The naturalistic theatre movement emerged in the mid 19th century and was first introduced by French novelist, critic and playwright Emile Zola in the preface to his novel Thérèse Raquin (1867), which the author later adapted into a stage play (first performed in 1873). Naturalism demanded a slice of life authenticity in every aspect of production and is not to be confused with realism. Naturalistic dramas explored the concept of scientific determinism where characters were shaped by their given circumstance and controlled by external forces such as hereditary and social environment. Characters in naturalistic plays were often lower class portraying sordid events and the more mundane aspects of everyday life. It is perhaps no surprise that naturalism in the theatre was short-lived. – Justin Cash
Emile Zola’s 1881 essay “Naturalism for the Stage”, essentially the naturalist manifesto for the theatre.
San Diego Opera Excellent article (archived) clearly explaining Zola’s naturalism with the aid of extracts from two of his works.
Academic essay discussing Emile Zola’s basis for naturalism in literature and on the stage, including that of scientific determinism.
Australian Catholic University Useful information on realism and naturalism in the theatre (archived), the differences between the two and the position of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
For scholars interested in source material, here is an excerpt from Emile Zola’s play version of his novel Therese Raquin (1873), where he introduces his theory of naturalism for the theatre.
Concise summary of contemporary American naturalism from the dramaturgical perspective of the playwright.
Useful multi-part article for students covering naturalism and Stanislavski.
Brief Wikipedia entry summarising the naturalism movement in the theatre.
Excellent resource on the origins of naturalism and realism in the theatre and the similarities and differences between these two movements and forms.
Easy to understand article for students on the naturalist movement in the theatre, including some examples of well-known plays
Article from The Irish Times examining French novelist, theatre critic and playwright Emile Zola’s experiments in naturalism.
Worthwhile summary of the characteristics of naturalism and some of the differences between it and realism from Cliffs Notes.
Enycylopaedia Britannica article on the naturalism movement outlining contributors such as Emile Zola, Andre Antoine and Constantin Stanislavski.