Similar to other forms of avant garde, experimental or avant garde theater emerged as a reaction against a perceived general cultural crisis and it rejected both the age and the dominant ways of writing and producing plays. Renouncing bourgeois values and conventions, this fresh concept tried to introduce a different application of language and body in order to change perception and create a more active relationship with the audience. This started in 1896 with Alfred Jarry and his Ubu Roi play that overturned cultural rules, norms and conventions in a wild, bizarre and comic way. This piece had a revolutionary importance as it opened the door for modernism of the 20th century and influenced Dada, Surrealism and the Theatre of the Absurd.
Traditionally perceived as passive observers, the role of the audience was first challenged with the rise of the avant garde. The audience became involved in a variety of ways, such as participating in the action on a highly practical level or being invited to feel a certain way in order to change their attitudes, values and beliefs. Celebrated director Peter Brook described this goal as ‘a necessary theater, one in which there is only a practical difference between actor and audience, not a fundamental one.’ Avant garde also aimed to change the social face of the theater, with performers becoming cultural activists of sorts. This was the case with the didactic agit-prop theater that aimed to make a certain moral or political statement and challenge the values and beliefs of the audience. Avant garde has also challenged and rejected the traditional hierarchical method of creating theater. With performers having more interpretative freedom, they were promoted to creative artists in their own right. Additionally, traditional conventions of space, movement, mood, tension, language and symbolism were altered.
Text from: https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/avant-garde-movement-theater-music-photography-contemporary-art
Theatre image from https://flashbak.com/alfred-jarrys-ubu-roi-the-most-punk-play-of-all-time-372959/