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Dramaturgy Database

Postmodernism and Theater

In this article, Fred McGlynn explores postmodernism from the perspective of theater. Starting with a short discussion of Antonin Artaud’s challenge: a theatre which could capture life in its full passionate presence without the remainder implied by a representation which points beyond itself, McGlynn examines three phases of three phases of the reaction to Artaud’s challenge. The first phase is represented by the early work of Samuel Beckett which marks a transitional phase between modern theater and postmodern theater. The second phase is best described with the works of the Becks’ “Living Theater,” Richard Schechner’s “Performance Group,” and the French groups form the late 60s and early 70s, which aimed to replace the dead theater of representation with Artaud’s “impossible” communal festive theater in either a sacred or secular form. The third and final phase is discussed with the work of Daniel Mesguich and Herbert Blau responded to Artaud’s challenge with a thorough interrogation of both the text and its mode of presentation, suggesting that Artaud didn’t have the last word to say with regards to the possibilities of theater for a postmodern era.

Fred McGlynn. “Postmodernism and Theater”. Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Arts, Hugh J. Silverman (ed.), vol.17, 137-154. New York: Routledge, 1990.