British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook

British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook

British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook

British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook

Excerpt

The British playwrights featured in this volume initiated, developed, or in some way resisted the appearance of English dramatic modernism. The date 1880 marks the onset of the "new" or "modern" drama in small, coterie theaters; 1956 marks a surge of postwar dramatic energy afforded, in part, by state patronage. From subscription-funded to state-subsidized theaters, from a centralized system of London-based production to a decentralized regional theater, from publishers' small press runs to the mass printing of play texts, from scriptbased stage drama to the proliferation of dramatic media (radio, television, and film), the two ends of this period contain between them two world wars and a vast amount of cultural change both forming and formed by a changing set of theatrical practices. At both ends of this chronological continuum, as well as at most points along it, British playwrights wrote predominately "realist" drama, some of it commenting directly on offstage social relations. A smaller number of playwrights chose to write in nonrealist modes, using the conventions of poetic, symbolist, and allegorical drama, to render the workings of mythic or individual consciousness. The playwrights included in this volume document the variety in twentieth-century British theater, a variety underscored by recent efforts to open the canon to once valued but since overlooked female playwrights and writers from the provinces.

Defined at its origins by historians and commentators like William Archer and Allardyce Nicoll, the canon of modern British drama has favored written (as opposed to musical or performance-oriented) genres marked by the skillful use of literary devices and the circulation of philosophical themes. Certain comedies found favor with the "new drama" coterie, most notably the "high" comedies of G. B. Shaw rather than, for example, the popular operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. But with rare exceptions, the origins of British modern . . .

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