New York Avant-Garde Theatre, Values, Goals and Resonances
Bederson, Aron (author)
Cloonan, William (professor directing dissertation)
Van Glahn, Denise (outside committee member)
Martinez, Maricarmen (committee member)
Bickley, Robert (committee member)
Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
The post-war World War Two years were an exciting period of theatrical history. This particular era was one of great theatrical activity and experimentation. American writers and painters were a part of the post-war boom that shifted the center of art and culture from Paris to New York. In this dissertation, I will examine the counterculture theatre movement that emerged in this period and came into being in the 1950's and 60's in terms of new portrayals of character as reflected in experimentations in text and music. In order to establish the intellectual frame of my discussion, in chapter one, I will first define the major terms that I will be discussing such as modernism and character. I will address the finer aspects of the discussion such as postmodernism and humanism in my concluding chapter. I will also discuss the major trends of the historical/artistic period- terms such as avant-garde in this context and will also describe the major artists of each of its waves and what themes were most prevalent in their work. Who were the avant-garde that proceeded the New York post war theatre artists I am examining and how did they influence their work? How am I defining this wave of the avant-garde and when did it end?" How did this new sensibility materialize in some of the experimentations that took place in the staging of these productions as well as the performer/spectator relationship? In the body of my dissertation, chapters II, III, IV, V and VI I will address specific productions of the primary companies of this period: In chapter II: The Living Theatre, founded by Judith Malina and Julian Beck in 1946; in chapter III: The Open Theater founded by Joseph Chaikin in 1963; in chapter IV, Richard Schechner's Performing Garage founded in 1968; in chapter V, Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble, founded by James Barbosa and Barbara Vann in 1970. In the chapters concerned with the theater companies of the New York avant- garde that I have identified, I will primarily discuss these specific productions: The Connection and "Paradise Now" by the Living Theatre, "The Serpent" by the Open Theater, Dionsyus in 69 by the Performing Garage, and Bound To Rise, A Change of Hearts The Songs and Poetry of Leonard Cohen and Queen Being, created by Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble. As I discuss the companies and productions I have identified I will ask the question what was new about the presentation of character as portrayed through the text, music, staging and direction of these productions? The Connection, the first major production of the Living Theatre for example, marks the beginning of their journey towards the elimination of fictional characters and space on the stage (Aronson 61). Dionysus in 69 and Brace Up performed by the Wooster Group, The Serpent, performed by the Open Theater, and Paradise Now performed by the Living Theatre involved the ensemble in new ways in the creation and telling of the story. In the final chapter of my dissertation I will look at some of the new directions avant-garde theatre is taking, in particular, the work of Meredith Monk as reflected in her opera Atlas as well as the work of a group dedicated to preserving her work for future generation of singers and audiences, M6.
New York, Music, Experimental Theatre
April 27, 2009.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Interdisciplinary Humanities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
William Cloonan, Professor Directing Dissertation; Denise Von Glahn, Outside Committee Member; Maricarmen Martinez, Committee Member; Robert Bickley, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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