Realism: The Emergence of Realism in Western Theatre
Discussion: What is the nature and purpose of art?
-Realism came from a struggle to answer that very question
-1830s-1850s in Europe held a series of massive uprisings in response to industrialization and urbanization
-Led to an attempt to theatricalize these events in a relatable, scientific way (beginning to veer off from spiritual/mythical perspective)
-Emerged initially in France in 1853 when a literary critic began theorizing about realism -Influenced by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) (father of sociology, author of Positive Philosophy and Positive Polity, both essentially lectures turned into essays), who developed the doctrine of Positivism (scientific method to answer any question, everything should be verifiable by five senses)
-He and Darwin searched for a scientific approach to life; interested in creating a more equitable and effectively functioning society
-Emergence of Enlightenment led to loss of religion – they sought to develop some kind of non-religious doctrine
-Charles Darwin (1809-1882), one of the most influential theorists of the 19th century -Wrote The Origin of the Species in 1859 to show that all life forms evolved from common ancestry and developed based on natural selection, heredity, and environment
-Subsequently reduced the role of God, verified causality, confirmed that humans are not the center of the universe and are victims of circumstance*, and showed that progress (read: change) is inevitable
-Dude had an absurdly profound impact on literally everything Don't forget about the age old question of What are the various measures of location?
*had the biggest impact on theatre; anything can happen
-In France (again, 1853), theatre attempts to replicate the scientific process on the stage via Realism and Naturalism
-Naturalism came out of a literary movement in France and focused on the idea that actual everyday life should take place onstage in real-time, which is super boring and never went anywhere for obvious reasons
-Realism attempts to provide a truthful representation of the real world based on direct observation and written by an objective/impersonal/unbiased author
-Worth noting is that that’s pretty much how we, as a class, defined the purpose and nature of art We also discuss several other topics like Who was the first mexican-american to receive a phd in sociology?
-Many saw Realism as avoiding the ideal and limited to unpleasant/boring subject matter; considered fatalistic and potentially even amoral
-Everyone agrees that theatre should show you how to improve your life, but should it show you what life is actually like or an idealized perspective?
-True vs. Romantic Realism: complete reality in terms of design, current/contemporary subject matter, domestic plot OR not necessarily
-Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is considered the Master of True Realism, but he only actually wrote five plays that can be categorized as True Realism
-The Pillars of Society; A Doll House; Ghosts; An Enemy of the People; and The Wild Duck (all written 1877-1884; meanwhile, he fathered an illegitimate child!) -He didn’t start or end his career as a realist
-“Fated to be misunderstood in two centuries” – too radical for the 19th and too conservative for the 20th
-Often compared to Satan!?!
-August Strindberg (1849-1912), realist turned proto-expressionist
-Wrote Romantic Realism (aka Historical Romanticism)
-Read Emile Zola’s theories on Naturalism and used them to write Miss Julie, arguably the first truly Realistic/Naturalistic play that didn’t suck
-Definitely a misogynist asshole, but definitely also brilliant We also discuss several other topics like What pertains to a person or a group distinguished by their physical traits?
-His “Preface to Miss Julie” had a huge impact on many European directors, including Stanislavsky
-The play successfully takes place in real-time (90 minutes of action in a 90-minute play) and is written in the vernacular and for a completely realistic set
-Aaaaaaaand then he was institutionalized and went through a tough divorce and stopped writing for a while
-He eventually bounced back and got super into expressionism; wrote The Dream Play in 1902 and had a huge impact on German Expressionism
-The Dream Play is believed to be his attempt to put Freud’s theories onstage -Madman or visionary!?!?!?
Review: Three Types of Theory
-Descriptive, Prescriptive, Prophetic
Emergence of the Modern Director
Primary functions of theatre directors: artistic unification; representing the playwright and audience; organizing a working process; and working with performers
-So how did we get there?
Impetus for Producer-Director:
-The responsibilities of the director have always been around but have been held by various other positions over time
-For example, in Ancient Greece, it was the playwright, which was fine because the audiences shared a common background/mindset; in France (i.e. Moliere), same deal If you want to learn more check out What led to the emergence of products linked to patriosm?
-Shift came in the 19th century and created a need for one singular person at the helm to unify everything
-New technology (i.e. gas lighting) creates new staging opportunities (no natural light constraints, ability to move further upstage, etc.)
-Switch from acting companies to run-of-the-play contracts loses advantage of having a common vocabulary and integrated ensemble from the start; that’s now the director’s job
-Antiquarianism: the idea that everything in the play should be very specific to the play (so directors were also, in many ways, the dramaturges)
-Emergence of realism
-Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1826-1914) We also discuss several other topics like What is the state of hunger and food security in the us?
-Closest thing to a director prior was really a manger of a private theatre or an actor/playwright attempting to oversee their performance
-He was the first to take an outsider’s view of the production – he had no other stakes in the play or production; he just loved theatre, was an artist, and had a huge understanding of total vision
-In charge of a small, 8,000-person duchy in Germany; started his own theatre there (the Meiningen Players Theater)
-Duke by day, theatre artist by night!
-In charge of casting, set/costume/lighting design, etc. We also discuss several other topics like What are the similarities of all cells?
-Expected the cast to work on a fully realized set in complete costumes from rehearsal number one
-Rehearsal processes were as long as they needed to be (he was really in charge) -Intentionally cast actors as leads in one play and walk-ons in the next; dismissed those who dared complain
-Made sure every single action on stage had a distinct intention and purpose -He made actors; instead of auditioning them, he chose people and molded them into what he needed them to be
-Big fan of mob scenes and giant casts on huuuuuge sets
-Ellen Franz (1839-1923)
-Georg II’s third wife
-Proposed, adapted, and translated plays; served as speech coach for actors -In today’s terms, she was more of a dramaturge or literary manager -Ludwig Chronegk (1837-1891)
-A pretty mediocre actor
-Exceptionally good at taking in everything Georg said and writing it down -Basically a stage manager/production manager
-Edited promptbooks and managed director and tours
-They went on TOURS (only as long as he was alive though)
-From 1874-1890, the Meiningen Players were the most admired theatre company in the Western world
-Stanislavsky saw them perform on tour in Russia and that’s why acting is what it is today (aka they were so fucking important and for some reason we don’t talk about them anymore)
-Performed exclusively Western theatre
-Introduced historical accuracy in design, ensemble acting, and the idea of a rigorous rehearsal process to Europe