The Diverse Stage Door: The Alternative Theatre Movement and Jo Ann Schmidman’s Groundbreaking Omaha Magic Theatre

By Judith M. Babnich.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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: Alternative Theatre, Radical Theatre of the 1960’s Non-Traditional Casting, The Omaha Magic Theatre, Freedom to Perform, Confronting Prejudice

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.163-170. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 560.564KB).

Dr. Judith M. Babnich

Professor of theatre, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS 67208, Wichita, Kansas, USA

I have directed over 30 plays including 6 Original Plays. I have been to the American College Regional Festival twice. I have published over 10 articles as well as given paper presentations nationally and internationally.


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