Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The omission of an entry on theatre stemmed, in part, from the impossible breadth of the topic; for, by reasonable argument, virtually all drama for the stage is a form of fantasy. Certainly, ever since the earliest Greek dramas featuring mythological gods and heroes, magical events and beings have repeatedly figured in theatrical presentations (> William Shakespeare). More broadly, however, except for a short-lived movement in 19th-century theatre to achieve perfect (and often spectacular) realism on the stage, virtually all stage productions incorporate arguably fantastic elements in their presentation – conventions such as invisible walls and asides to the audience, characters bursting into song, visibly incomplete sets, persons distant in space and/or time juxtaposed on stage, and so on. Indeed, in the 20th century, responding to the challenge of cinema, many dramatists – e.g., Luigi Pirandello, Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett – placed increasing emphasis on the uniquely unrealistic aspects of theatre (> Absurdist Fantasy). Plays featuring music often foreground fantastic elements, as shown by various works listed under Opera. [GW]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.