7.5- Mid Modern Theater

Theatre of the Absurd

  • Rooted in the philosophy of Albert Camus
    • The human condition is basically meaningless
    • A rational explanation of the universe is non-existent
  • Absurdist dramatists rejected traditional play structures
    • Well-contrived plots
    • Grand speeches
    • Witty responses
    • Character motivation
  • Absurdist dramatists championed
    • Story-less action
    • Disconnected dialogue
    • Characters that aren’t easily understood

Samuel Becket (Irish) 1906-89
His most famous works rely on

  • Farcical gestures of vaudeville and circus clowns
  • Darkly intelligent, and very pessimistic
  • Tragicomic

Popular work Waiting for Godot – Takes place over 2 days. 2 characters are waiting for a third party — Godot. They claim to know him, but it is revealed that they really don’t.
Godot never shows up. The characters vow they will leave if he doesn’t come, but then they both stay

Optional video:

Eugene Ionesco (Romanian) 1909-1994
Career in France
Always wanted to be a writer
When he was learning English, the phrases from his English primer became the basis for his first play The Bald Soprano.

Optional video

Harold Pinter (British) 1930 — 2008

  • Nobel Laureate
  • Plays of anxiety and ambiguity

Popular work — The Dumb Waiter

Optional video

American Theatre


Edward Albee (American) 1928

  • Americanized Theatre of the Absurd embracing existentialism and absurdism
  • A harsh look at modern American society
  • His works “challenge’ the audience

Popular work — Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf
Optional video:

Tennessee (Thomas Lanier) Williams (American) 1911 -1983

  • Plays set in the South
  • An exploration of frustration
  • Characters who are psychologically troubled or inadequate

Popular work — A Streetcar Named Desire
Optional video:

Arthur Miller 1915 — 2005

  • His plays reflected the post-depression era, post-war anxieties
  • His plays also look at how families are destroyed by false values
  • Additionally his play The Crucible was an attack on McCarthyism

Popular work — Death of a Salesman
Optional video:

Method Acting

  • An acting method that was a reaction against the externalized style of acting on Broadway.
  • Based on the theories of Stanislavsky
  • Requires the actor to emotionally identify with the character they are playing
  • They build the character from within
  • The method is very well suited to film
  • Many important film stars utilized method acting: Brando, DeNiro, Newman

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