Modern Theatre and Public Consciousness

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At the dawn of the 20th Century, the idea of theatre and its role in society changed. Public spectacle about the lives of kings and queens, as well as the overheated melodramas so popular in the mid-1800s, were increasingly replaced by a subversive theatre that challenged audiences to consider their own role in society, whether “realistically,” “absurdly,” or “magically.” Ibsen’s defiant heroes and Chekhov’s waning aristocrats gave rise to American working-class heroes (and losers) in Clifford’s Odets and Arthur Miller, the militant theatre of Bertolt Brecht, the absurd theatre of Ionesco and Beckett. Finally, the contemporary theatre must contemplated in considering what such works as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Homebody: Kabul and the public reception of them, have to say about us, our culture, our art, and our vision of humanity.

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