European Modernism and the Resident Theatre Movement: The Transformation of American Theatre between 1950 and 1970
Guthu, Sarah Elizabeth
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This dissertation offers a cultural history of the arrival of the second wave of European modernist drama in America in the postwar period, 1950-1970. European modernist drama developed in two qualitatively distinct stages, and these two stages subsequently arrived in the United States in two distinct waves. The first stage of European modernist drama, characterized predominantly by the genres of naturalism and realism, emerged in Europe during the four decades from the 1890s to the 1920s. This first wave of European modernism reached the United States in the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s, coming to prominence through productions in New York City. The second stage of European modernism dates from 1930 through the 1960s and is characterized predominantly by the absurdist and epic genres. Unlike the first wave, the dramas of the second wave of European modernism were not first produced in New York. Instead, these plays were often given their premieres in smaller cities across the United States: San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland, Hartford, Boston, and New Haven, in the regional theatres which were rapidly proliferating across the United States. In this study I address and answer a basic question: why were the majority of these European plays first staged outside of New York City at the resident theatre companies? The choice to stage the second-wave dramas was often influenced by various contributing factors: the work of prominent directors who devoted their careers to the second-wave dramas, the work of translators who rendered these plays into English, the influence of critics and scholars who helped to introduce and explain the new dramas, the emergence of academic theatre journals, the publishers that made these plays available across the United States, and the embrace of the new dramas by the American universities. The second wave of European modernism arrived impressively across the United States in the 1950s, as regional theatres outside of New York mounted many of the first American productions of these plays, and later settled in New York in the 1960s as the theatres of Off-Broadway began to produce these dramas.
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