Theatre is Banned

Day 1: Theatre is banned.



Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of why the Catholic Church banned theatre through discussion.



What do you think of when you hear “Medieval?” (possible answers may include castles, Renaissance Fairs, Medieval Times restaurant, knights, princesses, etc.)

  • What about if I say Medieval theatre? Anything?


Materials Needed:

Two different colored stacks of sticky notes



It isn’t surprising that we don’t think about theatre when we think Medieval. Here’s a little background as to why:

  • Roman empire falls. No longer is the majority of the known world ruled by one emperor. The political structure is gone and the only thing left is the Catholic Church.
  • Theatre is now gone – the Catholic Church says it’s not okay. Even though I don’t agree with that judgment of theatre, I can’t help but understand why they felt this way that that time – remember what Roman theatre was like? (bloody, violent, basically horrifying) and so that’s what the Catholic Church is not okay.


Connecting Activity:

Theatre is immoral – sticky notes of agreeing and disagreeing

  • Banning theatre sounds like something we would hate, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, there are some aspects of theatre that could be viewed as immoral.
    • Pass out two different colored sticky notes to each student and tell them to write an argument for theatre being immoral on one color and an argument against theatre being immoral on the other color. When you’re finished, come stick them up on the white board.
      • Give an example: Agree: actors are technically professional liars. Disagree: everyone agrees to be lied to by coming into the theatre
    • Possible answers: Agree
      • Theatre is inherently controversial
      • Emotional recall is dangerous and can be unhealthy
      • Actors are technically professional liars
      • You are on display for an audience
    • Disagree
      • Theatre can also tell stories that help people
      • There are other techniques other than emotional recall that are healthy and can actually help us figure out how to healthily express our emotions
      • Can teach proper behavior
      • Not on display in a gross manner – just like a politician



Split the class in half and give one half the agrees and one half the disagrees (if the class is larger, you can split into more groups as needed). Tell them to read through the arguments and to put the most convincing arguments together – the strongest arguments. Shoot for around 5 arguments. If you have more than that, choose the best of the best.

  • Give the students 10 minutes to read and decide
  • After the 10 minutes are up, bring them all back together and have them read out their arguments alternating each time: agree, disagree, agree, disagree, etc.
  • After all arguments have been read, allow the groups to give their own follow-up arguments
    • Now, what do you really think?
    • (Most likely, the majority of the students, if not all of the students, will think that theatre is worthwhile and not totally immoral.) The Catholic church eventually agreed with you – they realized theatre can seem immoral, but it can also teach and inspire and be beautiful. So even though they were the ones who got rid of it, they brought it back.
      • Before next time, think about why you think theatre is worthwhile. Why are you here?
    • The Catholic church says no to theatre
    • THEN, they realize that maybe this is something they can use since mass is in a language the common people don’t understand (Latin) and they don’t have the translated bible yet. So how do we actually tell the people what they should and should not do? Morality plays!
    • Also cycle plays that tell stories from the bible