Consider the Source

By Peithman, Stephen | Stage Directions, July 2003 | Go to article overview
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Consider the Source


Peithman, Stephen, Stage Directions


Scholarship and performance theory inform this month's offerings.

The theater community is made up of what Los Angeles Times critic Howard Rosenberg once called "a herd of independent minds." That's nowhere more obvious than in the many approaches to plays and performances reflected in this month's survey of recently published books.

For more than 40 years,Tadashi Suzuki has created and directed such internationally acclaimed productions as Euripides' The Trojan Women.An integral part of his work has been the development and teaching of a rigorous and controversial training system, the Suzuki method (not to be confused with the musical training method of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki). In The Art Of Stillness: The Theater Practice Of Tadashi Suzuki, Paul Allait! reviews and evaluates Suzuld's work and method, including his collaborators, the importance of architecture and environment in his theater and his impact on performance around the world. Written in straightforward, often lively style, The Art Of Stillness sheds new light on an important and uncompromising figure in contemporary world theater. [ISBN 1-4039-6170-0, $18.95, Palgrave Macmillan]

Staging Masculinities: History, Gender, Performance is an intriguing critical history of how changing concepts of masculinity have been represented and explored on Western, in particular English stages. Michael Mangan analyzes a wide variety of plays and performances, ranging from medieval liturgical drama to contemporary West End hits, tracing a complex relationship between theatrical and gender performance. Chapters include "Staging Medieval Masculinities,""Sighing Like a Furnace and Full of Strange Oaths: Lovers and Soldiers in Shakespeare," "The Spectacle of Masculinity in the Restoration Theatre" and "Outlaws and Sentiment: Masculinities in the Eighteenth-Century Theatre." This is a scholarly work, but one that reads well. [ISBN 0-333-72019-9, $24.95, Palgrave Macmillan]

While designed as a textbook, The Twentieth Century Performance Reader provides an encyclopedic introduction to all types of performance-dance, drama, music and opera-through a selection of texts by more than 30 practitioners, critics and theorists. Organized alphabetically rather than chronologically or according to art form, the book invites cross-disciplinary comparisons. Highlights include "Laurie Anderson: The Speed of Change," "Antonin Artaud: Theatre and Cruelty," "Peter Brook: The Deadly Theatre" and "Isadora Duncan: The Dancer of the Future." Each article includes contextual summaries and suggestions for further reading. Editors Michael Huxley and Noel Wilts also provide a helpful chronology of texts plus a bibliography of 20th-century performance. [ISBN 0-415-25287-3, $35.95, Routledge]

As its title suggests, Conversations With Peter Brook, 1970-2000 is a vol unie of interviews with the famous English director, exploring his work and the innovations that helped forge such ground-breaking productions as King Lear, Marat/Sade, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Mahabharata. Since the creation in the 1970s of his International Center for Theater Research in Paris, Brook has focused on teaching and researching as well as directing, and is always looking for new ways of challenging actors and audiences to question both the performance of the piece and the larger truth surrounding it.

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