CULTURE: THEATER. A DIFFICULT STATEMENT
According to Extrareference, the first theatrical performances in the territory of the current United States date back to the century. XVI: are religious texts prepared in Spanish under the auspices of the Catholic Church in the territories towards the current border with Mexico. Spanish was also the text of the first original comedy, author Marcos Fanfán de los Grodos, performed near the city that would later become El Paso, Texas, in 1598. A few years later there is news of a show in French, Le théâtre de Neptune en la Nouvelle France, staged to celebrate such a sieur de Poutrincourt who had founded a French colony, Port Royal, in Nova Scotia. However, the theater struggled to take root in the New World: the hostilities of religious groups, more or less puritanical, and of the political authorities joined the objective difficulties of the life of the colonizers: in fact, the seventeenth-century representations of which we can remember are very rare and completely isolated. Only at the beginning of the century. XVIII came from England an actor of little name, T. Aston, who performed in Charleston, South Carolina, and then to New York, presumably in a repertoire of monologues. A few years later the first rudimentary theaters arose in various cities, in New England, New York and the South, where groups of amateurs presented works from the repertoire then in vogue in London. By the middle of the century the conditions of life had changed and the theater could begin to settle in the already colonized regions: real theaters were built, professional companies were formed and important actors such as L. Hallam and D. Douglas arrived from the motherland. who introduced the Shakespearean repertoire destined for long success in the colony. The revolution obviously marked an interlude, but the conquest of independence made it possible to resume the journey with renewed vigor. In 1785, under the direction of Hallam’s son, a The Contrast (1787) by R. Tyler. The head office of the American Company was New York, but a theatrically important city was Philadelphia where a company was formed in 1791 directed by T. Wignell that acted in a specially built hall. The show was becoming an attraction for a nascent civil society: more and more decent theaters were erected, more attention was paid to the staging, an increase in prestigious English actors – even Cooke and E. Kean in the early nineteenth century – who came in tour in the New World. The years at the turn of the century (roughly from 1820 to 1870) saw the gradual establishment of a national theater. It was dominated by highly prestigious actors-directors (some British, but also indigenous like E. Forrest, JH Haclett, C. Cushman and later E. Booth) and the stock company system was in place, or tour company, with a rich repertoire often presented alternately. New York became the theatrical capital of the country, gradually reducing the rest of the territory to space for the commercial exploitation of metropolitan successes, like an immense province that the expansion towards the West made ever larger and more profitable. The new era was inaugurated in 1869 when A. Daly opened the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York: the era of actor-directors was coming to an end and the personality of the producer was beginning to take on ever greater importance. It was he who chose the texts, who wrote the actors, who took full responsibility for the show, which was set to become an industry.
CULTURE: THEATER. THE EVOLUTION OF THE CENTURY. XX
The last years of the century. XIX also saw the construction of new technically advanced theaters (in New York there were 43 in 1900, which would become 80 in 1928) and the emergence of some important personalities such as S. MacKaye, inventor of amazing stage devices, D . Belasco, director and playwright who created the kind of realism acceptable to the American public, and C. Frohman, which completed the process of industrialization of the theater, completely eliminating the concept of company (and therefore that of repertoire) to hire actors for a specific comedy, with mainly commercial criteria. The domination of the producers, with the actors used as stars, that is, as a means of making the theatrical product more salable, always in competition with the cinema, remained a characteristic element of American consumer theater, that is of Broadway, in the two great sectors of prose and of musical comedy. The rest of the history of the US scene is the attempts made to break this regime. The most important were: in 1915 the Washington Square Players, from which the Guild Theater was later released, for about thirty years the most artistically and culturally prestigious production organization on Broadway; in 1916 the Provincetown Players, who revealed in E. O’Neill the greatest American playwright and in RE Jones the most brilliant set designer; in the Thirties the numerous groups directed towards a theater of political commitment: the Group Theater (1931-41), which introduced with L. Strasberg, H. Clurman and then E. Kazan a particular version of the Stanislavskian system which became hegemonic in American acting for at least thirty years; the Federal Theater (1935-39), born with government funding in the framework of the fight against unemployment and closed when it was thought that it had exhausted its statutory task and that it risked becoming a tool for the dissemination of subversive ideas. Broadway made the most usable ferments of these initiatives its own and by the 1960s it returned to become synonymous with American theater, exporting its most successful scripts to all the nations of the West.
The reaction came first with the off-Broadway movement, which stood out from the commercial theater for greater daring in choices and for the space offered to new talent, then with the off-off-Broadway movement. which radically contested the prevailing conception of the theater by proposing substantially subversive performances, both in a political sense and on an aesthetic level, and finding its seats in places that were not necessarily theatrical if not even in the streets. Other important phenomena of the same period are the multiplication of autonomous theatrical initiatives outside New York, with even conspicuous contributions from the municipalities; and the attempts, generally subsidized by some foundation, to react to the logic of Broadway by establishing theaters, even in New York, which, by choice of repertoires and level of staging, did not seek their raison d’être in the achievement of a profit. All this has led to a completely new situation: Broadway has ceased to be a breeding ground for new texts and new authors to become a sounding board for works launched elsewhere, in the theaters of the New York suburbs, in the municipal halls of other cities in the United States and even in England. And more and more space have musical performances, no longer fragile comedies interspersed with songs, but complex theatrical events where dance plays a major role. In the last years of the century. XX confirmed the trend of a passage from a monocentric situation of the theater to a kind of polycentrism. Among the most appreciated authors, we find SL Parks, who offers the public reflections on the themes of racism and sexism, M. Cho and S. Jones who, through the technique of freestyle, has combined hip-hop with theater.