Realism and the Modern Theatre

Realism and
the Modern Theatre
Introduction to the Study of
By K. Kruszka
A call to return the theatre to “serious”
pursuits as opposed to the commercial
interests of melodrama and comedy.
Theatre shouldn’t be a frivolous
entertainment but serious, artful
1850 - 1950
 Rise in urban poverty and crime – social
 Charles Darwin and the “Survival of the
 Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis and
the unconscious
 Humanity was a the mercy of its
environment, not in control at all
Realism in Theatre
 Truth lies in the observable physical world
 Truth can only be discovered through scientific
 Art is to be for the betterment of humankind, with
artist as scientist
 Plays were set in contemporary times because
that is all the playwright could observe firsthand.
 Subjects were contemporary life and its
Unity in design to create the illusion
of reality
 Setting was part of the play so actors used
it rather than performing in front of it.
 Details had to be three dimensional rather
than painted if they were to appear real.
 Actors blocked to resemble natural
 Group toured Europe and became very
popular and copied.
Realistic Blocking
Naturalism – Andre Antoine
 Created use of the 4th Wall
 Had real objects onstage (trees, sides of
beef) to further enhance the naturalism.
 Actors should appear to be people, not
actors and say lines conversationally.
 Box sets used over wing and backdrop to
show “rooms”
“The Lower Depths” by Gorki examined life in the
flophouse. All stage elements reflected this setting.
Realism Becomes Dominant
 Naturalism had an invited audience to
avoid censorship, which limited popularity.
 Naturalism difficult for audiences to follow.
 Realism offered a style of reality that was
watch-able and that audiences could
 Realism is still the dominant form of
theatre, especially in the United States.
Chekhov and Stanislavski
Moscow Art Theatre
 Chekhov’s plays demanded a new style of
acting that would teach actors how to create
realistic, multi-layered characters while also
being understood by the audience.
 Stanislavski developed a method of acting, often
called Realism, which trained actors for
performing realism. It is the most popular
training method today in the United States.
Stanislavski’s Method
 A system, still used today, where actors
create characters through observation,
sense memory, and personal observation.
 The relationship between actor and
director is one in which they find the play
and its characters together through the
rehearsal process.
 Endowment, Objective, Inner Monologue
Heinrich Ibsen - Norwegian A Doll’s
House, Hedda Gabler
 Credited with writing the first pieces of
realism that attacked society’s values.
 Ibsen’s plays tackled issues of the
role of women, euthanasia,
morality of war and other
social issues.
George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion, Saint Joan,
Man and Superman
 Almost always wrote comedies that dealt
with social issues of the times. Made
realism accepted in England.
 Eugene O’Neill – Long Day’s Journey Into
Night, When Mourning Becomes Electra
 Tennessee Williams – A Streetcar Named
Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof
 Arthur Miller – Death of A Salesman, The
Crucible, All My Sons
 Edward Albee – Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Wolf, The Goat