Western European avant-garde theatre and puppetry : a reappraisal

Title: Western European avant-garde theatre and puppetry : a reappraisal
Source document: Theatralia. 2022, vol. 25, iss. 1, pp. 13-26
  • ISSN
    1803-845X (print)
    2336-4548 (online)
Type: Article

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

The article addresses the question of how much the historical avant-gardes introduced radical breaks in artistic practice and can be considered as forerunners of what would happen after them. If we consider the case study of puppetry, where no homogenous tradition nor specific institutions existed at the beginning of the 20th century, we can observe that the experiments of the Cubist, Futurist, or Dadaist poets and painters in that field did not radically differ from those of the Symbolist and Modernist circles a few decades before. In many cases the avant-garde artists, when working on puppet and marionette theatre projects, were surprisingly open to collaborate with traditional puppeteers, as well as with theatre and art institutions. The dramaturgy often followed time-honoured patterns, with the prevalence of parody and folk or fairy tales as major sources of inspiration, a focus on artistic circles and children as audiences, and a composition of the show that respected the habits of mainstream marionette theatres. Original subjects are mainly to be found in Pierre Albert-Birot's, Fortunato Depero's, and Kurt Schwitters' plays for marionettes and shadows. Yet, because many of the avant-garde artists experimenting in puppetry were painters and sculptors, they introduced a major change in the composition of puppet plays: visual transformations of the figures marked the steps of the action, alternating biomorphic and non-figurative outlines, images of living beings and of mechanical objects. Thus, they put on stage a drama that was going much further than the conditions of the productions, or the dramaturgy they were using, could do: the drama of entering into a new mechanical age, where the place for mankind had to be re-invented.
This research has been funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement 835193.
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