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Deconstructivist Theater

Page history last edited by Karen Gates 8 years, 6 months ago

Essentially, Deconstructivist Theater is any theatrical production that challenges an established concept or assumptions about a subject. To state this, however, is hypocritical to the goals driving the genre.  A theory based on the dissolution of definitions is, by definition, difficult to define. Confused yet?

Deconstructivist Theater is based on the theories of ‘deconstruction’ by French philosopher Jacques Derrida.  The basis ‘deconstruction’ as Derrida describes it, lies in a skepticism of societal known “truths” determined by a higher authority, with specific attention given to writing and arche-writing including the spoken word and sign systems. His works explain the phenomenon of différance in which as soon as a word or idea is spoken it is altered by the interpretation, ideas, and conclusions drawn by personal experience of others.  Therefore, an idea cannot exist with its original purpose, and all underlying concepts should be challenged.

“nothing is identical with itself; the moment something is thought, said, written or intended, it becomes a trace of itself, no longer itself, no longer present…”

“Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently-solid ground is no rock, but thin air.”

The theories of Derrida themselves in the goal of play and playwrights to break larger issues down and up to reveal the false assumptions of an original meaning, thereby questioning the authority from which they come.  This manifests itself in a variety of aesthetics and subjects making the defining characteristic the genre, the intention of the work itself.  By opposing every day conventions of the theater, plays raise to question larger issues. For instance, playwrights such as Caryl Churchill question assumed gender and racial role stereotypes in her play, Cloud 9, a
white man plays a black character, another man play a housewife and a girl plays the role of a young boy. In the second act, a young girl is played by the same actor who played the father in the first. Through an opposition to conventional aesthetic, Deconstructivist Theater aims to “deconstruct” a false universe determined by higher authority.


Deconstructivist Playwrights:

Caryl Churchill

Samuel Beckett

Arthur Miller

Eugene Ionesco

Edward Albee

Sam Shepard


Image collage of scene from different productions of Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days":



Clips of Deconstructivist Plays: 





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