Winter Will Be Here Soon -- Study hard as finals approach...


 
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Existentialism

 

Existentialism is a concept that became popular during the
second World War in France, and just after it. French
playrights have often used the stage to express their
views, and these views came to surface even during a Nazi
occupation. Bernard Shaw got his play "Saint Joan" past the
German censors because it appeared to be very Anti-British.
French audiences however immediately understood the real
meaning of the play, and replaced the British with the
Germans. Those sorts of "hidden meanings" were common
throughout the period so that plays would be able to pass
censorship.
 
Existentialism proposes that man is full of anxiety and
despair with no meaning in his life, just simply existing,
until he made decisive choice about his own future. That is
the way to achieve dignity as a human being.
Existentialists felt that adopting a social or political
cause was one way of giving purpose to a life. Sartre is
well known for the "Theatre engage" or Theatre 'committed',
which is supposedly committed to social and/or political
action.
 
On of the major playwrights during this period was
Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre had been imprisoned in Germany in
1940 but managed to escape, and become one of the leaders
of the Existential movement. Other popular playwrights were
Albert Camus, and Jean Anouilh. Just like Anouilh, Camus
accidentally became the spokesman for the French
Underground when he wrote his famous essay, "Le Mythe de
Sisyphe" or "The Myth of Sisyphus". Sisyphus was the man
condemned by the gods to roll a rock to the top of a
mountain, only to have it roll back down again. For Camus,
this related heavily to everyday life, and he saw Sisyphus
an "absurd" hero, with a pointless existence. Camus felt
that it was necessary to wonder what the meaning of life
was, and that the human being longed for some sense of
clarity in the world, since "if the world were clear, art
would not exist". "The Myth of Sisyphus" became a prototype
for existentialism in the theatre, and eventually The
Theatre of the Absurd.
 
Right after the Second World War, Paris became the theatre
capital of the west, and popularized a new form of
surrealistic theatre called "Theatre of the Absurd". Many
historians contribute the sudden popularity of absurdism in
France to the gruesome revelations of gas chambers and war
atrocities coming out of Germany after the war. The main
idea of The Theatre of the Absurd was to point out man's
helplessness and pointless existence in a world without
purpose. As Richard Coe described it "It is the freedom of
the slave to crawl east along the deck of a boat going
west". Two of the most popular playwrights of this time
include Samuel Beckett, who's most famous piece was
"Waiting for Godot", and Eugene Ioensco with "Exit the
King". Most absurdist plays have no logical plot. The
absence of the plot pushes an emphasis on proving the
pointless existence of man. Quite often, such plays reveal
the human condition at it's absolute worst.
 
Absurdist playwrites often used such techniques as
symbolism, mime, the circus, and the commedia dell'arte,
which are quite evident in the more popular plays of the
time, such as Waiting for Godot, The Bald Prima Donna, and
Amedee. 
 



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