Top Girls

The Pervasive Theme of Disillusionment in Post-World War II Theater College

The landscape of American theater changed after World War II: playwrights felt the need to experiment with both content and style in order to best express their dissatisfaction with contemporary society. Unlike their modernist forbears, the post-World War II American playwrights sought to enliven the theater with experimental styles and types of characters that had not been previously represented on the stage. August Wilson, for example, wrote exclusively about the African-American experience, and ensured that many of his plays had entirely African-American casts. In the same vein, Mart Crowley explored themes of identity and self-hate in the gay community in his 1968 play The Boys in the Band. Edward Albee, meanwhile, ends The Zoo Story (1959) with a shocking—and shockingly bloody—stabbing. While these playwrights were characterized by originality and innovation, there are common, unifying themes that run through the plays of this era. Most notably, Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky, David Rabe’s Streamers, and Caryl Churchill's Top Girls convey a sense of alienation and disillusionment through separate, though equally revolutionary, methods.

Postmodernism—that hard-to-define and oftentimes harder to understand artistic movement—...

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