The word theater means a “place for seeing,” but theater is more than just a building where plays are performed. It’s the whole idea behind what happens there. Theater is where playwrights write scripts, directors supervise rehearsals, set designers and technical crew work behind-the-scenes, and the actors perform on stage. All of these people have an important role in the theater, but it is not true theater until an audience is there to experience it.
Exactly when theater began is a mystery. Prehistoric hunters acted out stories about their hunting expeditions. Ancient Egyptians performed sacred songs and danced for their gods in religious ceremonies, but the idea of theater as dramatic entertainment came later. Use the time line above to learn about some of the important periods and events in theater history.