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Prepare to be horrified, and to look into the face of inhumanity with the Grand Guignol. Mike Rugnetta teaches you about one of theater history's most horrible chapters. The Grand Guignol was a French theater based in Paris from the late 19th century until 1962. The troupe, led by writers like Andre de Lorde and Alfred Binet put on dark, violent, bloody shows that were a precursor of the horror media that we love to consume today. You'll learn about stage effects, makeup, and maybe even why humans like to stare into the darkness and terrify themselves.

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(PBS Digital Studios intro)

Hey there, I'm Mike Rugnetta, this is Crash Course Theater, and today, we'll be exploring--EUGHH.  Oh.  Yeesh.  We'll be exploring the Grand Guignol, the horrifying theatrical tradition that had French audiences rolling in the aisles and then fainting in the aisles and then vomiting on the pavement outside the building that contained the aisles for more than 60 years.  Is this what Aristotle really had in mind with all that pity and terror stuff?  Did he mean literal purging?  I mean, I guess a good barf can be cathartic in a sense.  And get ready for the goriest Thought Bubble yet and really maybe the goriest episode yet?  So content warning for blood, guts, and mediocre French pronounciation.  Lights up. 

(Crash Course Theater intro)

Grand Guignol's antecedent is melodrama, with its anti-literary, visually forward focus on sensation and surprise, but let's not forget Andre Antoine and the (?~1:03) because believe it or not, the Grand Guignol with all its rabies and insanity and troubling exoticism is another offshoot of French naturalism.  It took a bunch of inspiration from the sordid side of naturalism, the side that seemed to delight in depraved situations designed to shock middle-class theatergoers.  One of the specialities of the (?~1:25) were short semi-documentary one act plays called "Comedies Rosses", usually translated as "cynical or bitter comedies", which depicted a lowlife world of thieves, prostitutes, alcoholism, and violence.  

A lot of these comedies were based on a kind of newspaper story called the "Fait Divers" which were strange but true vignettes, usually about crime or horrifying accidents that filled up the pages of popular papers and were lavishly illustrated.  Unlike melodrama, they usually had sad or tragic endings.  

Oscar Metenier, one of the (?~1:59)'s cofounders, was a former tabloid journalist who once took Andre Antoine to an execution for fun.  

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