Off-Off-Broadway theater is often a catchall euphemism for the raw theater of Social Protest. Off-Off-Broadway theater was born when the economic problems of the 1950s trickled down to the Off-Broadway theaters. Social Protesters found themselves locked out of an ever-tightening theatrical... [more]
Off-Off-Broadway theater is often a catchall euphemism for the raw theater of Social Protest. Off-Off-Broadway theater was born when the economic problems of the 1950s trickled down to the Off-Broadway theaters. Social Protesters found themselves locked out of an ever-tightening theatrical
market and deprived of a venue. By the late 1950s, coffeehouses, churches, lofts, and garages became the first makeshift theater houses known as Off-Off-Broadway. Blessed with maverick new playwrights, no censorship, and low budgets, Off-Off-Broadway productions gave producers unheralded liberty to experiment with different methods and themes.
Edward Albee, leading the new playwrights with works such as 'The Zoo Story' (1959) and 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (1962), ferociously attacked middle-class illusions. Disgusted by a fat, self-satisfied America, the new playwrights strove to confront audiences with indictments of materialism, prejudice, and commercialism. And the indictments were heard. Pulitzer-winning playwrights Sam Shepard and Lanford Wilson staged their early works in Off-Off-Broadway playhouses, while the blockbuster musicals 'Hair' (1967) and 'A Chorus Line' (1975) both emerged from Off-Off-Broadway.
Traditionally marginalized groups discovered a voice and an audience with Off-Off-Broadway. Finding many rooms of its own, Feminist theater evolved from simple consciousness-raising groups to '70s-era acting troupes like It's All Right To Be A Woman Theater, and The New York Feminist Theater. These and other feminist troupes explored and exposed the politics of gender in lower- and middle-class America. Radical African American playwrights like Imamu Amiri Baraka (then Leroi Jones) dramatized the reality of being black in America, and portrayed the tragic futility of trusting whites. With a dramatization of the 1965 grape-pickers strike, Latino Protest theater burst forth from the vineyards of California. The Teatro Campesino produced 'Actos,' one-act plays derived from the actors' lives, to inform impoverished Latinos about drugs, Latino identity, legal rights, and cultural history.
The Social Protest movement in theater continues. New-left groups like the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Act Up continue the strident Social Protest legacy, producing timely works of public and Guerilla theater targeted toward the complacent, wealthy, and apolitical.