Summary: The Core Similarities and Differences Between Expressionism and Realism As Theatre Styles

Expressionism is a movement first formed in Germany in the early 20th century, it started off as art but later went into theatre. Initially expressionism was different to realism and naturalism in theatre so much so that it later influenced practitioners Bertolt Brecht and Erwin piscator.

Expressionism is a play (or film, or painting,) that can project a character’s interior mental landscape that is then accessible to the viewer. It is the opposite of realism in the sense that in expressionism our emotions manifest all around us through lighting and sound effects etc, where as with realism when we are talking to each other in real life, our thoughts and emotions remain private.

Expressionism impact was intense to the theatre world, it made way for other, more militant performance styles in Germany such as epic theatre. Expressionist plays tend to dramatise the spiritual awakening and sufferings of their protagonists these such plays are referred to as stationendrama which are station dramas.

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Realism in theatre looks at portraying real people in everyday situations dealing with common problems, writers of realist theatre prefer showing life how it truly is and how it truly happens. With their intentions being to show and shine upon the more mundane human struggles and concerns in a real and true way Characters in situations, events and conflicts, the tone of one’s voice used is as close to the natural conversation we have day to day. It presents everyday conversation in a succinct, direct way. It features plainness of speech, which may seem mundane, but is actually very revealing of character, especially when coupled with action.

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For example in The Meyerowitz stories the dialogue naturally goes over each other.

This helps convey tension and natural arguments that family members may have on certain days and works to tell the audience more about the character and the struggles he or she faces.The realist movement in the theatre and later performance styles have influenced 20th century theatre and cinema and its with us today in many plays and movies. It was all mainly due to Stanislavski’s system of realistic acting at the turn of the 20th century, America had its own type of this performance style which was (American realism) and acting (method acting) in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Expressionism focused on the inner qualities of the protagonist and humanity. over-acting, intense, violent these are some of the acting styles of expressionism. For example Naturalism a number of different features and aspects that will go into making naturalism for instance, Movement of naturalism the slow sutle nature of one movements is key but why is that? different novelists which had different theories of naturalism, it was in the nineteenth century that movement in naturalism first came along, it was used in film and theatre as a way of making the written word more realistic, the body is a tool for the use of the director to paraphrase Stanislavski. Naturalism refers to theatre that attempts to create a perfect illusion of reality through a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies, many naturalistic writers were influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and they wrote and suggested that the environment can determine a character actions and in turn the character during a performance.

As a theatrical movement and performance style, naturalism was short-lived. Naturalism is a movement that has been developed over time, it was most probably associated with the French novelist, Emile Zola who was a prolific novelist, dramatist, essayist, and critic. He was highly controversial in the period between the heyday of realism, He first wrote his novel on naturalism in the 1860’s he was heavily influenced by Darwin’s scientific ideas which made him interested in the way the environment shapes different people. Naturalism in France was so closely identified with Zola’s fiction that when he passed away very few claimed his work. The widespread of his work went worldwide but seemed to be especially prominent in Russia. It was first adapted for the stage by the French in the late 19th century, with Zola’s “three principles of naturalism”.

The term naturalism can be used to mean fiction that exaggerates some of the techniques of realism and the depth of characterization. Naturalism has been influential in theatre since the Greek days, the first Greek play to have naturalism apart of it was a play called “The Persians by Aeschylus”. Naturalism is a way to act natural whilst performing on stage or film, TV for instance soaps like EastEnders is modern naturalism because it has been developed over years into soaps, whilst they can be compared to being very similar realism and naturalism are very different as naturalism can be used to refer the same things but it can also mean the belief that a human character is formed by what they’ve inherited from their family/environment. And realism was portrayed to be real life on stage. Stanislavski believed that an actor’s body and voice is the apparatus needed in order for the actor to fully express every shade of character. In conclusion I found out different theories to naturalism especially Emile Zola’s as I didn’t know much about him but I learned that he had a lot to do with naturalism and his books were very influential all over the world. I also found out Stanislavski had a big part to play in the future of naturalism.

Expressionism I am going to be talking about Expressionism and where it come from and things surrounding it, I will also be looking at different features and aspects that go into it and a few play writers who used expressionism. Expressionism was a modernist movement that was originated Germany in the early 20th century. When it was first formed it was mainly looking into paintings and poetry but then expressionism was soon applied to music, architecture and theatre, its typical attribute was to present the world from a subjective viewpoint distorting it profoundly for emotional impact to bring out a state of mind. The first two main playwrights of German theatre were named Georg Kaiser and Ernest Toller there was others but they were the two most famous , “its typical trait was to distort physical reality for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas”

expressionism was later to be developed to be an Avant garde style, which is a loose term that can often mean experimental theatre. The first fully expressionist work for the theatre was produced by Oscar Kokoschka a piece called “murderer, the hope of women” it included symbolic use of colours, innovative lighting and the movements of the actors. The play was first performed at Kunstschau theatre which is based in Vienna in 1909, on it’s opening night though it didn’t go the way they would of wanted it to when fights broke out because soldiers watched the premier from a close by barracks and upon the man’s branding of the woman they rushed through the barrier. “Expressionism plays often spiritualise the spiritual awakening” and sufferings of their protagonists, but initially there was a rebellion against realism and naturalism in the theatre however expressionism was intense because it was different to those so much so that it later on influenced practitioners Bertolt Brecht and Erwin piscator, expression artists wanted to get the emotional experience rather than the physical reality, Strindberg’s “experimental works” such as the ghost sonnata and “A dream play” are the best examples because both these works suggest a dreamlike or nightmarish deception of human existence.

Expressionism is a non realistic or super realistic style that can use different effects settings, lighting, music, etc usually expressionist plays are more likely to be short length plays rather than extended ones. Expressionism is a way of performing with different techniques rather than movement in the body as much it can come from your facial expressions more often than not as it gives you the chance to put emotions into a character that you’re playing. It can also be used through the body by gestures or reaching out for something kind of like movement in the body. Expressionism has been around for a very long time now and seems to be getting used more now than ever, the fact it can go from a non realistic movement to a overly exaggerated movement gives you so much option to play around with it. Also Brecht had a big impact with expressionism to which he brought a book out on it Brecht’s Debt to Theatrical Expressionism.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: The Core Similarities and Differences Between Expressionism and Realism As Theatre Styles. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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