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absurdism

An avant-garde "ism" that was the result of the two world wars. It has three types: atalist, existentialist, and hilarious.

alienation effect

The result of techniques to keep the audience aware that what they are witnessing is only a play; used by Bertolt Brecht. Alienation techniques include having the actors address the audience out of character, exposing the lights, removing the proscenium arch and curtains, and having the actors perform on bare platforms or simple sets that are sometimes punctuated with political slogans.

avant-garde

Any work of art that is experimental, innovative, or unconventional.

box set

Commonly used in realistic plays, a true-to-life interior containing a room or rooms with the fourth wall removed so that the audience feels they are looking in on the characters' private lives.

Bread and Puppet Theatre

An experimental theatre troupe begun in 1961 that uses giant puppets as well as actors in political parables.

Dadaism

A movement that was ignited by the atrocities of World War I and gained fame through staged performances designed to demonstrate the meaninglessness of life.

epic theatre

Features plays that have a grand scope, large casts, and cover a long period and a wide range of sometimes unrelated incidents. An innovation by Bertolt Brecht.

existentialism

A post-World War II philosophy that sees humans as being alone in the universe, without God, so they are entirely responsible for their destinies.

fourth wall

An imaginary wall separating the actors from audience; an innovation of Realism in the theatre in the mid-1800s.

happenings

Unstructured theatrical events on street corners, at bus stops, in lobbies, and virtually anywhere else people gather.

Kafkaesque

Marked by surreal distortion and senseless danger; a term that comes from the way that Czech writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) depicted the world.

little theatre movement

Inexpensive, noncommercial, artistically significant plays in small, out-of-the-way theatres. In the United States, flourished from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s.

Naturalism

"Sordid Realism"; a style of theatrical design and acting whose goal is to imitate real life, including its seamy side. Also called "slice of life" theatre.

Off Broadway

Originally, small experimental theatres that sprang up in the late 1950s outside Times Square to put on plays about current issues. They typically have much smaller houses than Broadway theatres.

Off Off Broadway

Small, nontraditional, noncommercial theatres located in storefronts, coffeehouses, churches, and other public spaces in the New York City area.

performance art

An art form from the mid-twentieth century in which one or more performers use some combination of visual arts (including video), theatre, dance, music, and poetry, often to dramatize political ideas. The purpose is less to tell a story than to convey a state of being.

poetic realism

A style of realism that is expressed through lyrical language.

problem play

A play that expresses a social problem so that it can be remedied.

Realism

The cultural movement behind theatrical realism, it began around 1850 and popularized the idea that plays could be a force for social and political change.

regional theatre

Permanent, professional theatres located outside New York City.

surrealism

A genre of theatre that emphasizes the subconscious realities of the character, usually through design, and often includes random sets with dreamlike qualities.

The Living Theatre

A famous twentieth-century experimental theatre using aesthetically radical techniques to shake up audiences about social and political issues; founded in 1946 by Julian Beck (1925-1985) and Judith Malina (b. 1926).

Theatre of Cruelty

Originated by Antonin Artaud, stylized, ritualized performances intended to attack spectators' sensibilities and purge them of destructive tendencies.

symbolism

A design style or theatre genre in which a certain piece of scenery, a costume, or light represent the essence of the entire environment.

expressionism

A style that shows the audience the action of the play through the mind of one character. Instead of seeing photographic reality, the audience sees the character's own emotions and point of view.

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