Thea 203: F/Theatre History Since the 17th Century

Political Theatres, Postmodernism, Performance Art from the 1960’s –2008. Brockett ch. 23 pp. 511-534 ed 10; (pp. 529-551 ed 9), ch. 24 pp. 538-48 ed 10; (pp. 562-566, 568-76 ed 9); and Wadsworth Anthology sidebar “Performance Art” p. 1130-31 in 6th ed.


Ch 23: Theatre and Drama After 1968

US fragmented society, hugely divided over Vietnam War

England, similar to US, 1968 brings end of censorship of theatre

Influence of Brecht’s and Absurdists’ work, globalization, on theatre practice


British Theatre:

*English Stage Company pushed gov’t to end censorship by reconstituting as private club to produce Bond’s Saved (immoral) and Osborne’s A Patriot for Me (gay play)

               *declines in 1980’s; undergoes huge renovations to bldg in 1990’s

*Royal Court reopens 2000 (no longer ESC), still committed to new worls

*Emergence of Fringe which picks up many previously censored works

*Devised theatre, theatre by and for communities (ie LGBT or African)


Royal Shakespeare Co: Trevor Nunn takes over, effects style: Nicholas Nickleby, cycle of Shakespeare’s History plays, minimalist staging

               Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (makes co solvent)

               1982 Barbican in London and 1986 add Swan in Stratford

               Les Miserables, Miss Saigon

               Management passed to Terry Hands 1987, Adrian Noble 1991

               1990’s employed 700 full time; still focus on DIRECTORS’ visions

               DESIGNER: John Napier

               ACTORS: Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Hellen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Antony Sher

               Tear down and replace Festival Theatre in Stratford; restructure company (began 2001)


Peter Brook to Paris, founds International Center for Theatre Research 1971-2010

               International collaborations, tours

               Mahabharata, adapted by Carriere, 9 yrs development, premiere Avignon 1985; 9 hrs long!

               The Cherry Orchard (1988), Impressions of Pelleas, Who’s There (Hamlets in rehearsal, 2001 tour)


Peter Hall to Royal Opera then Royal National, succeeds Olivier in 1973

Royal National Theatre opens on South Bank 1973-6, $32 million

               ¼ of total national Arts Council budget for theatre

               Hall promotes as “national” touring 20 wks a year, diversifying repertoire to include classics, neglected plays, new plays, world drama.

               1987 Hall leaves; leadership passes to Richard Eyre; Trevor Nunn in 1997, Nicholas Hytner from 2003

               Queen adds "Royal" to name for 25th Anniversary; 1997 extensive renovations

               Acting is primary; company less stable than RSC; ACTORS: Maggie Smith, Anthony Hopkins, Joan Plowright, Albert Finney; Major DESIGNER: John Bury


1980's: production costs soar and ticket prices climb. From 1995 National Lottery Fund helps Arts Council &controls rising costs. Many major theatres undergo massive renovations (Royal Court, Royal Opera, Sadler’s Wells, even National)


1997 Reconstructed Globe Theatre opens, w/ company that plays spring – fall.

               *Exact reconstruction, save fire law improvements;  holds 16-1700.

               *Some productions use original practices, but many don_t

               *AD Mark Rylance (b. 1960)



EDINBURGH FESTIVAL is major summer theatre festival in Britain, it expands to include "fringe" events. It's in August; go there if you ever get the chance.


New English writers:

Edward Bond (b. 1935-) Saved (1968), Early Morning, Lear, War Plays

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937-) R&G Are Dead (1967), Real Inspector Hound, Travesties, Arcadia

David Hare (b. 1947-) (began w/ Fringe Portable) Slag, Amy’s View,

Caryl Churchill (b. 1938-) (began w/ Fringe Joint Stock) Cloud 9 (1979), Top Girls, Mad Forest


US Theatre:

(we will focus on political and multicultural theatres and performance art)

Hair! 1968: Rock music, nudity, profanity, drug use, plotless “happening” or protest or rock concert


New directions for MUSICALS: 

*A few rock musicals follow; musicals do NOT convert to the new popular music en masse: Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) The Who_s Tommy


*Many musicals with darker material, tragic endings (begins early 60's)


*BOB FOSSE (1927-1987) responds with darker staging style and choreography (Cabaret, Pippin, Chicago) Sexually explicit but dark, ugly. Angular, turned in, percussive dance style.


*CONCEPT MUSICAL and Stephen SONDHEIM (b.1930): Company, 1970, Follies, 1971 Sweeney Todd, 1980, Sunday in the Park with George, 1984, Into the Woods, 1987, Assassins, 1991


*EUROPEAN MUSICALS: America loses primacy in musical theatre:


Andrew LLOYD WEBBER, English. (Evita, 1979, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard)


Alain BOUBLIL and Claude-Michel SCHONBERG, French. (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon)


*Now: Disney has cleaned up 42nd St; The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast_is this how America will regain primacy on the musical stage? Also around Times Square Livent (Ragtime) created Ford Center for Performing Arts, American Airlines theatre remodeled for Roundabout.


*Continuing European successes, but revivals of Golden Age shows also thrive: Carousal, Cabaret; and dance shows with minimal plot ie. Fosse, Riverdance, Tap Dogs, Contact


*Prince Music Theatre Workshop in Philadelphia


Off-off-Broadway_s experimental theatres, artistically and politically committed:

LIVING THEATRE returns from abroad (tax evasion) w/ Paradise Now (1968)

               Participatory piece, 8 parts, at the end take revolution to streetsanti-text, interact with audience, Artaud

Some existing texts: ie Genet’s The Maids; mostly their own texts

Beck died 1985; Malina continues co. on a smaller scale

Not in My Name _ anti death penalty play performed in Times Sq with each execution


BREAD AND PUPPET: Peter Schumann, 1961-now. NYC -> Vermont

*puppets of all sizes plus actor.

*"Art is food" serve bread with shows, anti materialism of America


OPEN THEATRE: 1963-73, Joe CHAIKIN out of Living Theatre, plays of Jean-Claude van Italie, Megan Terry, Maria Irene Fornes.

*Investigate what is unique to theatre; a workshop  group

*Use techniques of Polish Jerzy GROTOWSKI: POOR THEATRE, actors create necessary sound, props, sets, even light, fluidly change character, often present poetic text without characterization.


RIDICULOUS THEATRICAL COMPANY: Charles Ludlam, director and playwright

*First gay company; influences camp and drag in gay culture



LaMAMA ETC: Ellen Stewart, 1961->now.

*Expands to host international experimental works, continues to provide a place for anything off-beat, encourages minority writers and groups.

*From 1969 til now, they produce more in 1 year than all Broadway


Experimental theatres outside NYC (Note below the regional rep cos.)

  SAN FRANCISCO MIME TROUP: RG Davis, 1959 -> now.

*current issues, no longer mime, usually music involved, heavy improvisation,

 *perform free in parks


EL TEATRO CAMPESINO: Luis Valdez, director and playwright, 1965 - now.

*Mexican-American theatre,

*goes into California fields to perform "actos" or political farces and "mitos" plays of Mex-Am. culture for migrant farmworkers.


FREE SOUTHERN THEATRE: Gilbert Moses and John O'Neal, 1963. New forms of African American drama, tied to civil rights and black power movements.


EAST WEST PLAYERS 1965, Los Angeles_ Little Tokyo district.

David Henry Hwang’s enormous success with M. Butterfly in 1988 spurs more Asian-American theatres.




FEMINIST THEATRE GROUPS: WOW Caf_ (Lower East Side), Spiderwoman, Split Britches, At the Foot of the Mountain, Omaha Magic Theatre


OFF-BROADWAY: Continues; mostly produces revivals, successes picked up by Broadway; increasingly mainstream as midtown costs soar


MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB: 1970-> now. promote new plays, readings, workshops



*Delacorte Theatre in central park, still free shows in the summer

*Joe Papp (1921-1991), producer 

*Public passed to JoAnne Akalaitis in 1991; too postmodern; then George C. Wolfe in 1993


LINCOLN CENTER: rocky start thru 70's, now premieres many plays by established writers, ie Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein; added international festival summer 1996.


BROADWAY is down to about 35 theatres producing c. 30 shows/year.

*Mostly musicals, most transfer after success in another venue.

*Tickets top $100.

*Age and income bracket of audiences are very high.

*Only for profit theatre left, along with tours. for historical Broadway info; for current


NON PROFIT, REGIONAL REPERTORY COMPANIES: many more appear: Yale Rep, AD Lloyd Richards, Eugene O'Neill Center AD Lloyd Richards, American Rep Theatre AD Robert Brustein, Actor's Theatre of Louisville AD Jon Jory, Mark Taper Forum AD Gordon Davidson, Seattle Rep.

*LORT is League of Resident Theatres; negotiates contracts w/ unions, etc

*Continuing Rep Cos: Arena Stage AD Zelda Fichhandler, Guthrie AD Liviu Ciulei

*Theatre Communications Group, supports and promotes non profit theatres, publishes the monthly American Theatre, has 350 member institutions.

*Sometimes a proving ground for Broadway-bound productions, offer varied seasons of classics, new plays, musicals.

*Many have 2nd smaller, flexible space for new or experimental plays.


CHICAGO becomes "Second City", with Goodman, Steppenwolf, Organic, Wisdom Bridge, Victory Gardens, Body Politic, and about 150 total companies, mostly experimental companies.

*Improv is hugethere; companies include Second City, ImprovOlympic

*Chicago style of acting and writing develops; working class themes and characters, very physical acting style, whether in realism or symbolic dramas

*League of Chicago Theatres


TORONTO: 3rd biggest by 1990's. Other important centers: LA, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston


UNIVERSITIES: many more theatre departments emerge, many out of English depts. BA and BFA degress on undergraduate level; MA or MFA; PhD or DFA. Most with graduate programs partner w/ LORT theatres.


PLAYWRIGHTS: ch 23 pp. 542-546, ch 24 pp. 570-572 (you fill in plays, and feel free to add names)


Sam SHEPARD (b. 1943)



Lanford WILSON (b. 1937)



David MAMET (b. 1947)



Marsha NORMAN (b. 1947)



Maria Irene FORNES (b. Cuba 1930), also director, INTAR



Beth HENLEY (b. 1952)



Adrienne KENNEDY



Leroi Jones/ Amiri BARAKA (b. 1934) Dutchman, 1964



Ed BULLINS (b. 1935)



August WILSON (b. 1945)



George C. WOLFE (b. 1955, also director)



David Henry HWANG (b. 1957)



Milcha Sanchez SCOTT



Harvey FIERSTEIN (b. 1954)



Tony KUSHNER (b. 1956)



Paula VOGEL (b. 1951)



Suzan Lori PARKS (b. 1963)





Julie TAYMOR (Lion King, first woman to win Tony for directing)


Anne BOGART (Saratoga International Theatre Institutre; Sourcework and Viewpoints)



POSTMODERNISM: (see pp 546-547) style of writing, directing, designing, performing. *Characterized by pastiche,

*rejection of UNITY of directorial style, visual style, or individual's ego;

*emphasize disjunction, poetic evocation;

*draw focus to media of theatre and to process of theatre;

*often mix pop and high art;

*Post-structuralism as a cluster of theories of culture, art and literature, pervades postmodernism especially in the following ways:

               *assume specific communication is impossible; language fragments, misleads

*unity of subject or character rejected; multiple subject positions

*text as created by audience or a producing team contrasted with work by author

*authorial fallacy


Challenges to theatre’s aesthetic from

*Happenings: Allan Kaprow break down audience/participant barrier

*Environmental theatre,: Richard Schechner and Performance Group

*Postmodern examples: Writer/directors Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson, Emily Mann

*Directors: Andrei Serban, Peter Sellars, Joanne Akalaitis

*Performance collectives: The Wooster Group, 1975, Elizabeth LeCompte; Ontologic-Hysteric Theatre, Richard Foreman AD

*Venue: BAM’s Next Wave Festival, P.S. 122

*New Vaudeville 1980’s -90’s: Bill Irwin, Flying Karamazov, Cirque de Soleil, Michael Moschen. Combine circus or vaudeville and performance art


FUNDING: Only Broadway, touring shows, very few others are for profit corporations. *Most Off-Broadway, OOB, Regional Reps and all experimental cos. are non profit corporations, enabling them to serve as tax shelters for donors and to exist tax free themselves; however all profits must be returned to the company.

*National Endowment for the Arts, since 1965, has had small money to grant to adjudicated companies and individual artists, across all art forms. ($.38 per capita, down from 1992’s high of $.70 per capita). 1990 grants to individual artists ended due to controversy over “defunded four:” Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, John Fleck; new provision of “general standards of decency” caused law suits, went to the Supreme Court 1998.

*Other private corporations, like the Ford Foundation, provide grants to help the non profit sector. Private donations, special union contracts or non-union labor also help such companies exist.


Performance Art in Worthen/Wadsworth Anthology:

Background from Brockett: Happenings, Judson Church in the Village are1960’s precursors:

*involves artists working across disciplines,

*combine media in non-traditional ways

*intersects more and more with "theatre" in 70's and 80's


Developed mid 1960’s; diverse be we can generalize by

               *solo works

               *direct address to audience

               *no fictitious character, plot, narrative

               *persona of performer more than a character

               *may use dance, music, any art media along w/ physical presence

               *may be in a theatre or in public space


Centrality of body: Chris Burden shoots himself in the arm, Laurie Anderson plays violin on giant block of ice, Linda Montano ties herself to boyfriend for a year.


Solo performance monologues: Anna Deveare Smith’s “On the Road” with speaking words edited from interviews like Fires in the Mirror (1992). Holly Hughes “World Without End” (1989), Tim Miller “My Queer Body,” Karen Finley “Constant State of Desire,” Spalding Gray (member of Wooster Group) “Swimming to Cambodia” (1984) “Monster in a Box” (1990). Also John Leguizamo, Marga Gomez, Eric Bogosian, and even Whoopie Goldberg was discovered by Spielberg doing solo performance.