Europe and the U.S., 1940-68
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XVII. Theatre in Europe and the U.S., 1940-68

Tennessee Williams was one of the most celebrated playwrights of this period for his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Other noted plays were Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which popularized absurdism, Ionesco'sThe Bald Soprano, and Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter.

One of the most influential directors of the mid-century was Elia Kazan who gained fame as a director of Williams' plays. Designer Jo Mielziner gained prominence for eliminating non-essential features on the stage, creating theatrical realism. In 1947, the Actors Studio was founded by Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, and Robert Louis, and the studio became famous for its adoption of the Stanislavski method of acting. The Actors Studio's ideal was popularized by Marlon Brando in his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. By the 1960's, the Actors Studio began a decline when interest turned toward nonrealistic and period drama.

Arthur Miller , another important American playwright of the period, created such greats as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Miller wrote powerful plays which had a quality much like Ibsen's plays. His characters wrestle with values and personal identity before coming to a new clear understanding of themselves. Death of a Salesman is considered Miller's greatest achievement because of its influence on America's view of material success and happiness.

A decline in theatre was seen during this period because of TV and movies. The theatre did things that could not so easily be done on TV such as the use of alternative spaces and actor/ audience realism and immediacy.

In France the theatre was well attended yet the productions were rarely outstanding. During the mid-century, steps were taken to improve plays' quality. New plays were chosen, acting troupes were added, and an annual competition was set up to spark better acting, directing, and improve the overall production quality.

Links to Chapter 17

Tennessee Williams

bullet Williams
bullet Tennessee Williams

Samuel Beckett

bulletSamuel Beckett--Library of Congress citations

Ionesco

bulletIonesco
bulletIonesco biography

Elia Kazan

Arthur Miller

bulletArthur Miller
bulletBrief excerpt from the preface of Leonard Moss' Arthur Miller (Twayne Publishers/G. K. Hall & Co., 1980)
W.ild W.onderful W.orld of Theatre History

The purpose of this project is to show the highlights of different periods of theatre history, including plays, acting styles, staging convention, costuming, and playwrights. Web links have been provided so that students can find additional information on items of interest.

Origins of Theatre ] Theatre and Drama in Ancient Greece ] Roman and Byzantine Theatre and Drama ] European Drama in the Middle Ages ] Italian Theatre and Drama ] English Theatre Middle Ages to 1642 ] Spanish Theatre to 1700 ] Theatre in France--1500-1700 ] Theatre of the Orient ] English Theatre, 1642-1800 ] Italy and France - 18th Century ] Northern and Eastern Europe - 18th Century ] Europe & the U.S. - 19th Century ] Europe and the U.S. - Late 19th Century ] Modern Theatre, 1875-1915 ] Europe/ U.S. Between the Wars ] Europe and the U.S., 1940-68 ] Drama After 1968 ]

 

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