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The Living Theatre (1947)
- Founders: Julian Beck & Judith Malina
- Mission: To create a communal, free society with every theatrical event. To facilitate societal change through audience interaction. To introduce harmony and change through pacifist measures and heightened theatrical experiences
- Major Productions:The Connection (1959); The Brig (1963); Paradise Now (1968)
- Notes: Pacifist protestors, anarchists, lived and worked communally, major anti-war activists; evicted from 5 NY spaces--refused to pay taxes
- Founder: Richard Foreman
- Mission: “The OHT seeks to produce works that balance a primitive and minimal style woth extremely complex and theatrical themes."
- Total Theatre: to reawaken the audience (spiritual response), actor is not the center, tableaus, glacial staging, Placement (blocking), Thematic writing, Formalism, Actors: "Be hostile"
- Major Productions: AngelFace
The Open Theatre (1963)
- Founder: Joseph Chaikin
- Mission: “To explore a ‘post-method’, post absurd acting technique by collaborating in a broad way that includes exploration of political, artistic, and social issues that were critical to the success of avant-garde theatre.”
- Non-cynical, non-judgemental space, no set roles for members, developed improv for actors to free themselves from their Method training
- Major Productions: VietRock (1966); America Hurrah (1966); The Serpent
The Performance Group (1967)
- Founder: Richard Shechner
- Mission: Environmental Theatre: "liberate and democratize relationship between audience and performers. Deconstructed Classical texts. Social anthropology meets theatre. "Theatre of hostility": release of underlying aggression.
- Demanding social change (freedom of sex, politics, etc); focused on the more "private" senses (taste and touch); audience and actors share space (The Performing Garage); Game Theory, Guerilla Theatre, Rasaboxes
- Mission: Dionysus in '69
The Wooster Group (1975)
- Founders: Elizabeth LeCompte (Spalding Gray, Jim Clayburgh, Wilem Dafoe, Libby Howes, Peyton Smith, Kate Valk, Ron Vawter)
- Mission: "Through a crafted collision of image, text, object, gesture, culture, and action, an architecture is established and built within a framework compact and pointed, yet "strange and imponderable". Goal is to present a position, not to take one. Archetectonic structure; incubates works for as long as they need, objects "offer their life" to the show, media usage (film, TV, projections, recorded voices, music); IN-EAR pieces (actors fed lines and blocking); ReActive Impulse; 4th wall in tact between performer and audience; autobiographical inspiration
- Major Productions: Three Places in Rhode Island (trilogy); Vieux Carre; The Hairy Ape
Mabou Mines (1970)
- Founders: JoAnne Akalaitis, Lee Breuer, Phillip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, David Warrilow
- Mission: "The artistic purpose of Mabou Mines has been and remains the creation of new theatre pieces from original texts and the theatrical use of existing texts staged from a specific point of view. Each member is encouraged to pursue his or her artistic vision by initiating and collaborating on a wide range of projects of varying styles, developing them from initial concept to final performance."
- Major Productions: The Red Horse Animation (1970); Dead End Kids (1980); The B. Beaver Animation (1974)
- Other Notes: Diffused artistic control: all decisions are made by the company members, and each member functions variously as producer, designer, director, actor, wrtier, etc. Improvised, devised, uses dance, art, movement, spoken text.
Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds
- Founders: Robert Wilson (Lucinda Childs--choreographer/collaborator)
- Mission: Theatre of Images, challenges language barriers, likened to Wagner, deconstructionalist, movement therapy.
- Classless tickets, adopted two kids and uses them in productions, interested in movement/gesture language, stage images. "His works are noted for their austere style, very slow movement, and often extreme scale in space or in time."
- Major Productions: The Life & Times of Sigmund Freud (1969); Deafman Glance (1971); Einstein on the Beach (1976); The Black Rider (1990); Woyzeck (2002), The Threepenny Opera (2007); KAMOUNTain GUARDinia Terrace
Ridiculous Theatre Company
- Founder: Charles Ludlam
- Mission: Influences on culture: Glam Rock, Rocky Horror, disco, Bat Boy, Urinetown, Reefer Madness. street performers, drag queens, filmmakers--all collaborated together; broad acting style, surrealistic staging/props, cross-dressing, gender blind casting; script=starting point (improv),
- Major Productions: Big Hotel (1967); Bluebeard (1970); Camille (1973); The Mystery of Irma Vepp (1984)
Hamlet Machine by Heiner Muller (1977)
- Characters: Hamlet, Ophelia
- Themes: death, thought, feminism
- Devices: Deconstructionalism, stream of consciousness, no regard for chronology
- Ideologies: post-modernism (skeptical view of "the powers that be")
- Historical Notes: Cold War, Eastern Bloc-Germany divided, Communism discourages individuality. 9 page long script, can take 45 minutes or 12 hours to perform.
Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco (1959)
- Major characters: Berenger (everyman), Daisy (love interest), Jean (best friend),
- Themes: Conformity, Identity
- Devices: Disjointed/jarring language, deconstructionalism
- Ideologies: Absurdism, Existentialism
- Historical Notes: Critique on Ideological conformism, especially the Iron Guard in Romania during WWII. Over the course of three acts, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn intorhinoceroses; ultimately the only human who does not succumb to this mass metamorphosis is the central character, Bérenger, a flustered everyman figure who is often criticized throughout the play for his drinking and tardiness. The play is often read as a response and criticism to the sudden upsurge of Communism, Fascism and Nazism during the events preceding World War II, and explores the themes of conformity, culture, mass movements, philosophy and morality.
No Exit by Jean Paul Sarte (1944)
- Characters: Garcin (coward, drunk, lust) Ines (lesbian, manipulator, lust, pride) Estelle (liar, lust, murderer)
- Themes: Paying consequences, you are responsible for your own actions, no one else. "hell is other people" (we are our worst judge)
- Ideology: Existentialism
- Notes: Sarte's philosophy on man in a play: "existence precedes essence"; Initial run was interrupted by the uprising that drove the Germans out of France. It is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity, and is the source of one of Sartre's most famous and most often misinterpreted quotations, l'enfer, c'est les autres ("Hell is other people"), a reference to Sartre's ideas about the Look, and the constant ontological struggle of being caused to see oneself as an object in the world of another consciousness.
Endgame Samuel Beckett (1957)
- Characters: Hamm, Clov, Nagg, Nell
- Themes: Finishing/ Daily Rituals, Emptiness, Ressurection/ Fear of Such
- Devices: Circular patterns in plot, speech and characters. "Chess"
- Ideologies: Absurdism
- Notes: Several survivors of the Apocalypse ruminate on life, fear that the human race might eventually return to existence.
The Firebugs by Max Frisch (1953)
- Characters: Biedermann (businessman), Babette (his wife), Sepp ("uneducated" Firebug), Willi (Lead Firebug), The Chorus
- Themes: Denial, Morality (moral arrogance), Karma, Perception based on Class
- Devices: Parable, Metatheatre (Chorus)
- Ideologies: Existentialism
- Notes: Metaphor for Nazism/fascism; Critiquing Switzerland's neutrality and America's choice to remain blind to Europe's horrors
Look Back in Anger by John Osbourne (1956)
- Characters: Jimmy Porter, Allison Porter, Cliff, Helena, the Colonel
- Themes: Class struggles, old v. new, Post-Imperial Identity Crisis, Love vs. Indifference
- Devices: Symbolism
- Ideologies: British Anger
- Notes: Post-WWII Britain, fall of the empire. about a love triangle involving an intelligent and educated but disaffected young man of working class origin (Jimmy Porter), his upper-middle-class, impassive wife (Alison), and her haughty best friend (Helena Charles). Cliff, an amiable Welsh lodger, attempts to keep the peace. The play was a success on the London stage, and spawned the term "angry young men" to describe Osborne and those of his generation who employed the harshness of realism in the theatre in contrast to the more escapist theatre that characterized the previous generation.
Mother Courage and her Children by Bertold Brecht (1931)
- Characters: Mother Courage (Anna Frierling), Eilif, Swiss Cheese, Kattrin, The Chaplin, The Cook, Ivette
- Themes: Uselessness of Virtue, War as Capitalism
- Devices: Telling Titles, Songs, Breaking Fourth Wall (Brechtian devices), Historification, Distancing Effect
- Notes: Not strict Pacifism "War feeds its people better" Response to hitler's Invasion of Poland
The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (1957)
- Characters: Petey, Meg, Stanley, Lulu, Goldberg, McCann
- Themes: Failure of Language, Distortion of Fact, Place as Sanctum, Isolation, Conformity
- Devices: Comedy of Menace; Concrete people and locations with absurdist dialogue
- Ideologies: Truth is not concrete
- Notes: Stanley insists that it's not his birthday. Two mysterious men, Goldberg and McCann interrogate Stanley with a series of ambiguous, rhetorical questions, tormenting him to complete collapse. Stanley then attacks Meg, and then in the black out that immediately follows attacks, attempts to rape Lulu.The next day, Stanley has been taken away by them, and Meg is left confused.
Caligula by Albert Camus (1944)
- Characters: Caligula, Casonia, Helicon, Scipio, Cherea
- Themes: Finding value in the absurd, Freedom, Logic vs. Emotion.
- Devices: Metatheatre, historification,
- Ideologies: The downward spiral of power, Absurdity in politics
- Notes: Essay, Novel, Play = "the Absurd Cycle"; now referenced to Hitler though not written for him. The play shows Caligula, Roman Emperor, torn by the death of Drusilla, his sister and lover. In Camus' version of events, Caligula eventually deliberately manipulates his own assassination.One cannot destroy without destroying oneself. This is why Caligula depopulates the world around him and, true to his logic, makes arrangements to arm those who will eventually kill him. Caligula is the story of a superior suicide. It is the story of the most human and the most tragic of errors. Unfaithful to man, loyal to himself, Caligula consents to die for having understood that no one can save himself all alone and that one cannot be free in opposition to other men.
The House of Bernarda Alba by Frederico Garcia Lorca (1943)
- Characters: Bernarda Alba, Angustias, Adela, Maria Josefa, Pepe, Poncia, Magdelena, Amelia, Martirio
- Themes: Societal oppression of women, Tradition, Authoritarianism, Reputation, Sexuality
- Devices: Symbolism, symbolic nomenclature
- Notes: Post-Spanish Civil War (Franco's reign), Authoritarianism. The play centers on the events of a house in Andalusia during a period of mourning, in which Bernarda Alba (aged 60) wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio, (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda's elderly mother (María Josefa) also live there.Upon her second husband's death, domineering matriarch Bernarda Alba imposes an eight-year mourning period on her household, as per her family tradition.Tension explodes as family members confront one another and Bernarda pursues Pepe with a gun. A gunshot is heard outside, implying that Pepe has been killed.Soon Poncia's shriek is heard. She returns with her hands clasped around her neck and warns the family not to enter the room. Adela, not knowing that Pepe survived, has hanged herself.
Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss (1963)
- Characters: Marquis de Sade, Jean-Paul Marat, Coulmier, Charlotte Corday, Duperret
- Themes: Revolutionary Change, Class, Materialism
- Devices: Music, Metatheatre (play within a play), Distancing, historification
- Ideologies: Theatre of Cruelty
- Notes: Premiered in West Berlin, pertinent to the splitting of Germany, the rumblings of revolution that lead to the fall of the wall. Following the french revolution, inmates of an asylum put on a play within a play. The bourgeois director of the hospital, Coulmier, supervises the performance, accompanied by his wife and daughter. He is a supporter of the post-revolutionary government led by Napoleon, in place at the time of the production, and believes the play he has organised to be an endorsement of his patriotic views. His patients, however, have other ideas, and they make a habit of speaking lines he had attempted to suppress, or deviating entirely into personal opinion.
Far Away by Carol Churchill (2000)
- Characters: Harper, Joan, Todd
- Themes: Fear, Absurdity of War, Corruption, Sensationalizing
- Devices: Literally everything goes to war with everything else (including water, rocks, animals, people, objects, etc); Hat parade
- Ideologies: Epic, Absurdism, Surrealism
- Notes: Syrian conflict (refugees in England). The main theme of "Far Away" is fear. More specifically, the fear imposed by a government upon its citizens. This fear permeates the work from the smuggling of people by Joan's uncle to the public march of death for prisoners of the government.The theme is brought to its climax in Joan's final monologue where she describes being so afraid of the duality created by the propaganda of this new world that she has trouble walking home because she can't tell whose side a stream is on, or the grass, or the flies, etc.
"Master Harold"...and the boys by Athol Fugard
- Characters: Hally, Sam, Willie
- Themes: Authority, racism, classism,
- Notes: South African Apartheid. Willie, because of his fathers racism, alcoholism and abuse goes from an innocent child to an abuser of his two friends, Hally and Sam.
Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka
- Characters: Elesin, Simon Pelkings, Olunde, Iyaloja
- Themes: Duty, Anti-colonialism, tradition, Life cycle/Death, culture clash
- Notes: Based on actual event during British colonial rule in Nigeria. the ritual suicide of the horseman of an important chief was prevented by the intervention of the colonial authorities.In addition to the British intervention, Soyinka calls the horseman's own conviction toward suicide into question, posing a problem that throws off the community's balance. Simon Pilkings prevents Elesin from commiting suicide, leading to shame being brought on his family. Elesin's son restores honor by killing himself. Elesin then commits suicide out of dispair.
Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman
- Characters: Paulina, Gerardo, Roberto
- Themes: Justice, Revenge, Paranoia, Doubt
- Devices: "Mirror" on audience, Use of Schubert's song
- Ideology: Psychological repercussions of human rights abuses
- Notes: Chilean fascist regime (1973-1990), "Can justice ever be achieved?" Paulina was raped during political imprisonment by a doctor who played Shubert's "death and the maiden." She takes Roberto hostage (who she thinks is him) with the help of her husband Geraldo. Roberto is put on trial. Is he really guilty?
Antigone by Jean Anouilh
- Characters: Antigone, Creon, Ismene, Haemon, Guards
- Themes: Nature of Tragedy, Sisterly Rivalry, Tragic Beauty,
- Devices: Meta-theatre (Narrator/Chorus), Parable
- Ideology: Fight against tyranny; Existentialism
- Notes: Written in the height of the Nazi occupation, This play became a symbol for the underground-freedom fighters.Slipped by the Nazi censors; Vichy France vs. Resistance France