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Modern drama was realistic, telling stories of everyday people, in a psychologically sound way. With the advent of 20th century experimental theatre, artists began to test the “rules” of theatre, finding a performance aesthetic that departed from simple story-telling formats. Among the theorists who championed this inquiry (Absurdism, Dada, Expressionism all drew from his ideas) was Antonin Artaud, who compared theatre to the Plague (especially in its importance, its potential to change society, and its danger to those exposed to it). Theatre and Its Double served as a manifesto for dramatists like Bertolt Brecht, who changed the presentational components of stage productions, turning the stage into a pulpit for political and doctrinal change, and brought symbolism to his story-telling in a way that both fulfilled Artaud’s principles and gave the stage a new metalanguage. Experimental theatre groups like the Living Theatre, the Open Theatre, and the Performance Group, as well as Alan Kaprow’s Happenings, all benefited from Artaud’s insights into the real importance and potential of the actor-audience relationship.
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