September 27 - The Avant Garde and Scenic Style - Futurism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Bauhaus et. al.


Primary Sources

(all of the readings below are in reserve books)

Surrealism et. al.

Antonin Artaud, "Theater and Cruelty," in Theatre and Performance Design: A Reader in Scenography. p. 367-9

Alfred Jarry "Of the Futility of the 'Theatrical' in Theater," in Twentieth Century Performance Reader p. 238-42

Ivan Goll, "Preface to //Methusalem// or //The Enternal Bourgeois//," in Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook p. 38-9


F.T. Marinetti, E. Ettimelli and B. Corra, From "The Futurist Synthetic Theatre," in Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook p. 19-22

F.T. Marinetti, "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism," in Twentieth Century Performance Reader p. 289-94

Enrico Prampolini, "From Futurist Scenography," in Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook p.23-4


Oskar Schlemmer, "Man and Art Figure," in Twentieth Century Performance Reader pp. 359-371

Oskar Schlemmer, "From New Stage Forms," in Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook p. 46-7

Wassily Kandinsky, "From On Stage Composition," in Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook p. 250-252

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, "Theatre, Circus, Variety," in Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality p.16-26

Secondary Sources

Bert Cardullo, "En Garde! The Theatrical Avant-Garde in Historical, Intellectual, and Cultural Context," in Theatre of the Avant-Garde: 1890-1950 p. 1-39

Oscar Brockett, "Chapter Eight: Modernism," Making the Scene p.239-51 (reserve book)

Roselee Goldberg, "Chaps. 1, 3, 4, 5," in Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present pp. 11-30,50-120

Greg Giesekam, "Chap 1: Magic to Realism: European Pioneers," in Staging the Screen, p. 27-39

Christopher Baugh, "Chap 7: The Century of Light, Light Beams and Images," in Theatre, Performance, and Technology p. 119-34 (reserve book)

Richard West , "George Grosz: Figure for Yvan Goll's Methusalem," The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Apr., 1968), pp. 91-94

Motivator Post and Images

Motivator 1: Martina


In the first Futurist manifesto (published in 1909), Filippo Marinetti describes an event, an epiphany, in which he realizes that he and his fellow artists must break with the past. Marinetti’s faith in technology as the lead into the future is solidified in his description of this event: the cyclists he encounters who act as obstacles, the car crash, and the car’s ability to continue running. The car also acts as a symbol for the movement's members of the future that describes the Futurists' primary motivation: the industrial age, and the newfound dynamism and speed which it brought.

The basis for the Futurist movement is its rejection of the past, particularly the canon of Italian art for which the country came to be known. Marinetti attributes what he calls Italy’s cultural stagnancy to the art of previous centuries, which is always given precedence. The Futurists wish to give regard to where art may go next by putting the past in the past. Marinetti’s problems lay for the most part in the institutionalization of art and culture through museums, academies, libraries, etc.

However, in this early manifesto, Marinetti is clearly still wrestling with his sentiments about Italy’s cultural baggage, and it is hard to say where he stands on the art itself. On the one hand, he wishes to see “the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters, discoloured and shredded,” but on the other, “…once a year one should leave a floral tribute beneath the Gioconda, I grant you that…” Whether or not he means to be sincere, the reader is unsure whether Marinetti himself is really able to escape, or really wishes to completely forget, the shadow of Italy’s cultural history.

What becomes obvious in reading the theories of many of the avant-garde in the early twentieth century is the ways in which their critiques on the theatre, and to a lesser extent their solutions in reorienting the direction theatre has taken, overlap. For instance, the heart of both the Futurist and Expressionist movements call for a complete turn away from the past, although each movement's means to an end is what divides them; the Futurists are interested in technology and machines as catalysts in reaching the synthesis they desire, while the Expressionists concern themselves with the spiritual. Also, like Craig and his concept of the Uber-Marionette, Enrico Prampolini wants to abolish the actor; however, for Prampolini, "The appearance of the human element on the stage shatters the mystery of the beyond that must reign in the theatre" (Brockett, 247, citing Kirby and Kirby, 206). Most importantly, they are all driven by the need to take action. Their issues with theatre, and with society at large, is its passivity. The dialogue between members of different movements is also clear; for example, Dadaism builds off of a Futurist foundation, excepting the Futurists' decree to "glorify war". Nonetheless, these shared goals are what ultimately unite these artists in their struggle to find an outlet for political and social change at a time when each finds similar faults in the current of artistic expression within each's home country and abroad.