[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
I’ve figured something else out from interacting with the world in the last few days, and from watching my own thoughts: we are all actors in…
(the) Theatre of the Absurd
The Theatre of the Absurd (French: théâtre de l’absurde [teɑtʁ(ə) də lapsyʁd]) is a post–World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s, as well as one for the style of theatre which has evolved from their work. Their work focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.
Critic Martin Esslin coined the term in his 1962 essay “Theatre of the Absurd.” He related these plays based on a broad theme of the Absurd, similar to the way Albert Camus uses the term in his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces. This style of writing was first popularized by the 1952 Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot. Though the term is applied to a wide range of plays, some characteristics coincide in many of the plays: broad comedy, often similar to vaudeville, mixed with horrific or tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of the “well-made play“. These plays were shaped by the political turmoil, scientific breakthrough, and social upheaval going on in the world around the playwrights during these times.
While absurdists believed that life is absurd, they also believed that death and the “after life” were equally absurd if not more, and that whether people live or not all of their actions are pointless and everything will lead to the same end (hence the repetitiveness in many of these absurdist plays).
In his 1965 book, Absurd Drama, Esslin wrote:
The Theatre of the Absurd attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy. It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it. But the challenge behind this message is anything but one of despair. It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly; precisely because there are no easy solutions to the mysteries of existence, because ultimately man is alone in a meaningless world. The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.