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What Does Theatre Do?: A Brief History of Dramaturgies

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James McKinnon

on 2 March 2016

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Transcript of What Does Theatre Do?: A Brief History of Dramaturgies

What Does Theatre Do?
What's the
purpose
of theatre?
Critical/Political
If you want people to become activists, should you let them sit quietly in the dark?
Ritual/Religious
This kind of theatre deals with
idealism
, not realism.
Didactic
If theatre provides education, how should it correspond to reality?
Aristotle (Ancient Athens)
"Theatre is a
ritual
affirmation of the community. It reminds us of who we are and what it means to be Athenian."
Horace (Classical Rome)
"Theatre uses
beauty
and
pleasure
to facilitate education.

Its purpose is to
please
-- in order to
instruct
. Representations of
IDEAL
virtue and vice on stage appeal to our sense of
reason
."
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (ca. 1767)
"The purpose of theatre is to
educate
the heart AND the mind. If we
feel
for the characters, then we will learn more.

Theatre can also project and develop a sense of
national and cultural unity
."
Tokugawa Ieyasu
"Theatre is a cesspool of
corruption
and idleness... however, it keeps those people entertained who would otherwise be causing real harm and disorder."
Victor Hugo (ca. 1827)
"The purpose of theatre is to reveal the incomprehensible majesty of all creation, with all the ugly parts.

We can only fully appreciate the
sublime
when it is in contrast with the grotesque!"
Emile Zola (1880)
"Theatre should investigate social problems in order that we can solve them.

Therefore it must
represent reality as it really is
, not an idealized version of it."
Readings for next week:
Beckett,
Waiting for Godot
;
Esslin; "Theatre of the Absurd"

"It also maintains our spiritual, moral, and physical well-being through
katharsis
."
F. T. Marinetti (1915)
"Theatre should
incite
immediate,
violent rebellion
against the status quo!"
"It's stupid to write one hundred pages where one would do."
"It's stupid to worry about verisimilitude."
Bertolt Brecht (ca. 1930)
"The purpose of theatre is to make people think
critical
ly, challenge authority, and aware of how capitalism makes us blind to injustice and oppression."
"It does this by
breaking
the aesthetic
rules
of bourgeois theatre in order to
shock
spectators into awareness."
Different
purpose
=

different
form
.

(Japanese Shogun ca. 1584)
Romantic
Classical
Modern
Aesthetic
A brief history of dramaturgies...
1.
Read
/watch the play & the essay.
2.
Draft
a 300 word response to this question before your first seminar:
3.
Post
response in CRJ on Blackboard -- or email to tutor in Blackboard is not working -- before your first seminar.
"The Theatre of the Absurd tends toward a
radical devaluation of language
, toward a poetry that is to emerge from the the concrete ... images of the stage itself. Language still plays an important part in this conception, but what
happens
on stage transcends and often contradicts the
words
spoken by the characters."
-- Esslin (1961)
Investigate and illustrate what Esslin means here
using a specific example from
Waiting for Godot
. (Cite
video
evidence too, if useful/necessary!) How does the
dramaturgy of the Absurd
(described by Esslin, practiced by Beckett) represent a departure from the dramaturgies discussed in this lecture?
What does theatre do
(or not do) according to the dramaturgical logic of
Waiting for Godot
?
"Also: guess what I have in my hand?
Awww, come on!"
Full transcript