Amerikanske Tradisjoner & Dramatiker

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After World War II the most influential figures in the U.S. theatre were probably the director Elia Kazan and the designer Jo Mielziner, for through their joint work on such plays as [Tennessee] William’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) and [Arthur] Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) they established the productional approach that was to remain dominant until about 1960. Under Mielziner’s influence, stage settings eliminated nonessential features, thereby creating a “theatricalized realism“. 

(Brockett, page 520)

Edgar Allan Poe 1809 – 1849
Amerikansk forfatter som var kanskje den først Amerikanere å påvirke kunstnere i Europa. Han skrev bare et teaterstykke som vi vet om, men influerte modernister i alle kunstform. Teater også. Mer trenger dere ikke vite – men novellene hans er anbefalt. Hans død er en spennende historie om du vil ta en liten sidespor.

Kortfattet historie:

In the late 1600s there is evidence that people tried to stage plays (Puritans disapproved)

Universities such as Harvard had student theater productions from as early as 1698.

In 1716 the first theater was built in Williamsburg Pennsylvania. Until the Revolutionary War (1775- 1783), theater was mostly performed in New York City and in Philadelphia. 

1850 – 1870 – Burlesque was especially popular.

George Pierce Baker, at Harvard University, was the first to teach playwrighting in America beginning in 1905. Eugene O’Neil was among Baker’s students. 

Six men formed The Theatrical Syndicate in 1896: Theater is business. They did not produce theater, but controlled the who performed where and when. The Shubert brothers broke the syndicate by 1910

Actors striked in 1919 and this resulted in the establishment of Actor’s Equity.

From 1916 – 1929 The Provincetown Players experimented with European theater forms and styles. They produced many of Eugene O’Neill’s works. O’Neill is sometimes described as an expressionist. He was the first dramatist to win a Pulitzer. 

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Eugene O’Neil
(1888 – 1953)
Some of his most important works:

  • Beyond the Horizon, 1918
  • Desire Under the Elms, 1924 (adaptation of Phaedra)
  • Strange Interlude, 1928
  • Mourning Becomes Electra, 1931 (adaptation of the Greek myth of Agamemnon)
  • The Iceman Cometh, 1939
  • A Moon for the Misbegotten, 1941
  • Long Days Journey into Night, 1941 (first performed 1956)

The American Musical: Jerome Kerns’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Showboat (1927):

Arguably one of the very first musicals: the song lyrics integrated with the story, making them necessary for the audience to follow the storyline.
When Miss Julie sings “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” we understand that she is actually an African American woman who is “passing” for white.

Paul Robeson (1898 – 1976) starred in Show Boat. He toured the United States with Uta Hagen despite the difficulties with race relations. He later prioritised his work as an activist.

Richard Rogers / Oscar Hammerstein
        (1902 – 1979)/(1895 – 1960)
Often credited for writing the first modern American musical: Oklahoma! in 1943

Lillian Hellman
(1905 – 1984)
Some of her most important works:

  • The Children’s Hour, 1934
  • The Little Foxes, 1941

An activist who, together with her lover Dasheill Hammett founded an award for writers who face persecution from governments, which the Human Right’s Watch still administers.

Arthur Miller
(1915 – 2005)
Some of his most important works: 

  • All My Sons, 1947
  • Death of a Salesman, 1949
  • The Crucible, 1953

An activist and the founding President of PEN, an organisation to support free speech.

Lorraine Hansberry
(1930 – 1965)
The first American-American woman to have a play performed on Broadway. Most known for A Raisin in the Sun. 

Edward Albee (Absurdist)
(1928 – 2016)

All art, to be any good, has to be useful. – Edward Albee

Pensum: Bickset Lillian Edward Albee Dagblad 300920
Most known for

  • Zoo Story, 1959
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1962
  • Three Tall Women, 1991
  • The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, 2000

Tennessee Williams
(1911 – 1982)
Most known for 

  • The Glass Menagerie, 1944
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947
  • Summer and Smoke, 1948
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1955
  • Sweet Bird of Youth, 1959
  • The Night of the Iguana, 1961

Just a random selection of more American playwrights to look into: 

Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Maria Irene Fornes, Annie Baker…