Week 1

To study theatre history, it’s important that we also have a strong sense of the greater historical context in which it happens. Each week I will be including a video, article, and/or activity of some sort to help give greater context to the theatrical events we are exploring.

To get us started and for later reference, we will be creating a collective timeline on Padlet.

Assignment: Add to the Timeline

  • Add any 2 Major World Events
  • Add any 2 Theatrical Events
  • Add 1 personal theatrical event
  • Be sure to include your name

Our semester’s time period starts just after the end of World War II. The immediate aftermath of that war which shapes the next five weeks (or so) was a period that saw the decline of European Colonialism throughout the world, the rise of Communism in China and parts of South East Asia, the formation of the U.S.S.R., and the Cold War.

Below is the trailer for the 1951 film version of Tennessee William’s A Street Car Named Desire, originally staged in 1947.


A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, here restaged in 2014 by the Young Vic and recorded to air for National Theatre Live. Please watch the whole play. If you’d rather read the play, watch at least the first half-hour of this staging.

If you want to read or read along: Text can be borrowed from: https://archive.org/details/streetcarnamedde00will

If you are having trouble accessing the video, go to the Brooklyn College Library and click on databases. NTLive productions are available via the Alexander Street database.

Take a look at this Sample Post on Tennessee Williams in our Class Knowledge area.

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Response Writing

When you think of the term ‘realistic drama’ what kinds of plays and playwrights spring to mind? What sorts of plots or themes? In what ways might these dramas be both specific and universal? What response do you have to A Streetcar Named Desire? What questions do you have at this point? Take this space to write a paragraph or two.

5 thoughts on “Week 1

  1. When the thought of realistic drama passes my mind I start thinking of In The Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda but it also doesn’t fit well for me into that category. Then I think of the play American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown. The plot was about this woman that comes into the police station looking for her son that might have been involved with the police. This play is a play on stereotypes and racism that is very real in today’s world. I think of issues that we, as the world, are facing. I feel like this stays true with the play A Streetcar Named Desire. As there were some plot twists, what is life without some unexpected happenings. These characters showed issues in relationships and family that people face, some worse than others. As much as we wouldn’t want to be in the exact situation that they faced, toxic relationships are everywhere and hard to identify and get out of. This play talks about very real things and that’s what I think of when I think of realistic drama.

    1. Musical theatre is difficult to classify as realistic because inherently the breaking into song tends to break that realism, even though it can deal with many real issues and include realistic scenes.
      I think you are also touching here on the reason that this play has had quite a bit of lasting power based on the way it continues to speak to issues people face today.

  2. When Realistic dramas come into mind I begin to think of the meaning of it and how certain plays relate to the meaning of it. The meaning of Realistic drama in my mind is a play or playwright that is related to people in real life situations as the play is relatable to others. These plays tend to be very much realistic to the point where you begin to believe as this very event is true and is happening right in front of your eyes. They embrace the difficulties in the realistic world and reflect it through their performance. Two plays that come to mind are “ A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen and “The Pianist” by Roman Polanski. A doll’s house came to mind because it talks about the problems within society that is associated with women and the way they are perceived in society during the time as torvald the husband would always have the more power in the relationship between him and his wife nora as if she is a doll that is trapped at home and controlled to do what told which nora does as a housewife for her husband which was very relatable during that time and the parwriter wrote this to show others that changed should be achieved for women to be treated as equal to men in the society hierarchy. In the play “The Pianist” we see how life can be difficult and unfair in any instant as they play shows us the most horrific times in life when the Nazi took over Poland and began killing those who were under their list and Szpilman and his family were on their list and it shows us how day by day they do everything in their power to stay alive just much longer to be able to have a future as a family together. Realistic dramas are an eye opener as it tells you that life is not always easy as many believe it comes with difficulties and unfairness. As it shows us the reality of how society and how life as a whole truly is from past to present and will continue doing so.

  3. The term ‘realistic drama’ evokes Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, or any play that attempted to develop a fidelity to real life through theatrical conventions. The movement of realism in the theater brought verisimilitude in how plays were written and performed. Actors’ movement and patois adopted a more relaxed and mimicked everyday people. The actions within the plays became more believable and less imagined, the sets as well were constructed to resemble average living rooms, houses, etc. This style became universally accepted as it allowed people to relate stronger to the pieces as they could relate to them on a personal level, while some plays focused on specific parts of everyday life, such as marital drama, mental health issues, etc. A Streetcar Named Desire is a great example of a realistic play, as the antagonistic nature between Blanche and Stanley is realistic in their reactions towards one another. All the action that takes place within the play is plausible, in how characters react towards one another in response to conflict.

  4. Realistic drama, in itself, is self-explanatory. It gives the impression that it was curated to connect more in-depth with its audience, especially during the time it was created. Realistic drama envelops a more relatable and authentic atmosphere. Naturally, most people’s interests are intertwined with things they are most familiar with. A particular play that comes to mind when thinking of realistic drama is the Doll’s House, the typical housewife who devotes her time to her husbands’ needs, willing to sacrifice her own peace for her loved ones. The plot of this play embodies the everyday life of a married woman and what is expected of her. And yet a play such as this still grasps attention because of its closeness to real world problems. Even more when a script has layers upon layers that expose the realness behind an every day narrative. It does not fail to skip simple expressions between characters. Allowing room for the audience to make their own interpretations and/or connections.

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