Existentialism and Theatre.

Essay by baby_cheater November 2003

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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.

Sartre is

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...