19th-20th Century Realism and Anti-Realism




-Major style of 19th century American Theatre


-A play having a serious action ordinarily caused by villainy and unsympathetic characters


-Heroes and heroines are clearly delineated from the villains


-Stock characters: threatened female, sidekick (comic foil), promiscuous fallen woman


-Conflict between good and evil is clear; virtue is always victorious


-Usually the main character is in circumstances that threaten death or ruin


-Character is rescued in the end; the villain’s destruction brings about the happy resolution


-suspenseful plots with climactic moment coming near the end


-The “domestic (related to the household/family) melodrama” has become the soap opera; the frontier melodrama has become the western; the crime melodrama has become mystery/detective show, etc.





Victor Hugo outlined these characteristics:

-rejected neoclassical ideas

-rejected artistic rules

-plays were episodic and epic

-not interested in realistic plots, but, instead, mood and tone

-did not believe in purity of genre

-considered all subject (grotesque as well as ideal) as appropriate

-often used supernatural elements

-hero was often a social outcast searching for justice, knowledge and truth

-major theme: the gulf between spiritual aspirations and physical limitations

-characters defended individuality

-as this came on the heels of the French and American Revolutions, ideas of freedom and liberty were important 



Other Tenets:

Truth: there is a higher truth than that observed in everyday life; all things are a part of a whole that has been created by a higher being (God, Spirit, Idea, Ego)


Subjects: all creation has common origins; we can understand the whole by examination of the parts. The more innocent or unspoiled something is, the more likely it is to embody some fundamental truth about the world


Doubleness of Human Nature: humanity had dual qualities: body/soul, physical/spiritual, temporal/eternal. Art is a way to confront what it means to be human.


Vision: only the exceptional imagination of philosopher and artist can fully perceive the unity within the diversity of existence. (art and philosophy are superior forms of knowledge).


Playwriting: freedom of rules and variety of subjects



Friedrich Schiller: The Robbers (1782)

Johann Goethe: Faust (Part I, 1808; Part II, 1831) (has its origins in Sturm und Drang: Storm and Stress movement in Germany)

Victor Hugo: Hermani(1830)

Alexandre Dumas (pere): Henri III (1829)

Alfred de Mussett: No Trifling with Love (1834)

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Prometheus Unbound

George Gordon, Lord Byron: Marino Faliero (1821), Werner (1830)

Georg Buchner: Woyzeck (1837), Danton's Death





A monologue from the play by Percy Bysshe Shelley


PANTHEA: With our sea-sister at his feet I slept.

The mountain mists, condensing at our voice
Under the moon, had spread their snowy flakes,
 From the keen ice shielding our linked sleep.
Then two dreams came. One, I remember not.
But in the other his pale wound-worn limbs
Fell from Prometheus, and the azure night
Grew radiant with the glory of that form
Which lives unchanged within, and his voice fell
Like music which makes giddy the dim brain,
Faint with intoxication of keen joy:
'Sister of her whose footsteps pave the world
With loveliness—more fair than aught but her,
Whose shadow thou art—lift thine eyes on me.
I lifted them: the overpowering light
Of that immortal shape was shadowed o'er
By love; which, from his soft and flowing limbs,
And passion-parted lips, and keen, faint eyes,
Steamed forth like vaporous fire; an atmosphere
Which wrapped me in its all-dissolving power,
As the warm ether of the morning sun
Wraps ere it drinks some cloud of wandering dew.
I saw not, heard not, moved not, only felt
His presence flow and mingle through my blood
Till it became his life, and his grew mine,
And I was thus absorbed, until it passed,
And like the vapours when the sun sinks down,
Gathering again in drops upon the pines,
And tremulous as they, in the deep night
My being was condensed; and as the rays
Of thought were slowly gathered, I could hear
His voice, whose accents lingered ere they died
Like footsteps of weak melody: thy name
Among the many sounds alone I heard
Of what might be articulate; though still
I listened through the night when sound was none.
Ione wakened then, and said to me:
'Canst thou divine what troubles me to-night?
I always knew, what I desired before,
Nor ever found delight to wish in vain.
But now I cannot tell thee what I seek;
I know not; something sweet, since it is sweet
Even to desire; it is thy sport, false sister;
Thou hast discovered some enchantment old,
Whose spells have stolen my spirit as I slept
And mingled it with thine: for when just now
We kissed, I felt within thy parted lips
The sweet air that sustained me, and the warmth
Of the life-blood, for loss of which I faint,
Quivered between our intertwining arms.'
I answered not, for the Eastern star grew pale,
But fled to thee.



A monologue from the play by Lord Byron

LUCIFER: A superior?! Superior?!

No! By heaven, which he
Holds, and the abyss, and the immensity
Of worlds and life, which I hold with him—No!
I have a Victor—true; but no superior.
Homage he has from all—but none from me:
I battle it against him, as I battled
In highest Heaven—through all Eternity,
And the unfathomable gulfs of Hades,
And the interminable realms of space,
And the infinity of endless ages,
All, all, will I dispute! And world by world,
And star by star, and universe by universe,
Shall tremble in the balance, till the great
Conflict shall cease, if ever it shall cease,
Which it ne'er shall, till he or I be quenched!
And what can quench our immortality,
Or mutual and irrevocable hate?
He as a conqueror will call the conquered
Evil, but what will be the Good he gives?
Were I the victor, his works would be deemed
The only evil ones. And you, ye new
And scare-born mortals, what have been his gifts
To you already, in your little world?
But few; and some of those but bitter.
Back with me, then, to thine earth, and try the rest
Of his celestial boons to you and yours.
Evil and Good are things in their own essence,
And not made good or evil by the Giver;
But if he gives you good—so call him; if
Evil springs from him, do not name it mine,
Till ye know better its true fount; and judge
Not by words, though of Spirits, but the fruits
Of your existence, such as it must be.
One good gift has the fatal apple given—
Your reason: — let it not be overswayed
By tyrannous threats to force you into faith
'Gainst all external sense and inward feeling:
Think and endure, — and form an inner world
In your own bosom — where the outward fails;
So shall you nearer be the spiritual
Nature, and war triumphant with your own.




"Endymion" by John Keats

 The well-made play:


-emphasizes careful cause and effect relationships

-action often revolves around a secret known to the audience but

not the characters

-heavy exposition at the start of the play

-each scene and act builds to a climactic moment

-characters in conflict meet in an "obligatory scene", a showdown

where all loose ends are tied up

-well crafted

-the plays build mechanically toward the climax 


Eugene Scribe: A Glass of Water

Alexandre Dumas the Younger: Camille 


*Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Godfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991.



-developed in European Theatre in the second half of the 19th 


-influenced by French philosopher Aguste Comte and English

naturalist Charles Darwin

-based on the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch)

-brought a new kind of truth to the stage

 -many believed that theatre should draw attention to social


-refused to make simple moral judgments or to resolve dramatic

action neatly (morality was relative)

-used complicated characters molded by both heredity and


-language was colloquial and conversational

-often censored


Major Writers:

August Strindberg (Sweden)--Miss Julie (1888)...(later in his

career, Strindberg moved away from realism into more symbolic

work, such as The Ghost Sonata)


George Bernard Shaw (Ireland)-- Pygmalion, Major Barbara,

Man and Superman.

                                 -GBS was a Fabian Socialist who became a noted

political speaker. His first foray into theatrical life was as a critic for

Saturday Review. He admired the new realistic theatre of Ibsen

and the like and lamented that there was no comparison in

England; thus, he began to write realistic drama for the English

stage. A believer in political and social reform, Shaw's plays

include social problems and philosophy in combination with lively

dialogue, wit and comedy, and unusual but well-drawn characters.

GBS was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1925.


Henrik Ibsen (Norway)--considered by many as the founder of

realism, Ibsen was a master of technique and psychological insight

into human nature. His early period was decidedly Romantic,

drawing from Norwegian myth and history: Peer Gynt (1867);

his middle period was Realist: A Doll´s House (1879),

Ghosts (1881); like Strindberg, Ibsen became as well known for

symbolic work in his later career: The Wild Duck.


Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) (Ukrainian-born Russian): 

The Inspector General (1842) ; Marriage (1842)


-Known initially for for his short stories, Gogol has been considered

a realist, a satirist, a romantic and a surrealist

- taught medieval history at the University of St. Petersburg

(though, according to the author himself, he had no skill,

background, knowledge, or right to do the job)

 -Also wrote the novels Taras Bulba and  Dead Souls






Anton Chekov (Russian)-- The Seagull (1895), Uncle Vanya 


(1900),Three Sisters (1901) 




                        -Chekhov started his literary career writing short stories to

support his family while he was a medical student (he finished

school, but wrote instead of becoming a doctor). His work is

marked by an interest in middle-class people and events, using

indirect action to effect his characters; heavy, well-wrought

character development; and tragic-comedy






A monologue from the play by Anton Chekhov


NOTE: This translation by Marian Fell was first published in 1912 by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.


SONYA: What can we do? We must live out our lives. [A pause] Yes, we


shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live all through the endless procession of

days ahead of us, and through the long evenings. We shall bear patiently the

burdens that fate imposes on us. We shall work without rest for others, both

now and when we are old. And when our final hour comes, we shall meet it

humbly, and there beyond the grave, we shall say that we have known suffer

ing and tears, that our life was bitter. And God will pity us. Ah, then, dear,

dear Uncle, we shall enter on a bright and beautiful life. We shall rejoice and

look back upon our grief here. A tender smile -- and -- we shall rest. I have

faith, Uncle, fervent, passionate faith. We shall rest. We shall rest. We shall

hear the angels. We shall see heaven shining like a jewel. We shall see evil

and all our pain disappear in the great pity that shall enfold the world. Our

life will be as peaceful and gentle and sweet as a caress. I have faith; I have faith. [Wiping away her tears]My poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you are crying! [Weeping] You have never known what it is to be happy, but wait,

Uncle Vanya, wait! We shall rest. We shall rest. We shall rest.



Realistic Acting and Konstantin Stanislavski:

-Founded The Moscow Art Theatre and there refined his acting


-The Moscow Art Theatre produced Tolstoy and became famous

for its productions of Chekhov

-His book, An Actor Prepares, is on the shelves of most serious


The Method:


1. make the outward behavior natural and convincing

2. convey goals and objectives

3. make the life of the character onstage continuous

4. develop strong sense of ensemble


Techniques of the Method:

Relaxation: both physical and vocal


Concentration and Observation: "circle of attention"-a tight circle around the actor where his concentration is focused


Importance of specifics: must respond to the "given

circumstances" i.e. what is happening in the moment. This helps

create a nuanced, realistic moment onstage.


Inner Truth: thought and emotions of the character.


What? Why? How?: What is the character doing? Why is he/she

doing it? How does he/she do it?


Through Line of a Role: What is the character's "superobjective"?

i.e. what does the character hope to achieve during the course of

the play?


Ensemble Playing: Just because you are not speaking, it does not mean that you are not part of the scene.   


 Moscow Art Theatre(1898)

-most influential theatre of late-nineteenth century

-founded by Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladamir


-Still producing plays today



*Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991




essentially the same as Realism, but where the two most important factors are: heredity and environment


Short-lived movement that began in France in the nineteenth



Emile Zola (1840-1902) (French) argued that the artist should

emulate the scientist both in searching out subjects and in

analyzing them


-emphasized the more degraded aspects of lower class life


-“slice of life”: a segment of reality transferred to the stage as

faithfully as possible


Other Writers:

Henri Becque (1837-1899) (French): The Vultures (1882)


Gerhart Haputmann (1862-1946) (German): The Weavers (1892)


Maksim Gorky (1868-1936) (Russia): The Lower Depths (1902)


Producers of Realism & Naturalism:

- to the difficulty in getting these controversial plays produced led to

a rise in independent theatres in Europe that worked on a

subscription basis, exempting them from government censorship.

These theatres did not strive for box office, but wanted to offer a

venue for a new kind of dramatic form.


Theatre Libre (France)

-founded in 1887 by Andre Antoine

-Antoine strove to create the illusion of the "fourth wall"

-box sets with practicable elements

-"motivated lighting" from onstage sources

-extinguished house lights


- organized a company of amateurs working in ensemble

(in contrast to the star system)

-believed that actors should be living, not acting, onstage

(opposed to conventional gestures, vocal patterns and blocking) 


  Goncourt's La Fille Elisa at Theatre Libre


The Independent Theatre (London, 1891)

-founded by dutch-born Jacob Thomas Grein

-subscription based

-leased professional theatres

-performed on Sundays

 -Introduced George Bernard Shaw in 1892


Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991



Symbolism (1880-1910)

-influenced by Nietzsche

-turned away from literal realism

-focused on revelation and depiction of inner life

-almost no plot action

-lyrical, static, indirect, evocative, ceremonial

-use of symbols, metaphor, poetry and music

-elements of mysticism and spirituality



Villiers de L'Isle-Adam (1838-1889; French): Axel (posthumous),

      Le Nouveau Monde (1880)

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949; Belgian): The Intruder (1891),

     The Blind (1891) 

                 -awarded the Nobel Prize in 1911

                 -believed that theatre was "a shadow, a reflection, a                projection of symbolic forms"


Hugo Von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929; German) and Richard

          Strauss (1864-1949; German): Der Rosenkavalier (1911;

          a comic opera)


Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (1864-1918; German):
         Spring Awakening (1891)


Ibsen (see Realism)


August Strindberg (1849-1912; Swedish):

         -spent much time in Paris (distrusted Sweden)

        -social/political radical

        -after his divorce, had a period of mental instability

        -converted to religious mysticism

        -considered by many as Sweden's greatest writer

        -wanted to remove the facade to reveal the grotesque


        -Symbolist plays include: A Dream Play (1902);

        The Ghost Sonata (1907)


Vsevelod Emilievich Meyerhold (1874-1940)


-external, Anti-realist movement

-studied with Nemirovich-Danchenko (at the Moscow Arts Theatre)

-original member of the Moscow Arts Theatre

-in 1902, left Stanislavski's company to become a director

-directed at an experimental studio at the Moscow Arts Theatre for

     less than a year

-believed that the director was the primary theatre artist

-used techniques of commedia dell'arte, vaudeville and circus

-1920: appointed Deputy Commissar of the theatre department of

     the Commissariat for Education

-renowned for his Anti-realistic experiments, i.e. Gogol's The

     Inspector General

-1930's: attacked by government for not producing "socialist


-arrested for attacking Soviet-controlled theatre and was killed in a

     labor camp in 1940 (his wife was found murdered in their



Meyerhold's Symbolism:

-we can trace later Avante-Garde movements back to Meyerhold

-frequently restructured and rewrote classic works

-used "found spaces": not theatres (factories, streets, etc.)

-wanted to shatter the "fourth wall" (leaving house lights on,

       extending apron into the audience, positioning actors in the

       house,  etc.)

-used multi-media

-Theatricalism: expose theatrical devices and make audience

      aware that they are watching a play

-"Biomechanics": emphasized external, physical training and 

 performance style

  -believed that the body could be trained to perform like a machine


-"constructivist sets:: provided machines for his performers to work

      on (i.e. like a giant erector set)


Meyerhold¹s 1922 production of "The Magnanimous Cuckold".




(Early to mid-20th Century)

  • defined by revolt, distortion, and boldness of innovation


  • rebelled against propriety and common sense, against
  • conformity and convention


  • rejected the conventions of the well-made play and the
  • plausibility of stage realism


  • bizarre events


  • disjointed plots


  • poetic and obscene language


  • closely associated with humanitarian causes, pacifism, and
  • progressive social reforms
  • stage images symbolizing mental states

from Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 



-highly subjective: dramatic action often seen through the eyes of

the protagonist; frequently distorted and dreamlike


-often opposed to society and family


-often journeys through a series of incidents that are not causally



-"station plays": modeled on the stations of the cross (Brecht's

The Exception and the Rule)


-characters are often representative types with titles instead of




Georg Kaiser (1878-1945): From Morn to Midnight (1916),

Corral (1917), Gas I (1918), Gas II (1920)


Ernst Toller (1893-1939): Transfiguration (1918), Man and the

Masses (1921)


Reinhard Sorge: The Beggar (1912) 


Bertolt Brecht: The Threepenny Opera (1928)Mother Courage

and Her Children (1939), The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941),

The Good Person of Szechwan (1942),  The Caucasian Chalk

Circle (1944), The Exception and the Rule (193o)


Brecht was a socialist who believed that social change could be

prompted through the theatre.


-Forced by the NAZI's to flee Berlin in 1933, he moved around

Europe and, for a period, to the U.S. where he worked on



Brecht's Epic Theatre (also ascribed the the Expressionist director,

Erwin Piscator):

-episodic in structure

-often dealing with history or foreign lands

-cover a long period of time

-frequent shift of locale

-intricate plots

-many characters

-goal of theatre was to instruct

 -Verfremdung: "to make strange"; Brecht believed in alienating

 audiences and making them interact with theatre intellectually

rather than emotionally.

-highly theatrical

-often use a narrator to comment

-audience always aware that they are in a theatre (lights, etc.

never hidden)

-"historification"- using past events to comment on the present (for

 example, Mother set during the Thirty Years War, but

is obviously about Germany in the 1930's during the lead up to and

 subsequent WWII)



---Other Symbolist Movements Include: Futurism, Dada,

Surrealism and Antonin Artaud's "Theatre of Cruelty"---


Theatre of Cruelty and Antonin Artaud

-"cruelty" in this sense means that the audience's senses should be bombarded

-theorized by Antonin Artaud (in a series of manifestos in the '30's)

who was a French actor, writer, director and producer

                   -Artaud was fascinated by Asian religion, the occult

                     and mysticism

                   -lived among the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico

                     and experimented with peyote

                   -spent 9 years in a mental institution (released in 1945;

                    died 2 years later) 


-believed that theatre needed to be transformed

-thought that Westerners should study stylized Asian Theatre

-renounced literary tradition: "no more masterpieces"

-believed the classics should only be produced if they were relevant

  to the contemporary culture

-text is not sacred: should be reworked toward relevance

-theatre is not a literary, but a sensory event

-  made the audience the center of attention (sometimes by actually

   reconfiguring theatre space)

-also used "found spaces"

-rejecting Stanislavski's acting method for a more stylized, Asian

  performance style

-believed that theatre could cleanse humanity of it's violent nature

 -had a profound impact on theatre of the 1960's



*Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991.








  • coined by the critic Martin Esslin for the work of a number of playwrights, mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s.


  • derived from an essay by the French philosopher Albert Camus
  • who defined the human situation as basically meaningless and
  • absurd.




Samuel Beckett (1906-1989): Waiting for Godot (1953), Endgame

 (1957), Krapp's Last Tape (1958), Happy Days (1961)

          -Irish writer who spent much of his adult life in Paris,France

          -worked marked by lack of movement or plot

          -member of the French Resistance in WWII

          -also a novelist

          -awarded the Nobel Prize in 1969 


Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994): The Bald Soprano (1950), The

Chairs (1952), Rhinoceros (1960)

          -born in Romania, he lived in Paris during his youth till

           returning to Romania where he was an expert in French

           Literature; returned to France during WWII

          -rejected realism

          -wrote tragicomedies 



Jean Genet (1910-1986): The Thief’s Journal (1949), Deathwatch

(1954), The Balcony (1956), The Screens (1961) 

            -in his youth, Genet was a criminaland was imprisoned several


      -Sartre valued his work so much that he petitioned the

       government to release him from prison

      -wrote about social issues

      -subject matter often considered too controversial in his time


Harold Pinter: The Birthday Party (1958), The Caretaker (1960), 

The Dumb Waiter (1960), The Homecoming (1965)

          -influenced by growing up in war-torn London and dealing with


     -wrote for radio drama, stage, and screen 

     -awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005 


Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967),

The Real Inspector Hound (1968), After Magritte (1970),

Travesties(1974), Arcadia (1993), The Coast of Utopia (2002)

          -Born in the Czech Republic; as a child moved to Singapore

       then India during WWII; finally ended up in England where he

       received his education

      -knighted in 1997

      -also wrote for radio and, very popularly, for film (Academy

       Award for Shakespeare in Love)


 Edward Albee: (see 20th Century American Theatre)





Some basic tenets and elements of Absurdism:

  • -man is inhabiting a universe with which he is out of key. Its 
  • meaning is indecipherable and his place within it is without 
  • purpose. He is bewildered, troubled and obscurely threatened.

  • -strongly influenced by the traumatic experience of the horrors of the Second World War, which showed the total impermanence of
  • any values, shook the validity of any conventions and highlighted
  •  the precariousness of human life and its fundamental meaninglessness and arbitrariness.


  • -the trauma of living from 1945 under threat of nuclear
  • annihilation also seems to have been an important factor in the
  • rise of the new theatre.


  • -also seems to have been a reaction to the disappearance of the religious dimension from contemporary life.


  • -absurd plays assumed a highly unusual, innovative form,
  • directly aiming to startle the viewer, shaking him out of this
  • comfortable, conventional life of everyday concerns.
  • -openly rebelled against conventional theatre. 


  • -anti-theatre. It was surreal, illogical, conflictless and plotless.
  • The dialogue seemed total gobbledygook.


  • -first met with incomprehension and rejection.


  • -distrust of language as a means of communication. Language
  • had become a vehicle of conventionalised, stereotyped,
  • meaningless exchanges. Words failed to express the essence
  • of human experience, not being able to penetrate beyond its
  • surface.


  • -uses conventionalised speech, cliches, slogans and technical
  • jargon, which is distorts, parodies and breaks down.


  • -what happens transcends what is being said about it. It is the
  • hidden, implied meaning of words that assume primary
  • importance in absurd theatre, over and above what is actually
  • being said.


  • -lyrical theatre which uses abstract scenic effects, many of
  • which have been taken over and modified from the popular
  • theatre arts: mime, ballet, acrobatics, conjuring, music-hall
  • clowning.


  • -much of its inspiration comes from silent film and comedy, as
  • well as the tradition of verbal nonsense in early sound film
  • (Laurel and Hardy, W C Fields, the Marx Brothers).




©Dr Jan Cul, 2000

 *Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991.







from Waiting For Godot


    (suddenly furious.) Have you not done tormenting me with your

    accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that

    not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind,

    one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall

    die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?

    (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an

    instant, then it's night once more. (He jerks the rope.) On!








    Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980): The Flies (1943), No Exit (1944),

    The Respectful Prostitute (1946)

          -born and educated in Paris

          -awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964

          -most famous for the play No Exit, the novel Nausea 

           and the philosophical treatise Being and Nothingness

          -had a lifelong relationship with noted femenist writer

           Simone de Beauvoir

          -fought for France in WWII; captured by the Germans,

            escaped and joined the French Resistance

          -founded a radical left-wing party and wrote about


    Albert Camus (1913-1960): Caligula (1938), The Just


         -awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957

         -born and raised in Algeria, North Africa, moved to France 

          in 1944

         -most noted for his novels (The Stranger, The Rebel

          The Plague, The Fall) and his philosophical work The Myth 

          of Sisyphus, which highlights his philosophy on the Absurd

         -it should be noted that Camus rejected affiliation to 

          the Existentialist movement

    Some tenets:

  • -each person must choose his or her own values and live by
  • them without regard to received idea
    • unthinking conformity turns people into robots
    • the world is irrational
  •  -still retained traditional dramatic form


No Exit


Joseph Garcin:


 This bronze. Yes, now’s the moment; I’m looking at this thing on

the mantelpiece, and I understand that I’m in Hell. I tell you,

everything’s been thought out beforehand. They knew I’d stand at

the fireplace, stroking this thing of bronze, with all those eyes

intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought

there were more; many more. So this is Hell. I’d never have

believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-

chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’

tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is other people!





1. An affectation or appreciation of manners and tastes

commonly thought to be artificial, vulgar, or banal.


2. Banality, vulgarity, or artificiality when deliberately affected or

when appreciated for its humor: “Camp is popularity plus

vulgarity plus innocence” (Indra Jahalani,


Some Campy Plays Include:

The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam 


Vampire Lesbians of Sodom by Charles Busch

(one of the longest running plays in off-Broadway history)


The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O'Brien 







  *Wilson, Edwin and Alvin Goldfarb. Theatre: The Lively Art. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1991.

*Barranger, Milly S. Theatre Past and Present. Wadsworth, Inc. Belmont, CA. 1984.