Eastern European Theater

BY: Katrina S, Collin K , Matthew D, & Shubham S

When and Where?

Eastern European Theater can be classified by 1917 up until modern day theater. It's location ranges from the older Communist Russia, to present day East Germany. Other locations related to Eastern European theater are the Soviet Union, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and many more.

Background Information

  • Drama flourished throughout Europe for three centuries. European dramatists have initiated trends that have been followed in other parts of the world.
  • Goethe, who wrote from the 1770s to the early 1800s, is the most important above all German writers.
  • Goethe and Friedrich Von Schiller developed an approach to theatre and acting that influenced actors and playwrights far beyond their geographical sphere.

  • First in 1917 Bolshevik government strted the theater but it closed soon , 28 February 1917 was the was last performance . In, 1922, the Bolshevik government decided that to close the Theatre was not economically feasible.
  • Many artists went to the front to entertain the troops, while others joined up and went off to defend their country.

Important People and Works

Bertolt Brecht

  • German poet, playwright, and theatre director.
  • Brecht attempted to develop a new approach to the the theatre.
  • Brecht developed a style known as “Epic Theatre.”
  • His most acclaimed work is Mother Courage and Her Children. Although set in the 1600s, the play is relevant to contemporary society. It is often regarded as one of the finest anti-war plays. Also "Fear and Misery of the Third Reich" Brecht’s most overtly anti-fascist play analyzes the insidious way the Nazis came into power.

Jerzy Grotowski

  • Theatre director and theoretician, educator, creator of acting method.
  • Polish was the innovator of experimental theatre, and the "theatre laboratory" and "poor theatre" concepts.
  • He is considered to have been one of the greatest reformers of 20th Century theatre.

Alexander Tairov

  • Theatre director in Russia.
  • His 1934 production of Vsevolod Vishnevsky’s The Optimistic Tragedy was regarded as a high point of Socialist.

Vsevolod Meyerhold

  • He was a Russian and Soviet actor and theater director, and the creator of a new acting system called “biomechanics”.
  • Biomechanics had lost its appeal by the late 1920s, though Meyerhold’s emphasis on external action did become an element in Soviet actor-training techniques.

Interesting Facts and People

Bertolt Brecht during rehearsals he would make is actors do some strange things with the play. He won the international Lenin Peace Prize 1954.

Jerzy Grotowski
is considered to have been one of the greatest reformers of 20th Century theatre.

Anton Chekhov was a realist playwright and was considered the greatest Russian dramatist. His plays include the sea gull, the three sisters, the cherry orchard.

Konstantin Stanislavski ; tremendous influence on acting. Defined Method acting

Types of Theaters and Styles of Theatre


  • stage plays, pamphlets, motion pictures and other art forms with an explicitly political message.
  • Hermitage Theatre, Tobolsk Theatre, and Mikhaylovsky Theater.

Epic theatre

  • Theatrical movement that raised in the early to mid 20th century developed by Bertolt Breht.
  • One of the techniques to epic theatre is called the Verfremdungseffekt.
  • Scenes episodic and may be independent of each other.
  • Actors remain outside the of the character.
  • Intense white light used. No mood at all.
  • Costume changes were made in view of the audience


  • In Russia realism remained the dominant style
  • Scenes follow in chronological order
  • Realistic props to draw audience attention to belief the setting.
  • Colored light to give mood and atmosphere
  • Realistic and logical sound effects
  • Costumes realistic to time period


  • Few absurdist dramas were produced, they were considered to "formalistic"


  • Gerhart Hauptmann began a new era of realism, called naturalism, in the German theater

Important Events and Concepts

Important Theatrical Ideas

  • Plays in Germany around 1920 (after WWII) would have actors play specific roles/jobs and not give the characters actual names. Surrealism often used.
  • Stanislavsky method, also called The Method, or Stanislavsky system , highly influential system of dramatic training developed over years of trial and error by the Russian actor, producer, and theoretician Konstantin Stanislavsky.
  • Poor theatre- The idea of poor theatre was very influential, both in the art theatre (e.g. Peter Brook) and in alternative theatre.

Costumes and Make-Up


  • Each historic period has its own distinctive line and form in dress, called costume silhouette
  • Fashion and costume design were influenced and changed due to the many limitations presented from the war. The impact of the war affected fabric choices and also in the style and silhouette of the clothing.
  • Poor theatre- the only masks were the actors’ faces; costume was nondescript

Make up

  • Bone structure is key to facial makeup, it alters with age and differed with ethnicity.
  • Greasepaint was developed by a German actor, the paint was achieved by combining lard with pigments. The result was a smoother and more versatile application.
  • More items, such as lipsticks, liquid liners, waxes, and makeup sticks were introduced as the 1900s approached.
  • Skin, Rouge, Eyes, Eye shadow, Eye liner, Eyelashes, Powder, Lips

Sounds, Lights, and Sets


  • Performed news in Agitprop by using music. No complex sound systems. Would often yell to get audience's attention.
  • In poor theatre- vocal effects replaced instrumental music and sound ‘off’


  • Poor theatre- Only stationary light sources were used.
  • Epic theatre- Used bright lights.
  • Biomechanics used harsh lit lights not only on the stage but also around the theatre.


  • Agitprop- performances did not need decorations, groups were encouraged to bring nothing so the plays could occur literally anywhere. Any stage and any area fit their requirements. Principle was to use anything in an inventive way.

  • Biomechanics theatre- For these productions the stage was exposed to the back wall and was then furnished with harshly lit, bare sets consisting of scaffoldings, ladders, and ramps that the actors used.

  • Epic theatre- Proscenium stage

Important Centers for Theater

  • Berlin was important place for theatre.
  • Moscow Art theatre- proved hugely influential in the acting world and in the development of modern American theatre. Founded in 1898 by two teachers of dramatic art, Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Its purpose was to establish a theatre of new art forms, with a fresh approach to its function. Became the finest in the world from the viewpoint of ensemble and realistic production

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