Westminster play

Definition

Theater

  • A play presented in Latin by the 'Scholars in College' at WestminsterSchool in London. Britain's only surviving school drama,the Westminster play has been staged since 1560 with two short breaksduring the Civil War and World War II. In the 18th and 19th centuriesthe play was noted for its topical prologues and epilogues; the formerbecame an annual review of school news while the latter satirizedcontemporary events.

    The tradition was begun by the headmaster Dr Alexander Nowell(1507 - 1602) and reaffirmed by Queen Elizabeth I, who attendedperformances, of Plautus's Miles Gloriosus in 1564 and theanonymous Sapientia Salomonis two years later. The works normallycome from the plays of Plautus, Terence, or other classic authors.The most famous performer was Barton booth (1681 - 1733), whoattended the school from 1689 to 1698 and appeared in a cycle of playsby Terence, later becoming a leading tragedian.

    The Westminster play was performed in the New Dormitory inLittle Dean's Yard until this was damaged by bombs in World War II;the performances moved into the open air in 1954, and are now givenbiennially in contemporary dress.

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