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Glossary of Theatre History III

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Brecht epic theatre techniques
• Narrative acting
• Episodic plots
• Overt narrative devices
• Non-unified production and fragmented sets
• Historification- set in past to talk about the present



Brecht plays
• Concerned w. socioeconomic implications of peoples actions
○ Major plays
§ Mother courage- economic decision have personal consequences
§ Galileo
§ Good Woman of Setzuan
§ Caucasian chalk circle




Pirandella
○ Six characters in search of an author
○ Henry IV
§ Appearance vs. reality
○ His philosophy will influence post-WWII theatre
§ Truth is personal and subjective
§ Relativity of perception
§ Unstable nature of human existence and identity





France
• Giradoux: often uses myths and legends
○ Tried to reconcile antithesis
• Anouilh: conflict btw. Integrity and compromise= Antigone

British theatre= 1915-1940
- End of actor-manager system and pictorial illusion
○ Producer
- Old Vic: English classics
○ T. Guthrie= novel inspiration
○ John gielgud: top actor and director; faithful tot ext
○ Barry Jackson: 1920s; starts vogue of modern dress Shakespeare
- Playwrights
○ Noel coward: sophisticated, witty comedy
§ Private studying
○ TS Elliot: poetic drama
§ Murder in the cathedral
○ Sean O'Casey- Irish
§ June and paycock











--European trends skip U.S.
--The Syndicate (1896-1916)
Monopolizes American theatre; control touring circuits via exclusive contracts
Cutthroat strategry


1) control key routes
2) build rival theatres (and undercut prices)
3) “blackball” uncooperative producers and actors

Result: By 1900 monopolize U.S. theatre
1) mass appeal plays
2) emphasize stars
3) 1900-1915 U.S. theatre = conservative and commercial
Main figure = Charles Frohman
Opposition to Syndicate



David Belasco: producer and playwright
1) star-maker
2) naturalist staging of melodrama
(Peak of illusionistic detail in U.S.)
3) opposition to Syndicate; his popularity forced concessions; start to crack Syndicate’s power
Other major opposition = The Schuberts
--rival chain of theatres
--after 195, seize dominance
(as monopolistic and dictatorial as Syndicate)
--control “the road” till 1956
(broken by anti-trust rulings)
--still a major force









c. 1900 Clyde Fitch starts trend of
playwrights publishing plays
1915 theatre starts to decline in pop.
(Sports, film, and higher prices)

c. 1930 film overtakes theatre
(Sound films and depression)
U.S. Theatre 1915-1940
--catch-up with European trends and start international reputation
--“little theatres” (1912-1920)=U.S. version of ITM
--1900s-1910s=start of university theatre
--popularized by Robert Edmond Jones
(Also Norman Bel Geddes)



Innovative Producers
1) Provincetown Players (a “little theatre”’ 1915-1929)
2) The Theatre Guild
3) Arthur Hopkins (1918-1925=peak)
4) The Group Theatre


Players (a “little theatre”’ 1915-1929)
--1st to stage O’Neill and Glaspell
--1920s professional branch for non-commercial plays and experimental designs
The Theatre Guild
--best U.S. company of 1920s
--produce plays of artistic merit with new stagecraft
Arthur Hopkins (1918-1925=peak)
Most adventurous commercial producer
Ex. Expressionistic Macbeth (1921)
By 1930, new stagecraft=norm

The Group Theatre
Best U.S. company of 1930s
--modeled on MAT: stress Stanislavsky method and leftist politics
--stage Clifford Odets’ plays
Waiting for Lefty (1935)
Federal Theatre Project (1935-39)
--1st fed. Govt. support of the arts
--helped revive professional theatre outside NY
--“Living Newspaper”
documentary-like productions that deal with contemporary social issues







Orson Welles
Decline of theatre
1920=1500
1930= 500
1940= 200
Causes: Depression, sports, movies, radio
Actors: tour starts in New York; ends in California; they have to pay for their way back home
Costs up due to rise of unions and restrictive building codes




Playwriting
--borrow European techniques
--1918- 1st Pulitzer prize
Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953)
--1st to get international reputation
--experimented in different forms
Iceman Cometh
Major themes:
compelling characters struggling to escape despair and find meaning in seemingly meaningless world
Lillian Hellman
The Children’s Hour (1934)
The Little Foxes (1938)
Overall: melodramas where weak, good people get trampled by evil people

Thornton Wilder
Our Town (1938) – possibly the most produced play
The Skin of Our Teeth (1943)
Overall: non-realistic theatricality applied to understandable subject matter; optimistic faith in humanity

Musical Theatre
--Most popular theatrical form in U.S.
--Considered U.S.’s most significant contribution to world theatre
MT Style
1) Presentational
2) High energy and heightened emotion
3) Themes: love, faith and dreams, community
4) Written element = music, lyrics, and libretto


MT Development
--early musicals (Black Crook (1866)) focus on song, dance, and beautiful women
1) Birth of Modern Musical (1927-1943)]
2) Golden Age (1943-1968)
3) Alternative Forms (1960-1980)
4) Stephen Sondheim



1) Birth of Modern Musical (1927-1943)
Showboat (1927): start to emphasize storyline and psychologically motivated characters
Musicals are art, not just entertainment
2) Golden Age (1943-1968)
--upbeat, life-affirming, and sentimental
Rodgers and Hammerstein most successful
Oklahoma! (1943): primacy of story and fully integrates story, music, dance, and visual



3) Alternative Forms (1960-1980)
The Fantasticks (1960)
Hair (1968)
A Chorus Line (1975)

4) Stephen Sondheim
Most critically acclaimed
Bridges old and new
Ironic views of human behavior and social values; avoids happy endings
Sweeney Todd (1979)


5) The British Invasion
Andrew Lloyd Webber: most commercially successful
Cats (1981) and Phantom of the Opera (1986)
French team: Les Miserables (1985) and Miss Saigon
Major producer: Cameron Mackintosh
Sondheim/Webber vs. Golden Age
Less dance and Opera-like (no dialogue)






6) 1990s: Disney and New Alternative
Rent
The Lion King
7) 2000s: Movies
Ex. The Producers
Existentialism
--Post-WWII (holocaust/atomic bomb)

Nuremberg War Crimes Trial
Themes of Existentialism
1) Existence precedes essence
2) Freedom
3) Meaninglessness
4) Self-definition thru moral choices/actions


The British Invasion
○ A.L. Webber: most commercially successful
§ Megahits: Cats (1981) + Phantom of the Opera (1986)
§ French team: Les Mis (1985) and Miss Saigon
□ Shows ran for at least 10 years in NY and London
○ Major producer: Cameron Mackintosh- produced all for
○ Sondheim/Webber vs. Golden age
§ Less dance and opera-like ( no dialogue)
§ Spectacle- helicopter, chandelier






1990s- Disney and new Alternative
○ Rent
○ Lion King
2000s- movies
○ The Producers, the Fully Monty
Existentialism
○ Post- WWII holocaust/atomic bomb
○ Jean-Paul Sartre= main philosopher
○ Nuremberg War crimes trial

Themes of existentialism
○ Existence precedes essence
○ Freedom
○ Meaninglessness
○ Self-definition thru moral choices and actions


Existential drama
○ Sartre: The Flies 1943
§ No Exit 1944
○ Camus: Caligula 1938
§ The Just Assassins
○ Influence- ideological not artistic
○ Plays are linear and rational




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