Ideals and stylistic searches: Expressionism in the Estonian theatre of the 1920s Cover Image

Aated ja stiiliotsingud: ekspressionism 1920. aastate eesti teatris
Ideals and stylistic searches: Expressionism in the Estonian theatre of the 1920s

Author(s): Luule Epner
Subject(s): Theatre, Dance, Performing Arts, Language and Literature Studies, Estonian Literature, Interwar Period (1920 - 1939), Drama, Sociology of Art
Published by: TLU Institute of Estonian Language and Culture
Keywords: World War I; Hommikteater; Estonia; Drama Theatre

Summary/Abstract: In Estonian theatre, the experience of World War I found expression somewhat belatedly, in the early 1920s, when Expresssionist plays, mainly by contemporary German playwrights – Ernst Toller,Walter Hasenclever, Georg Kaiser et al – were staged in the Estonia Theatre, in the Drama Theatre and in the amateur Hommikteater (Morning Theatre, 1921–1924). The article examines the most significant Expressionist stage productions, focusing on the relations between their ideological, affective and stylistic dimensions. Critical and audience receptions of Expressionist plays are discussed as well.In the Estonia Theatre, a group of young actors and directors(Ants Lauter, Erna Villmer, et al) sought to innovate theatrical language by making use of new, Expressionist devices. In contrast, the amateur Hommikteater (led by August Bachmann and Nigol Andresen)placed emphasis on spreading the ideals of new humanity and social justice, which reflected the left-wing sympathies of the troupe , but their work was also distinguished by an inventive style and a strong emotional impact on audiences. The members of the literary group Tarapita (who promoted Expressionism themselves)enthusiastically supported Hommikteater. This little theatre became highly influential in the process of theatre innovation, despite its very small audiences.However, the key ideas and ideals of postwar Expressionism (including a strong anti-war pathos) had rather little effect on Estonian theatre in general. Expressionism mainly contributed to the widening of the stylistic palette of Estonian theatrical art. This can be partly explained by the social situation of the 1920s: victory in the War of Independence and the subsequent building of the independent Estonian state raised nationalist spirits and made people less sensitive to the destructive experiences of World War I as reflected in postwar German Expressionism.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 17
  • Page Range: 284-313
  • Page Count: 30
  • Language: Estonian