America Hurrah Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Context

During the 1960’s, Jean-Claude van Itallie shared many concerns with the Open Theatre, the experimental theater collective with which he was associated from 1963 to 1972. Van Itallie participated in the group’s workshops, writing scenes for the actors to experiment with and contributing short plays for the Open Theatre’s public performances. Although America Hurrah was not an Open Theatre production, Interview in particular was clearly influenced by van Itallie’s participation in Open Theatre workshops, as was the dual action of TV. The “transformational” style of acting, in which actors switch rapidly from character to character, was central to the Open Theatre’s approach. Van Itallie’s War (pr. 1963) takes this kind of improvisational exercise as its premise: An Elder Actor and a Younger Actor, meeting to work on improvisations together, act out their antagonism toward each other in a series of rapidly changing scenes.

The Open Theatre also experimented extensively with methods of acting that involve contrasting ways of presenting an action to reveal its social dimensions. The scene in Interview in which the Applicants leapfrog over the Interviewers is an example; the action of a job interview is conducted realistically in the dialogue, while the physical stylization represents another perspective on the same action. The contrast between the two points out the dehumanizing nature of the social...

(The entire section is 480 words.)