Naturalism: 25 Useful Student Theatre Resources | Theatre Links (2023)

ByJustin CashUpdated

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The naturalistic theatre movement emerged in the mid-19th century and was first introduced by French novelist, critic and playwright Emile Zola in the preface to his novel Thérèse Raquin (1867), later adapted into a stage play (first performed in 1873). Naturalism demanded a slice of life authenticity in every aspect of production and is not to be confused with realism. Naturalistic dramas explored the concept of scientific determinism where characters were shaped by their given circumstance and controlled by external forces such as heredity and social environment. Characters in naturalistic plays were often lower class, portraying sordid events and the more mundane aspects of everyday life. It is perhaps no surprise that naturalism in the theatre was short-lived. – Justin Cash

Naturalism Theatre Resources

Article from the Drama Teacher website detailing various naturalistic theatre conventions and the distinct differences between these and the conventions belonging to realism.

Emile Zola’s 1881 essay “Naturalism for the Stage”, is essentially the naturalist manifesto for the theatre.

An academic essay discussing Emile Zola’s basis for the genre in literature and on the stage, including that of scientific determinism.

Naturalism: 25 Useful Student Theatre Resources | Theatre Links (1)

Australian Catholic University Useful information on realism and naturalism in the theatre (archived), the differences between the two, and the position of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

San Diego Opera Excellent article (archived) clearly explains Zola’s naturalism with the aid of extracts from two of his works.

A concise summary of contemporary American naturalism from the dramaturgical perspective of the playwright.

(Video) Naturalism Skit

A great resource for students of theatre on naturalism and the differences between it and realism.

Article discussing how musical theatre can indeed be naturalistic in structure and presentation.

Useful lecture notes on realism, naturalism, and Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House.

Realism and naturalism are closely related because both demand a truthful depiction of life and are based on the belief that ultimate reality is discoverable only through the five senses. The naturalists, however, insisted that art must become scientific in its methods and must depict behavior as being determined by heredity and environment.

(Video) Movement Direction: Creating Character



Brief historical overview of the Stanislavski system of acting for the theatre.

An excellent resource on the origins of naturalism and realism in the theatre and the similarities and differences between these two movements and forms.

Easy to understand article for students on the movement in the theatre, including some examples of well-known plays.

Article from The Irish Times examining French novelist, theatre critic, and playwright Emile Zola’s experiments in this form.

Article outlining the continuing influence of Stanislavski’s acting method, also discussing Stella Adler and the Meisner Technique of acting.

(Video) Ben Askew, PhD., on ACT and Acting

Wikipedia entry on the Stanislavski system of acting and its various techniques.

Worthwhile summary of the characteristics of this form and some of the differences between it and realism, from Cliffs Notes.

Naturalism, unlike realism, had little success in the theatre, probably because it was too extreme in its demands. Its chief advocate, Emile Zola (1840-1902) thought many realists were more concerned with theatrical effectiveness … than with truth to life. One of Zola’s followers suggested that these temptastions could be overcome by thinking of a play as a slice of life – a segment of reality transferred to the stage. The naturalists, thus, were far more rigorous than realists in their demands for truth in art and for a drama that demonstrated the inevitable laws of heredity and environment. In practice, naturalism tensed to emphasize the deprivations and degradations of the lower classes, a subject little treated in earlier drama.



(Video) Theatre-ritual-movement ecology of practices w/ Ethan Kobayashi-Hsieh & Tamaki Kobayashi-Hsieh.

Encyclopedia Britannica article on this movement outlining contributors such as Emile Zola, Andre Antoine, and Constantin Stanislavski.

A detailed guide to Stanislavski’s system of acting including techniques and approaches to the rehearsal process.

For scholars interested in the source material, here is an excerpt from Emile Zola’s play version of his novel Therese Raquin (1873), where he introduces his theory of naturalism to the theatre for the first time.

Brief Wikipedia entry summarising this movement in the theatre.

Useful multi-part article for students covering this genre’s links to Stanislavski.

This handy article discusses the origins of the realism and naturalism movements in the arts and some of the differences between the two styles in theatrical terms.

(Video) What is Naturalism? (See link below for a video lecture on "Naturalism in Education")


How did Naturalism impact theatre? ›

Naturalism is a movement in European drama and theatre that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to theatre that attempts to create an illusion of reality through a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies.

What are some examples of naturalistic drama? ›

Naturalistic Plays
  • A Bitter Fate – Aleksey Pisemsky (1859)
  • A Doll's House – Henrik Ibsen (1879)
  • The Power of Darkness – Leo Tolstoy (1886)
  • The Father – August Strindberg (1887)
  • Miss Julie – August Strindberg (1888)
  • Creditors – August Strindberg (1889)
  • Drayman Henschel – Gerhart Hauptmann (1898)

Who used Naturalism in theatre? ›

Emile Zola's 1881 essay “Naturalism for the Stage”, is essentially the naturalist manifesto for the theatre. An academic essay discussing Emile Zola's basis for the genre in literature and on the stage, including that of scientific determinism.

What does Naturalism do to an audience in drama? ›


It strives to make filmmaking techniques and devices invisible to the audience as to reflect real life unfolding in the film. Naturalism derives from its initial movement in theatre in which artists and playwrights adopted scientific theory into how they wrote stories and characters.

What are the 4 characteristics of naturalism? ›

The elements of the naturalist movement include social Darwinism, objectivity, determinism, and the indifferent natural world.

What are 5 characteristics of naturalism? ›

The Elements of Naturalism. The major elements of naturalist works are determinism, objectivity, pessimism, setting, and plot twists. This is the philosophical belief that external causes are responsible for all the events in an individual's life.

What are the three types of naturalism? ›

There are a variety of naturalisms, including: ontological naturalism, which holds that reality contains no supernatural entities; methodological naturalism, which holds that philosophical inquiry should be consistent with scientific method; and moral naturalism, which typically holds that there are moral facts and ...

What is the concept of naturalism? ›

In philosophy, naturalism is the idea or belief that only natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the universe.

What are naturalist activities? ›

Some topics that often interest a budding naturalist include:
  • Animals.
  • Botany and gardening.
  • Nutrition.
  • Weather.
  • Hiking and camping.
  • Recycling.
  • Composting.
  • Repurposing and upcycling.
9 Apr 2014

What are the methods of naturalism? ›

The naturalist method is to gather direct experience from nature, men and things. Rousseau's advice was: “Give your scholar no verbal lessons, he should be taught by experience alone.” All knowledge must emerge out of actual life situation and experience.

Who is the father of naturalism? ›

Naturalism was first proposed and formulated by Emile Zola, the French writer and theorist, who is universally labeled as the founder of literary naturalism.

Who is the father of naturalism in drama? ›

Naturalism was a theatre style from the turn of the century and a reaction to the melodrama usually seen in theatre of the time. Emile Zola is known as the father of naturalism and his realistic style of theatre was expanded by the father of Realism, Konstantin Stanislavsky. Here have a listen to these two videos!

What is the goal of naturalism? ›

naturalism, in philosophy, a theory that relates scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe (whatever their inherent character may be) are natural. Consequently, all knowledge of the universe falls within the pale of scientific investigation.

What skills are needed for naturalism? ›

Naturalists need to have excellent interpersonal communication skills so they can explain biological processes and environmental terms to the public. This is especially important when members of the public don't have a background in biology or conservation.

What is naturalism and why is it important? ›

Naturalism is a philosophy with the belief that nature alone represents the entire reality. There is nothing beyond behind, or other than nature. According to this philosophy, human life is the part of the scheme of nature. This philosophy gives emphasis to matter, the physical world.

What are the main themes of naturalism? ›

  • Walcutt identifies survival, determinism, violence, and taboo as key themes.
  • The "brute within" each individual, composed of strong and often warring emotions: passions, such as lust, greed, or the desire for dominance or pleasure; and the fight for survival in an amoral, indifferent universe.
8 Mar 2017

What is the importance of naturalism in education? ›

Naturalism when applied to education means putting the child at the centre of all educational processes and natural laws will be the teacher to teach the child according m his own nature. Nature of a child is of two types: physical nature and biological (psychological) nature.

Why is it called naturalism? ›

naturalism, in literature and the visual arts, late 19th- and early 20th-century movement that was inspired by adaptation of the principles and methods of natural science, especially the Darwinian view of nature, to literature and art.

What type of art is naturalism? ›

Naturalism became one of the major trends of the century and, combined with realism of the subject, led to impressionism and modern art. Naturalism is often associated with plein air practice (painting landscapes and other scenes from life out-of-doors).

Who is the father of naturalism in education? ›

It was Rousseau who first popularised the naturalism movement, that's why he is called the father of naturalism. The three most crucial components of Rousseau's "naturalist" philosophy are the state of nature, natural man, and natural civilization.

What is another term for naturalism? ›

Synonyms. realism. Sincere performances and gritty Boston settings add to the film's realism. authenticity. plausibility.

What are two characteristics of naturalism? ›

The characteristics of naturalism include a carefully detailed presentation of modern society, often featuring lower-class characters in an urban setting or a panoramic view of a slice of contemporary life; a deterministic philosophy that emphasizes the effects of heredity and environment; characters who act from ...

What is naturalism learning? ›

Naturalistic Learners are students who have strengths in intelligence related to nature. They may be highly connected to nature in many ways: They may have a deep love of plants, animals, people, rocks, nature, being outdoors, camping, hiking, rock climbing, biology, astrology, dinosaurs, etc..

How do you teach naturalistic students? ›

Teachers can help their students develop or enhance their naturalist intelligence by providing learning experiences that encourage:

How do naturalist learners learn best? ›

Like the name implies, naturalistic learners love nature and the outdoors. They learn best when outside and are easily able to connect with concepts focused on plants, animals, or just about any idea found naturally. Support naturalistic learners by allowing plenty of time to explore.

What is an example of naturalistic art? ›

The Hay Wain (1821) by John Constable

A perfect example of Naturalist paintings, this work depicts a horse-drawn hay cart crossing a river in front of a stunningly accurate agricultural landscape.

Who influenced naturalism? ›

Naturalism was heavily influenced by both Marxism and evolutionary theory. Naturalism attempted to apply what they saw as the scientific rigor and insights of those two theories to artistic representation of society, as a means of criticizing late nineteenth century social organization.

Who is a famous naturalist? ›

Charles Darwin: history's most famous naturalist.

Why was naturalism invented? ›

The literary movement Naturalism—which first spread in France beginning in the 1860s—developed partly in response to some big scientific discoveries that were being made about the natural world at the time.

What is the most important in naturalism? ›

A central thought in ontological naturalism is that all spatiotemporal entities must be identical to or metaphysically constituted by physical entities. Many ontological naturalists thus adopt a physicalist attitude to mental, biological, social and other such “special” subject matters.

What is the effect of naturalism? ›

Naturalism was a literary movement taking place from 1865 to 1900 that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character. Naturalistic writers were influenced by the evolution theory of Charles Darwin.

How did naturalism affect the Renaissance? ›

This focus of detail and precision is an example of naturalism as it tries to make it as real as possible. Naturalism had a profound effect on Renaissance art. It helped to make this art more realistic with careful attention to detail, to portray the correct image such as perspective, dimensions, and depth.

Why was naturalism important in the Renaissance? ›

During the Renaissance in Italy and Northern Europe there were many artists inspired by the world around them. In Italy, artists used humanism and naturalism to show how the world could be seen in a piece of art. In Northern Europe, artists use symbolism to show the story and meaning behind the art work.

What are the contribution of naturalism? ›

Naturalism when applied to education means putting the child at the centre of all educational processes and natural laws will be the teacher to teach the child according m his own nature. Nature of a child is of two types: physical nature and biological (psychological) nature. Former is external and later is internal.

What kind of art is naturalism? ›

Naturalism in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting. The Realist movement of the 19th century advocated naturalism in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in Romanticism, but many painters have used a similar approach over the centuries.

What does naturalism in art focus on? ›

In fine art panting, "naturalism" describes a true-to-life style which involves the representation or depiction of nature (including people) with the least possible distortion or interpretation.

How does naturalism influence education? ›

Applied to education, naturalism considers child as a gift of nature with potentialities for natural growth according to laws of nature. The child is an active individual capable of self- development. The aim of education is to develop the child as healthy and active personality in a natural setting.

What is the role of students in naturalism? ›

Naturalists believe that children should be encouraged to discover things on their own. They are advocates of the play-way method of teaching. The Montessori method is one such method of teaching. Teaching should be a joyous, creative, and spontaneous activity.

How do you apply naturalism in the classroom? ›

According to Rousseau, 'Students should not be given any verbal lessons rather they should be taught experience alone. Teacher tries to give lots of hand-on training and practical experiences'. Naturalist gives utmost freedom to the child to do and learn the behavior. There is no punishment of any kind.


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