Getting a Diverse Foot Through the Stage Door: A Study of How the Alternative Theatre Movement Brought Diversity to the Stage with a Special Emphasis on Jo Ann Schmidman Founder of the Omaha Magic Theatre Which Was One of the Longest Running Alternative Theatres in the USA.
Altrnative Theatre, whether it is called experimental, avant garde or radical is theatre that challenges traditional realism of the stage, and, in doing so, offers a different approach to the dramatic experience. Whereas traditional theatre's main concern is the final product and big box office receipts, alternative theatre finds meaning in its dedication to the process or dynamics of theatre. To expand and, eventually do away with the boundaries of the traditional stage experience is a primary undertaking of the alternative theatre movement. The origins of alternative theatre can be traced to the early European Avant Garde Theatre Movement.Futurism(1909-1930), Expressionism(1910-1924), and the Theatre of the Absurd(1950's) are a few of the evolutionary predecessors of the current challenge to traditonal theatre and are considered in part origins of the contemporary alternative theatre. The direct predecessor of the current United States alternative theatre movement is the Radical Theatre Movement of the 1960's. Reflecting the country's political and social unrest, those in the theatre also began re-evaluating the tenets of traditional stagecraft.Jo Ann Schmidman, founder of the Omaha Magic Theatre, believed traditional thetare to be biased toward a certain"type of actor." Many talented performers who did not meet the prescribed requirements found their careers destined to be stereotypic roles or no roles at all. The Omaha Magic Theatre was a place "open to everyone" and in its 29 year history , the theatre has provided acting, designing, and playwrighting opportunities to hundreds of artists who might not otherwise had the chance to create.
Keywords: University Theatre, Multicultural Plays, People of Color, Prejudice, Outreach Through the Arts
Dr. Judith M. Babnich
Professor of theatre, Wichita State University