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		 Existentialism and Theatre
         Existentialism is a concept that became popular during the
 second World War in France, and just after it. French playrights have
 often used the stage to express their views, and these views came to
 surface even during a Nazi occupation. Bernard Shaw got his play
 "Saint Joan" past the German censors because it appeared to be very
 Anti-British. French audiences however immediately understood the real
 meaning of the play, and replaced the British with the Germans. Those
 sorts of "hidden meanings" were common throughout the period so that
 plays would be able to pass censorship.
         Existentialism proposes that man is full of anxiety and
 despair with no meaning in his life, just simply existing, until he
 made decisive choice about his own future. That is the way to achieve
 dignity as a human being. Existentialists felt that adopting a social
 or political cause was one way of giving purpose to a life. Sartre is
 well known for the "Theatre engage" or Theatre 'committed', which is
 supposedly committed to social and/or political action.
         One of the major playwrights during this period was Jean-Paul
 Sartre. Sartre had been imprisoned in Germany in 1940 but managed to
 escape, and become one of the leaders of the Existential movement.
 Other popular playwrights were Albert Camus, and Jean Anouilh. Just
 like Anouilh, Camus accidentally became the spokesman for the French
 Underground when he wrote his famous essay, "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" or
 "The Myth of Sisyphus". Sisyphus was the man condemned by the gods to
 roll a rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down
 again. For Camus, this related heavily to everyday life, and he saw
 Sisyphus an "absurd" hero, with a pointless existence. Camus felt that
 it was necessary to wonder what the meaning of life was, and that the
 human being longed for some sense of clarity in the world, since "if
 the world were clear, art would not exist". "The Myth of Sisyphus"
 became a prototype for existentialism in the theatre, and eventually
 The Theatre of the Absurd.
         Right after the Second World War, Paris became the theatre
 capital of the west, and popularized a new form of surrealistic
 theatre called "Theatre of the Absurd". Many historians contribute the
 sudden popularity of absurdism in France to the gruesome revelations
 of gas chambers and war atrocities coming out of Germany after the
 war. The main idea of The Theatre of the Absurd was to point out man's
 helplessness and pointless existence in a world without purpose. As
 Richard Coe described it "It is the freedom of the slave to crawl east
 along the deck of a boat going west". Two of the most popular
 playwrights of this time include Samuel Beckett, who's most famous
 piece was "Waiting for Godot", and Eugene Ioensco with "Exit the
 King". Most absurdist plays have no logical plot. The absence of the
 plot pushes an emphasis on proving the pointless existence of man.
 Quite often, such plays reveal the human condition at it's absolute
         Absurdist playwrites often used such techniques as symbolism,
 mime, the circus, and the commedia dell'arte, which are quite evident
 in the more popular plays of the time, such as Waiting for Godot, The
 Bald Prima Donna, and Amedee.
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