The Off-Broadway Theatre: Seven Plays

The Off-Broadway Theatre: Seven Plays

The Off-Broadway Theatre: Seven Plays

The Off-Broadway Theatre: Seven Plays

Excerpt

Nothing could be further from the truth than the belief that the contemporary off-Broadway theatre movement has recently sprung full-blown from the head of Broadway commercialism. Nor is it true that it is an exclusively post-World War II phenomenon. Nor is it true that it is presently a theatre in revolt against contemporary forms in drama.

Off-Broadway as a significant theatre movement owes, yesterday and today, a great debt to European precursors. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century revolt against hidebound commercial theatre in Europe gave rise not only to playwrights with revolutionary themes and techniques, but also to important non-commercial theatres willing to produce those playwrights. Out of that revolt came such groups as the Théâtre Libre de Paris, Die Freie Bühne of Berlin, The Moscow Art Players, the Independent Theatre in London, and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Antoine, Brahm, Stanislavski, Grein, and Yeats started as amateurs interested in producing a new kind of theatrical fare which was to break the stranglehold of what Shaw called "Sardoudledom"--the meretricious well-made play--and the worn-out flamboyance of Romanticism. Shaw, Ibsen, Chekhov, Brieux, Strindberg, Hauptmann, to mention a few, received first hearings and revolutionized the drama in both form and content. With experience and success, those amateurs--actors, designers, directors, and playwrights--became professionals and their theatres became institutionalized.

Antoine's theatre started in a billiard room behind a wine shop; Stanislavski's theatre started in an improvised auditorium in the country home of his family; the Abbey Theatre began in the Ancient Concert Rooms in Dublin, the first of various rented halls to become its home. Shoe-string budgets . . .

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