A New American Theatre: 1880s-1980s
Fueled by immigration, world war, depression, and post-war booms, and in the context of a marketplace culture, the U.S. art theatre movement grew. We'll explore that movement by looking primarily at the theatres that defined it, the map of America those theatres drew. This course is a documentary history of this art theatre in the words of its visionaries and pioneers. We'll explore the writings of the founders themselves, from Jane Addams (Hull House, 1880s) to experimental theatre pioneers of the 1960s (e.g. Luis Valdez, Richard Schechner, and Charles Ludlam). We'll encounter the letters, memoirs, and manifestoes of such early figures as George (Jig) Cram Cook & Susan Glaspell (Provincetown), John Houseman/Orson Welles (Mercury Theatre), and Hallie Flanagan (Federal Theatre Project), and more recent leaders like Margo Jones, Zelda Fichandler, Joseph Papp, Judith Malina and Julian Beck, Douglas Turner Ward, Herbert Blau, Robert Brustein, Tyrone Guthrie, and many others. We will trace our current theatre's family tree and its historical interdependence with Broadway. More than history, though, the class aims to articulate questions about the identity, spirit, mission, function, influence, and meaning of individual theatres. What is a theatre? What is an American theatre? What is the role of artistic organizations in a democracy? Where does a theatres particular genius lie? What are the advantages and disadvantages of professionalism, of institutionalism? What comes from the collision of art and politics, race, or place? How does idealism live in the theatre? How does vision get articulated (or not) in practice? And finally, what are the theatrical strains we inherit from the past century?