Contemporary Theater – Representatives, Characteristics and Evolution


What is Contemporary Theater?

Contemporary Theater can involve all types of text, objects, music, costumes, lighting, image, sound, scenery and vocal expression. Some experts claim that contemporary theater is more natural and deals with themes of the modern era and presents characters that are more ordinary and relatable to the audience. This theater is considered to have started in the 1960s to the present.

Musicals are a great style of contemporary theater, which in the past, dealt with everyday life and important events in history. However, contemporary musicals are more about self-discovery. Examples include Kinky Boots, Hair Spray, and Light in the Piazza.

Dramedy is a contemporary play that deals with both a serious and comedic theme. It usually does not rely on conventional plots. They usually contain three basic aspects, an ensemble cast, clear plots, and excellent writing.

Contemporary scenes include a comic framework as well, which at the same time highlights the simplicity, silliness of the characters and situations. Drama often tells the trials and tribulations of certain events.

How does contemporary theater develop?

The development of contemporary theater has developed from a perspective inherent in the centrism of the text of the play to a centrism of the performance/theater bringing contemporary theater to the stage of intercultural theater because the centrism of this theater considers the performance as a ritual for spiritual exchange, which is itself a cultural symbol.

Cultural symbols in contemporary theater communicate and emerge from cultures that overcome linguistic and racial barriers in the era of globalization, but at the same time also art forms such as music and painting are themselves intercultural, since rhythms, melodies, colors and pictorial forms are capable of being perceived by the peoples of different nation states.

Literature depends on translation for cross-cultural communication, while contemporary theater has already made the logo-centrism of the play’s text obsolete, it is ready for cross-cultural communication, as exemplified in the language of the body.

Contemporary theater, in the age of electronic media, highlights its performative character of face-to-face reality, using performance-art techniques, in which actions and the human body are emphasized as such. Theater is assuming more ritual functions and is allowing communication between actors and spectators to experience emotional intensity.

The practice of ritual performance in contemporary theater can be understood in relation to the current transformations of Western civilization and culture. The subject matter is re-emerging in performative and ritualized theatrical practice again, not as self-consciousness but as a physical entity.

Types of Contemporary Theater

Types of Contemporary Theater

Contemporary theater performance, it is likely that the first things that come to mind are the great Broadway musicals like Phantom of the Opera and the great works of playwrights like Tom Stoppard, August Wilson or Theresa Rebeck. Contemporary performance offers a wide diversity of experiences. While new or hybrid forms are continually evolving, the following are the major forms of performance in the last 50-100 years.


Plays have fixed texts, are written by playwrights, and are performed by actors under the vision of a director. Since Greece in 523 B.C., plays have raised questions about humanity and reflected weaknesses and insanities.


Musical theater dates back to John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera in 1728, musical theater tells stories in the same way as a play, but in addition to spoken text, it also includes sung text and dance to tell its story.

Dance Theater

The term dance-theater was created when some modern dances moved toward storytelling and away from abstract expression. Dance-theater has yet to find a definition, although the consensus is that it is a form of dance in which all the traditional elements of theater such as plot, story, character, visual elements, spoken or sung text are embraced.

Street Theater

Street theater is performed outdoors, in public spaces, in front of any audience that is willing to gather. Street performers may perform music, monologues, juggling, tightrope walking, or any other skill that can gather a crowd and inspire contributions from spectators.

Legacy of this Theater

Contemporary theater is characterized by performances following a contemporary literary-theatrical history by first positing what is contemporary in theater.  Some trends in playwriting emerge to enable the definition of contemporary theater in the period under consideration.

Examining the notion of the contemporaneity of theater presupposes first of all to return to the dual nature of this art form, theater is by nature a hybrid. It is even considered one of the great forms of literature, and its main purpose is to give rise to spectacle.

The main legacy of contemporary theater is that it is considered a performing art that, although it is emancipated from the text, this art belongs to literature, since some of its actualizations, so variable in time and traditions, are centered on a written text pre-existing the performance, which then continues to exist outside the performance because it remains accessible through reading.

Representatives of this Theater

In contemporary theater there are authors who have written plays for the theater or writers whose works have been adapted and brought to the theater stage. Thus, with the abandonment of the realistic illusion at the beginning of the twentieth century, contemporary theater has freed itself from the old conventions.

Much contemporary theater is committed to exhibiting the principles of dramatic representation, emphasizing the theatricality of images and bodies to the detriment of meaning and action once represented through mimesis.

The new performance culture, requiring spectator participation, also invites the spectator to question his or her own perception, while contemporary staging focuses on making each of these show an experience to be shared.

Like the other performing arts, contemporary theater has entered at the beginning of the century, a new era in the world of theater, in which the spectator is incorporated as part of the heterogeneity of forms, the effects of blurring are aggravated by the blurring of the boundaries between novel, theater, cinema, mime or dance.

As for the text, nothing is evident because, to the extravagance of the literary, one can oppose the rejection of the literary, the kaleidoscope of forms, the mixture of conversations, the proliferation of speeches, a reduction of the word, including the extreme result in the substitution of mime for articulated language.

On the side of representation, unusual places of performance appear, sheds or disused factories, in which the spectator has had time to get used to since the 70s, so that, everything seems possible today on a stage of contemporary theater, since the absence of sets and props, the refusal of any concession to the taste of the public, even sumptuous, baroque, cosmic, totalitarian stagings, based on the union of the arts, can appear in the representations of contemporary theater.