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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 23 | volume IV | October-November, 2001



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 23October-November, 2001
Theatre Theory

Postmodern Theater: A Manifestation of Chaos Theory?

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Raymond Saner

    Starting around the mid-end sixties, the world of theater witnessed the emergence of a new avantguard theater. At that time, traditional theater (classics and musicals) were produced by theater companies situated near the western part of mid-Manhattan around Broadway while intellectually more demanding new plays or new renditions of classics were given outside of the main theater district, hence the expression Off-Broadway for such modern plays or modern interpretation of classic plays.
    Smaller theaters which were not able to comply with the union rules of the Actor's Equity staged their plays outside of the union and production regulated environment, hence their denomination as “Off-Off-Broadway”. Many of them focused on new plays, revivals, classics etc. like the rest of Broadway and OB theater, other OOB theaters started to focus on consciousness itself and were later called “avantguard”, “experimental”, “art performance”, alternative” or “conceptual”.
    Such postmodern groups included for instance Mabou Mines, The Performance Group, The Manhattan Project, The Ontological-Histerical Theater, and writer/actor/performer's such as Robert Wilson, Stuart Sherman, Alison Knowles etc. These new avantguard groups showed their plays mostly in areas of Manhattan such as the Lower East Side, Soho, Village and Brooklyn where the counter culture of the sixties flourished well and undisturbed from commercial pressures and the intellectual scrutiny of mainstream theater critics.
    The features of these postmodern OOB plays were new and radically different from those shown by traditional B, OB and 'traditional OBB' Theater. They quickly outshined other OOB groups and the term 'OOB' became interchangeable with 'postmodern' for many theater critiques and practitioners. Hence, throughout the remaining part of this article, OOB stands for the postmodern variant of OOB theater.
    Grosso modo, modern theater is characterized by a core narrative plot which unfolds in logical, sequential manner like for instance plays by Pinter, Sartre or Albee. The actors take up roles of everyday citizens who tell a story based on life's tragedies and existentialist conflicts and the unfolding tragedy or comedy develops along a linear line starting at a beginning and ending with the last act of the play.
    The goal of postmodern theater has been to dissolve existing ways of perceiving the world and one-self. The OOB play is meant to be like an event or process whereby the audience and the players/things/objects/space interact mentally. The focus is consciousness and much less emotional experience, political criticism or simple entertainment. OOB Theater's intention is to de-construct reality, not to interpret it






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