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Metatheatre

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

A Dig Deeper Article by Production Dramaturg Alex de Rouyan, Sam Villetard, and Alex Ward.




Metatheatricality is one of the core theatrical frameworks that Everybody utilizes in order to create, deepen, and expose its central themes. So what is metatheatre? While the tenets and characteristics of metatheatre have existed throughout dramatic literature and productions since ancient Greece, they were not isolated, and characterized until 1963. It is absolutely true that the works of playwrights such as Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet deal heavily in the world of metatheatre, and aptly at that. However, it was not until American playwright, essayist, and theatre critic, Lionel Abel, published Metatheatre: A New View of Dramatic Form that the concepts and philosophy surrounding the practice would be defined in legitimate scholarly detail.


Metatheatre is the theatrical form or approach to a play in which traditional dramatic realism is intentionally usurped in such a way that the play as a theatrical concept is consciously called into question by the audience. Throughout dramatic literature, this often takes the form of dramatic action that is far removed from what is believable to an audience that is accustomed to a conventional theatrical framework. Or it does so by omitting the “fourth wall” entirely in a way that folds the audience into the world of the play. By calling into question the artificiality of traditional theatrical framework, it inherently enables the audience to have a dialogue on the sincerity of the structure of our own inherent reality. Utilizing these tactics, metatheatre pursues the goal of forcing the audience to observe and contemplate their own reality in a much deeper and more visceral way through the theatrical experience, and thus lends itself well to plays that explore themes that require this type of audience introspection.


This is, in large part, what Everybodyseeks to do, and hence why the play responds so strongly to the metatheatrical form. The play utilizes metatheatricality to amplify and modernize the moralistic themes of the original Medieval Era morality play Everyman. The show’s use of semiotics through its metatheatrical framework, permits the audience to contemplate on how the play interacts with their own reality. Thus, allowing the themes and questions that the play poses to be more permissible to the viewers.


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