This week, we're headed back to India to learn about the all night dance shows that culminate in killing a Demon (metaphorically): Kathakali! This form arose in the Kerala region of India, and tells traditional Indian stories, but with really remarkable makeup, hand positions, and dance moves.
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I don't mean it mean, but today we're going to be cruel. It's the fun-loving Theatre of Cruelty, which was pioneered by the genius Antonin Artaud in France during the inter-war period in twentieth century. The Theatre of Cruelty was meant to force an audience into looking at the ridiculous illusions of their bourgeois lives. Is it entertaining? Not always. Was it hugely influential? Absolutely.
Are you ready to learn something about the world? Then you're ready for Bertolt Brecht, and his ideas about Epic Theatre. Brecht wanted to lean into the idea of theater as a tool to upset and educate the world about stuff like the struggles of the working class and the problematic aspects of capitalism. He wanted to SHOCK people into seeing the world as it is and taking action, rather than merely entertain audiences. But, he messed up, and wrote some pretty entertaining stories, with some really catchy music integrated into it. And do, people ended up whistling Mack the Knife instead of throwing off the shackles of an oppressive social order. To be fair, it is a catchy tune. Today you're going to learn about Brecht, Epic Theater, and a little bit about the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Because those jerks hauled Brecht up in 1948 to shake him down about whether or not he was a communist.
We're going to Broadway, everybody, and it's not going to be that fun. In fact, it's going to be a very serious experience with lots of powerful social commentary and indictments of life in America in the 1950s. So be prepared to look at the works of Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Lorraine Hansberry, and to look into the face of chronic illness, racism, and the crushing malaise of American middle class life. Woof.
Get ready for Russian modernism. Mike is teaching you about the playwrighting of Catherine the Great, Anton Chekhov's plays, the Moscow Art Theatre, and the acting theories of Stanislavski. It's all very real, and very modern. From a Realism and Modernism perspective.
This week we're headed to China to learn about the ancient origins of theater there. We'll look at the early days of wizard theater (not a typo), the development of classical Chinese theater, and the evolution of Beijing Opera.
This week we're continuing our discussion of William Shakespeare and looking at his comedies and romances. As well as something called problem plays. Some of his plays, they had problems. We'll also put on pants, escape to forest, and talk about Shakepeare's heroines, lots of whom had quite a bit more agency in these plays than the women in the tragedies had.
We're back! This year Mike Rugnetta is teaching you about theater and drama. Are you in drama club? Want to know about the history of theater? Maybe learn some theater history? Have a lot of fun? This is the series for you! Over the next year, we're going to learn about the history and workings of the dramatic arts, together. It's going to be a great time, very low drama. Except it's all drama. Embrace the paradox, folks.
Today, Mike Rugnetta takes you from our beginnings in ancient Greek theater, and moves on to the development of Roman theater. Which, it turns out, is A LOT like Greek theater. Because the Romans were real Grecophiles, they modeled their plays on the Greeks.
As the Roman Empire fell, so did the theater. If there's anyone who hates theater and actors more than Romans, it's early Christians. As Christianity ascended in the west, theater declined. But, fear not. This isn't the end of the series. Theater would be back, and in the best subversive theater-y fashion, it would return via the Catholic mass!
The Renaissance came to England late, thanks to a Hundred Years War that ran long and lasted 116 years, and then a civil war to decide who would be the royal family. BUT after all that, with the Tudors (relatively) securely installed on the throne, there was a flowering of humanism, science, and culture. Theater was a big part of it. Today, we're talking about the London theater scene and the playwrights that set the stage...ahem...for the main man of English Theater, William Shakespeare.
This week on Crash Course Theater, Shakespeare is dead. Long live Shakespeare. Well, long live English theater, anyway. Actually, it's about to get banned. Anyway, we're discussing where English theater went post-1616. We'll talk about Ben Jonson, revenge tragedies, and court masques.
Join us here, in the darkness. Our theater journey takes us into the heart of expressionism today, as playwrights in the late 19th and early 20th centuries explored the limits of human beings' tolerance for a mechanized, industrial world. Spoiler alert: those playwrights didn't think humans fared very well in the industrialized world. They EXPRESSED that concern about modernity through some pretty dark plays, with pretty dark sets, and pretty dark content.
The 1930s in the United States were pretty bad for employment in all industries, and the theater was no exception. As part of Roosevelt's New Deal, the Works Progress Administration created a division called the Federal Theatre Project. The agency created theater companies across the country to put actors and crew back to work in the theater industry. The shows were free, and thanks to forward thinking administrators, a lot of them were pretty interesting. You'll also learn about the Group Theatre today. They're the super-influential troupe, with the totally lame name.
It's time to go Back...to the Future. By which I mean, we're going back into the past to talk about Futurism. Which seems like it would be cool, but it was started by this terrible guy Martinetti, who also wrote the Italian Fascist manifesto. He was just the worst, but, at least he was the worst in a way that makes a pretty compelling video.
We'll also check in with the Russian theater, and learn about generally nicer Futurist Vsevolod Meyerhold, who also was vey influential in constructivism. So get ready to fire up the meaning machine and learn!
Not long after drama reappeared in the unlikely home of European churches, the church decided again it didn't like theater. And so, the budding dramatic scene was kicked out into the harsh elements of the outdoors. So, they started having plays outdoors. Today we'll learn about mystery plays, cycle plays, pageant wagons, and how medieval European theater moved from being a religious phenomenon to a secular one.
Get ready for hilarity, because this week, we're diving head first into Greek Comedy. Actually, though, maybe don't get TOO ready for hilarity. Taste in humor has changed a little over the last couple of thousand years. You already know about Greek Tragedies, with their hamartia and catharsis and whatnot. Today we're going to look at how Greek comedy evolved out of those tragedies, first as Satyr plays, and later as full-blown comedies. So come along. There are a few laughs involved, I promise.
In the 1920s, there was a blossoming of all kinds of art made by African Americans in the New York neighborhood Harlem. Let's call it a renaissance. While all the arts were having a great run, some extremely interesting things were happening in the theater. Writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston were writing plays, and black theater companies were drawing larger audiences than ever before.
Prepare to be horrified, and to look into the face of inhumanity with the Grand Guignol. Mike Rugnetta teaches you about one of theater history's most horrible chapters. The Grand Guignol was a French theater based in Paris from the late 19th century until 1962. The troupe, led by writers like Andre de Lorde and Alfred Binet put on dark, violent, bloody shows that were a precursor of the horror media that we love to consume today. You'll learn about stage effects, makeup, and maybe even why humans like to stare into the darkness and terrify themselves.
We're headed back to Japan, this time in the Edo period to follow up on Noh theater, which had gone out of style last time we checked in. Now, under the Shoguns, there's couple of really interesting types of drama on the scene. Kabuki is a sort of successor to Noh, with wilder stories and more action. And Bunraku is straight up high intensity puppet theater. Mike tells you all about how the Samurais got themselves into trouble watching bawdy theater shows in Edo.