Theatre History Award essay

Category: Genre

The winner in this category is melodrama. The theatre history has evolved for thousands of years. Nowadays, the theater is represented by a variety of different genres, including sentimental comedies, ballad operas, one-person shows and others. However, the theatre history award in the genre category should obviously be given to melodrama. For years, this genre of theatre has been one of the most popular among the audience.

Melodrama is a theatre genre, which reveals the spiritual and sensual world of characters in particularly vivid emotional circumstances based on contrasts such as good and evil, love and hate, and others. The main objective of melodramatic works implies the creation of an accurate picture of the spiritual inner world of each of the characters, as well as the need to show their feelings in specific circumstances with vivid emotions. Contrary to documentary theatre or any other genre, the essential difference of melodrama implies a specific representation of feelings. Melodrama usually represents a complicated intrigue, covered with heightened emotionality as well as an unambiguous moral position and an instructive direction. The language used in this genre is often characterized by lofty rhetoric and rich literary tropes. However, it can interweave with other genres. The worldwide melodrama genre is popular among females. It has never been out of fashion. Every year melodrama attracts more fans, as it helps to distract from their own concerns and experience new pleasant emotions. Based on the abovementioned, melodrama is worth to be nominated as a winner in the genre category of the Theatre History Award.


Category: Actor

The winner in this category is Henry Irving, whose real name is John Henry Brodribb. He was a well-known English actor, director, and a theatrical figure. From 1878 to 1898, he directed the Lyceum theatre. Henry Irving was famous for starring in such Shakespeare’s plays as Hamlet, Macbeth, Shylock, Richard III and others, being a great supporter of the staged theater. His reputation as a talented artist of big dramatic roles in Shakespeare’s plays began in 1874. In the period of 1883-1884, accompanied by his troupe, he made a trip to the USA, where they were met with an enthusiastic welcome and huge success.

In the USA, each and every role of Irving was announced as a magnificent example of the theatre art. Chicago Tribune wrote that Irving’s success was logical because of his acting talent, intelligence, sensitivity and primarily poetic temperament. However, it should be mentioned that Henry Irving created the talent himself, gradually overcoming natural disadvantages. He worked on turning his weak tone of voice into a low, velvet bass one. For many years, the actor developed his diction, perfecting it on the daily basis. In addition, Irving developed noble plasticity of moves, while dragging his leg naturally.

The abovementioned proves that contrary to other famous theatre actors, such as Laurence Olivier and Bert Williams, Henry Irving’s talents are a result of his hard work and dedication to the theatre. It makes Henry Irving worth of the winner nomination in the Best Actor category of the Theatre History Award.

Category: Actress

The winner in this category is Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), a famous English actress. In 1773, she married William Siddons, an actor of the itinerant troupe. In 1775, D. Garrik invited her to the Drury Lane Theater on the role of Portia in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The debut in London was unsuccessful, and the actress returned to the province. However, in 1782, she again appeared on the stage of Drury Lane, achieving a triumph as Isabella in The Fatal Marriage.

Sarah Siddons became popular because of her classic beauty and elocution skills. However, her best role was magnificent Lady Macbeth, which is considered to be one of the best world’s interpretations of the image. Among her other successful roles, there were Dezdem and Volumnia in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. In 1818, Siddons left the scene after a series of triumphant farewell performances.

The talent of Sarah Siddons was quite unique as she possessed the ability to evoke emotions in the audience, integrating them not only into her roles, but also making them inner parts of herself. Sarah Siddons was considered to be a monumental and mythical actress of the 1780s. The way she played mesmerized the audience. The reality of her emotions made people believe that she died playing Aphasia in Tamburlaine. The stories about Sarah Siddons’ power over spectators prove that along with Hannah Murphy, she was supposed to be a cultural icon of the theatre. It proves that Sarah Siddons is worth of the winner nomination in the Best Actress category of the Theatre History Award. Nowadays, Sarah Siddons’ award is given by the Sarah Siddons Society present to a prominent actress in Chicago every year.

Category: Director/Producer

The winner in this category is Joseph Papp (1921-1991), a famous U.S. producer and director. However, Joseph Papp is also well-known as a founder of the Public Theater in the Astor Library building in New York downtown. A unique feature of this theatre implies the existence of many small theaters within it.

In 1954, Joseph Papp fulfilled his life-long dream and established a New York Shakespeare Festival aimed to promote Shakespeare’s legacy and popularize theatre. The goal of the latter was the popularization of Shakespeare’s works making them more accessible to the public. Central Park was granted to Papp to make free productions of Shakespeare’s plays in 1957. Since 1962, the permanent venue of the festival has been the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park, where Papp put a lot of Shakespeare’s plays. The entrance to performances was free. The amphitheater in the park fit into the wooded landscape of the park near the Belvedere Lake successfully. The theater is named in honor of its Maecenas, who donated money for its foundation, including Delacorte.

Nowadays, the abovementioned activities continue to take place every summer as part of honor to Joseph Papp’s legacy. The latter proves that he is worth of the winner nomination in the Best Director/ Producer category of the Theatre History Award. Each year the New York Shakespeare Festival attracts thousands of viewers aimed to enjoy the magnificence of Shakespeare’s plays. Plays set in a modern way are especially popular, combining the features of eclecticism with the enduring classics of Shakespeare. Each season, the festival has a new program. The main place is given to the plays by Shakespeare, but along with them, the audience can see the works by other authors, musicals, and numerous concerts, as well as listen to lectures and take part in creative discussions focused on art.

Category: Playwright

The winner in this category is  Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), a famous German playwright and poet, who received international recognition for his work and is considered to be a founder of the epic or dialectical theater, which did not apply to the traditional empathy, but to the sober reason and critical analysis. He introduced an alienation effect, being a new perspective on familiar things, using a modernized analogue antique choir as Zongo Song and building staging on the principle of a film frame. Bertolt Brecht aimed to create a scene, which required the viewer to observe and conclude from aside. Looking at characters, the viewer should have the position of spiritual superiority and active solutions. In fact, Brecht’s dialectical theater led to the conflict between contemplations and study, which should have destroyed the emotional involvement of the audience, reaching the alienation effect. Brecht emphasized that the latter was not only a feature of his aesthetics, but one of the intrinsic properties of art. The main thesis of this theory was finally formulated in such works by Brecht as The Acquisition of Advanced Copper, The Street Scene, and A Short Organum for the Theatre.

Since the 1920s, Bertolt Brecht had worked as a theater director. He developed the concept of innovative drama and successfully used it in a number of plays. Without considering idealistic aspirations of rebellious expressionism, his plays implied the utopian appeal for the worldwide human brotherhood. Brecht opposed expressionism to his view of man and morality through the prism of social circumstances. He did not only concentrate on the audience mind, but also on their feelings. He activated a prudent, analytical principle, which could increase the human consciousness that perceived the effects of art.

Bertolt Brecht considered that in the epic drama it was not important to act, but to tell a story, which should not awake an interest in the interchange, but in depicted events in every scene of the play. However, it should be mentioned that Brecht supported a finished composite in his plays. Bertolt Brecht made a great influence on the development of the theater in the twentieth century, being worth of the winner nomination in the Best Playwright category of the Theatre History Award.

Category: Theatre Company/Studio

The winner in this category is the Living Theatre, a U.S. theater company famous for performances and experimental plays with a very radical content as well as the merciless war on theatrical traditions, authorities and spectators. It was founded by actress Judith Malina and painter/poet Julian Beck in 1946. The company produced plays of Artaud, Brecht, Jarry, Jean Cocteau, Stein, Strindberg and others opposing playwrights. In 1959, the Living Theatre reached big success after the premiere of Gelber’s drama on the problem of drug addiction. The members of the troupe were often in conflict with the authorities because of their political views and attitudes, which implied a mixture of anarchism and pacifism as well as non-payment of federal taxes. In the beginning of the 1960s, Beck and Molina were put in jail for a short time. Later the theater was closed.

The main source of inspiration for the Living Theatre was Artaud’s theater of cruelty. Artaud wanted to interact with the audience through the primary energy level. In his view, it would lead to the denial of usual restrictions imposed on human rights and its capabilities, as well as infinitely expand the boundaries of the real world.

The Living Theatre conception implied the transformation of society. They wanted to change a competitive and hierarchical structure of the latter to cooperative and communal interactions. The Living Theatre used the stage as a tool to achieve the abovementioned goal. In fact, it started the off-Broadway theater movement in New York.

 In 1964, the company went into a voluntary exile to Europe and began to involve in real scenic scandals, terrorizing the critics and the audience. In 1970, the troupe broke up into several small independent theaters and virtually ceased to exist. However, the opposing approach of the Living Theatre makes it worth of the winner nomination in the Best Theatre Company/Studio category of the Theatre History Award.


Theatre History Award essay

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