Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Walter Meserve

Committee Members

Harry Carlson

Stanley Kauffmann

Subject Categories

Theatre and Performance Studies


From 1968 to 1972, years which many historians have determined as encompassing the most focussed characteristics of the Sixties as a whole, the United States underwent enormous political upheaval which affected every one of its major institutions, including the theater. The political turmoil of the period was reflected in the theater, both mainstream and alternative. Literally hundreds of political theater pieces were produced and acted in the streets, shopping malls, church basements and stages of the United States. Yet little scholarly attention has been paid to the phenomenon. What little work is available concentrates on aesthetics; content is largely ignored. When content is addressed, the crucial context of the post-World War II era is ignored. This study aims to redress that deficiency.

This thesis recognizes three major cultural expressions of the political impulse in theater of the period: black protest, New Left and mainstream. By first providing a careful content analysis of the canons of each respective theater, the study then provides a cross-comparison analysis to determine points of divergence and convergence.

Perhaps the most important contribution of this work is its insistence on evaluating the works within the peculiar social and political context that obtained post-World War II. The current academic studies of Sixties political theater assume the continuation of an uninterrupted European cultural tradition. Yet it can be said that the experience of fascism–albeit gleaned second-hand by this generation through the media–shattered all a priori concepts of the nature of man and society. Examination of the documents of this theater reveals that the war was the major source for its ideology and iconology.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.