Theatre styles

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A great overview of theatre styles citing origins, pictures, key characteristics and aims of style. Lot of work but worth it. Don't claim it as your own or you're dead meat!!

Text of Theatre styles

  • Theatre Styles
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  • Contents
    Classical
    Commedia dellArte
    Theatre of Cruelty
    Symbolism
    Naturalism
    Realism
    Expressionism
    Absurdism
    Modernism
    Postmodernism
    Physical
    Verbatim
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  • Classical
    origins lie with the Greek theatre, through to Roman, Medieval, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Restoration
    first use of mask and chorus
    themes reflect period of the play
    relies upon imagination (limited props) to convey setting/atmosphere of play.
    actors must physically/vocally train their body to needs of larger theatres
    key characteristics: heightened language, using verse and prose
    larger movement to fill bigger theatres
    aim: hear a play, enjoy language, wit and humour, moralistic
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  • Commedia dellArte
    originated in Italy in the 1560s
    neither professional nor open to the public. Only required actors, no sets and very few props
    key characteristics: plays came from scenarios
    dialogue and comedic interludes were improvised
    based around stock characters, the lovers, masters, and servants
    no female performers
    paid by taking a share of the play's profits equivalent to the size of role
    at its peak from 15751650
    aim: entertainment, comedy
    improvisation today originates from Commedia
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  • Naturalism
    originated: late 1800s made famous by Stanislvaski
    classic texts performed in realist settings.
    plays that reflect real life
    key characteristics uses natural forms of speech and physical expression
    actor attempts complete identification with the role, understood in terms of its 'given circumstances'
    aim: audience as onlooker through the fourth wall, see great acting in the re-creation of character
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  • Theatre of Cruelty
    originated from surrealist movement in 1931 expressed by Antonin Artaud "Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, theatre is not possible.
    key characteristics: dance and gesture can create deeper meaning than words
    extreme emotions and actions result as a lack of control
    plays are a release for dreams and hidden emotions
    there are no limits to how theatre can stimulate an emotion or how to bring this about
    aim: to be moved, shocked and involved in the performance
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  • Realism
    originated from naturalism and superseded it
    portrays characters on stage that are close to real life, with realistic settings /staging
    direct attention to the physical and philosophic problems of social and psychological existence
    key characteristics: victims of forces larger than themselves, individuals confronted with a rapidly accelerating world.
    playwrights unafraid to present characters as ordinary, impotent and unable to reach answers to their predicaments.
    aim: identify with plot/situations
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  • Symbolism
    late nineteenth-century art movement of French & Belgian origin
    a backlash to naturalism and realism
    key characteristics: emphasis on internal life of dreams/fantasies/spirituality
    highly metaphorical and suggestive
    Eg: Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's drama Axl (rev. ed. 1890) is a definitive symbolist play. In it, two aristocrats fall in love while trying to kill each other, only to agree to mutually commit suicide because nothing in life could equal their fantasies
    Chekhovs later works identifiedas being influenced by symbolist pessimism
    aim: audience to interpret imagery and ideas to their original absolute truth
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  • Expressionism
    a cultural movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the start of the 20th century
    anti-realistic in seeing truth lying within man. The outward appearance on stage can be distorted and unrealistic to portray an eternal truth
    dramatises spiritual awakening/sufferings of central character & the struggle against social class values/established authority
    key characteristics: to present the world in an subjective perspective, distorting it for emotional effect, evoke moods/ideas
    movement/speech is heightened, expansive, or clipped/telegraphic
    aim: spectacle, illusion, experience
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  • Absurdism
    originated in 1940s 60s expresses belief that human existence has no meaning/purpose, therefore all communication breaks down
    logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion: silence
    Key characteristics: broad comedy, mixed with horrific/tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive/ meaningless actions
    dialogue: clichs/wordplay/nonsense
    plots: cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the "well-made play"
    aim: createsubversive/anarchic view of society
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  • Modernism
    originated in early 20th century sees art, including theatre, as detached from life in a pure way and able to reflect on life critically
    includes the activities of those who felt the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organisation and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialised world
    rejects the lingering certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and also that of the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator
    aim: audience to question the axioms of the previous age
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  • Postmodernism
    superseded modernism: challenges accepted views of the world
    includes use of multiple art /media forms
    narrative broken, paradoxical and imagistic.
    characters are fragmented, forming a collection of contrasting / parallel ideas from a central theme or traditional character.
    each performance is a spectacle, with no intent on methodical repetition
    audience integral to the shared meaning & making of the performance process
    rehearsal process driven by shared improvisation, not scripted text
    aim : encourages audience to reach own individual understanding.
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  • Physical
    made prominant in the 20th Century with influences from classical and commedia
    work often devised, rather than from a pre-existing script (an exception Shared Experience, who focus on making contemporary reinterpretations of highly literary plays including Ibsens A Doll's House and Tolstoys War and Peace)
    has inter-disciplinary origins - crosses between music, dance, visual art as well as theatre
    challenges the traditional, proscenium arch, performer/audience relationship.
    celebrates the non-passive audience.
    aim: combines the imagination of both the audience and the performer
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  • Verbatim
    documentary theatre - 20th century
    constructed from precise words spoken by people interviewed about an event/topic
    not written in a traditional sense but conceived, collected and collated
    recent example: Black Watch, a piece that integrated interviews taken from members of the Black Watch with dramatized versions of their stories and dance pieces.
    recorded voice delivery is an extension of verbatim theatre: actors have recorded interviews played back to them during the performance, allowing mimicry of the accents /manner of speech/words of those they portray
    aim: seek to achieve a degree of authority akin to that represented by the news. To give meaning/viewpoint to challenging situations
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  • Theatre Styles
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  • Quotes
    Harold Clurman
    The stage is life, music, beautiful girls, legs, breasts, not talk or intellectualism or dried-up academics.
    Konstantine Stanislavski
    Love art in yourself and not yourself in art.
    Michael Shurtleff
    An actor is looking for conflict. Conflict is what creates drama. We are taught to avoid trouble . Actors don't realize they must go looking for it. Plays are written about the extraordinary, the unusual, the climaxes. The more conflict actors find, the more interesting the performance.
    Sandy's favourite from Goethe
    I wish the stage were as narrow as a tight rope so that no incompetent would dare walk on it.
    Sanford Meisner
    Transfer the point of concentration to some object outside of yourself another person, a puzzle, a broken plate that you are gluing. Actors that had a focus on something other than themselves were completely different in their performance from those that were self conscious or inwardly focused. If you can do this - you have the most interesting, attention-holding thing of all, a fascinating human being playing opposite you. Let them be your focus and youll fly.
    Sanford Meisner
    The seed to the craft of acting is the reality of doing.
    Sanford Meisner
    Acting is not talking, its living off the other guy
    Acting has nothing to do with talking, little in fact to do with words. The bit of the ice berg that you CAN see is the words. The rest of your acting is why lies beneath.
    Sanford Meisner
    An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words.
    Oscar Wilde
    I regard the theatr