Segments in this Video

Parisian Tennis Court Theater (03:11)


Killigrew and Davenant observe Parisian tennis court theaters. They bring the idea home to England. Both standing and seated pits offer legitimate viewing access to the raised stage.

Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater (05:26)

Killigrew opens his tennis court conversion theater in 1660. Davenant opens Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater in 1661. Davenant establishes basic shape and structure of theater for the next 150 years.

Christopher Wren's Theater Royal (02:34)

Samuel Pepys visits Davenant's playhouse and records his experiences. Christopher Wren's playhouse is considerably wider than those of either Killigrew or Davenant.

Wren's Theater Design (04:30)

An early eighteenth century autobiography reveals some details about the theater's design. Further evidence comes from an illustration from 1791 that depicts the stage and boxes.

Wren's Drury Lane Playhouse (02:01)

Shepherd's Covent Garden Playhouse shows clear influences of Drury Lane. The Drury Lane interior boasts an innovative ceiling design. Wren's design proves to be elegant in its simplicity.

Duke's Theater at Dorset Garden (03:33)

Lady Mary Davenant hires an unknown architect to design a playhouse for her company of players. The new ornate theater, the Duke's Theater at Dorset Garden, opens in November of 1671.

Suitability of The Duke's Theater (02:26)

The Duke's Theater is suited for lavish, operatic spectacles. The theater, however, is not suitable for the kind of probing, social comedies of the Restoration period. It is demolished in 1709.

Inigo Jones (04:58)

Inigo Jones is committed to a circular shape in theater architecture that binds together stage and auditorium. Killigrew orders extensive rebuilding to remedy some of the glaring flaws of his theater.

Queen's Theater at Haymarket (04:57)

Sir John Vanbrugh's opera house comes to be known as the Queen's Theater at Haymarket. Architectural flaws in playhouses prevent many people from properly hearing or seeing the actors.

Alterations to the Queen's Theater (02:15)

The object of alterations to the Queen's Theater remedies the acoustic defect, improves the sight line, and increases audience capacity.

Wren's Architectural Legacy (03:44)

Wren's Theater Royal Drury Lane remains the preferred model for theaters in London and in Europe. Bristol's Theater Royal still retains some of the original design characteristics.

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The Restoration Theater: From Tennis Court to Playhouse

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



During the English Civil War, London’s theaters were closed by Parliament, and many were destroyed by Cromwell. During the Restoration, new playhouses, built to stage the probing social comedies of the era, were shaped by changes in English drama, politics, and society. We learn how the Parisian tennis court theaters, attended by the court in exile of Charles II, influenced the new London theaters, particularly Christopher Wren’s Theatre Royal. Other Restoration design solutions, some baroque and some neoclassical, were responses to changes in British drama and society. Advanced computer graphics illustrate important theater features throughout the documentary. The program shows how Wren’s work influenced Georgian playhouses and is once again inspiring modern theater design. (45 minutes)

Length: 47 minutes

Item#: BVL6546

ISBN: 978-0-7365-7828-8

Copyright date: ©1996

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Highly recommended by MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship.

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.