Lecture / Outline: Theatre 1915 – 1945                                                 Theatre Arts 5

                                                                                                               Terrin Adair-Lynch



I.                    Political  / Social / Economic

a.       A Time of Unrest- Start of WWI (1914-1918) to the end of WWII (1939-1945)-

b.      The World Wars- Drastic Political and economic changes leads to instability- Russian Revolution 1917-establishes Soviet government- Inflation in America leads to depression- Economies in many countries destroyed- Weapons of Mass destruction- Unrest created totalitarian Governments, Dictators etc.


II.                 Theatre Of Unrest and Dramatic Movements

a.       Mirror the Madness- World War II confronted us with unanswerable questions-Irrational Destruction- Individuals responsibility- How could genocide be explained- Theatre during the era of the World Wars mirrored the general unrest- Theatrical Movements defined by their relationship to emerging political, social, economic ideologies. Artist who rebelled against the popular theatre (Realism).


III.               Genre / Forms (Early years of 20th Century. New anti-realistic movements develop in Europe:

a.       Expressionist Drama-The term expressionism (France) Style of painting- Developed further in Germany as a Movement in Art and Litrature and then a Movement in Theatre/Germany at about the time of World War I, characterized by the attempt to dramatize subjective states through distortion, striking and often grotesque images, and lyric, unrealistic dialogue. The representation of reality is distorted to communicate inner feelings. Dramatic action seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Plays journey through incidents – not casually related. Distort the normal, sometimes dreamlike. Characters are representative types: Man, Woman, Clerk / Movement is politically motivated: Supports Socialist Causes. Themes: Dehumanization of the individual by society and the deterioration of the family. In its pure form, the expressionist movement was short-lived but many expressionistic techniques found their way into the mainstream of modern theater.

b.      Expressionist Playwright: George Kaiser (1878-1945) Ernst Toller (1893-1939) Eugene O’Neill’s plays, including The Emperor Jones

c.       Futurism-originated in Italy in 1909. Unlike the expressionist, the futurists idealized war and the machine age. They attacked artistic ideals of the past, ridiculing them as “museum art” and arguing that new forms had to be created for new eras. They sought a “synthetic” theater of short, seemingly illogical dramatic pieces and argued against the separation of performers and audience, they also believed that audiences should be confronted and antagonized.  Use of Electronic media, puppets, machinery and visual arts. Example: Marinetti’s “They’re Coming” (actors play servants and rearrange furniture.

d.      Dada-Movement in art between the world wars, based on presenting the irrational and attacking traditional artistic values. Dada, which originated in Switzerland in 1916, was a short-lived movement that never really caught on. Reacting against World War I, dadaists argued that art should mirror the madness of the world. Like the futurists, the railed against museum art and wanted to confuse and antagonize their audiences. Unlike the futurists they were not concerned with glorifying war of machines.

e.       Surrealism-an outgrowth of dada, began in 1924. One of its major exponents wa Andre’ Breton and its center was France. Surrealists argued that the suconcious is the highest plane of reality and attempted to re-create its workings dramatically. Many of their plays seem to be set in a dream world, mixing recognizable and fantastic events. 


IV.              Antirealistic Theorists:

a.       Theatre of Cruelty

                                                               i.      Antonin Artaud

b.      Epic Theatre-Form of episodic drama associated with Bertolt Brecht and aimed at the intellect rather than the emotions.

                                                               i.      Bertolt Brecht


V.                 Theatre Under Totalitarianism

a.       Totalitarian Art- The rise of totalitarianism and the outbreak of World War II in 1939 curtailed the development of European theatre and drama. Theatrical activity did not cease altogether, but in totalitarian societies – particularly the Soviet Union under Stalin and Germany under Hitler- government supported theatres became instruments of propaganda.


VI.              Europe During the War Years

a.       France

                                                               i.      Copeau and text oriented theatre

b.      Spain

                                                               i.      Federico Garcia Lorca

c.       Italy

                                                               i.      Luigi Pirandello

d.      Great Britain

                                                               i.      Laurence Olivier

                                                             ii.      Ralph Richardson

                                                            iii.      John Gielgud


VII.            American Theatre

a.       Commercial Theater

b.      Serious American Drama

                                                               i.      Eugene O’Neill

c.       Non Commercial Theatre

                                                               i.      Little Theatre Movement

                                                             ii.      The Group Theatre

                                                            iii.      College and University Theatre

                                                           iv.      African American Theatre (1930)


VIII.         Asian Theatre

a.       Chinese Theatre

b.      Japanese Theatre