Experimental theatre

Experimental theatre

Experimental theatre is a general term for various movements in Western theatre that began in the 20th century as a reaction against the then-dominant conventions governing the writing and production of drama, and against naturalism in particular. The term has shifted over time as the mainstream theatre world has adopted many forms that were once considered radical. It is used more or less interchangeably with the term "avant-garde theatre".

Experimental theatre

The methods of experimental theatre are used to provoke an audience to change their opinion on a topic. This style of theatre is sometimes used in conjunction with Theatre of Cruelty, which is a similar concept, but the aim is to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible. There are many techniques which can be used in Experimental Theatre, such as audience participation, sound effects, and the way in which the stage and physical elements are used. Often the border between reality and stage is erased, such as when physical cruelty is used; the audience will not like what is done to the characters on stage, but once they realize that real pain is being inflicted on an actor, they will experience a new emotion: no longer are they watching a staged imitation of cruelty, they are now witnessing something emotionally upsetting.

Audience participation

Audience participation can range from anything like asking for volunteers onto a stage, to screaming in their faces. By using audience participation, the performer inviting the audience to feel a certain way and by doing so they will change their attitudes, values and beliefs in regard to the performance's topic. For example, in a performance on bullying the character may approach an audience member, size them up and challenge them to a fight on the spot. The terrified look on their face will hone in the message of bullying with that spectator and those around them.

ound effects

Sound effects have a variety of emotional uses. When the performer uses sound effects, it often ties back to the topic, in order to draw the audience in. By isolating that sense of sound, a situation can seem more real to the audience.


In conventional theatre, actors are confined to the stage and do not venture down into the audience. In experimental theatre, however, close contact with the audience may be used to get a point across. An experimental theatre performance usually involves at least one instance in which an actor leaves the stage to interact with the audience. This ties in with Theatre of Cruelty.

Physical effects

Experimental theatre alters traditional conventions of space, movement, mood, tension, language, symbolism, and other elements.

Augusto Boal used the Legitimate Theater on the people of Rio to find out what they wanted to change about their community, and he used the audience reaction to change legislation in his role as a councillor. Experimental theatre encourages directors to make society, or our audience at least, change their attitudes, values and beliefs on an issue and to do something about it.

Key figures


* Antonin Artaud "(Theatre of Cruelty)"
* Bertolt Brecht "(Epic Theatre)"
* Jean Cocteau
* Dario Fo
* Samuel Beckett
* Isabelle Junot


* Peter Brook
* Richard Foreman
* Andre Gregory
* Jerzy Grotowski "(Poor Theatre)"
* Elizabeth LeCompte
* Tadeusz Kantor
* Caden Manson "(Real Time Film)"
* Vsevolod Meyerhold "(Biomechanics)"
* Ariane Mnouchkine
* Ellen Stewart
* Robert Wilson


United Kingdom

* Complicite

United States

* Double Edge Theatre
* Big Art Group
* Bread and Puppet Theater
* Neo-Futurists
* Great Jones Repertory Company at La MaMa, E.T.C.
* The Living Theatre
* Mabou Mines
* The Open Theater
* Ontological-Hysteric Theater
* Playhouse of the Ridiculous
* Squat Theatre
* The Tantalus Theatre Group
* The Wooster Group
* Provincetown Players
* Magic Theatre (Omaha)
* Skewed Visions (Minneapolis)
* Performance Space 122 (New York)


* The Holy Stage Team

ee also

*History of theatre

External links

* [http://www.experimentaltheatre.org Experimental Theatre Organization]

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