Devices designed for the production of theatrical effects, including rapid scene changes, lighting, sound effects, and illusions. Such devices have been in use since the 5th century BCE, when the Greeks developed a crane to lower to the stage an actor playing a god (see deus ex machina), as well as movable scenery mounted on wheels. Medieval mystery plays used trapdoors to allow the emergence of devils and used flying machines for angels. In the Italian Renaissance, elaborate machinery was used for spectacles produced in the churches on holy days. In the 17th century, the Italian Giacomo Torelli (1608–78) invented a system for moving the stage wings that made it possible to change scenery quickly. In the 19th century, magical illusions were created with mirror devices and refined trapdoors. By the late 20th century, spectacle had fallen out of fashion except in musical theatre, but hydraulic stage machinery allowed for swift and soundless scene changes. See also stagecraft.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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