Created by Wendy-Marie Martin

This unit gives students an overview of the anti-realism movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century and introduces them to some key theorists, playwrights, and theatre makers involved in this movement. Students will be introduced to the “isms” of symbolism, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, and absurdism along with various manifestos and theories as we track the characteristics of each “ism.”

In a culminating project, students will design an “ISMS’’ Theme Park, which they will share with the class at the end of the unit. Their project will feature each of the five “isms” in the form of rides, themed concessions areas, entertainment options, and in-park characters.

The overview gives an outline of the unit including time management/pacing, and assessment.
1: Historical and Cultural Contexts
This lesson looks at the historical and cultural context of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
2: Symbolism
This lesson focuses on symbolism by investigating The Manifesto of Symbolism by Jean Moreas to help inspire students to write their own short manifestos.
3: Dadaism
This lesson introduces the characteristics of Dadaism, through Ubu Roi, Dadaism manifestos, Voltaire, and Dada art. Students will learn how to write a Dada poem of their own.
4: Surrealism
This lesson looks at Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism, Atraud's Theatre of Cruelty, and the game of Exquisite Corpse. Students will create their own short surrealist play.
5: Expressionism
This lesson investigates expressionist theatre and compare to the other movements discussed thus far. Using O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, students will conduct deep analysis on a scene.
6: Absurdism
This lesson enters the last and final -ism for the unit, with a focus on five iconic absurdist playwrights: Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, Pinter, and Albee.
7: Culminating Project
This project 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: symbolism, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, and absurdism.

Standards Addressed

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