This is the first of two volumes of documents which describe the growth and development of theatre in the United States. The first volume covers the period from the beginnings of theatre in the North American colonies up to the First World War. With such an abundance of primary documents to consult, the editors have focused on three specific 'tensions' that have created and sustained American theatre: commercial versus artistic values; urban versus regional theatre; and the controversy over what is American and what is 'foreign' or imported. The volume is organized in three chronological sections, each with its own introduction. The documents and commentary are arranged into chapters on business practice, acting, theatre buildings, drama, design and audience behaviour. Written sources include records of business transactions, letters, newspaper reports, reviews, memoirs and architectural descriptions. There are also numerous pictorial items.
Thirty-three leading American and British playwrights, from Robert Anderson to Paul Zindel, discuss their views on their own work and contemporary drama, and offer projections about theater for the 21st century. Proceeding from the premise that recent drama in various ways is a reaction to the modernism of Theater of the Absurd, the interviewer, John DiGaetani, terms the diverse responses postmodernism. This concept, while not universally accepted by the playwrights interviewed, becomes a point of departure for lively dialogue, providing insights into the particular playwrights and on contemporary theater in general. Included among the interviewees are farcists, such as Alan Ayckbourn, Tina Howe, and Michael Frayn; playwrights of ethnic and black theater, such as Amlin Gray, Ed Bullins, and August Wilson; embodiments of Chekhovian theater, such as Simon Gray and A. R. Gurney; Maximalists like David Henry Hwang; feminists like Marsha Norman and Timberlake Wertenbaker; exponents of gay theater like Mart Crowley and William Hoffman; social critics like David Storey and Israel Horovitz; and traditionalists like Horton Foote, Romulus Linney, and Robert Anderson. Despite these broadly applied labels, clearly the output of these playwrights cannot be neatly pigeonholed even individually--let alone collectively--to describe any prevailing mode. Therefore, interviewer DiGaetani has chosen to stay with the appellation postmodernism, a widely accepted critical term in the arts used to signify a reaction to what is now an old-fashioned modernism.
This, the fourth volume to be published in the series Theatre in Europe: A Documentary History, charts the development of theatrical presentation at a time of great cultural and political upheaval and is, for today's theatre practitioner, historian and theoretician, the most inspiring and important period in the evolution of our art. Putting on plays was no longer an end in itself, but the creation of imaginary worlds had to be justified on ethical, sociological, political, as well as aesthetic grounds. It is also a period that still affects every aspect of play-making today. With few exceptions, the documents from France, Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, Italy and Spain are unavailable to an English-reading public and many are out of print (or unpublished) in their original language. The volume contains numerous illustrations, the source location for each document and substantial bibliography.
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