Little Theatre Movement

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The Little Theatre Movement had its origins in the USA around 1912, in reaction against the advent of film, which appeared to be replacing staged theatre as a medium for large-scale spectacle entertainment. It soon spread to Canada (where it was also referred to as "la petite scène") and to other parts of the world.

The movement also had close links with the slightly earlier European movement to free dramatic forms and methods of production from the limitations of the large commercial theatres by establishing small experimental centres of drama. In this case the incentive came from young dramatists, stage designers, and actors who were influenced by the vital European theatre of the late 19th century (e.g. the ideas of Max Reinhardt, Adolphe Appia, Gordon Craig, the Théâtre-Libre of Paris, the Freie Bühne in Berlin, etc.)

However, it later would become a generic term for the amateur or nonprofessional "community" theatre, and the notion of community sponsored "little theatres" or performance spaces. The term was being used in this sense in South Africa by the 1930s, when amateur theatre set about organizing itself nationally through FATSSA and more and more amateur groups were seeking to build small-scale, community based venues for their work.

This approach has had many spin-offs since then, not only being taken up by the amateur theatre companies, but also by the state funded theatre organizations (NTO, PACs) and those opposed to them. It would later convert into the Experimental Theatre or Workshop Theatre movement(s) inspired by the political situation in the country and ultimately became an integral part of the so-called "[Cultural Struggle]]" against Apartheid. Today vestigial characteristics of this movement are still present in the burgeoning community theatre and applied theatre movements in the country.


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