages and playwrights. The social structure began to change as the government became more dominant again, even though the Church still influenced many people. At the end of the 16th Century, Medieval plays lost its popularity among the public.