- The first use of a box set is difficult to pinpoint, but the Mannheim Court Theatre may have employed something like a box set as early as 1804. This practice of enclosing the action of a play in a three-walled room (with the invisible fourth wall separating the play from the audience) was largely a European convention, which slowly gained favor when Madame Vestris famously employed it in 1832 and later in a staging of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance in 1842. With the rise of realism, the use of the box set became commonplace, although at first shifting scenes was more difficult than with the old system of painted wings and backdrops. In the United States, box sets were seen frequently in David Belasco's works and those of producers who prized greater realism. When the postrealistic New Stagecraft emerged in Europe after 1900 and powerfully influenced American scene design, new techniques were explored, but by then the box set had become a standard stage setting for professional and amateur theatres in America.See also scenery.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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