Theatrical Effects: Devices

Deus Ex Machina:

Stage machinery, devices designed for the production of theatrical effects, such as rapid scene changes, lighting, sound effects, and illusions of the supernatural or magical.
Theatrical machinery has been in use since at least the 5th century BC, when the Greeks developed Deus Ex Machina, by which an actor could be lowered to the stage.

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In Deus Ex Machina, a person or thing that appears or is introduced into a situation suddenly and unexpectedly and provides an artificial or contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.
The term was first used in ancient Greek and Roman drama, where it meant the timely appearance of a God to unravel and resolve the plot. TheDeus Ex Machina was named for the convention of the God’s appearing in the sky, an effect achieved by means of a crane (Mēchanē). The dramatic device dates from the 5th century BC; a God appears in Sophocles’ Philoctetes and in most of the plays of Euripides to solve a crisis by divine intervention.

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Periaktoi:

A Periaktoi is an ancient Greek theater device used on stage during performances. It is usually a three sided triangular device that has a different scene on each side of the device and rotates for quick and easy change between scenes. If many Periaktoi are lined in a row it appears as a wall of scenery that can easily be switched to the next wall of scenery.

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Ekkyklema:

A Ekkyklema is an ancient Greek theatre device used on stage during performances. It was a device on wheels that was rolled out, literally a cart, that showed a changing in scenes. Due to the fact that they weren’t allowed to show violent or gory acts on stage the ancient Greeks would paint the scenarios on these carts to show the audience. Because of this the Greeks would paint the outcome of a battle or event on the Ekkyklema to show the audience what has occurred

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Theologeion:

The theologeion was another device used by the ancient Greeks during theatre performances. A theologeion was a raised platform on stage from which the gods spoke from. When the word is broken down theo means “God” and logeion means “word.” A theologeion could have also been a high upper stage or balcony.

Traps

Trap, in theater, a concealed opening, usually in the stage floor, through which actors, props, and scenery can be brought on and off stage. Traps are used, often with elaborate and ingenious machinery, to create a great variety of stage effects, particularly the sudden appearance, disappearance, or apparent transformation of characters or objects on the stage.

Star Trap:

When a sudden, mysterious appearance is required, a star trap is used. The star trap is a circular opening with a lid composed of wedge-shaped sections, individually hinged to the circumference. An actor, standing below on a heavily counter weighted platform, can be projected through the opening with great speed. The sections of the lid are pushed up as he passes and immediately fall back into place, thus concealing his point of entrance.

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Grave Trap:

Another common trap with a long history is the grave trap, a large, rectangular opening in the center of the stage floor. It is named for its most famous use, as an open grave in the graveyard scene from Hamlet. Most traps and their mechanisms are designed so that they can be taken apart and moved to any point in the stage floor where they are required or can be stored when not in use.

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Trapdoors were built in the floor of the stage (called Hell) and in the stage ceiling (the Heavens). The area beneath the stage was easily big enough to hold both actors and props. Some props or special effects could therefore be ‘entranced’ or ‘exited’ via the trap doors. Actors could appear or disappear via the stage trapdoors. The false ceiling was also designed with trap doors. Through the ceiling trap doors actors, attached by a harness with wires or ropes, could make flying entrances on to the stage and props could be lowered on to the stage. And could be shown as Gods or angels. The effect of this on the audience must have been very exciting, leaving a lasting and dramatic impact.

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