Arguably all drama is political theatre, as playwrights compose from a particular point of view and the theatre they create depicts a time, place and society affected by given circumstances. Western theatre which is notably political began with the satires of Aristophanes in Ancient Greece. The modern movement was forged in Germany in the 1920s by Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht who produced epic theatre aimed at the working class in a style that encouraged social and political reform. Political theatre was also evident in the Federal Theatre productions of 1930s America and 1960s guerrilla theatre. Since then, practitioners such as Augusto Boal have used theatre as a transformative tool for social and political change. – Justin Cash
Political Theatre Resources
Academic essay on the changing nature of this type of theatre in the 21st century, dissecting the work of several well-known playwrights.
Performance project for middle school drama students on this form using some of the conventions of Brecht’s epic theatre style.
The Guardian newspaper’s 10 best plays about politics, ranging from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls to Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Semester-length Drama unit using cartoons and a scene from Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children as a stimulus, while employing the conventions of epic theatre.
Fifty interesting facts about the Living Newspaper theatres occurring in Russia and America in the 1920s and 30s.
For anyone who has read or seen Angela Betzien’s plays Hoods or Children of the Black Skirt, here is the playwright’s Bachelor of Arts thesis discussing these works, how to create this type of theatre for young audiences, and how to employ Brecht’s epic theatre techniques effectively. Furthermore, Leticia Caceres’ Master of Fine Arts (Directing) thesis on Betzien’s play War Crimes, is also about creating this theatre for young audiences.
Excellent discussion about the various interpretations of what exactly is this type of theatre.
Article from the Victoria and Albert Museum on this form of theatre in Britain (scroll), including the Workers Theatre Movement.
A personal account of experiencing this genre by a writer at the Glasgow Guardian.
Wikipedia article that includes references to Marxist theatre, Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre, feminist theatre, and more.
Great list of 11 politically charged plays from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Shakespeare’s Richard III to David Henry Hwang’s M Butterfly and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Political Theatre Examples
Interesting article that includes why and how Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal tackled the social and political issues of their times through the act of theatre.
Simple Prezi lists some common techniques used in many works of this genre.
Academic essay on the characteristics and impact of Theatre for Social Change.
Article discussing the nature and power of this form of theatre and its typical components.
A brief discussion about agitprop (agitated propaganda in post-revolutionary Russia.
Overview of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and the politics behind it.
The Scotland Herald’s 12 greatest plays of all time that deal with politics include Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Shakespeare’s Richard III and Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.
Resources on 1960s guerrilla theatre in America, including the San Fransisco Mime Troupe, among others.
A brief overview of this theatre in the 20th century, including satire.
Article discussing Bertolt Brecht’s techniques for his epic theatre style in Germany in the first half of the 20th century.
Article outlining the main theories behind Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre.
An excellent academic essay focusing on Erwin Piscator’s political theatre in Germany in the 1920s and 30s.
A brief definition of this theatre form and its characteristics for students, from BBC Bitesize.
Summary of various Theatre of the Oppressed forms and techniques.