Is the Theatre Still Dying?

Is the Theatre Still Dying?

Is the Theatre Still Dying?

Is the Theatre Still Dying?

Synopsis

Eric Salmon contends that modern theatre is artistically endangered. This book is his evaluation of the present state of English-speaking theatre and an examination, through examples of twentieth-century plays, both good and bad, of the reasons for it. Salmon's method is critical-argumentative. He is as much concerned with staging methods and playing as with the plays themselves, though he regards the playwright as the primary artist in the theatre and the actor as an interpretor.

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to take some aspects of the English-speaking theatre of the last eighty years and examine them for signs of life. It is by no means a comprehensive study; its object is not narrative or historical; its treatment is not--except very loosely--chronological. Its method is critical-argumentative and its unifying theme, if it can be said to possess one, is an idea--or rather, a group of ideas--not a particular branch of the theatre or a particular artist or a compendious account of the whole of modern theatre. It is concerned with staging methods and playing as well as plays, though it regards the playwright as the "primary" artist in the theatre and the actor as an interpretative artist. Old-fashioned (for the moment) as the opinion now is in the theatre, I still subscribe to the view which T. S. Eliot expressed in 1932: ". . . I want a direct relationship between the work of art and myself, and I want the performance to be such as will not interrupt or alter this relationship any more than it is an alteration or interruption for me to superpose a second inspection of a picture or building upon the first. I object, in other words, to the interpretation, and I would have a work of art such that it needs only to be completed and cannot be altered by each interpretation." This was in an essay to which I shall have cause to refer more closely in Chapter 1.

It should not be assumed that all those many things which are omitted from the book are necessarily less important or less interesting than the things which are included: though the selection of subjects and examples for the book is to a certain, limited extent a critical gesture in itself, it is not definitively so. While I believe that all the examples chosen are relevant to my over-all purpose in the book, the choice of one relevant example rather than another was obviously dictated, at least in part, by chance: no one has the time and opportunity in one lifetime to see and to read (both are necessary) all the plays which may be relevant to his or her critical purposes, let alone . . .

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