Lecture: Italian futurism: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in a theater history class. Professor: In many ways, the early 20th century was an exciting time in European theater and in the arts and society in general. New technology, new machines like the telephone and innovations like electricity, all this had an influence on the arts and artists at the time. In fact, it spawned an important movement we now call Italian futurism. We formally date the start of this movement to 1909 when one of the founders, an Italian writer, published a manifesto, a declaration of the movement's ideals and purpose. Female Student: The Italian futurism? It was 100 years ago. Professor: Well, futurism doesn't refer to so much to a set time as to an artistic approach, artistic ideal. So unlike, say Neoclassicism, Italian futurism didn't look to the past for inspiration. Neoclassic artists look to the art and the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, but futurists didn't like tradition or the concept of great art and things like that. Futurists were into new things, like the speed of the new technology that was coming about in the early 20th century. And the futurists wanted their art to reflect this new society that they saw all around them. So let's look at a couple of the elements from futuristic thought and see how they're reflected in the futurist theater. Okay, the first element we will look at is the idea of speed. One of the biggest changes of the time was the development of machines capable of great speed. Who can give me some examples? Gerry? Gerry: Cars, airplanes, trains? Professor: Well, trains had been around a while by then. But they were faster and had more expensive networks. And speed also in well, tell us, what were you going to say? Gerry: I was thinking of what you mentioned about the telephone. Professor: So speed in communications? Gerry: Yeah. Professor: Good. Well, the futurists wanted to reflect this speed. Female student: But how do you put speed into theater? Professor: A couple of ways. The first was with the length of the feature. A traditional play might be an hour and a half, two hours long. But the futurists wanted their play to be very brief. They called a lot of their work like this synthetic theater. They called it this because they put together – they synthesized – all elements of theater into very short, quick pieces. I will give you an example. There was a futurist play called There is No Dog. And in this play, the curtain rises. A dog walks across the stage and the curtain falls. Well, clearly this play rejected traditional conventions of theater. In part because it synthesized everything they wanted to say into one brief moment instead of dragging it out over two or three hours. Another way the futurists put speed into their theater was by playing the pacing of the pieces performed. A number of these short pieces were performed fast paced, one right after the other. So you would have something like There is No Dog, followed by someone reading a poem, followed by someone reciting a manifesto, followed by someone displaying a work of art, followed by another one of these really short plays. Student Female: Well, I can see how that would get across the idea of speed, but it must have been confusing. Professor: It's funny you should say that because another element of futurist thought that's reflected in their theater is the notion of simultaneity. Simultaneity means things happening at the same time. Another aspect of the modern world the futurist wanted to show in their art was this sense of confusion but at the same time, the dynamic energy of modern life that all kinds of things happen at the same time and not in some kind of logical order that makes sense to everyone. Gerry: So would they perform like, two plays at once? Professor: Well, in a sense. A lot of futurist work included simultaneous speaking, simultaneous movement, and you could sort of imagine how that would look with three or four talking at the same time, talking over one over another. And oftentimes, they're not saying anything that makes sense. Nonsense syllables, that sort of thing. Female Student: But how did audiences respond to any of this? Professor: They didn't understand. There was often a lot of confusion. People would leave. People weren't sure what to make of it. But for the futurist, the confusion of the audience was intended. It too, was a representation of the modern world.