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 Theatre Study Resources

Theatre Styles: Realism/ Naturalism

If you are studying in year 11 you will have to finish a theatre styles report. Here is a short film giving you a background of "Naturalism". Naturalism was a theatre style from the turn of the century and a reaction to the melodrama usually seen in theatre of the time. Emile Zola is known as the father of naturalism and his realistic style of theatre was expanded by the father of Realism, Konstantin Stanislavsky. Here have a listen to these two videos!

Here are some wonderful links for your study of naturalism. Now lets have a look at Stanislavsky and "Realism"! Special thanks to a fine teaching lecture by Anita Tecce who is posted on Youtube.

Method Acting has been used by many actors, Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp among them.  Here you can see an acting class which is using "sense memory". I always found that this type of acting can be amazing...or it can be self indulgent. We will talk about it in is a short video with actors rehearsing "the method"

Now let's watch a scene from a play using the acting techniques of "realism". The play is called "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekov and was first performed at The Moscow Art theatre in 1907. You may read the background of the play here.

Have a look at a short scene in this production of the "The Cherry Orchard". 

  • What is the actor/audience relationship?

  • How do the sets (though not "naturalistic") reflect the time of the play?

  • How is lighting used?

  • What kind of sets?

  • How are the use of an actors expressive skills "realistic"?


The "method" became very popular when it was championed as great acting technique by actor/teacher/director Lee Strasberg who brought "The Method" to America. As his wikipedia entry says:

"He is considered the "father of method acting in America," according to author Mel Gussow, and from the 1920s until his death in 1982 "he revolutionized the art of acting by having a profound influence on performance in American theater and movies".[4] From his base in New York, he trained several generations of theatre and film's most illustrious talents, including Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Harris, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and director Elia Kazan.[4]"

Here's Strasberg teaching an acting class in New York City:



Some of the finest performances on film were as a result of this "method" of acting. It was easily transplanted into the world of motion pictures. Motion pictures that were starting to reflect serious topics and which demanded "realistic" acting technique from its performers. 

Here's a classic scene from one of Strasberg's students, Dustin Hoffman. In Miller's "Death of a Salesman", Hoffman plays Willy, a broken down door to door salesman. His family's dreams of success are crumbling. His son Biff discovers a hose next to the gas and surmises that Willy is considering suicide. Together they have a confrontation where they both come to terms with the fact that the family has been living a lie and that they must try to accept each other as they are. Confronting and heartbreaking, here's a look at two method actors. Notice that Hoffman is playing a character 15 years older than himself. Watch how he uses his expressive skills in his performance.

Here is a powerpoint that covers numerous theatre styles. You can download it from the moodle site. You must know how the dramatic elements, production elements and stagecraft is used in each of these styles. 

This link also has a great list of theatrical styles:

Here is a link to an article that deals with the conventions of theatre styles:

Now lets have a look at another genre of Modern Theatre...Theatre of the Absurd.

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