- Between 1880 and 1930, technological advances in theatrical practice were significant. The shift from gas to electrical lighting was, perhaps, the major innovation. Use of electric lighting began in some American theatres as early as the 1880s, while many were built at the turn of the century with both gas and electricity. The catastrophic 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago accelerated the transition to all-electric lighting. Painted flat scenery slowly gave way to three-dimensional and practical units. Improvements in stage machinery made scene-shifting and special effects more efficient, although until the early 20th century a style that might be described as painted realism dominated. Stage effects grew more impressive between 1880 and 1910, as producers of melodramas attempted to draw audiences with spectacular scenes of train wrecks, fires, waterfalls, etc. The New Stagecraft, heralded in Robert Edmond Jones's design for The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife (1915), led to more stylized, skeletal designs depending on sensitive lighting and carefully staged scenes.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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