Orality, Censorship and Sartre's Theatrical Audience

in Sartre Studies International
Author: John Ireland
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Sartre's conflicted relationship with his theatrical audience is explained by showing how Sartre's initial theatrical venture, Bariona, created in a POW camp in December 1940, sparked an idealized conception of the audience. The particular context in which the play was produced brought its performers and audience together into an almost mystical fusion. But these virtues, derived from pre-textual “oral“ culture, lost much of their luster with Sartre's second play, The Flies. Like its predecessor, The Flies used myth to counter German censorship, but in occupied Paris in front of a much more heterogeneous audience. The resulting comparative failure complicated Sartre's relationship to the mass audiences he sought in the post-war years. Theater audiences became emblematic of a wider public Sartre never fully trusted to accept or understand his ideas. Furthermore, Sartre's decision to stage almost all his plays between 1946 and 1959 at the “bourgeois“ Théâtre Antoine only made him even more mistrustful of audiences he often found himself writing “against.“

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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