Beyond naturalism: a new realism in American theatre

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Greenwood Press, 1988 - Literary Criticism - 174 pages
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Demastes explores the work of a group of playwrights who have moved beyond the often-maligned naturalist approach to create what he terms the new realism in American theatre. Demastes argues that this new realism is separate and distinct from the narrow focus of naturalism and is the result of tapping into a growing tradition inherited from the experimental work of prior decades such as absurdist theatre and experimentation of the 1960s. The playwrights who most exemplify the new realism--David Rabe, David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Charles Fuller, Beth Henley, and Marsha Norman--are examined in depth. Each has separately taken on the challenge to modify the forms of traditional realism to fit more modern visions of existence. In the process, they have broken from naturalism, infusing realism with fresh and contemporary perspectives of the world around them. Demastes shows that even though these playwrights' return to realism has won them larger audiences and greater accessibility, the break from naturalist logic has sometimes confused American critics and audiences--leading them to conclude such works to be bad drama. To uncover the various points of confusion, Demastes not only analyzes the playwrights' contributions but also examines the critical impressions of their productions to assess the reactions of a theatre-going public raised on naturalist assumptions and now asked to adapt to the new alterations confronting them. This two-pronged approach enables the reader to both explore the evolution of new realism and assess the degree to which it can legitimately be considered a new form of American theatre.

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