Jean Genet

Definition

Theater

  • (1909 - 86) French playwright, novelist, and poet. Hisworks for the stage shocked audiences with their blend of violence,lyricism, sexual perversity, and quasi-religious ritual.

    Genet, born illegitimate and subsequently abandoned, spentmuch of his early life in reformatory and prison. His first play,The Maids (1947), was produced in Paris by Louis Jouvet andperformed five years later in French in London; an English versionopened in New York in 1955. The Maids introduced Genet's ideaof a play as a ritual, analogous to the Mass, in which the performersand the audience unite to share a transforming experience.

    These notions were further developed in Deathwatch(1949), a play about the complex relationship between fellow-prisoners.The Balcony, a disturbing work about sex, fantasy, and powerset in a brothel, received its première in London in 1957.The critic Kenneth Tynan commented: "For all its faults, itis a theatrical experience as startling as anything since Ibsen'srevelation 76 years ago that there was such a thing as syphilis."The Blacks (1959) was a perverse study in prejudice andexploitation. Genet's last play The Screen (1966) dealt withthe politically explosive situation in Algeria, thus ensuring a controversialopening at the Odéon in Paris.

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