One of the more confusing aspects of theatre history and performance styles for teachers and students is the differences between realism and naturalism.
The two schools of thought and subsequent movements in the theatre were distinct and separate, though blurred with historical timelines and similarities in style. As a result, the move towards a more authentic form of drama on the stage in the mid to late 19th century is often considered one period. If realism and naturalism in the theatre were two movements, which one came first? Well, that depends on who you read. One thing is for sure though: the over-the-top melodramas full of spectacle in the early to mid-19th century were to be no more.
Regarding style, the words realism and naturalism are frustratingly used interchangeably to mean the same, yet they are not. They are similar, yes, but have many differences. Some scholars refer to Stanislavski’s system as the premise for naturalistic acting, while others refer to this as a system for realistic acting. Naturalistic acting in naturalistic dramas is different to realistic acting in realistic plays. They have different demands on the actor with characterisation, the designers with sets, properties and costumes, and the subject matter often differ, also.
Realism and Naturalism Techniques
- Burton B. Living Drama. Pearson Australia; 2011.
- Crawford J. Acting, in Person and in Style. William C. Brown; 1983.
- Neelands J. Theatre Directions. Hodder & Stoughton Educational; 2000.
- Styan J L. Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Volume 1, Realism and Naturalism. Cambridge University Press; 1981.