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Early Modern Theater Movements

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Sandy Joulfayan

on 10 May 2011

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Transcript of Early Modern Theater Movements

Early Modern Theater Movements Producers of Realism: Independent Theatres Realistic Theatre between 1915 and 1945 Realistic Playwrights between the Wars Departures from Realism Antirealist Playwrights: Ibsen, Strindberg, and Wedekind Symbolism Antirealist Designers: Appia and Craig Russian Theatricalism: Meyerhold Early Eclectics Departures from Realism: 1915 and 1945 Expressionism Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism Artaud And Brecht Popular Theater Traditions Totalitarianism, The 2nd WW, and Theater In spite of its substantial impact on our contemporary theater, as well as o film and television ,theatrical realism is often seen as having serious limitations .

Realistic drama excludes a number of effective ,long-standing theatrical devices ,such as music, dance, symbolism, poetry, fantasy, and the supernatural .Some authors argue that theater can never truly be realistic , that the conventions of the art always apparent.
From the outset of realism, there has a strong counter movement of departures from Realism or antirealism. Let us turn our attention to the many artists who between (1875/1945) departed from the realistic traditions: As we noted earlier in this chapter, Ibsen and Strindberg are remembered most for their realistic plays, but late in their careers they moved away from realism.
In plays like "The Master Builder"(1892)and "When We Dead Awaken"(1899), Ibsen adopted many of the tenets of symbolism ,and August Strindberg's later ant realistic dramas, such as "A Dream Play " and "The Ghost Sonata".
As its title indicates , "A Dream Play" evokes the world of dreams. It deals with many of the same concerns as Strindburg's realistic drama-the destructiveness of marriage, materialism, and the class struggle .But as Strindberg says in his explanatory note to" A Dream Play ", these are dramatized in "The disconnected but apparently logical form of a dream .Everything can happen ;everything is possible and likely".
The leading antirealistic movement between 1880 and 1910 was SYMBOLISM. Its major proponents were French. The Symbolists believed that drama should present not day_to_day activities but the mystery of being and the infinite qualities of the human spirit. They called for poetic theater in which symbolic images rather than concrete actions would be the basic means of communicating with the audience.
Symbolists plays often seem to take place in a dream world , and their most important dramatic goals not to tell a story but rather to evoke atmosphere and mood. The symbolists ,unlike the realists ,did not try to create individual characters ; instead ,symbolists characters are figures representative of the human condition.

Vsevold Meyerhold (1874-1940) was the most influential artist who rejected the principles of Stanislavski and the Moscow Art. He frequently experimented with theatricalism; theatricalists like to expose the devices of theatre to make the audience conscious of watching a performance. They always borrowed techniques from the circus, the music hall, and similar entertainments.
Much of what was called avant-garde can be tracked down to him. He was literally the author of his productions and he frequently restructured or rewrote classics. Meyerhold argued for the use of found space and experimented with multimedia in stage productions.
He also attempted to train his performers physically by using techniques of commedia dell’arte, the circus, and vaudeville. He devised an acting system known as biomechanics, which emphasized external, physical training; where the performer’s body would be trained to operate like a machine.
Meyerhold’s sets were known as constructivist settings; they consisted of skeletal frames, ramps, stairways, and platforms.
Adolphe Appia(1862-1928) and Edward Gordon Craig(1872-1966) presented many of the symbolists’ theories visually. Most of their ideas remained in sketches or drawings but they held a great significance for 20th c. scene and design.
They both believed that a setting should suggest a locale but should not reproduce it. They used levels and platforms to design spaces that would be functional for the performer. Moreover, both took full advantage of the introduction of electricity and used light as an integral visual element(atmospheric and contrast).
Appia and Craig influenced many 20th c. American designers; devices such as Craig’s unit set – a single setting that can represent various locales- have been especially important.
Some theater artists in the early 20th c. tried to bridge the gap between realism and antirealism. These practitioners, known as eclectics, argued that each play should define its own form.
Eclectic directos included the Austrian Max Reinhardt and the Russian Yevgeny Vakhtangov.
The popular forms, such as melodramas, comedies and musical plays, as well as vaudeville and variety, flourished during this period in the US as well as throughout Europe. Producing organizations in the United States:
The Little Theater Movement included small American commercial theaters like:
-The Provincetown Playhouse.
-The Neighborhood Playhouse.
-The Washington Square Players.
(All founded in 1915)
The most important producing group was The Group Theater. It introduced Stanislavsky’s system in the United States. It was founded by Lee Starsberg, Cheryl Crawford and Harold Clurman.
Realistic Playwrights between the Wars:
The realistic drama was initiated by Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov.
-Riders to the Sea (1904).
-Juno and the Paycock (1924).
-Plough and the Stars (1926).

The realistic drama was initiated by Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov.
-Riders to the Sea (1904).
-Juno and the Paycock (1924).
-Plough and the Stars (1926).
Realistic and Naturalistic works were seen as too controversial for production and their licenses were refused. That’s when independent theaters were established throughout Europe.
Examples of these independent theaters:
-Theatre Libre (Free theater) founded by Andre Antoine in 1887.
-Freie Buhne (Free Stage) founded by Otto Brahm in 1889.
-Independent Theater founded by J.T. Grein in 1891.
The most influential realistic theater was the Moscow Art Theater founded by Constantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovtch-Danchenko.
The Moscow Art Theater provided the Stanislavski System, the basis for most realistic acting in the 20th century.
The emphasis was on:
-Immersing in a role.
-Preparing mentally and physically for a role.
-Maintaining both relaxation and concentration on stage.
The End
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