enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Contemporary Experimental Theatre

During the 1960s, there was a search for new modes of theatre amid the complex mix of genres, methods, and theories. Polish director Jerzy Grotowski, the father of contemporary experimental theatre, proposed the idea of ‘poor theatre’ ―the idea that theatre should focus on the art of the living organism (the actors’ physical presence) and nothing more. Also of note, British director Peter Brook and Polish director Tadeusz Kantor advocated the re-establishment of emotional connections in performances. Meanwhile, the Living Theatre based in the United States and the Théâtre du Soleil in France, respectively, advocated a shift away from one-way productions towards works that were more cooperative and communal. A number of new theatre companies and theatrical settings such as Café La Mama, “Bread and Puppet” Theater, and Richard Schechner’s The Performance Group, emerged in opposition to commercially oriented Broadway productions. Around the same time, there arose new forms of expression, such as beat drama, naked theatre, happenings, street performances, and the art of the living organism, giving rise to new forms of expression.

In Germany, dramatist and director Heiner Müller revolutionised theatrical conventions with the play “Hamletmachine”. Subsequent years saw the emergence of various avant-garde expressions that were not centred on dramatic plays. Examples include the visual theatre of U.S. director Robert Wilson, and Pina Bausch’s “Tanztheater”. Theatre scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann of Germany described these forms of expression as ‘postdramatic theatre’.

Today, a growing number of theatre companies’ activities span national borders, and international art festivals are flourishing in Asia and the West.