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Realism (theatre)

Realism in the theatre was a general movement that began in the 19th-century theatre, around the 1870s, and remained present through much of the 20th century. It developed a set of dramatic and theatrical conventions with the aim of bringing a greater fidelity of real life to texts and performances. Part of a broader artistic movement, it includes Naturalism and Socialist realism.

Russia's first professional playwright, Aleksey Pisemsky, along with Leo Tolstoy (in his The Power of Darkness of 1886), began a tradition of psychological realism in Russia. A new type of acting was required to replace the declamatory conventions of the well-made play with a technique capable of conveying the speech and movements found in the domestic situations of everyday life. This need was supplied by the innovations of the Moscow Art Theatre, founded by Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Whereas the subtle expression of emotion in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull through everyday small-talk had initially gone unappreciated in a more traditionally conventional production in St Petersburg, a new staging by the Moscow Art Theatre brought the play and its author, as well as the company, immediate success. A logical development was to take the revolt against theatrical artifice a step further in the direction of naturalism, and Stanislavski, especially in his production of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths, helped this movement achieve international recognition. The Moscow Art Theatre's ground-breaking productions of plays by Chekhov, such as Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard, in turn influenced Maxim Gorky and Mikhail Bulgakov. Stanislavski went on to develop his 'system', a form of actor training that is particularly well-suited to psychological realism.



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