Existentialism and Theatre
Existentialism is a concept that became popular during the
second World War in France, and just after it. French playrights have
often used the stage to express their views, and these views came to
surface even during a Nazi occupation. Bernard Shaw got his play
"Saint Joan" past the German censors because it appeared to be very
Anti-British. French audiences however immediately understood the real
meaning of the play, and replaced the British with the Germans. Those
sorts of "hidden meanings" were common throughout the period so that
plays would be able to pass censorship.
Existentialism proposes that man is full of anxiety and
despair with no meaning in his life, just simply existing, until he
made decisive choice about his own future. That is the way to achieve
dignity as a human being. Existentialists felt that adopting a social
or political cause was one way of giving purpose to a life.
well known for the "Theatre engage" or Theatre 'committed', which is
supposedly committed to social and/or political action.
One of the major playwrights during this period was Jean-Paul
Sartre. Sartre had been imprisoned in Germany in 1940 but managed to
escape, and become one of the leaders of the Existential movement.
Other popular playwrights were Albert Camus, and Jean Anouilh. Just
like Anouilh, Camus accidentally became the spokesman for the French
Underground when he wrote his famous essay, "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" or
"The Myth of Sisyphus". Sisyphus was the man condemned by the gods to
roll a rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down
again. For Camus, this related heavily to everyday life, and he saw
Sisyphus an "absurd" hero, with a pointless existence. Camus felt that
it was necessary to wonder what...