ConversationExpressionistic theater: Narrator: Listen to a conversation between a student and his theater history professor. Student: In class, you were talking about expressionistic theatre back in 1919-1920. But wasn't that a time when realistic plays were being performed? Professor: Indeed. Most plays of the early 1900s presented life realistically like what you might call a slice of life. Student: But then ... An expressionistic play, there are all these distortions of reality, like walls of strange angles, characters who start singing, even though it's not a musical, unusual props, like tons of papers being out of an Adding Machine. Professor: Yeah, distortion is a hallmark of expressionism. This art movement was based on emotions, on projecting the artists inner feelings rather than recreating aspects of real life. Student: But what I want to know is how did audiences react to expressionistic theatre? Wouldn't they found it to be really ... weird? Professor: They didn't know how to take it. Just as with expressionistic paintings, the initial reaction was, that's not what a person really looks like, the man's all out of proportion and he's got two eyes on the left side of his face, what's going on? But this was a goal of expressionism for artists to express their personal vision, their inner reality, so to speak. Student: Were expressionistic plays popular? Professor: Not really. Although that one play, The Adding Machine, that you were just alluding to with all the paper. Student: Yeah. Professor: That one did attract a large audience when it first came out perhaps because it was more accessible than your typical expressionistic play which might have seemed even stranger. Student: Did expressionism last long? Professor: Expressionism was like many art movements in the early 1900s, which had a tendency to develop and then grow, evolve into something else. So many expressionistic playwrights ended up forming or shifting into surrealism, the next art movement. And as they learned more about emerging theories of psychology, they became interested in the subconscious, those subconscious drives behind emotional states. But the influences of expressionism are still with us. Several years back, there was this popular series on television, a dramatic series that use this technique all the time. For example, the main character if she was happy then a computer generated image of a dancing baby might appear, but only she and the viewers of course can see the baby. Student: But none of the plays written recently, um I'm an acting major, so I've seen a lot of new place active in some too. And I wouldn't describe any of them as purely expressionistic. Professor: That's cuz today's playwrights have a large toolbox. They can pull out techniques that are most suitable for their play or a moment within their play. But in the early 1900s, you were an expressionist, then you wrote your expression to play. And maybe you moved on to becoming a surrealist, then you wrote a surrealistic play. You didn't really combine features of expressionism with bits of surrealism and bits of realism and other things.