- Plays or exhibitions that are designed primarily to arousesexual excitement. Erotica has been an element of the theatrical traditionsince earliest times. In ancient Greece an association between comedyand sexual licence carried over from the rites of Dionysus.The Roman mime often combined scenes of nudity and simulatedsex with real on-stage violence.
In Europe graphic depictions of sexual acts were mainly confinedto brothels until the later 20th century. The first pornographic theaterwas opened in Paris in 1741 by a madame named Lacroix. In the samecity the Theatron Erotikon presented pornographic puppet shows from1862 onwards. In Britain, erotic plays were written to be read ratherthan acted (though one 1879 work was humorously advertised as havingbeen produced at the Theatre Royal Olimprick).
The sexual liberation of the 1960s and the easing of stagecensorship in most Western countries brought a new sexual explicitnessto the legitimate stage. Kenneth Tynan's 1969 hit Oh,Calcutta! included group nudity and simulated sex acts, whileLennox Raphael's Che! (1969) featured a naked Uncle Sam practisingoral sex and sodomy (before the show was closed and the cast arrested).A scene of simulated buggery in Howard Brenton's The Romans inBritain (1980) provoked a private prosecution (subsequently withdrawn).When the revue Porno-Erotico was presented in 1974 in Cantanzaro,Italy, the cast was tipped off that the public prosecutor had theirproduction targeted. Accordingly the actors confined themselves tosinging Neapolitan love songs and juggling oranges. The disappointedaudience of some 500 businessmen rioted and ripped up the theater'sseats. The police arrived with smoke bombs and machine-guns but tookfour hours to subdue the barricaded theatregoers. see also nudity;striptease.