Posted by: tailee | December 19, 2007

Joan Littlewood


Joan Littlewood was born in 6 October 1914, Stockwell, South London, she was trained as an actress at RADA but left and moved to Manchester in 1934 where she met Jimmie Miller (Ewan MacColl) and joined his troupe Theatre of Action a radical, political company based in Manchester, they sooon got merried, and they changed their company’s name into Theatre Union in 1936, and came up with more pronounced socialist agenda that based on Meyerhold (1847 – ?1940) who had worked with Stanislavsky at the Moscow Arts Theatre.

 After the world war 2 ended in 1945, Littlewood, her husband, and the other members of the Theatre Union formed the Theatre Workshop, where many had their first concact in theatre.

 Littlewood separated from her husband in 1953, after eights of touring all through UK and Europe in a hired lorry. However, she then took a lease on the Theatre Royal Stratford East, with her partner Gerry Raffles. There she produced some of the most influential and exciting plays of the period, including Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow (1957) and The Hostage (1958), Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey (1958), Stephen Lewis’ Sparrers Can’t Sing, Lionel Bart’s musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be (1959), and John Wells and Richard Ingrams’ Mrs Wilson’s Diary (1967). During this period (1955) she directed the first British production of Brecht’s Mother Courage at Barnstaple.

However, her greatest achievement was in 1963 when she created  Oh What a Lovely War, which later played in Broadway and filmed into moive.

Littlewood died, in 2002, of natural causes at the age of 87 in the London Peter Rankin.

Posted by: bligy | December 17, 2007

Andrew Lloyd Webber

ADL - Image

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is probably one of the most vastly influential members of today’s Musical Theatre community.  There is hardly a soul with any knowledge of Musical Theatre that does not have knowledge of one or more of his immensely popular musicals.  Each of his plays deploys more than one different musical style, and each and every one of them uses a different combination of dance, song and theatre itself.  Some of his plays can be described as rock operas, that use no speech at all, only song, such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, while some musicals, such as Phantom of the Opera, use speech to further the storyline.  Even so, it can’t be said that, in their own way, each musical brings about powerful reactions from the audience and listener alike.  For the purposes of this essay, we will use demonstrations from his earlier works, previous to the 1990’s.

Lord Webber was born in London, England, on March 22nd, 1948.  From a young age on, the young man had a taste for music, and started composing his own little projects by the time he was nine years old.  Studying music all through his life, he was first introduced to musicals by his aunt, and he became instantly addicted.  Upon graduating, he went to Oxford to study music.  There he met a young man named Tim Rice, a lyricist.  The two struck up a friendship and Lord Webber soon dropped out of Oxford in favour of writing musicals.  While their first musical, The Likes of Us, written in 1965, was met with distaste, and was not professionally performed until 2005, it did not stop the two aspiring musical artists.

The first success of their efforts was the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, written in 1968.  While not huge, it became their first hit, and would later gain fame in the 1992 movie of the same name staring Donny Osmond.  This musical, his first great success, was written when Lord Webber was only nineteen years old.  After Joseph came Jesus Christ Superstar, written in 1970.  This would, like Joseph, start off as acclaimed, but gain more fame as their careers progressed.  It was during their next production, Jeeves, that the two parted ways for the first time.  The musical, based on the novels “Jeeves and Wooster” by P. G. Wodehouse, was a favourite of the two musical writers, and Tim Rice did not believe that he would be able to write justice to the great writer.  Thus, Lord Webber teamed with lyricist Alan Ayckbourn to finish the production.  While it flopped in its original release in 1975, it was released again, revised, in 1996 as By Jeeves to much more success.

Within the next ten years, Lord Webber wrote what had to be his best and most successful works, the ones that made him known by his very initials throughout the musical-following crowd.  The first, written in 1976, was Evita, based on the life of Eva Peron.   This marks the last, to date, production that he has done with friend Tim Rice.  The show was highly received and was turned into a musical starring Madonna in 1996.  His next large show, and probably his second most well-known, is the musical Cats.  Up until 2006, it remained the longest running show on Broadway, but was beaten out by another of his own musicals.

The next musical on Lord Webber’s list was a musical that while received well in his native London’s West Side, ran for less than three years in America.  This was the Starlight Express, which is one of his less-known works of art created in 1984.  It is still recognized by any and all Andrew Lloyd Webber enthusiasts, and some of its songs are included in most anthologies gathered to honour the composer’s work.  While not a musical, there was also a combination show, of sorts, entitled Song and Dance, which was written in 1982.  It was one part song and one part dance, originally created separate of each other, but were incorporated into one to tell a love story.

In 1986, ten years after Evita, Lord Webber wrote the musical that, to this day, has made him one of the most famous composers in the world.  The musical is Phantom of the Opera, and was the musical that beat Cats out for the longest running musical on Broadway.  To this day, it is still one of the more well-received in musical theatre.  The musical combines elements of opera and pop, with rock and roll to create a fairly unique form of music in his genre, in its time.  Perhaps thanks to this, it tends to be known throughout the world at the very mention of its name.  In some ways more spectacular than the music itself were the amazing special effects used within the production.  It is universally known for its chandelier hurtling towards the audience, and its spectacular costumes.  The play combined a wide range of dancing and theatre techniques, including ballet and masquerade.

With all of his massive accomplishments, and the adaptations of all his plays, even with the most famous of them being older than twenty, all of them are still known throughout today’s society.  The artistic values behind some of his productions were amazingly high and some of them were so high that they lost money; one of them lost twenty five million dollars due to its production costs, though it was a large hit.  Even having this black mark, it was one failure on a list of musicals that made millions and millions.  Within today’s artistic society, Lord Webber’s name is associated with some of the most well-known, longest running modern musicals.  The way his musicals vary in difficulty also makes them adaptable for both professionals and high schools alike.  In fact, it is very unlikely that at least one person in twenty will not know someone who was in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, most likely Joseph or the children’s adaption of the play.

While in the past twenty years, he has not done anything overly spectacular, the plays from his decade of glory have remained on and off Broadway, or in London, as long as they’ve been in production.  In fact, Phantom still plays every night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in London, and has since its very release.  When any of his shows come to town, it’s rare that they’re not totally sold out.  People want to see the legend in action.  His plays have become so famous that they now require revivals just to keep with the demand.  Even so, due to their production costs, they are quite the musical-theatre delicacy anywhere they show.


Information Gathered From:

Posted by: bligy | December 17, 2007

Musical Theatre

Over the many years that is the performance of music on the stage, everything from operas to dance, musical theatre was something that was hidden just beneath the surface, needing only the little nudge to send it flying into the world around it.  This little nudge came with a new style of music, a new something to thrill the senses and offer a stellar example of the lower levels of life.  This new music was ragtime, jazz, and the nineteen twenty’s contribution to the world around it.Musical theatre itself originated in ragtime, and a few ragtime musicals were, in fact, written, but were dismal failures that didn’t do much to stir a crowd.  Fortunately for the musical lovers of the world, the combination of acting, singing and dancing was not to be destroyed by ragtime’s inability to thrill the world with its favours.  Taking the popular idea of Operettas, musical writers used popular music, whether they be jazz, pop, rock or something entirely different, to create a story written to music that people can relate to.

The most popular forms of musical theatre combine music with speech, but there are a few terribly popular rock operas out in the world, or at least productions that originated in the idea of rock operas, or a production that uses ‘rock’ music lyric to tell the story instead of speech, such as Rent by Jonathan Larson, or Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  There are adaptations of most of the more popular rock operas, however, into more traditional musical form.

RENT Logo  Cats Logo 

When stating ‘popular musical form’, this is meant to refer to using musicals in place of the generic monologue, to get into the character’s mind, or occasionally to show the essence of a situation, but there are literally thousands of musicals, and all of them use music to explore different parts of the human cause and to show different parts of the character’s personalities that would never be able to be shown in purely acting or purely operatic form.Musical theatre is a type of theatre that combines classical techniques with the new types of music that have spread throughout the world.  There are musicals for every culture, every language, and every dance type.  The musical world is tight, but wide-spread, so that there are generally few musical lovers in a crowd, but all of them will be able to chatter for hours on end about nothing but their favourites and comparing them to others and their thoughts on those.Truly, musicals are meant for all types of people, it’s more that people don’t take the plays serious, or merely don’t have the patients to listen to people sing about their feelings rather than express them in Shakespeare-style monologues.  But if one were to look hard enough, they would almost unquestionably find something that they like.  Musicals are quite varied with standards for all shapes and sizes.

Posted by: mistyj | December 17, 2007

Constantin Stanislavski

Constantin Stanislavski, born in Moscow in 1863, earned international recognition as an actor, director, and coach throughout the world with the Moscow Arts Theatre. During the 1800’s he grew as an actor and began to produce and direct plays. The approach he created toward acting, was to make the performance believable, rather than just understood. He did this by creating a certain method where you would remember an emotional memory, bringing out emotions you once felt before in a specific situation, to display to the audience. This would help for your character to show the audience authentic feelings. Stanislavski was the only person to have such a strong effect on acting in the twentieth century.




Stanislavski, along with Nemirovich-Danchenko, became a cofounder of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. He remained associated with this theatre for the rest of his life. His theories are a main source of study for actors in the US today. The “Stanislavski Method,” also known as “Method Acting,” had a fast and deep impact on modern schools of acting. He wanted the emotional core of the actor to be expressed throughout their performances. The actors inner identification with the character was extremely important to him, as well as natural use of body and voice. His methods were so impressive that they were and have been used by many studios and teachers today.

Misty Jantzen

Posted by: blaise557 | December 17, 2007

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is well known for coming up with the idea of unified stage work.

Wagner’s early life was spent in the company of the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer. He lived with Ludwig as his father had passed away six months after his birth. His mother soon after married Ludwig Geyer. For the first 14 years of his life Richard Wagner was brought up to love theater. Wagner was influenced by Shakespeare as well as Goethe. His first effort at a drama was a tragedy. It was this that he insisted should be put to music. With this intent he was able to persuade his family to allow him music lessons.

Richard Wagner began composing operas, and his use of music as a unifying force was what brought him to be well known. The moods and tones for character as well as the set were all dictated through the use of music.



Felner, M., & Orenstein, C. (2006). The World of Theatre. Boston, USA: Pearson Education


Posted by: daveleonard | December 17, 2007

Julie Taymor


Julie Taymor took a very early interest in Theatre, staging preformances in her back yard by 7 and joining the Boston Childrens Theatre company by 9. She is now easily one of the most signifigant figures in modern Theatre. Her Work has netted her 4 Tony nominations and 2 wins, an Emmy award and an Oscar nomination. Her most famous work is easily The Lion King: The Musical, the award winning broadway play. The Lion King highlights traits that are common in her work; mixing live actors with puppets, masks and shadows obscuring the difference between them. This style is influenced by her experiences traveling to different and often tribal ethnic cultures and absorbing their theatrical traditions. She’s studied everything from Mime to wayang kulit shadow puppetry. Julie is not simply a director, she is greatly involved in participating in many aspects of her plays, she’s a lyricist, mask maker, puppet maker and more. 


She has adaped this style to film aswell, her recently released movie Across the Universe features sequences with which follow her theatric style. Julie is probably more recognized for her modern work but she also has a history of directing classical theatrical productions such as Shakespears The Tempest or Titus Andronicus, both of which also are directed using her distinctive style.

Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire. Eileen Blumenthal and Julie Taymor. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1995.

Posted by: chelseyh | December 17, 2007

Bertolt Brecht


Bertolt Brecht was born on Feburary 10th 1898 in Augsburg, Germany. As a child he did alot of poetry writing and published his first in 1914. Before serving in World War 1 as a medical student, he went to medical school. The famous “Druums in the Night” was written during the hardships he encountered during the war. This play was about a soldier who after returning hom from war finds that his fiancé is engaged to a guy who made his profits off of the war.He was married twice, first to Marianne Zoff. The second, Helene Weigel, he had two children, his daughter Barbra and son Stephan.

He went through many different parts of the theatre world, two of these departments were in writing and directing. However, his main interest was on directing. In the 1930’s when plays were banned in Germany he fleed to Finland to continue his work. Which was extremely controversial for the time, even to his fellow communists. One such controversial play was DIE MASSNAHME”, which was considered harsh by the communists. The lesson which should be learned from this play is “That the freedom of the individual must be suppressed today so that in the future mankind will be able to achieve freedom.”In his exile, he decided to obtain an American Visa to go to California where he hoped to become a Hollywood producer and screenwriter. However, he was extremely misunderstood in America by both the producers and the public.

 When he was able to return to Germany several years later, he founded the “Berliner Ensemble” theatre company, and by 1954 he had his very own theatre.In his last years Brecht wrote very few plays. These plays were not as well known as his previous works. The “Stalin Peace Prize” was awarded to him for his famous works in 1955. Unfortunatly in 1956 he died suddenly, of a heart attack.

  From “Drums of the Night”


Felner, M., & Orenstein, C. (2006). The World of Theatre. Boston, USA: Pearson Education

Fuegi, J. (1994). Brecht & Co.: Sex, Politics, and the making of the modern drama. New York, NY: Grove Press

Posted by: blaikeh | December 17, 2007

Indian Sanskrit Theatre

  Indian Sanskrit Theatre first began sometime in the first century in India. There are two main performance traditions in Indian Sanskrit Theatre. The first of the two is Kutiyattam. Kutiyattam is one of the oldest traditions in India, which dates back to the 10th century. The second of the two is Kathakali. Kathakali dates back to 17th century form and the warriors originally performed it. It is to be seen as a form of Kutiyattam. Both of these two traditions derived from Kerela India. Sanskrit plays are credited to the mythic sage Bharata as well as traces an origin to the god Brahma. The god Brahma played a huge role in the 4 Hindu Vedas, which were sacred texts. Brahma combined all of the Vedas together to create the 5th one, which was called natya, meaning “theatre”.  A good Sanskrit play should include all 8 Rasa’s from the Natyasastra. A Rasa is the tastes or flavours that will compliment and contrast one another. The eight Rasa’s include love, mirth, sadness, wrath, vigour, disgust, the terrible and finally the marvellous.   Now I am sure you will be wondering what the Natyasastra is? well I am here to let you know. The Natyasastra is a manuscript filled with dramatic texts and performance codes. Natyasastra means “authoritative text on the theatre.”  The Natyasastra was the earliest critical writing in India and it covers all aspects of production. It describes everything from costumes and makeup to the stages and roles that the actors should use. The Natyasastra was written sometime between 200 B.C.E and 200 C.E.  Over all I have learned a lot about Indian Sanskrit Theatre and I hope I have taught you all a little something. In today’s society Indian Sanskrit Theatre isn’t really performed so it may be hard to get a taste of true Sanskrit plays, but I will let Katie go a little deeper into Sanskrit Plays for you!

  Felner, M., & Orenstein, C. (2006). The World of Theatre. Boston, U.S.A: Pearson Education

Posted by: mistyj | December 17, 2007

Image Theatre

Image Theater was developed during the 1950s and 1960s by a Brazilian director named Augusto Boal.  His goal was to create performance without monologue, focusing specifically on dialogue between the audience and stage.  He called this “Theatre of the Opressed”, as he believed oppression arrised when a dialogue became a monologue.  He felt that dialogue was the healthiest connection between humans and that everyone was capable of doing it.  Image Theatre is meant to make you feel empowered.  It is about creating change and taking charge of your own life.  The process of this theatre is to give people the chance to develop emotional intelligence, using a symbolic language, while investigating topics that are hard to talk about. This helps to open up communication about difficult topics in an active and entertaining way.  During Image Theatre, “Actors are manipulated as visual elements on the stage”.  This type of theatre starts with movement but ends with a static result.  Usually there is no dialogue. The images are are accompanied by music and sound while the actors or participants try to represent specific ideas, emotions, or situations by sculpting their bodies or those of others. The individuals then form a group to create a picture or “image”, of what they are trying to represent.    With this type of theatre it is encouraged not to think about the image, but to create one immediately in order to express completely raw and unfiltered perceptions on ideas or issues.   There are three ways the image can be altered to express different facets of the issue: 1.  “For the first dynamisation, the participants move back to form the image, but simultaneously rather than separately.  In this way, they are aware of each other, and of the image as a whole, rather than their own, individual pose.” 2. “For the second dynamisation, the participants alter their images slightly so that they interrelate with the other people on the stage.  Their poses must relate to each other in a way that creates a single perspective that encompasses all views.” 3. “For the third dynamisation, the participants transform themselves from depicting the oppressed to posing as the oppressors.  As participants are often victims of oppression, this vision is highly subjective, yet gives real insight into the attitudes of the participants.” 

Today there is an Image Theatre company in Prague, called  Black Light Theatre Image.  This company has a style of its own with modern dance elements, unique costumes, mime and non-verbal theatre, combined with usage of sound, originally composed music and contact with the public.

You can also find an Image Theatre company called Headlines, based on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, in Vancouver.  You can find one in California called American Image Theatre Company.  

Posted by: blaikeh | December 16, 2007

Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht



Birth: 1898 – Death: 1956


Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Germany on February 10th 1898. Brecht went through a childhood full of writing poetry. His first poems had been published in 1914. A few years following his first releases of poetry, Bertolt joined medical school. He soon after served in World War 1 as a medical assistant. Brecht wrote the famous “Drum in the Night” while serving during the hard times of war. In the following years Bertolt had been married twice. Once to Marianne Zoff and second to Helene Weigel with whom he had 2 children, a girl named Barbra and a son named Stephan.

Brecht went through many fields of theatre in his lifetime career. For example two of the most popular he was involved in were play writing and directing. Bertolt created several plays before any of them were brought to the eye of the public. His main interest was directing. In the 1930’s his books and plays were banned in Germany and he had to flee to Finland because his work was so controversial, even to the communists themselves, which he was one of. While Bertolt was in exile, he decided to get an American visa. He had wanted the visa in order to move to California where he could eventually become a Hollywood producer and screenwriter. Things didn’t work out for him in the United States because his writing was very misunderstood by the public and other producers.

After several years in exile, Brecht returned to Germany. In Germany he founded his own theatre company called “Berliner Ensemble” and in 1954, he had received his own theatre. In the year of 1955 Brecht was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize for his famous works, the following year he suddenly died of a heart attack. Bertolt Brecht will be remembered throughout history as a strong man with a passion for writing. His most famous of plays “Drum in the Night” and “Mother Courage and Her Children“, as well as many more of his plays will never be forgotten by the people across the world.

“The Good Woman of Setzuan”


Felner, M., & Orenstein, C. (2006). The World of Theatre. Boston, USA: Pearson Education

Fuegi, J. (1994). Brecht & Co.: Sex, Politics, and the making of the modern drama. New York, NY: Grove Press

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