On Stage: A History of Theatre

On Stage: A History of Theatre

On Stage: A History of Theatre

On Stage: A History of Theatre

Excerpt

While this book was in the making, a scholarly acquaintance of mine expressed a polite interest.

"A book on theatre, eh? Garrick's perhaps?" (Garrick was an eighteenth-century actor and playwright.) "Or is it on arena staging?" He knew that I had been one of a small group which, some years ago, founded Arena Stage in the nation's capital.

"No, the whole thing," I said.

"From the Greeks to Broadway?" He was incredulous.

"From before the Greeks," I replied firmly.

But I was beginning to wonder. Was I about to produce another digest, another condensation--modern shortcuts which I abhor? "Read the play itself; read the whole book," I had always told my students who were given to plot outlines and condensed books. But my misgivings, fortunately, gave way to certainty. It is not reasonable to suppose that even the most devoted of college students would cover, for himself, all the original materials that went into the making of this book.

I am aware that specialists will deplore the necessary brevity of particular treatments, and I am aware that in trying to include all aspects of theatre I may be accused of superficiality in some. But I am convinced that any study of so significant a part of our cultural history must be placed in historical and social perspective if an initial understanding and appreciation is to be gained. The production of a play is not an isolated event. It grows out of the author's orientation to his world and is influenced by his potential audience and its tastes in subject matter and production styles. The author is bound by the . . .

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