Theater of the United States  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from the performance styles prevalent in Europe. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons.

Drama

The early years of the 20th century, before World War I, continued to see realism as the main development in drama. But starting around 1900, there was a revival of poetic drama in the States, corresponding to a similar revival in Europe (e.g. Yeats, Maeterlinck and Hauptmann). The most notable example of this trend was the "Biblical trilogy" of William Vaughn Moody, which also illustrate the rise of religious-themed drama during the same years, as seen in the 1899 production of Ben-Hur and two 1901 adaptations of Quo Vadis. Moody, however, is best known for two prose plays, The Great Divide (1906, later adapted into three film versions) and The Faith Healer (1909), which together point the way to modern American drama in their emphasis on the emotional conflicts that lie at the heart of contemporary social conflicts. Other key playwrights from this period (in addition to continued work by Howells and Fitch) include Edward Sheldon, Charles Rann Kennedy and one of the most successful women playwrights in American drama, Rachel Crothers, whose interest in women's issues can be seen in such plays as He and She (1911).

During the period between the World Wars, American drama came to maturity, thanks in large part to the works of Eugene O'Neill and of the Provincetown Players. O'Neill's experiments with theatrical form and his combination of Naturalist and Expressionist techniques inspired other playwrights to use greater freedom in their works, whether expanding the techniques of Realism, as in Susan Glaspell's Trifles, or borrowing more heavily from German Expressionism (e.g., Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine), Other distinct movements during this period include folk-drama/regionalism (Paul Green's Pulitzer-winning In Abraham's Bosom), "pageant" drama (Green's The Lost Colony, about the mysterious Roanoke Colony), and even a return to poetic drama (Maxwell Anderson's Winterset). At the same time, the economic crisis of the Great Depression led to the growth of protest drama, as seen in the Federal Theatre Project's Living Newspaper productions and in the works of Clifford Odets (e.g., Waiting for Lefty) and of moralist drama, as in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes and The Children's Hour. Other key figures of this era include George S. Kaufman, George Kelly, Langston Hughes, S. N. Behrman, Sidney Howard, Robert E. Sherwood, and a set of playwrights who followed O'Neill's path of philosophical searching, Philip Barry, Thornton Wilder (Our Town) and William Saroyan (The Time of Your Life). Theatre criticism kept pace with the drama, such as in the work of George Jean Nathan and in the numerous books and journals on American theater that were published during this time.

The stature that American drama had achieved between the Wars was cemented during the post-World War II generation, with the final works of O'Neill and his generation being joined by such towering figures as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, as well as by the maturation of the musical theatre form. Other key dramatists include William Inge, Arthur Laurents and Paddy Chayefsky in the 1950s, the avant garde movement of Jack Richardson, Arthur Kopit, Jack Gelber and Edward Albee the 1960s, and the maturation of black drama through Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka. In the musical theatre, important figures include Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, Frank Loesser, Jule Styne, Jerry Bock, Meredith Willson and Stephen Sondheim.

The period beginning in the mid-1960s, with the passing of Civil Rights legislation and its repercussions, came the rise of an "agenda" theatre comparable to that of the 1930s. Many of the major playwrights from the mid-century continued to produce new works, but were joined by names like Sam Shepard, Neil Simon, Romulus Linney, David Rabe, Lanford Wilson, David Mamet, and John Guare. Many important dramatists were women, including Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, Wendy Wasserstein, Megan Terry, Paula Vogel and María Irene Fornés. The growth of ethnic pride movements led to more success by dramatists from racial minorities, such as black playwrights Douglas Turner Ward, Adrienne Kennedy, Ed Bullins, Charles Fuller, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ntozake Shange, George C. Wolfe and August Wilson, who created a dramatic history of United States with his cycle of plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, one for each decade of the 20th century. Asian American theatre is represented in the early 1970s by Frank Chin and achieved international success with David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly. Latino theatre grew from the local activist performances of Luis Valdez's Chicano-focused Teatro Campesino to his more formal plays, such as Zoot Suit, and later to the award winning work of Cuban Americans Fornés (multiple Obies) and her student Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer), to Puerto Rican playwrights José Rivera and Miguel Piñero, and to the Tony Award winning musical about Dominicans in New York City, In the Heights. Finally, the rise of the gay rights movement and of the AIDS crisis led to a number of important gay and lesbian dramatists, including Christopher Durang, Holly Hughes, Karen Malpede, Terrence McNally, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, whose Angels in America won the Tony Award two years in a row, and composer-playwright Jonathan Larson, whose musical Rent ran for over twelve years.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Theater of the United States" 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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