Hands-On Theatre History: Anti-Realism

Created by Wendy-Marie Martin

This course is a mix of individual and group activities requiring students to use both their analytical and creative mind. It gives students an overview on the Anti-Realism movement of the late-19th and early-20th century, and introduces them to some key theorists, playwrights, and theater makers involved in this movement.

Together we will guide students through the wild world of the “isms,” more specifically Symbolism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism and Absurdism. We will introduce students to various manifestos and theories as we track the characteristics of each of our five “isms.” As we combine analysis and creative exercises, students bring their entire self to process and prepare to design an ISM Theme Park project, which they will share with the class at the end of the course.

Lesson 0: Introduction 13:17 FREE PREVIEW
The introduction gives an outline of the course and explains how each lesson will cover a different topic, culminating in a final project.
Lesson 1: Historical Foundations & Cultural Contexts 11:38 FREE PREVIEW
This lessons focuses on the historical and cultural context of the 19th into early-20th century, a time ripe with “isms” and the manifestos that created them. We’ll look at the role realism & naturalism play in our American theatrical tradition and causes for the historical shift from realism to Anti-realism.
Lesson 2: Symbolism 7:25
This lesson has a focus on Symbolism, including investigating The Manifesto of Symbolism by Jean Moreas to help inspire students to write their own short manifestos. The characteristics of Symbolism are further explored in Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck’s iconic symbolist play, The Intruder.
Lesson 3: Dadaism 10:44
This lesson introduces Dadaism, using Ubu Roi as a jumping off point. Two manifestos are studied and students learn how to write a Dada poem of their own.
Lesson 4A: Surrealism Part 1 14:31
This lesson introduces surrealism, using Breton's 1924 Manifesto, a game of Exquisite Corpse, and costume and set designs by Picasso.
Lesson 4B: Surrealism Part 2 5:32
This lesson includes an introduction to Antoine Artaud’s version of surrealism called the Theater of Cruelty. Students can explore themes outlined by Artaud in his manifesto and use this exploration to create their own short surrealist play.
Lesson 5A: Expressionism Part 1 12:20
This lesson explores expressionist theater, starting with its German roots and as well key players in the movement and the characteristics connected to this form of theater.
Lesson 5B: Expressionism Part 2 7:06
This lesson shifts the perspective from the Expressionist movement in Europe to the movement in the United States, with a focus on Eugene O’Neill’s expressionistic masterpiece, The Hairy Ape.
Lesson 6A: Absurdism Part 1 11:29
This lesson looks at Martin Esslin’s crucial essay, “Theater of the Absurd,” and focus on five iconic absurdist playwrights: Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter and Edward Albee.
Lesson 6B: Absurdism Part 2 3:58
Lesson 06B is a celebration of the work students began in Lesson 06A. Here they will share their playwright bios as well as scenes from The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Balcony by Jean Genet and The Homecoming by Harold Pinter.
Lesson 7: Final Project 3:34
The final combines creativity with analytical thought as students connect ideas and concepts with their imagination in order to create a theme park that embodies all five of the “isms” we’ve covered in this course: Symbolism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism, and Absurdism.

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