A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights

A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights

A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights

A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights

Synopsis

Thirty-three leading American and British playwrights, from Robert Anderson to Paul Zindel, discuss their own work and contemporary drama and offer projections about theater for the 21st century. Proceeding from the premise that recent drama in various ways represents a reaction to the Theater of the Absurd, interviewer DiGaetani terms the diverse responses "postmodernism," or a movement away from "old-fashioned modernism." This concept, while not universally accepted by the playwrights, becomes a point of departure for lively dialogue, providing insights into the dynamics of contemporary theater.

Excerpt

This book began with a hunch which led to a thesis. I felt that much postmodernist drama was, in various ways, reacting against the modernism of Theater of the Absurd, the last form of modernism in the theater since Ibsen. With that thesis in mind, I interviewed these thirty-three playwrights, and some agreed with my thesis while others disagreed rather vehemently. In any case, I believe the interviews with these contemporary American and British playwrights give us valuable insights into contemporary drama and contemporary dramatic practices in the theaters of America and Britain as we approach the twenty-first century. With or without my thesis, the book provides candid conversations with some of the major playwrights at the turn of the new century.

Their approaches indicate a wide variety of styles, topics, and methods for the contemporary stage. But it seems to me that most contemporary dramatists responded in some way to the absurdist dramatists after World War II. Of these, certainly the most influential was Samuel Beckett, whose Waiting for Godot (1953), Endgame (1957), and Krapp's Last Tape (1958) were staged all over the world. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, this was the culmination of a very distinguished career as a writer.

Samuel Beckett undoubtedly absorbed much of his modernism through his friend the avant-garde Irish writer James Joyce. In addition to being a secretary to James Joyce, Beckett even saw socially Joyce's daughter Lucia, who fell in love with him. In the novel the modernist writers included James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, who of course wrote much earlier than our post- WWII Theater of the Absurd playwrights. Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914) and particularly Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939) were modernist manifestos in their way -- new ways of writing novels. That Ireland should have given us two such great modernist writers as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett attests to the vitality of Irish literature, and not just in the drama, where it was already famous due to writers like Wilde . . .

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