Absurd Theater Singular or Plural

By Peithman, Stephen | Stage Directions, October 2001 | Go to article overview
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Absurd Theater Singular or Plural

Peithman, Stephen, Stage Directions


Theater can be either individual, collaborative or both, as this month's new books attest conclusively.

This month's selection highlights team players or individual efforts.

An actor wants to act, a director to direct and a playwright to see the work produced. Sometimes, the most obvious solution to wearing all these hats may be to produce the play yourself. If that sounds tempting, check out Mark Hillenbrand's Produce Your Play Without A Producer: A Survival Guide For Actors And Playwrights Who Need A Production. Chapters explain how to conduct readings, construct a budget, raise funds, find a performing space, work with the various members of the creative team, handle legal and financial issues, handle publicity and more. Also included is a bibliography and lists of national and regional theater organizations, drama bookstores, rights and royalties agencies, state arts agencies and other useful contacts [ISBN 1-57525-255-4, $16.95, Smith & Kraus].

Why do many directors saddle theatrical masterpieces with high-concept productions? For example, setting Endgame in a subway or moving the action of Hamlet from Elsinore to New York City. In Mis-Directing The Play, Terry McCabe says the answer is a lack of respect for actors, playwrights and plays. To back up his argument, he draws on his extensive knowledge of contemporary theater to demonstrate how self-absorbed directors have gone wrong and how directors hoping to create theater of integrity and power can go right. Working from an Aristotelian viewpoint, McCabe argues that the audience should encounter only the play; the director should clarify plot, character and thought - and then stop. Readers may agree or disagree, but McCabe raises important and fundamental questions about theater practices that deserve consideration [ISBN 1-- 56663-353-2, $18.95, Ivan R. Dee].

The highly individual director of McCabe's book is light-years away from the collaborative mode in which ensembles can create their own performance pieces. In The Performer's Guide To The Collaborative Process, the author, Sheila Kerrigan, gives performers and directors the tools to research, generate, shape and organize material, as well as a simple process to keep moving forward with the work. There also is specific advice on working in groups: how to create safety, build trust, share power, make decisions openly and communicate, including skillful communication, constructive critique and peaceful conflict resolution. Kerrig- an, co-founder and co-director of TOUCH Mime Theater, has gathered an amazing number of ideas into a single resource, each from an active collaborative or improvisational theater group. The result is both informative and inspiring [ISBN 0-325-00311-4, $18.95, Heinemann].

Collaboration is also at the heart of Strategies For Playbuilding: Helping Groups Translate Issues Into Theatre. As a means of exposing young people to theater, author Will Weigler offers a comprehensive script-- writing process designed to enable participants of different ages, abilities and experiences to contribute equally.

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