enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Contemporary American Theatre

In the early 20th century, American playwrights developed a distinctly American form of modern theatre, drawing inspiration from modern European theatre, especially Irish theatre. During the interwar years, Eugene O’Neill helped establish expressionism in
the United States with plays such as “Desire under the Elms”.

In the mid-20th century, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller led a golden age in American theatre. Williams’s plays, such as
“A Streetcar Named Desire”, depict emotionally broken characters who pursue destructive habits in a bid to escape from reality. Miller, on the other hand, with plays like “Death of a Salesman”, presents characters who try to maintain their standing in the community and, in doing so, invite catastrophe.

During the 1960s, The Living Theatre experimented with avant-garde expressive techniques in which members of the audience participated in the production. Meanwhile, Edward Albee was establishing the Theatre of the Absurd in United States with works such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”?

During the 1970s and 1980s, theatre developed among marginalised groups, leading to black theatre, Asian theatre, feminist theatre, and gay theatre. The 1990s saw the rise of contemporary theatre in the United States characterised by a search for national identity amid repeated clashes, as well as intermixing and co-existence between the mainstream culture and its counterparts. An example of this trend is Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”, which is about a gay man who has AIDS and the people in his life.