Realism and Naturalism

Created by Drama Teacher Academy

This unit looks at the origins of realism and naturalism. The Realism/Naturalism movements in Europe came about as a response to the artificiality of the Romantic Movement. Realism/Naturalism strove for real-life characters and situations. This unit looks at early realist playwrights and their plays as well as the Independent Theatre Movement, which provided venues for the new forms when established theatres refused to produce these plays. In America, this became the Little Theatre Movement, where groups experimented with theatre away from the strictures of the syndicated houses. In the meantime, professional theatre was developing on Broadway, including early Black performers. Realism finally came to the American stage with the plays of Eugene O’Neill.

The overview is an outline of the unit, including time management, assessment, and bibliography for the unit. A script for the slide deck included in this unit is also attached to the overview.
Additional Attachments
1: Set the Stage for Realism and Naturalism
In this lesson, students will be introduced to the precursors of Realism/Naturalism. Students will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and STEM background of the era to set the stage for Realism/Naturalism.
2: Early Realism and Naturalism
In this lesson, we will define realism and naturalism. Students will then participate in a number of activities to apply the definitions. In the second class, students will read scenes from a Realism play and a Naturalism play and then contrast and compare. Finally students will create a theatrical moment to bring to life their interpretation of either “ism.”
3: Independent Theatre Movement
At the time, Realistic and Naturalistic plays were not welcome at established theatres. Other venues had to be found, which led to the Independent Theatre Movement. Students are introduced to the movement and do their own activity “making theatre happen.” They will then be introduced to more playwrights of the time and read scenes. Finally, students will adapt a scene into the 21st century and apply modern social issues into the scene’s framework.
4: Stanislavski
In this lesson, students will learn about Constantin Stanislavski, an actor and theatre director who profoundly affected modern realistic theatre with his system of actor training specifically for realistic plays. Students will participate in exercises from the Stanislavski system.
5: Meanwhile, in America
In this lesson, we will review what was happening in America during this era: vaudeville and Broadway in its early days. Students will try out a vaudeville routine and read a scene from a 1920 Broadway play. This lesson also highlights Black performers of the time. Then we’ll follow Eugene O’Neill as he brings realism to the American stage.
6: Culminating Activities
Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity or allow students to choose from the provided activities to demonstrate their knowledge. You could also give students the choice to create their own assignment to demonstrate how they have mastered the content.

Standards Addressed

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