Postmodern theatre  

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Ubu Roi (King Ubu) is a play developed by Alfred Jarry premiered on December 10 1896, and is widely acknowledged as a theatrical precursor to the Absurdist, Dada and Surrealist art movements.
Ubu Roi (King Ubu) is a play developed by Alfred Jarry premiered on December 10 1896, and is widely acknowledged as a theatrical precursor to the Absurdist, Dada and Surrealist art movements.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Postmodern theatre is a recent phenomenon in world theatre, coming as it does out of the postmodern philosophy that originated in Europe in the 1960s. Postmodern Theatre emerged as a reaction against Modernist Theatre, and its trappings of strict style and didacticism. Postmodern Theatre is based on the idea that there is no Grand Narrative or Ultimate Truth. Most postmodern productions are centered around highlighting the fallibility of the "truths" which are held as definite, more precisely, Grand Narratives ("Truths") are deconstructed in order for the audience to reach their own individual understanding. Essentially, this process of deconstruction raises questions rather than attempting to supply answers. For instance; Sam Shepard, in his Pulitzer winning play "Buried Child", deconstructs the idea of the American Dream and leaves the audience with their own interpretation of the American Dream's fallibility and future.

As a reaction against Modernism, Postmodern Theatre deconstructs the axioms of genre and style and has no rigid structure, style or genre, which is perhaps its only other defining feature along with the deconstruction of Grand Narratives.

Postmodern techniques

Despite its rejection of genre and style a Postmodern theatrical production might make use of some or all of the following techniques:

  1. There is a deconstruction of Grand Narrative or Ultimate Truth. The accepted norms of seeing and representing the world are challenged and disregarded, while experimental theatrical perceptions and representations are created.
  2. A diverse pastiche of different textualities and media forms are used, including the simultaneous use of multiple art or media forms, and there is the 'theft' of a heterogeneous group of artistic forms.
  3. Narrative need not be complete but can be broken, paradoxical and imagistic. There is a movement away from linearity to multiplicity (to inter-related 'webs' of storying), where acts and scenes give way to a series of peripatetic dramatic moments.
  4. Characters are fragmented, forming a collection of contrasting and parallel shards stemming from a central idea, theme or traditional character.
  5. Each new performance of a theatrical pieces is a new Gestalt, a unique spectacle, with no intent on methodically repeating a play.
  6. The audience is integral to the shared meaning making of the performance process and are included in the dialogue of the play.
  7. There is a rejection of the precepts of "High" and "Low" art. The production exists only in the viewers mind as what the viewer interperates, nothing more and nothing less.
  8. The rehearsal process in a theatrical production is driven more by shared meaning-making and improvisation, rather than the scripted text.
  9. The play steps back from reality to create its own self conscious atmosphere. This is sometimes referred to as meta-theatre

While these techniques are often found in Postmodern productions they are never part of a centralised movement or style. Rather, they are tools for authentic introspection, questioning and representation of human experience.

Postmodern Theatre works tend to be challenging for an audience who are used to the time-honoured conventions of theatre and have expectations. The breaking of these expectations and the finding of new boundaries and sensibilities is the very point of this theatrical movement.

Notable Examples of Postmodern Theatre

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Postmodern theatre" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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