FA13 THEA 3720-001
OKLAHOMA! AND REALISTIC THEATER
It is 1943, World War II is raging in Europe, the reality of war is upon the United States, could theater goers possibly be charmed by a play portraying real life themes? If that play is Oklahoma! by Rogers and Hammerstein, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”. Realistic theater points our attention to the social and psychological problems of everyday life. It is drama where people face difficulties brought on by living in a rapid, ever changing world. Realism, softened by a plethora of ear catching (and sometimes not so ear catching)tunes, is the basis of the musical Oklahoma!, set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory. There are three major points of realistic theater in this play: people fight and disagree, true love is not easy to come by, but is worth the sacrifice of your all, and true justice can be achieved. The first point is addressed when the community dance is nearly spoiled by the farmers and cattlemen fighting.
The farmers and cattlemen disagree about fencing and water rights. They fight, it escalates into a fist fight and then a well choreographed brawl. The fighting, presented in dance, was a real problem in the territory. Men were actually fighting for the right to earn a living. Aunt Eller fires her gun into the air, bringing a close to the fight, redirecting the men to the purpose of the occasion – girls. Many of the men at the social were looking for true love, particularly a character named Curly.
Since the play’s beginning, Curly has been pursuing a lovely young girl named Laurey. When he asks her to the box social, she refuses. Laurey says he waited too long to ask her, she has accept the
invitation of her hired hand, Jud. Jud is not an honorable man and Laurey must fight off his unwanted
advances. Later, at the box social, Curly must sacrifice his saddle, his horse, and even his gun to outbid Jud for the chance to eat lunch with Laurey. Jud confronts Laurey about her feelings for him, she says she has none. Jud threatens her, Laurey fires him, and Curly comforts her. True love is found and Curly and Laurey are engaged that evening. In real life, as with Curly and Laurey, the road to true love is generally a bumpy one, but worth the sacrifice. Three weeks later the love birds marry. That evening, Jud is accidentally killed. Curly is charged with murder.
The next day, a trial is held. Curly is found, “Not Guilty.”. True justice was accomplished.
Roger and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, carries a complete story line throughout the play. The show is interspersed with many songs and a lot of dancing. The theme of the realism is evident in three ways: people fight and disagree, true love is not easy to come by, but is worth the sacrifice of your all, and true justice can be achieved.
- Baron, Christine and Engel, Manfred, ed. (2010). Realism/Anti-Realism in 20th-Century Literature. NL: Rodopi
- Dahlhaus, Carl (1985). Realism in Nineteenth-Century Music. Translated by Mary Whittal. Cambridge, London, Cambridge Press.
- Dalhaus, Carl (1989). Nineteenth-Century Music Translated by J. Bradford Robinson. Berkely, University Press.
4.Wilson, Edwin and Goldfarb, Alvin (2012). Living Theater: History of the Theater. New York, New York: McGraw – Hill