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Theatre 101 Chapter 4-7 Questions

Terms in this set (212)

A. A major convention of medieval drama involves the way time is handled
1. Eternal time vs. earthly time
2. The stage depicted heaven at one end and hell at the other
B. The fluidity of time is also reflected in the structure of the cycles
1. Both time and space were telescoped or expanded as needed
C. Staging also involved a number of conventions
1. Theatrical space was improvised and stages could be fixed or mobile
a. Fixed stage - set against a building, or in the middle of a square
b. Movable stage - a wagon that could move from one location to another
D. Regardless of the type of stage or location, the staging conventions were the same everywhere
1. Stage space had two parts:
a. "Mansion" - a scenic structure that indicated a specific place or location
b. "Platea" - undifferentiated stage space adjacent to the mansion
i. The same space might change its identity merely by being associated with a different mansion
2. The overall setting symbolized human and earthly existence framed by Heaven and Hell
E. Costumes were used to distinguish between the inhabitants of Earth, Heaven and Hell
1. Earthly characters wore contemporary clothes - no attempts were made for historical accuracy
2. Eternal characters wore church garments
a. Saints and biblical personages were associated with specific symbols
3. The most imaginative costumes were those of the devils
F. There were frequently a number of spectacular special effects
1. Hell was made as gruesome as possible - the "hell mouth"
2. Miracles were staged as convincingly as possible to reinforce faith in God's power
A. Among the forces that brought about change was a growing secularization of thought
1. A rebirth in learning - the Renaissance
2. Revived interest in the classical world - Greece and Rome
a. Playwrights began to write plays that imitated or adapted classical subjects
B. The Renaissance spirit of inquiry also extended to religion
1. Disputes in doctrine and practice led to the formation of Protestant sects
a. Theatrical performance became a useful propaganda medium
2. Disputes often erupted into violence
a. The center of power shifted to the state and away from the church
C. By 1550, church and state had begun to try to reduce the growing disturbances
1. Elizabeth I outlawed public performance of religious and political plays
a. Despite their popularity, the cycle plays were finished
i. Outdoor religious drama was now forbidden by the same church and state that had once encouraged and supported it
D. Theatre had to become secular if it was to survive
1. Dramatists turned to classical literature, historical chronicles and legends for subject matter
2. With traditional means of support no longer available, theatre became a commercial enterprise
E. The most enthusiastic supporters of the religious cycles were the most opposed to a professional theatre
1. Socially, many considered performing secular plays for money wasteful and sinful
a. Public performances took place in the afternoon, they distracted people from work
F. Professional groups had to be able to play often, have a large and varied stock of plays, and have a large enough performance space
1. They also had to own or control all production elements and assemble a company
G. Acting was not an accepted profession in the dominant trade-guild scheme
1. Actors were considered "masterless men"
a. To have legal status acting companies needed noble patronage
b. Theatre company names: Lord Admiral's Men, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the King's Men, reflect this patronage
H. Although patronage protected them, companies were still restricted
1. Every company had to have a license from the crown
2. Every play had to be approved by the crown
3. The London city council forbade performances within the city
a. Permanent theatres were built outside city limits
I. Despite these challenges, by 1600 English theatre companies were creating what many consider the greatest theatrical era the world has known
A. The reputation of the Elizabethan theatre rests on the work of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
1. But he was only one of many significant dramatists of his time. There were others, including:
a. Thomas Kyd b. Christopher Marlowe c. Ben Jonson
B. Theatrical conditions favored the development of playwriting
1. Multiple companies playing in and around London
2. Performances 6 days a week
3. Strong competition for audiences
4. A company produced a new play about every 17 days
5. Average life of a play 10 performances
6. New plays were in constant demand
a. Like today's television scripts, plays were not considered literature
i. Ben Jonson published his own dramas in 1616
ii. Shakespeare's plays were not published until after he died
C. Playwrights had an incentive to be prolific
1. To make a living, a playwright had to sell 4 or 5 plays a year
2. Shakespeare seems to have written about 2 a year
a. He was also a major shareholder in his company, and after 1599 part owner of the Globe Theatre
D. A company also needed a performance space
1. Buildings intended specifically for theatrical performance began to be erected all over Europe for the first time since the fall of Rome
a. Red Lion - 1567 b. The Theatre - 1576
2. All had similar features that drew on medieval conventions
E. The Globe Theatre was used by Shakespeare's company after 1599
1. Round - exterior diameter approximately 99'
2. 3 levels of roofed galleries, each about 12'6" deep
3. The galleries enclosed the yard, approx. 74' in diameter
4. The stage extended into the middle of the yard
5. Stage dimensions: 41'3" wide by 24'9" deep by 5'-6' high
6. The audience viewed the stage from 3 sides
7. A roof over the stage ("the heavens" or "the shadow") was supported by 2 posts
8. At least 2 large doors permitted entrances and exits
a. These doors are considered the most essential part of the background
b. Changes in locale were indicated through the exit and entrance of characters
i. Specific locations were indicated in the dialogue
9. A larger space may have existed between the doors - the "discovery space"
10. The second level of the façade included an acting space for high places (perhaps Juliet's balcony)
11. The third level of the façade may have contained an acting level as well
F. Overall, this stage was an adaptation of medieval conventions
1. The façade served the function of the mansions
2. The stage platform served as the platea
3. Stage properties were used to meet the demands of the action
4. The stage also had some things in common with its Greek and Roman counterparts
a. The background for all scenes was a formalized façade
b. Specific locations were established primarily through dialogue - "spoken décor"
5. Elizabethan structure and conventions allowed playwrights unlimited freedom in handling time and place
G. Costuming and lighting conventions also resemble those of medieval theatre
1. Most characters were clothed in contemporary garments
2. Suggestive pieces might be worn over the Elizabethan garments
3. Costumes and banners accounted for much of the color and pageantry
4. Sunlight provided the lighting
H. Most important was the acting company itself
1. 25 people - all men
a. About half were shareholders
b. Hired men - actors, prompters, musicians, stagehands, etc., were employed
c. 4 to 6 apprentices - boys who played females
d. Each actor was responsible for a large number of roles
i. Some actors had to play more than one role in each play
ii. Actors had to perform in many different plays (repertory system)
2. The performance style was closer to everyday behavior and appearance than in Greece
a. Masks not worn except as disguises
b. Almost all lines were spoken, rather than sung or chanted
c. Character behavior was familiar to the audience ("to hold a mirror up to nature")
3. Still, some dramatic and theatrical conventions heightened the performance
a. Much of the dialogue written in verse
b. Men played female roles
c. Formalized backgrounds
I. Elizabethan theatre included a considerable musical element
1. Trumpet flourishes, drums, and a host of other instruments were used
2. Music accompanied songs and dances, and almost all performances concluded with a jig
J. The other important ingredient was the paying audience
1. The plays usually included something for everyone
a. Complex plots with all the important action staged rather than merely described
i. This included stage violence whether serious or comic in nature
b. Poetic language and other devices
i. Directed attention to the significance of events
ii. Provided profound insights into human behavior
K. A small general-admission fee permitted audience to stand in the yard
1. A larger fee allowed one to sit in a gallery
2. An even larger fee allowed entry to private boxes - "lords' rooms"
3. The Globe held about 3000 people
4. The configuration of the theatre meant that no one was very far from the stage
5. No intermission - vendors circulated throughout the audience during the performance
a. Somewhat like a modern sporting event
L. Let us take a look at Hamlet
1. One of 38 plays attributed to Shakespeare
2. Representative of Elizabethan drama in its story, structure and conventions
3. Considered one of the world's greatest tragedies
A. Another of the theatre's great eras occurred in Italy during the Renaissance
1. In the 16th century Italian plays were written imitating classical forms
a. Theatrical entertainments were done as a part of court festivals
i. Secular; intended to glorify ruler
ii. Subjects and themes were usually drawn from mythology
2. Italian scene design and theatre architecture drew on classical sources, especially De Architectura by Vitruvius (1st century B.C.), which described:
a. How a theatre is laid out
b. The settings for tragedy, comedy and pastoral plays
c. The Italians radically transformed Vitruvius' treatise, creating the theatre structure and scenic practices dominant in European theatre into the 20th century
3. The Italians first set up temporary performance spaces
a. 1545 - Serlio published Architettura, which includes:
i. How to create a theatre space within an existing room
ii. Serlio's perspective drawings of Vitruvius' settings fused classical theatre architecture with Renaissance perspective painting and drawing
4. Principles of perspective drawing were developed during the 15th century
a. By the 16th century perspective had been adapted to stage use
5. The acceptance of perspective scenery signaled a movement away from the formal and architectural stage in favor of a representational and pictorial stage
a. Place was pictorially represented in its entirety as seen from a fixed eye-point
b. This set the standard for stage scenery well into the 20th century
6. Renaissance artists had to solve the problem of how to transform a two-dimensional drawing into a stage setting that occupies three-dimensional space
a. Their solution was to break up the picture and paint its parts on 3 main scenic elements:
i. Side wings
ii. Backdrops
iii. Overhead borders
b. The floor of the stage raked upward toward the back - from this we derive our terms "upstage" and "downstage"
c. The height of side wings diminished as they receded away from the audience (upstage)
7. A pictorial setting demanded a frame
a. Proscenium arch - the "picture-frame stage"
b. Teatro Farnese - 1618 - the oldest surviving theatre with a permanent proscenium arch
c. The proscenium arch stage is still the most common type of theatre
8. A setting that depicted a single place in its entirety created another problem: how to move from one locale to another. The solution:
a. Placing at each side wing location many different flats stacked together, shifted by pulling the one in front offstage
b. "Back-scenes" (or shutters) set up at the back, shifted in the same way
i. Eventually back scenes were replaced by backdrops that could be lowered or raised
c. "Borders" hung above
d. Scene shifts were part of the overall visual experience
9. The love of spectacle and special effects, which inspired the desire to shift scenery, was exploited primarily in "intermezzi"
a. More effort often went into the intermezzi than the plays
B. The appeals of intermezzi were eventually absorbed into opera
1. Initially an attempt to recreate the relationship between music and speech of Greek tragedy
2. Opera combined drama, music, dance, spectacle and special effects
3. In 1637 the 1st public opera house in Venice opened
C. Venetian opera houses were prototypes of subsequent theatres
1. Proscenium arch
2. Perspective scenery
3. The division and arrangement of auditorium reflected European class structure
a. Boxes
b. Pit
c. Gallery
A. The development of the French theatre had been interrupted by civil wars
1. Stability returned around 1625
2. Cardinal Richelieu believed the French stage needed drastic reform
a. He advocated adopting the proscenium stage, perspective scenery of Italy
b. He advocated a drama that would adhere to theoretical principles articulated in Italy
i. "The Neoclassical Ideal"
B. Neoclassicists recognized only two legitimate forms of drama, that they felt should not be mixed
1. Tragedy - about kings and nobles, and comedy - about the middle and lower classes
2. Plays should have 5 acts and follow standard rules and purposes:
a. Unity of time - action takes place in 24 hours
b. Unity of place - all action in the same location
c. Unity of action - only one plot
d. The ending should uphold "poetic justice"
e. The purpose of drama is to teach and please
C. Neoclassical rules were not widely known or accepted until 1636 when Pierre Corneille's The Cid was attacked (despite its popularity) because it failed to adhere to neoclassical rules
a. Unity of time was observed in the play, but many events, including an entire war, take place in 24 hours
b. The play ends happily, even though it is a tragedy
c. Controversy over this play is a watershed event in French theatre - effectively legitimizing the neoclassical view
2. Many believe that Jean Racine's Phaedra perfected neoclassicism
3. Racine and Corneille set the standard for tragedy until the 19th century
a. Until then, this brand of tragedy was widely thought superior to that of Shakespeare's
D. The transition to the new ideal also required that the theatre building be altered
1. Richelieu, in 1641, had built the first proscenium arch theatre in France
a. By the mid-17th century, the Italian order had replaced the medieval
A. Melodrama was the popular-culture manifestation of Romanticism
1. It was the most popular dramatic form of the 19th century
2. It emphasized a clear moral tone and suspenseful plots
a. A virtuous protagonist was hounded by a villain and then rescued from seemingly insurmountable difficulties
3. All important events occurred on stage (enacted rather than simply described)
a. They provided ample opportunity for elaborately staged spectacles
4. Typical plot devices included mistaken identity, abduction, strange coincidences, and hidden documents
5. A servant, ally or companion supplied comic relief
6. Melodrama affirmed poetic justice - the evil were punished, the good rewarded
B. Melodrama had a large musical element ("Melodrama" means "music drama")
1. A musical score accompanied the action to enhance it and its emotional tone
2. Many of melodrama's features were taken over by film in the 20th century
a. Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones" films provide excellent examples
C. Changes in social and economic conditions stemming from the industrial revolution partially explain the popularity of melodrama in the 19th century
1. Workers had to live near factories and urbanization created large potential audiences
2. These workers needed entertainment and melodrama provided that while affirming their hopes for a better life in an exciting manner
D. Between 1800 and 1850, London's population doubled. The number of its theatres grew from 2 or 3 to more than 20
1. Theatres sought to attract the largest possible audiences
a. Melodrama and variety entertainment had the largest mass appeal
2. During the last half of the 19th century, each theatre began to aim its programming at a specific segment of the population
A. As melodrama was peaking in popularity, other theories and beliefs were undermining the absolutist moral values on which it depended
B. In the late 19th century, a number of intellectual and scientific developments called many biblical passages into question.
1. Controversies erupted over discoveries in geology and anthropology
2. Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species - 1859
C. Darwin's theories had many implications:
1. Heredity and environment may influence everything humans are and do
2. Consequently, individuals cannot be held fully accountable for their actions
3. His theories strengthened the notion that progress (improvement) is inevitable
4. They contradicted the biblical account of creation
5. Humanity might be viewed as a part of nature, rather than set apart and superior to it
D. These implications were crucial in the development of the modern temperament because they suggested that change is the norm
1. Concepts of right and wrong might vary from one society to another rather than stand as absolutes
E. New ideas about human conscience were stated most fully in the writings of Sigmund Freud
1. Previously, most people believed that conscience is innate
a. Melodrama is built on this premise
2. Freud theorized that conscience is relative to the individual and the process of socialization
a. Socialization suppresses instinctive desires and urges
b. We may never fully understand the motivations of others, nor even our own
i. We must be aware of the subtext (covert meaning) beneath what is said and done
F. According to this view, not only are moral values relative, but language and behavior are only partially reliable indicators of a person's state of mind and motives
G. This notion of relativity eventually affected nearly every area of thought and action, including the theatre
A. Throughout history, someone assumed responsibility for staging plays
1. In the Greek theatre it was the playwright
2. In later times it was the head of the company, usually a lead actor or playwright
B. A convergence of several complex developments led to the emergence of the modern director
1. The growing need for someone to coordinate and unify all the elements of a production
a. In the past, scenic and costume elements were generalized and formalized, requiring little attention.
C. Acting was also conventionalized during the period prior to the 19th century in that actors were hired according to lines of business.
1. Actors usually stood near the front of the stage and delivered their lines directly to the audience
2. Stage movement placed whomever was speaking at center - a convention all actors understood
3. Rehearsals were few
D. As the 19th century progressed the theatre became more complex as the number and specificity of settings and costumes increased.
1. Melodrama's effects required split-second timing and precise stage business
2. Box sets served to alter movement patterns
3. These changes required increased supervision, coordination and rehearsal
4. The need for greater unity and control became increasingly evident
E. The acceptance of the modern director owes most to two influences: Wagner and Saxe-Meiningen
1. Richard Wagner sought to create "master artwork" through a fusion of all the arts
a. Most of his stories for his operas are from German myths
b. He wished to create a theatrical experience that would draw the audience out of its everyday, mundane existence into an idealized, communal, near-religious experience.
F. To realize his goal, Wagner had a new kind of theatre erected in Bayreuth, Germany (1876)
1. It was the first modern theatre to do away with the box, pit and gallery arrangement
2. "Democratic" arrangement of seating - all audience members sit together in an arrangement that supposedly allowed everyone to see and hear the action equally well
a. This arrangement set the pattern for most 20th century theatres
3. It was one of the first theatres to darken the auditorium during performances to more fully distinguish the world of spectators from that of the stage
4. Strong demand for "unity of production" - everything filtered through a single consciousness to achieve a unified artistic effect
a. Most 20th century ideas about staging followed the unity of production principle
G. Georg II, duke of Saxe-Meiningen, is now usually considered the 1st director in the modern sense
1. The ruler of a small German state
2. He owned his own theatre company
3. His company toured throughout Europe from 1874-1890
4. His fame stemmed from the company's directorial practices
5. Saxe-Meiningen had complete control over every aspect of production
6. Crowd scenes were staged with great precision, variety, and emotional power
7. The total stage picture was worked out moment-by-moment
8. Saxe-Meiningen's practice validated many of Wagner's views
A. By the 1880s, innovative plays by realists and naturalists had appeared, but censorship had kept most of them from production
1. The new drama and the new staging remained isolated from each other
B. Throughout Europe, plays could not be publicly performed until a censor had approved them
1. Censors would not license some of Ibsen's plays, but private performances were not subject to censorship
a. A number of small, "independent theatres" exploited this loophole
i. Open only to subscribing members
ii. Not subject to censorship
iii. The independent theatres were able to unite the new drama with the new staging techniques
C. Independent theatres cropped up in France, Germany and England
1. The Théâtre Libre, founded in Paris by André Antoine in 1887, produced the plays of Zola and Ibsen
2. The Freie Bühne, which arose in Berlin in 1889, provided a hearing for new playwrights
3. In London, The Independent Theatre was founded in 1891
a. Its inaugural production, Ibsen's Ghosts, created an enormous scandal
b. It induced George Bernard Shaw to write plays that used comedy to provoke audiences into reassessing their values
D. These independent theatres met an important need and also established a significant precedent for innovative theatre companies devoted to particular agendas or values
E. The Moscow Art Theatre emerged from the independent theatre movement
1. Founded in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemerovich-Danchenko
2. Achieved its first major successes with the plays of Anton Chekhov
a. Chekhov's plays depict the monotony and frustrations of provincial life
b. His characters conceal as much as they reveal in their responses
c. In his plays subtext is often as important as the spoken lines
d. His plays admit a complexity of human beings and action that don't easily conform to strict dramatic types
F. Stanislavsky's system of acting - the most pervasive influence on acting during the 20th century - is one of the greatest contributions associated with the Moscow Art Theatre
1. Stanislavsky's system contained several basic premises that are still considered the best-known attempts to describe what is necessary for effective acting:
a. The actor's body and voice must be trained and flexible
b. To act truthfully, the actor must be a skilled observer of human behavior
c. Actors must understand a character's motivations and goals in each scene and in the play as a whole, as well as each character's relationship to all the other roles and to the dramatic action
d. Actors may project themselves into the world of the play through the "magic if"
e. Actors should concentrate moment by moment, as if the events were happening spontaneously and for the first time.
G. Stanislavsky sought in his system to deal with all aspects of acting.
H. By the late 19th century, realism in the theatre was well established
1. A logical culmination of developments that began in the Renaissance
2. Melodrama and realism differed in their views of truth and values
3. By undermining Melodrama's absolutist values, a pathway was opened for those ideas and practices that have come to be labeled "modernist"
A. The first artistic movement to reject the traditional relationship between perception and representation
1. Began in 1885
2. Argued that truth transcends objective examination
3. Truth can only be hinted at through a network of symbols that evokes feelings and states of mind
4. Pelléas and Mélisande by Maurice Maeterlinck is perhaps the best known symbolist play
B. Symbolists chose their subjects from the past, the realm of fancy, or a mysterious present
1. They avoided any attempt to deal with social problems or environmental forces
2. They aimed to suggest a universal truth independent of time and place
3. Their drama tended to be vague and mysterious
C. The symbolists established independent theatres in which to perform their plays
1. Théâtre de l'Oeuvre - Paris, 1893, founded by Aurélien-Marie Lugné-Poë
2. Most important aspect of a symbolist production is mood or atmosphere
a. Often placed a "scrim" at the front of the stage so that the action would appear to take place in a mist or timeless void
b. Color was chosen for mood rather than representational accuracy
c. Actors would chant lines and use unnatural gestures
3. Performances were so different that many audience members were baffled
4. Symbolism lost its appeal as a theatrical movement, but remains the 1st nonrealistic movement








D. Symbolism also disrupted a pattern that had persisted since the beginning of theatre
1. In previous periods, the same conventions and approaches to production were used for all plays within that period
E. When symbolism challenged realism and naturalism, two radically different sets of conventions came into conflict
1. Prior to the 20th century artistic movements succeeded one another chronologically
2. In the 20th century, several movements existed simultaneously, each based on a separate set of premises about the nature of truth
a. Realism b. Expressionism c. Futurism d. Dadaism e. Cubism
3. Each movement required its own set of conventions to embody its vision
a. Multiple views based on differing sets of values
4. Multiple sets of values is the most basic characteristic of the modernist temperament
F. Modernism influenced all of the arts
1. In the early 20th century, visual arts no longer depicted all details of the same picture as seen from one eye-point
a. Picasso's cubism
b. The attention shifted from content or subject to the innovative use of artistic elements
A. During the early 20th century, 2 theorists - Appia and Craig - were especially successful in reshaping ideas about the "art of the theatre"
B. Adolphe Appia advocated the idea that artistic unity is fundamental but difficult to achieve because of conflicting elements: the moving actor, the horizontal floor and the vertical scenery
1. He replaced flat, painted scenery with 3-D structures
2. Used steps, platforms and ramps to create transitions and greater compositional variety
3. Promoted the concept of the director as the supreme, unifying theatre artist
4. Advocated simplicity in scenery, costumes and lighting
C. Appia was also a major theoretician of stage lighting
1. He advocated the use of light from various directions and angles
2. Appia considered light the most flexible of all theatrical elements
a. It can change moment to moment to reflect shifts in mood and emotion
b. It unifies all other elements through intensity, color, direction, movement
3. The technology needed to implement his theories was just becoming available

D. Gordon Craig began his career as an actor in the English theatre
1. He denied that theatre is a fusion of other arts, and advocated theatre as a wholly autonomous art
2. Argued that the basic elements of theatre - action, language, line, color and rhythm - should be fused by a master artist
3. Suggested that actors could be replaced by puppets
4. Advocated simplicity in scenery, costumes and lighting
5. Replaced representational design with abstract structures that embodied the line, mass, color, texture and mood appropriate to the dramatic action
6. Promoted the concept of the director as the supreme, unifying theatre artist
E. German director Max Reinhardt reinforced the influence of Appia and Craig
1. Reinhardt came to believe and treat each play as a new challenge demanding unique stylistic solutions
a. In this way, plays of various periods and styles could be accommodated in one theatre
b. Thus a wide knowledge of dramatic literature and theatre's past practices and conventions became important tools for the director
i. Reinhardt built productions around elements significant to each play's theatrical context
F. Reinhardt's method further enhanced the role of the director
1. The stylistic approach was the director's choice to make
2. The director was the arbiter of all choices made by those involved in the production
3. The production should serve the script
4. He established eclecticism (in ways he never intended) and relativism as the dominant directorial approach
A. The decade between 1910 and 1920 was one of unrest and upheaval
1. New artistic movements emerged, each with a new perspective on human experience and ways of expressing this perspective
B. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched futurism in 1909
1. It viewed the speed and energy of the machine age as the key to an enlightened future
2. It sought to replace old art forms with new ones
a. Collage, kinetic sculpture, and "noise music"
3. It was contemptuous of drama that developed leisurely and failed to prompt active audience involvement
C. The futurists proposed to replace existing drama with a "synthetic" drama that would compress into a moment or two the essence of a full-length play
1. They advocated simultaneity and multiple focus
2. Sought confrontation with the audience
3. Futurism lost its appeal perhaps because it praised war as the supreme expression of the aggressive life





D. Dada, with Tristan Tzara as its principal spokesman, rejected the values that had provoked WWI
1. It sought to replace logic, reason and unity with chance and illogic
2. Used simultaneity and multiple focus
a. "Chance poems" b. "Sound poems"
3. Recognized no formal barriers between art forms
E. Much of what the futurists and Dadaists did seems prankish, intended deliberately to provoke others
1. Still, these nonrealistic styles aroused strong emotion and heated debate about:
a. How to define a work of art
b. The role of audience response
c. Art as an instrument of change
d. The need for innovation in art
e. The relationship of art to its culture
2. Their influence would resurface strongly after 1960
F. Expressionism emerged around 1910 in Germany
1. It sought to counter materialism and industrialism
2. It charged that the industrial age had turned humans into machines
3. Expressionists wished to reshape the world and achieve "the regeneration of man"
4. Unlike futurism and dadaism, expressionism emphasized the text and had a greater immediate impact
G. Most expressionist drama focuses on how the human spirit has been distorted by materialist values
1. Its protagonist is usually on a quest for identity, fulfillment or the means to change the world
2. The audience sees the world through the perspective of this protagonist - as warped by materialism and industrialism
a. Walls may lean in threateningly
b. Color may reflect emotion
c. Movement and speech may be robotic
d. Several persons or objects may be identical in appearance
3. Typically, expressionism presented a nightmarish vision of the human situation
H. Some of August Strindberg's plays are seen as forerunners of expressionism
1. In the preface to A Dream Play Strindberg wrote:
a. "The writer has tried to imitate the disconnected but seemingly logical form of the dream. Anything may happen; everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist. On an insignificant background of reality, imagination designs and embroiders novel patterns: a medley of memories, experiences, free fancies, absurdities, and improvisations"
I. Strindberg overcame the limitations of time, space, logical sequence, and appearance by adopting the viewpoint of the dreamer
1. No logical transitions between events
2. Characters may transform into other characters
3. Widely separated places and times are telescoped
4. Many expressionists borrowed these techniques from Strindberg
J. Expressionism flourished in Germany, especially immediately after WWI
1. Major German expressionist playwrights - Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller
2. Major American expressionist plays - Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine, and Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape"
K. Eugene O'Neill is often considered the greatest playwright America has produced
1. O'Neill's plays range through a variety of dramatic styles
A. Epic theatre developed in Germany during the 1920s
1. It was associated with playwright Bertolt Brecht
a. Brecht sought to make audiences evaluate the socioeconomic implications of what they saw in the theatre
b. He sought means to encourage the audience to watch actively and critically
B. One such method was "alienation" - distancing the audience from stage events so they could view them critically
1. To achieve this distancing, Brecht used many conventions that were initially strange but have since become common practice
a. He revealed the theatre's means to remind the audience they were in a theatre watching one version of the events
i. Lighting instruments were left unmasked
ii. Scenery was fragmented rather than fully completed
iii. Musicians were visible to the audience
iv. Captions, maps or other images were projected onto screens
v. Ropes suspending objects were clearly visible
vi. Actors sang and spoke directly to the audience
C. Brecht sought to achieve alienation by distancing the story either through time or place
1. He wanted to make the differences between the past and present readily apparent
D. Brecht further sought alienation through his handling of the various theatrical elements
1. He opposed the notion of each element reinforcing the others in a unified whole
2. Instead, he advocated that each element make it own comment on the events
a. Disparity of the elements would then arouse alienation
E. Brecht adopted a number of structural devises to create alienation
1. Wished to call attention to the knots that tied the scenes together
a. Used captions, songs or other devices to emphasize breaks in the action
F. These conventions may suggest that Brecht was a heavy-handedly didactic, but he was also intent on entertaining
1. For alienation to be effective, one must first engage the audience empathetically before pushing it away for a more critical appraisal
G. Brecht called his theatre "epic" because he thought it had more in common with the narrative tradition of epic poetry than with dramatic traditions
A. The Good Woman of Setzuan is a parable distanced by setting it in China
1. The prologue demonstrates the irony that permeates the piece
2. Brecht suggests not only that economic need is the root of all evil, but also that the solution to human problems is not to be found in divine injunctions
B. The gods are looking for a good person whom they find in a kind-hearted prostitute named Shen Te. They enjoin her to remain good, but she explains that without money she won't be able to both survive and stay good. Shen Te receives the money she needs, but others take advantage of her goodness and threaten to ruin her until she disguises herself as a male cousin, Shui Ta, who suppresses all humanitarian feelings. Eventually, Shui Ta takes over and those who relied on Shen Te's goodness accuse him of murdering her. When the Gods return to judge the case, Shen Te reveals herself and her predicament. But the gods leave without truly helping her to resolve the problem. In the epilogue, the audience is encouraged to provide a solution.
1. The action focuses on the conflict between good and evil as seen in the protagonist's two personae
C. The Good Woman of Setzuan alternates short and long scenes
1. The short scenes break up the action and comment on the action
2. Brecht telescopes events and eliminates transitions
D. Brecht's structural techniques are explained in part by his belief that scenes should be clearly separated as one means of creating alienation
1. The social content of each scene (gestus) can be expressed in one sentence
E. Brecht oversimplifies characters because he is principally concerned with social relationships
1. Some characters are designated by social function
2. Characters are concerned with attaining selfish goals or sustaining a dogmatic view
F. Today, many of our most familiar theatrical conventions derive in large part from Brecht
1. No front curtain 2. Fragmented scenery 3. Visible lighting instruments
A. Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty focused on relieving those impulses buried in the unconscious mind
B. Artaud for a time was a member of the surrealist movement
1. Surrealism emphasized the importance of the unconscious
a. Surrealists believed significant truths are buried deep in the psyche
b. They promoted dreams, automatic writing and stream of consciousness
c. Surrealism made its greatest impact in painting (Salvador Dali, Magritte, etc.)
C. Artaud expressed his major ideas about theatre in The Theatre and Its Double
1. Used properly, theatre might free people from their destructive impulses
D. Artaud was certain that his goals could not be reached through appeals to the rational mind
1. He referred to his theatre as "theatre of cruelty" because it forced the audience to confront itself
2. He proposed to replace established conventions with a "new language of the theatre"
a. Replacing proscenium-arch theatres with large, undivided spaces, placing the audience in the midst of the action
E. Artaud wanted to abolish realistic scenery and replace it with symbolic costumes and properties
1. He wrote of a "vibrating, shredded" effect with pulsating changes for lighting
2. He favored great variety in sound; vocal sounds rather than "words"
3. The ultimate purpose was to develop a type of psychic shock therapy that might break through the audience's defenses and drag suppressed impulses to the surface
a. Once acknowledged and expressed, these impulses would be drained of their power to create hatred and violence
F. As this broad survey of theatrical developments suggests, during the years between 1885 and 1940 the modernist temperament achieved dominance
1. Multiple artistic movements existed simultaneously and challenged each other
2. Diversity raised awareness that no single correct approach exists
3. Though elitist critics favored the avant-garde, the most popular mode in mainstream theatre remained a modified realism