AVANT-GARDE THEATRE QUOTES

quotations about avant-garde theatre

The avant-garde theater is fun; it is free-wheeling, bold, iconoclastic, and often wildly, wildly funny. If you will approach it with childlike innocence -- putting your standard responses aside, for they do not apply -- if you will approach it on its own terms, I think you will be in for a liberating surprise. I think you may no longer be content with plays that you can't remember halfway down the block.

EDWARD ALBEE, "Which Theater Is the Absurd One?", 1962

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"Avant garde" has become a ubiquitous label, eclectically applied to any type of art that is anti-traditional in form. At its simplest, the term is sometimes taken to describe what is new at any given time: the leading edge of artistic experiment, which is continually outdated by the next step forward.

C. D. INNES, Avant Garde Theatre: 1892-1992

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Avant-garde theatre, with its distrust of the individual (that bourgeois invention), tends to go beyond [character] and the psychological approach in search of a syntax of types and characters which are "deconstructed and post-individual."

PATRICE PAVIS, Dictionary of the Theatre

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The avant-garde no longer simply attempts, as it always must, to carry out transformations within an inherited medium; it claims it is creating a medium of its own, sometimes retaining the old name of theatre, sometimes preferring others: spectacle, show, performance.

JEAN ALTER, A Sociosemiotic Theory of Theatre

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Theatre is not and should not be a literary form of expression. A theatrical celebration can take place anywhere: out of doors, in a garage, in a stable. The problem with avant-garde theatre today is that it is absolutely intellectual. You have to be cerebrally inclined to understand what is going on.

JEROME SAVARY, attributed, Experimental Theatre

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The avant-garde understands itself as invading unknown territory, exposing itself to the dangers of sudden, shocking encounters, conquering an as yet unoccupied future ... The avant-garde must find a direction in a landscape into which no one seems to have yet ventured.

JURGEN HABERMAS, "Modernity versus Postmodernity", Modernity: Critical Concepts

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I do not like the Broadway theatre because it does not know how to say hello. The tone of voice is false, the mannerisms are false, the sex is false, ideal, the Hollywood world of perfection, the clean image, the well pressed clothes, the well scrubbed anus, odorless, inhuman, of the Hollywood actor, the Broadway star. And the terrible false dirt of Broadway, the lower depths in which the dirt is imitated, inaccurate.

JULIAN BECK, diary, 1962

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The postmodern avant garde strips the idea of "modernism" itself of its assumed univocality, its consistency as a period style.

MICK WALLIS, Drama/Theatre/Performance

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More than one branch of the avant-garde, claiming to break with the bourgeois vision and mode of production, remains tied to it in spite of its denials and ex-communications. We are far from having overcome bourgeois thought or practices, despite the socialist "intermission" between the Russian revolution and the collapse of the Berlin wall. The avant-garde has lost its radical nature. On the other hand, "bourgeois theatre" is sometimes subtle enough to flirt with the avant-garde or to make "intelligent boulevard theatre."

PATRICE PAVIS, Dictionary of the Theatre

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I think we can regard the past eighty or so years in the arts ... not as a series of islands with names ending in ism, but as forming a still little-explored continent whose jagged coastline we have begun to leave astern without knowing whether the land is habitable.

ROGER SHATTUCK, introduction, The History of Surrealism

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On the surface the avant garde as a whole seems united primarily in terms of what they are against: the rejection of social institutions and established artistic conventions, or antagonism towards the public (as representative of the existing order). By contrast any positive programme tends to be claimed as exclusive property by isolated and even mutually antagonistic sub-groups. So modern art appears fragmented and sectarian, defined as much by manifestos as imaginative work.

C. D. INNES, Avant Garde Theatre: 1892-1992

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In academic studies of the avant-garde, the minuet of vanguard and cop has twirled to a very specific tune: the sad, often nostalgic strains of the eulogy. There is probably no other field of study that must contend so often with declarations that its object is defunct.

MIKE SELL, Avant-Garde Performance & the Limits of Criticism

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Anti-art theater practitioners ... seek a freedom that brings a more ontologically fluid immediacy to the events in the theater. For this avant-garde, theater is not so much the realization of a fixed work constituted through performance as the unfolding of a unique event.

DAVID GRAVER, The Aesthetics of Disturbance

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A substantial part of avant-garde art, guided by the genre of the manifesto, was not meant to be contemplated in private ... its screeching voice upsets our close-reading sensibilities.

MARTIN PUCHNER, "Screeching Voices: Avant-Garde Manifestos in the Cabaret"

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Avant-garde theatre has a long and distinguished history of employing performance to ignite the conscience of an ethical observer.

TIM ETCHELLS, Certain Fragments

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In avant garde drama ... primitivism goes hand in hand with aesthetic experimentation designed to advance the technical progress of the art itself by exploring fundamental questions: What is a theatre? What is a play? What is an actor? What is a spectator? What is the relation between them all? What conditions serve this best?

C.D. INNES, Avant Garde Theatre: 1892-1992

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I am, it seems, an avant-garde dramatist. It would even seem obvious since I am present here at discussions on the avant-garde theatre. It is all entirely official. But what does the term avant-garde mean?

EUGENE IONESCO, remarks at the International Theatre Institute, Jun. 1959

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Ionesco rejects the idea that the avant-garde theater is transitional, for all theater is transitional. Instead he sees the avant-garde as a restoration, a return. It constitutes a rediscovery of the fundamental models of theater, a return in some respects to primitive theater, and a return to man, rather than society, as the center of the dramatic universe.

LEONARD CABELL PRONKO, Avant-garde: The Experimental Theater in France

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The avant-garde would seem to be an artistic and cultural phenomenon of a precursory nature, which tallies with its literal meaning. It would be a kind of "pre-style," indicating and pointing the direction of a change which will triumph in the end, a change which will truly change everything. This amounts to saying that the avant-garde cannot generally be recognized until after the event: when they have succeeded, when the avant-garde writers and artists have acquired a following, when they have founded a prevailing school, a cultural style which is recognized and will conquer an age. Consequently one can only see that there has been an avant-garde when it no longer exists as such, when it has in fact, become a rear guard; when it has been joined and even outstripped by the main army. But an army marching toward what?

EUGENE IONESCO, remarks at the International Theatre Institute, Jun. 1959

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In an age where everyone wants to be cutting edge and experimental, where there is virtually no censorship and the power to shock is all but gone, is there any longer such a thing as the avant-garde?... It is hard to decide whether all art is now avant-garde, or none of it.

DAVID LISTER, "ICA: Trouble at Mall", The Independent, September 27, 2010

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