XVIII. Theatre and Drama After 1968
Conflict in the world and in the world of theatre had set in by 1968. With Vietnam and social protests, much controversy was occurring in the United States. This conflict was reflected in the theatre world as well. Opposition occurred in the theatre because of the push for change and innovation in what had been a very comfortable theatrical atmosphere. Regardless of the conflicting views, theatre was strong and surprisingly economically stable. Some of the improvements and innovations that occurred during the next years helped to create and refine the dramatic art we see today.
An influential African-American female writer during the years after 1968 was playwright Lorraine Hansberry. With her drama A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry provided her audience with the inspiring story of a family whose dreams are destroyed but in the process discovered what is really important. She also wrote The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window and other plays before her untimely death in 1965.
The Moscow Arts Theatre commanded the greatest prestige and paid actors more than anywhere else in the USSR. They even had a new theatre built to add to their facilities. In Poland, Jerry Grotowski headed the Polish Laboratory Theatre. Gotowski believed that to have theatre all you needed is the actor and the audience.
German playwrights of the period include the playwright Heinar Muller who wrote Hamletmachine, and Bertolt Brecht who wrote Drums in the Night, The Threepenny Opera, and Mother Courage & Her Children. Brecht was a very popular playwright whose plays' goals were to alienate the audience.
In France, there was an attempt to decentralize the theatre and move it out of Paris. To do this the French used theatre festivals which spread performances throughout the countryside with actors traveling to perform in different towns and villages. A director of note in France was Jon Louie Barrault who was involved in the Theatre du France. After 1954, he directed the annual festival Theatre des Natione.
Britain had what was known as fringe theatres, comparable to the United States' off-Broadway and off-off Broadway theatres. Sometimes these venues were called Beyond the Fringe or Lunchtime Theatres. Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Royal National Theatre, once headed by Lawrence Olivier, are two of the most famous theatre companies in the world. The goal of The National Theatre is to perform classic plays selected from the world of drama.
Economic changes have affected theatres in the period after 1968. Shows began paring down their casts and having less scenery. With the lowering of production costs, ticket costs came down as well. However, the creation of shows with great spectacles and high-tech sets or lighting like Les Miserables and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera could justify a higher ticket price. For the first time, corporations, called Angels, would put up money to back shows. This allowed producers and designers to have the freedom to create new and innovative theatre productions.
Britain's theatrical strength continued in the second half of the twentieth century with the talent of its many important playwrights. John Osborne, Peter Shaffer, Edward Bond, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, David Storey, and David Hare are some of the writers who have helped make Britain a center of theatrical creativity.
In the United States, the infamous year 1968 brought the introduction of nudity and obscenity to the stage. Plays such as Hair and Oh, Calcutta are both examples of the startling changes that took place in American theatre. Many small regional theatres popularized and helped to move theatres to other cities. University theatres also gained attention for producing strong and controversial theatre. A few examples of these two trends are seen in the productions of The New York Shakespeare Festival, The Yale Repertory, the Harvard Repertory, The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and The Arena in Washington, D.C.
Steven Sondheim wrote and produced plays such as Company and Into the Woods which brought to audiences' attention an ironic view of human behavior and social values. David Mamet's American Buffalo and McNally's Next showed a new direction not only for American theatre, but also reflected changes in American attitudes and beliefs.
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