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Expressionism
 

Where would drama go from here? How can you get more real than real? The answer, as American expressionist playwright Elmer Rice claimed, was "... getting beneath reality, displaying more than reality, replacing reality with something more expressive."

The deep psychological forces that lie beneath drama, that create drama, were examined in expressionism. A reaction to realism, expressionism (1900s - 1920s) in the theatre involved presenting an inner psychological reality (a subjective vision) as opposed to an objective representation of society (the naturalist/realist tendency).

The conventions of theatre were thrown out. Plot was abolished. Structure was crushed. Characterisation was slaughtered. A dreamlike or nightmarish atmosphere was created. Playwrights attempted to create "nothing but a representation of thought, feeling or fate." Dialogue was poetic and often bordered on the nonsensical, whilst the development of electric lighting allowed playwrights to create weird and whimsical lighting effects. Expressionism was fundamentally concerned with expressing feelings, without worrying about the reality that underlies them. 


Expressionism was successful mainly in Germany and Scandinavia, but American dramatists like Eugene O'Neill, Thornton Wilder and Elmer Rice were also influenced by expressionism. Even the work of dramatist Arthur Miller reflects this influence to a degree, as is evident in the play, Death of a Salesman.  

 
 
 
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