Naturalism: 25 Useful Student Theatre Resources

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), 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 heredity 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


Naturalism Theatre Resources

Article from the Drama Teacher website detailing various naturalistic theatre conventions and the distinct differences between these and the conventions belonging to realism.

Emile Zola’s 1881 essay “Naturalism for the Stage”, is essentially the naturalist manifesto for the theatre.

An academic essay discussing Emile Zola’s basis for the genre in literature and on the stage, including that of scientific determinism.

Checkhov The Seagull Naturalism
Anton Chekhov, reading his play The Seagull to members of the Moscow Art Theatre company, 1898.

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.

San Diego Opera Excellent article (archived) clearly explains Zola’s naturalism with the aid of extracts from two of his works.

A concise summary of contemporary American naturalism from the dramaturgical perspective of the playwright.

Zola, France, Realism, and Naturalism: Crash Course Theater #31

Article discussing how musical theatre can indeed be naturalistic in structure and presentation.

Useful lecture notes on realism, naturalism, and Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House.

Brief historical overview of the Stanislavski system of acting for the theatre.

An excellent resource on the origins of naturalism and realism in the theatre and the similarities and differences between these two movements and forms.

What is naturalistic acting? | Naturalistic theatre

Easy to understand article for students on the 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 this form.

Article outlining the continuing influence of Stanislavski’s acting method, also discussing Stella Adler and the Meisner Technique of acting.

Realism Gets Even More Real: Crash Course Theater #32

Wikipedia entry on the Stanislavski system of acting and its various techniques.

Worthwhile summary of the characteristics of this form and some of the differences between it and realism, from Cliffs Notes.

Encyclopedia Britannica article on this movement outlining contributors such as Emile Zola, Andre Antoine, and Constantin Stanislavski.

A detailed guide to Stanislavski’s system of acting including techniques and approaches to the rehearsal process.

For scholars interested in the 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 to the theatre for the first time.

Brief Wikipedia entry summarising this movement in the theatre.

Useful multi-part article for students covering this genre’s links to Stanislavski.

This handy article discusses the origins of the realism and naturalism movements in the arts and some of the differences between the two styles in theatrical terms.


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