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History of Fire/Pyrotechnics in Theatre

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Courtney Tambasco

on 18 February 2014

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Transcript of History of Fire/Pyrotechnics in Theatre

Origin of Pyrotechny
-Innovation of the 'Renaissance'
History of Fire/Pyrotechnics in Theatre
The Squib
-One of the most pervasive and popular pyrotechnical devices
"Gunners" and Fireworks
-Between the 15th and the 17th century, gunners succeeded in turning a variety of sacred, urban, and courtly spaces into temporary stages for a great variety of dramatic fiery effects.
Early 1600's Development of "Serpents
-Packed into the the head of a rocket (like stars)
-Courts and church displays (at least the 15th century)
-Live flame as last resort
Introduction to Pyrotechny in European Theatre
-Integrated into theatre performances in the Medieval Era
-Gunpowder: traces back to 9th century China
-Fireworks for 1) war and 2) public performance
-"Feurwerk zu Ernst und Schimfe" by Franz Helm (war & peace)
-1st written description:
In the west, 1379
-Earliest effects rose in within church performances of mystery plays
-Fireworks were used to reify powers of supernatural (demonic and devine)
-Produced a quick, bright burst of flame with an unpredictable path of motion
-Found on stage throughout the early-modern period
-A squib consists of a small tube that is filled with an explosive substance and a detonator running through the length of the core.
-Used to imitate natural and supernatural effects (pyrotechnics usually were used to represent the devil in early-modern performance)
-Wide array of emotional reactions from the viewers (surprise, uncertainty, fear, excitement, distaste)
-Let off an unpleasant odor
-Gunners brought together the explosive power of military weapons with scenic imitations of the heavens and meteors
-"Falling Stars" : 16th century, stars would be shot from rockets that would "cast forth flames of fire, coming towards the ground like stars falling from heaven"
The "Star's Recipe"
-12 parts of Saltpeeter (potassium nitrate) refined
-9 parts Citrine Brimstone
-5 parts Gunpowder
-mingle together in your hands
This was packed into a ball and wound tightly with a pack thread. It was given a fuse and placed in the head of a rocket. When the rocket exploded, the "stars" would stream down in the air. This was the first kind of firework invented exclusively for festive use.
-Many other imitations of the atmosphere were made by gunners, including "torches", "shooting stars", "burning candles", "burning spears", "globes", "lamps", "fire scattered in the air", "comets/blazing stars"
-Erratic Trajectories, like the movement of a snake
-About the size of a pinky finger
-Paper rolled several times around a 1/4 inch mold
1/2 star recipe, 1/2 gunpowder
-Contributed to the development of "self moving" pyro that imitated insects, lizards, frogs, and other creatures
-Pride in recipe, configuration, trajectory
-Great monsters in battle with other creatures, or "flying dragons" (sail through air w/ exploding sparks)
Achieved in two ways
1.) Every dragon were either banner or sails on a wooden frame or kite, flown in the air containing a burning pyrotechnic mixture
2.) "Runners on a line" - Dragon figures propelled by rockets in their interior to run back and forth across a town square or between two turrets
-Less common to have someone in charge of safety
-Lead to development of fireproof scenery/costumes
-"Test firing" was used to test which combinations of ingredients, attachments, vents would cause unpredictable pyro technologies
-Outdoor pyro was much ore dangerous than indoor pyro
Full transcript