Influenced by the ideas of Sigmund Freud , Charles Darwin and others, many artists began to find a psychological approach to theatre that emphasized the inner dimensions of the characters onstage.
This was carried out both on the stage in acting styles, in play writing and in theatrical design. In Russia, the movement towards realism began earlier than anywhere else in the world. Building on the work of earlier pioneers, Constantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko founded the Moscow Art Theatre in , wanting to reform a Russian theatre dominated by melodrama to one in which high-quality art was available to the general public. In perhaps the most important theatrical meeting of the 20th century, the two met for an epic hours, from 2 pm to 8 am the next morning, and laid the foundation for one of the most influential companies of the century.
On December 29, , the theatre opened Anton Chekhov 's The Seagull with Stanislavski himself playing the role of Trigorin and Vsevolod Meyerhold as Treplev in "one of the greatest events in the history of Russian theatre and one of the greatest developments in the history of world drama. After the success of the Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavski set out to create a unified system of acting that would train actors and actresses to create believable characterizations for their performances.
Developed mainly between and and revised throughout his life, the approach was partly based on the concept of emotional memory for which an actor focuses internally to portray a character's emotions onstage. Areas of study include concentration, voice, physical skills, emotion memory, observation, and dramatic analysis. The Stanislavsky system was widely practiced in the Soviet Union and in the United States, where experiments in its use began in the s and continued in many schools and professional workshops.
In the early part of the 20th century, Russia experienced a cultural Silver Age and the theatre was no exception. By , the total number of producing theatres in Moscow alone totaled close to These year-round and seasonal theatres produced mainly farces, comedies, vaudevilles and even melodramas, but there were also a significant number of theatres offering realistic or naturalistic theatre.
While there were a number of actress-managers in St. In the United States, William Vaughn Moody 's plays The Great Divide and The Faith Healer pointed the way to a more realistic American drama in their emphasis on the emotional conflicts that lie at the heart of contemporary social conflicts. Other key playwrights signaling the move to realism in the beginning of the century include Edward Sheldon , Charles Rann Kennedy and Rachel Crothers.
Through the early century, no American dramatist had as much influence on the development of drama as Eugene O'Neill. Born into the theatre from a young age, he spent much of his youth on trains and backstage at theatres, before developing his talent with the Provincetown Players in New York City. Between and , he wrote several plays for the company before debuting his first critical hit Beyond the Horizon in , which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
After his death, his magnum opus and masterwork Long Day's Journey into Night was published and is often regarded to be one of the finest American plays of the 20th century.
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The economic crisis of the Great Depression led to the creation of the Federal Theatre Project —39 , a New Deal program which funded theatre and other live artistic performances throughout the country. National director Hallie Flanagan shaped the project into a federation of regional theatres that created relevant art, encouraged experimentation and made it possible for millions of Americans to see theatre for the first time.
Key figures of the early century include George S. Behrman , Sidney Howard , Robert E. Modernism was a predominantly European movement that developed as a self-conscious break from traditional art forms. It represents a significant shift in cultural sensibilities, often attributed to the fallout of World War I.
However, a simultaneous reaction against naturalism urged the theatre in a much different direction. Owing much to symbolism , the movement attempted to integrate poetry, painting, music, and dance in a harmonious fusion. Both of these seemingly conflicting movements fit under the term 'Modernism'. Political theatre is an attempt to rethink the nature and function of theatre in the light of the dynamics of the society outside it and audience involvement within it.
It led to profound and original theories of acting , staging and playwriting. At the beginning of the 20th century, many viewed theatre as an "all-too-popular affair. Still, these same practitioners often dreamed that their art would be a true people's theatre: a theatre for the people. Scholars have hinted at the possibility of interpreting certain plays by Gao from the perspective of tragedy; however, this suggestion was never developed into a full-fledged theory.
Both his pre and post-exile work has been variously categorized as experimentalist, absurdist, grotesque, and Zen, but never as tragic. Gao Xingjian b.
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For Gao, the Self is not a monolithic essence but a multi-layered reality that also involves otherness. Some characters are lonely and fall easily preys to their psychotic visions, which engulf them consuming their freedom and identity. Others, instead, are entangled in difficult love-hate relationships with the opposite sex. There, the encounter with the other, far from being a pleasant and enriching experience, resembles a fight for survival, a death dance, leading to mutual self-annihilation.
However, rather than conveying a Zen-like attitude to the observe the mind, or a Brecht-like detached and scientifically-driven outlook towards the staged events, below I argue that such a technique tangibly encapsulates the abovementioned dilemma of the Self, its intrinsic fractures and ambivalence, and, what is more, not disregarding the portrayal of negative emotions, primitive passions and repressed instincts.
Occasional references to other plays by Gao will be made, when appropriate. But what is the mechanism leading to the degeneration of the Self into a tyrannical Ego and an infernal Other?
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Arguably, this is linked to way in which Gao envisions the relationship between Self and Other. Only at the very moment when I believe that I possess it, behold, by a curious reversal it possesses me … I want to get rid of the viscous and it sticks to me, it draws me, it sucks at me … Here we can see the symbol which abruptly discloses itself: there exists a poisonous possession; there is the possibility that the In-itself might absorb the For-itself.
It does not let the individual get hold of it, simply because, although it is , it is not there. Therefore, and similarly to Sartre, for Gao the Self is an all-absorbing entity, whereas the fundamental project of consciousness the for-itself, for Sartre , that is the desire to overcome its nothingness and become one with the Self for Sartre, this equals becoming like God , is bound to fail. In BLD , for example, a woman delves into her past memories as a way of comprehending her own Self; in other words, she seeks refuge in her own subjectivity.
However, her self-immersion into the retreat of the ego, far from offering her the solace and enlightenment she pursues, turns into a regular descent into hell, which not only intensifies her initial anguish and sense of disorientation, but also further deprives her of her identity. In the second case, an old man seeks temporary shelter in a physical place—a museum—which eventually turns into his grave. I argue that the museum, where he remains inexplicably locked inside, and from which he initially attempts to escape, functions as an allegory of his difficulty accepting mortality and finitude as engrained in human nature.
As he voices a number of contradictory thoughts and statements, counterbalanced by those of a mysterious alter-ego, he reaches the height of his madness by committing suicide. What these examples show, with regard to the tragic nature of the Gaoian Self, is that Gao subjectivity is absolutely not a continuum. XXIII , the Gaoian Self is tragic because it consists of many fragments, torn between self-consciousness and the consciousness of the Other living inside the Self, in a never-ending inner conflict.
To him, in each character three psychological dimensions coexist. There is no escape from this ending. The neutral attitude zhongxing de yanyuan de taidu , intrinsically mimetic and extrinsically anti-naturalistic, would be in keeping with traditional Chinese theatre performance techniques, which are based on a sound balance of dramaticality and theatricality.
As I propose, such a rending mechanism can be reinterpreted as a form of sparagmos , originally a ritual performed or undergone by the god Dionysus, which involved the physical dismemberment of a sacrificial animal typically a goat.
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In this way, the Self is objectified, dissected but never recomposed, because the metaphorical process of dismemberment is not reversible. Dionysus—an allegory of the character, disguises Pentheus—an allegory of the actor—as an-other Self, thereby making the latter as an alter-ego of himself. Moreover, when recalling the scene in which Pentheus frenziedly attempts to catch the malevolent god, Dionysus talks about assuming a concurrently triple role as himself invisible to Pentheus , as a sacred bull an hallucination and as Dionysus the god.
Similarly, when Pentheus goes to see the maenads, he is simultaneously himself a disguised body and Dionysus an invisible spirit who drives him where he wants. Shortly before getting his body physically dismembered by the women, Pentheus starts showing the signs of an interior ized sparagmos , thereby confirming the idea that the process of sparagmos should not be necessarily meant as a literal dismemberment or a physical death.
Whether it is a body who performs and a voice who narrates in the third person , or interacts with itself in the second person , or communicates with a second character in the first person , there is always an interstitial thirdspace characterized by conflicting energies whose collision generates a multiplicity of rifts and cracks.
Nevertheless, afterwards she finds her own act unconceivable and she feels the need to explore her own Self to understand who she actually is, but to no avail. Her mind and body undergo a lengthy process of serialized dismemberments conveyed through a plethora of psychotic hallucinations evoking images of angst and terror and culminating in her transformation into a mere stage prop—a bunch of abandoned clothes signifying the fragments of herself, her mind emptied of any clear sense of identity.
Under the influx of a Dionysian-like voice, the mysterious Traveller in NW creates a new identity for himself—that of the titular Nocturnal Wanderer—but, due to an unprecedented drive to violence, which turns him into a serial-killer, he ends up not recognizing himself any more as the person he thought he was.
This dark side of his Soul is eventually symbolized by the figure of the Masked Man who enters the stage in order to kidnap him. Nevertheless, they end up confronting the reality of the Self through the dismemberment of verbal language as essentially cracked, which leads them to the loss of human identity. Finally, in TDC , under the evil influx of That Man, This Man, an old and neurotic individual, hangs himself after realizing that what stands in front of him is a big black hole, an abyss of darkness and oblivion.
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Overall, these inescapable dynamics of conflicts, intersections, doubling and fragmentation lead to the massacre of the Self through a violent, and repeated Dionysian act of sparagmos. The outcome of such a powerful invasion is not the impossibility to get rid of the Self but the frustration of being left with bits and pieces of it. Ibsen uses the gesture performed by Peer of peeling an onion as a metaphor of searching for the core of his Self, which lies under the several layers of his previous identities. Still, he finds out that there is no kernel at all. Below, I will first seek to demonstrate that TOS is centred on the construction of a theatrical and psychical field based on conflicting energies and functioning as a dramatic avatar of the most secret and obscure mechanisms of the human psyche.
However, the sparagmos ultimately results from an intricate system of relations between Man and the other characters, who attempt to impede his search for freedom and self-knowledge. Torn between his desire to pursue his own life aspirations—including reclaiming his own Self—and the repeated assaults of a delirious and homogenizing Crowd, who reclaims him as their leader, the character of Man ends up being dismembered into two separate yet interconnected entities: himself and his consciousness who drags him away from the other shore, saving him from mental derailment.
Moreover, the other shore is also a kind of extended projection of the Self; the Self that creates another world in which he wants to take refuge but that proves a breeding-ground for his own inner ghosts to become alive and grow mad at him. Instead of enlightenment, the other shore provides a dark abyss of spiritual death, which is a recurring feature of the post-exile plays mentioned above.
In these two plays, the tragic field is, respectively, spatialized and psychologized. Finally, in TDC the other shore is a contemporary art museum who progressively turns into a symbol of spiritual degradation and a realm of psychotic visions. The tragic field is activated through the verbal confrontation between the protagonist and his uncanny alter-ego: a relationship of seductions and deceptions that resembles the negotiation between Pentheus and Dionysus and which will push the main character towards a futile and meaningless suicide.