Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Prologue: By Way of Background

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pp. 1-4

I was born in Wichita, Kansas, a city neither then nor since especially noted for theatrical activity, and my early exposure to theatre was not extensive. My aunt Velma, the “artistic” member of the family, performed regularly while attending Friends University, which had an ambitious theatre program in the 1950s, and the only professional production I remember from my Wichita years was a road show of John Brown’s Body, directed by Charles Laughton and starring Judith Anderson, Raymond Massey, and...

The 1960s

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1960 The Fantasticks at the Sullivan Street Playhouse

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pp. 7-12

Although no one could have predicted in the spring of 1960 that one of the most innovative decades in the American theatre was beginning, there was clearly a change in the air, especially in the off-Broadway theatre, in those days centered around Sheridan Square. The pioneering Greenwich Village Theatre, located in that square, had closed years before, but its tradition had been carried on by the Sheridan Square Playhouse and the Circle in the Square. Just a few streets to the west, the even more famous Provincetown, created by Eugene O’Neill and his company in 1916, was...

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1961 The Living Theatre’s The Connection

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pp. 12-17

Although by the end of the 1960s the Living Theatre had a global reputation and for many was the central example of American alternative theatre, as the decade began it was a respected but hardly outstanding member of a handful but rapidly growing number of small, experimental companies mostly located in Greenwich Village. The Living Theatre was something of an outlier in that group, being located at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, which served as the northern boundary of...

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1962 Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

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pp. 17-22

In my early years of regularly attending theatre in New York, I primarily attended the rapidly developing off-Broadway theatre, which was then offering what seemed to be the most interesting new American authors, exciting new work from Europe, especially France and Germany, and excellent revivals of classic plays, such as the distinguished series of Ibsen and Chekhov revivals offered by David Ross at the little Fourth Street Playhouse. I attended many fewer Broadway productions, not because of...

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1963 Anne Bancroft in Mother Courage

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pp. 22-27

Not all of the productions that hold important places in my memory were great successes, like The Fantasticks or Funny Thing. Some were disappointments or outright failures, but they remain with me for their importance in the theatrical culture of their particular moment. Such is the case with two productions from this period, the 1963 Broadway revival of Brecht’s Mother Courage and the 1964 premiere of Arthur Miller’s After the Fall.....

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1964 After the Fall at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre

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pp. 27-32

Ever since the development of a serious art theatre in the United States early in the twentieth century, some visionaries have dreamed of establishing an ongoing repertory theatre for this country that like the Vienna Burgtheater or the French Comédie-Française would house an established company devoted to presenting a rotating repertory of the nation’s most distinguished dramas. Among the most significant of these attempts were the Art Theatre of Winthrop Ames, begun in 1909, a number of seasons of...

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1965 Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade

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pp. 32-36

Ironically, in the spring of 1964, with the Lincoln Center company in Washington Square having presented the three plays of its first season, with two of them so indifferently received that they were not extended into the summer, Lincoln Center itself was host to one of the most outstanding theatre events of the season—the visit of the British Royal Shakespeare Company presenting Paul Scofield in King Lear, directed by Peter Brook. The Royal Shakespeare Company was just establishing...

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1966 Bread and Puppet’s Fire

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pp. 37-41

By the year 1966 teach-ins, demonstrations, and various forms of protest against the escalating war in Vietnam had moved to the center of American concern, and nowhere more clearly than on the nation’s campuses. Cornell was one of the centers of such activity, especially after the arrival of one of the most visible figures in the antiwar movement, the Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan, to join Cornell United Religious Work this year. Even before his arrival, however, Students for a...

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1967 Hair at the Public Theater

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pp. 41-46

During the 1960s few names were better known in the New York theatre world than that of Joe Papp, primarily because of his visionary program of offering free productions of Shakespearean plays in Central Park, which, by the time he built a permanent outdoor theatre, the Delacorte, in 1962, had already become a city institution. With Shakespeare in the Park established, Papp began to dream of realizing that elusive goal of the New York theatre, an ongoing repertory house in an...

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1968 Jean-Louis Barrault’s Rabelais

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pp. 46-51

In 1968 I was eligible for my first sabbatical at Cornell and, my research having been centered on the French theatre up to that time, I naturally decided to spend the academic year 1968–69 with my family in Paris. As I was preparing for this trip, Paris erupted with the protests that are now remembered as the “Events of May.” These began with student occupation protests against the rigidity and the capitalist orientation of the de Gaulle regime, and spread to factory workers, to whom the government reacted in...

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1969 Jerzy Grotowski’s The Constant Prince

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pp. 51-56

The journal TDR, under various names, was the primary source for the most important names and trends in the alternative theatre, nationally and internationally, during the 1960s, and it was there, in the mid-1960s, that I first read about the remarkable experiments of Jerzy Grotowski in Poland. His international fame grew steadily during this decade, to India, to France, and to various international festivals. He planned to bring three productions to the United States in 1968, but was denied entry by...

The 1970s

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1970 Luca Ronconi’s Orlando Furioso

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pp. 59-63

During the late 1960s, the theatre district in New York underwent a profound change. The northern part of the district retained something of the show-business glamor from earlier in the century, but the southern part, especially Forty-Second Street, once the center of the New York theatre, became more and more a seedy, disreputable haven for drug dealers and pornography. Visitors to the dwindling legitimate theatres along the street had to move through an increasingly unattractive...

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1971 The Manhattan Project’s Alice in Wonderland

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pp. 63-68

Almost everything about Orlando Furioso was as overwhelming as its physical presentation, with a cast of fifty, gargantuan, if rough-hewn set pieces, and a venue that could accommodate up to three thousand audience members. Far more critical praise, however, was heaped upon another production running at the same time in a tiny space twenty blocks to the south, seating only one hundred, with a cast of six providing most of their own visual spectacle. This was the stage adaptation of Lewis...

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1972 Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1789

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pp. 68-73

During the winter break of 1972–73 I returned to Paris, to find important changes in the theatre world there. Among these was the growth of important experimental theatres in the city’s suburbs. During my earlier visit I traveled into the northern suburbs to Sartrouville to see the early works of Patrice Chéreau, to the federally funded Théâtre de l’Est, where Guy Rétoré offered such politically oriented drama as the work of Armand Gatti and Peter Hacks, and to the Théâtre de l’Ouest, in my...

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1973 Charles Ludlam’s Camille

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pp. 73-77

Except for Andy Warhol, whose challenges to traditional high art made him one of the best-known cultural figures of the mid-1960s, I had almost no knowledge of the performance subculture that gave rise to the Ridiculous theatre until I saw the production of Ronald Tavel’s Gorilla Queen in 1967. This wildly freewheeling amalgam of parody, camp humor, pop culture references, and outrageous sexual jokes was so praised by the reviewers, particularly by the alternative presses, that the initial...

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1974 Richard Foreman’s Pain(t)

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pp. 78-82

In the fall of 1972, one of the most talked-about productions off-offBroadway was the musical entertainment Dr. Selavy’s Magic Theatre, a multimedia event presented at the Mercer Arts Center, which had recently opened as a home for video art, installation art, and mixed-media work of various kinds. Its contribution to the New York experimental scene was short-lived because the building that housed it collapsed in 1973, and its programs and mission moved further uptown to The...

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1975 Giorgio Strehler’s King Lear

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pp. 82-87

My sabbatical in 1968 in Paris had whetted my appetite for European theatre, and from that time onward my wife and I tried when possible to spend all or part of the usual January winter break seeing European theatre. Generally at this time of my life that meant primarily the theatres of London and Paris. In January 1975 we could easily and happily have spent the whole time in London, where we were able to enjoy such rich fare as the Royal Shakespeare Company, in winter residence, presenting...

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1976 Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls . . .

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pp. 87-91

One of the most striking developments in the New York theatre in the decade between 1965 and 1975 was the Black Arts movement and the new generation of African American theatre artists that came to prominence with it. The dominant and most controversial theatre artist in that movement was surely LeRoi Jones, who in 1967 changed his name to the Muslim/African Amiri Baraka, to mark his personal and professional reorientation toward African American cultural expression. During that...

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1977 Andrei Serban’s The Cherry Orchard

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pp. 92-96

Although more than a decade after its founding the Lincoln Center Theater was in one of New York’s most modern theatres and headed by Joe Papp, one of the city’s most honored directors, the high hopes of its original supporters had never come close to fulfillment. Elia Kazan and Robert Whitehead, the original directors, were gone even before the venture moved from the temporary home in Washington Square to the new Vivian Beaumont Theater uptown two seasons later. Herbert Blau and Jules Irving,...

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1978 Squat Theatre’s Andy Warhol’s Last Love

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pp. 96-100

Squat Theatre brought together many of the concerns of the late 1970s. Founded as a collective in Budapest in 1969, they produced nonnarrative highly visual pieces that, though their content was not as specifically political as many similar groups of that time, aroused the anger of the Hungarian government, and they were forced to go underground and to flee to the West, eventually ending in 1977 in the United States. Although they would have fitted well into the Village theatre scene, the already high...

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1979 Cornell University’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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pp. 101-106

As the contents of this book doubtless make clear, my primary relationship with the theatre over more than half a century has been primarily that of spectator, historian, and theorist, but these have not by any means been my only relationship, nor can my spectatorship and scholarship be truly understood without realizing that both have been profoundly influenced by my experience in other capacities. I began my career as scene designer for the Cornell University Theatre, and like many academic...

The 1980s

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1980 Peter Brook’s The Conference of the Birds

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pp. 109-113

As the 1980s began, Peter Brook was unquestionably the most highly regarded director in the English-speaking world, thanks to such major international successes as Marat/Sade, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Somewhat ironically, however, he had a decade before turned aside from the path that had produced these works, the path of a major innovator within the British theatre. He left Britain in 1970 and for the next decade devoted himself to research into the bases of theatre. After...

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1981 The Wooster Group’s Route 1 & 9

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pp. 113-118

Off-off-Broadway has been centered, from its beginnings, in Greenwich Village, first on the Western side and later moving more to the east. The traditional southern boundary of the village is Houston Street and until the end of the 1960s that street also marked the southern boundary of offoff-Broadway theatre. Then in 1967 Richard Schechner, the NYU professor who had become a leading voice for the new theatre as editor of the Drama Review, created a new experimental company, the Performance Group,...

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1982 The RSC’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

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pp. 118-122

The full-page advertisements began to appear in New York newspapers in July 1981, and their arrangement and content were revealing and memorable. After the words in large block capitals, THE LIFE & ADVENTURES OF, CAME, IN EVEN LARGER CAPITALS, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. Then, still in bold lettering, only slightly smaller, the striking subhead: The Ticket is One Hundred Dollars. The paragraph that followed, containing such assertions as “Every civilized family—man, woman, and child—should...

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1983 Mabou Mines’ Cold Harbor

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pp. 122-127

Richard Schechner, often the main critical spokesman for the American avant-garde theatre during the 1960s and 1970s, naturally caused a considerable stir when in 1981 he announced in a two-part essay in Performing Arts Journal the death of this avant-garde. Few historians of the American theatre would concur with Schechner’s assessment today, but it is worth noting that the two groups that he mainly cited as examples of the cul-de-sac into which the contemporary theatre had gone...

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1984 Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman

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pp. 127-132

The great triumvirate of playwrights Williams, Miller, and O’Neill received more regular major revivals in the late twentieth century than anyone else, each averaging four to five Broadway revivals per decade. Given the actor-oriented emphasis of the American theatre, almost all of these were presented as showcases for major actors of the period, often not theatre stars, but stars of film or television. The 1984 revival of Miller’s central work, Death of a Salesman, starring Dustin Hoffman, represented a...

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1985 Thomas Langhoff’s The Merchant of Venice

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pp. 132-136

Although my main interest in foreign theatre during the 1960s and 1970s was in that of London and Paris, I did make a quick trip to Berlin in 1968 to visit the Berliner Ensemble, where I found the Coriolanus a somewhat disappointing, museum-like piece, despite the presence of the great actress Helene Weigel. Then, during the 1980s, I became increasingly interested in Germany, where the new generation of directors, headed by Peter Stein, Claus Peymann, and Peter Zadek, was...

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1986 The Market Theatre’s Asinamali!

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pp. 137-141

In the summer of 1985 the Vivian Beaumont and Mitzi Newhouse theatres at Lincoln Center stood empty and almost forgotten, not having produced a single play in over four years. The former New York mayor John Lindsay asked Gregory Mosher, the successful young leader of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, to take over the enterprise, and Mosher, if he did not fulfill the visions of their founders, succeeded for the first time in making these theatres a viable and ongoing enterprise. He...

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1987 John Krizanc’s Tamara

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pp. 141-146

In the spring of 1987 the New York newspapers announced an innovative production from Canada based on events in the life of Italian playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio. I had been working during that decade on D’Annunzio and the Italian theatre of his time and so this subject had a particular interest for me. In fact although I did enjoy the depiction of the colorful dramatist and his circle, the innovative staging of the production is what made a lasting impression on me. Neither in its original...

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1988 David Edgar’s Entertaining Strangers

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pp. 146-151

This one essay differs from all the rest in this collection, which were written in the second decade of the twenty-first century. This is another autobiographical memory, but was created only a few months after the performance. In 1988 I coauthored a beginning theatre history text with Yvonne Shafer called The Play’s the Thing, which included seven fictional “eyewitness” accounts of historical productions and one actual eyewitness account written by myself of a performance seen that year. The original...

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1989 Yuri Lyubimov’s Three Sisters

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pp. 151-156

In 1989 I visited Moscow as one of a committee charged with assessing Moscow as a host city for an international theatre conference. It was a time of tremendous international excitement, of which the proposed conference was only one very minor part. During the previous year, the Soviet Union had ended its long war in Afghanistan and Reagan and Gorbachev had met several times. Clearly the Cold War, which had dominated world politics for more than forty years, was drawing at last...

The 1990s

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1990 Reza Abdoh’s Father Was a Peculiar Man

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pp. 159-163

One of the major features of the Western theatre throughout the twentieth century was the continuing importance of a tradition that defined itself largely in opposition to the established theatre, a tradition variously called the avant-garde, experimental, or alternative stage. By its nature such activity was extremely varied, but during the first half of the century, it was largely concerned with developing alternatives to the essentially realistic and illusionistic mainstream drama inherited from the...

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1991 Split Britches’ Belle Reprieve

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pp. 163-168

As with much of the experimental work I saw in New York from the 1960s onward, I was introduced to the WOW (Women’s One World) Café by the Drama Review, which in the spring of 1985 presented a special issue on East Village performance. By the time this article appeared, WOW had already lost its lease on the theatre it had occupied on East Eleventh Street since its founding in 1981 and was preparing for its move to East Fourth Street, where it has remained ever since. It purchased the property from the City of New York as a permanent...

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1992 Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror

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pp. 168-172

The year 1991 marked the end of an era at the Public Theater, and indeed in New York theatre as a whole. In May Joseph Papp, who had been a major force, often the leading force in that theatre scene for the past forty years, resigned for health reasons the directorship of the Public, which he had founded. He named JoAnne Akalaitis, one of the leading figures of Mabou Mines, as his successor. Of course he left a number of projects in process, and the last one to bear his name as producer appeared in the...

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1993 Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (Part One: Millennium Approaches)

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pp. 173-177

The work of Tony Kushner first came to my attention with a production of his play A Bright Room Called Day at the Public Theater early in 1991, in the final year of Joe Papp’s administration. Papp had made the Public one of the leading theatres in New York for new and controversial work, and Bright Room was no exception. Set in a Berlin apartment in two time periods, the 1930s and in 1990, the play shows, in the earlier period, a group of friends watching helplessly the rise of Hitler and in the later one an...

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1994 Tadashi Suzuki’s The Tale of Lear

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pp. 178-182

During the 1980s and 1990s I found my theatrical interests becoming more and more international, not because, I regret to say, the New York theatre was becoming more international, but because elsewhere in the world there was an increasing amount of touring of particular productions, headed by leading international directors like Peter Brook, Giorgio Strehler, Peter Stein, and Tadeusz Kantor. Even leading American international directors like Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars were in fact more...

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1995 Karen Beier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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pp. 183-187

During the 1990s, as my interest in the contemporary German-speaking theatre grew, I began to visit either Germany or Austria for theatre-going at least once a year. Usually I went to the major capitals—Berlin, Munich, or Vienna—but during Christmas vacation in 1995–96 I went to a number of cities in and around the Ruhr Valley in west Germany, which had been a center of German theatre and dance innovation for several decades. Over a period of a week I attended theatres in five different cities, not a...

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1996 Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker

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pp. 187-192

During the 1980s Caryl Churchill emerged as one of the most gifted, innovative, and culturally engaged new dramatists of the British stage, and her New York productions during that decade were almost entirely presented by Joe Papp at the Public Theater, where almost every season during this decade featured a Churchill production. This series was broken at the end of the decade with Papp’s retirement and death, and it was not until 1996, in the third year of George C. Wolfe’s administration...

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1997 Julie Taymor’s The Lion King

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pp. 192-197

A new chapter opened in Broadway theatre history with the presentation of Disney’s The Lion King at the reopened New Amsterdam Theatre on Forty-Second Street in 1997. Not only did this solidify the increasing presence of the Disney corporation on Broadway, a development that elicited sharply mixed reactions in the theatre world, but even more important, this became a kind of keystone in changing the most crime-ridden block in the city back to the entertainment center it had...

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1998 Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive

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pp. 197-202

It has been my great privilege as a late twentieth-century theatre-goer to have enjoyed the career of Paula Vogel from its outset. Paula came as a graduate student to Cornell University during the final years of my service in the theatre department there, and while there she received the first staging of her play Meg in December 1976. There is no such thing as a typical Vogel play; indeed what her works have in common is their unconventionality of theme and approach, while individual plays vary...

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1999 El-Warsha’s Spinning Lives

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pp. 202-206

In the late 1980s, having devoted most of my research career to Western European theatre, I decided to expand my interests outside that continent, and selected the Arabic theatre as a subject much neglected by Western scholars. I studied the language while at Indiana University in the 1980s and began acquainting myself at first almost exclusively with the Egyptian theatre, traditionally the most significant in the Arab world. I attended my first theatre conference in Cairo in 1993, continued...

The 2000s

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2000 Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project

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pp. 209-213

Although Anna Deavere Smith’s interview stagings, the 1992 Fires in the Mirror and the 1994 Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 were among the most praised productions of the 1990s, and she has continued to present oneperson shows based on documentary theatre with success ever since, she has inspired no really significant imitators. Her particular ability in assembling material and, even more importantly, in re-creating dramatically the creators of this material is clearly a very special combination of...

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2001 Stephen Sondheim’s Follies

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pp. 213-218

During the 1990s I had become particularly interested in the relationship between memory and reception in the theatre, particularly in how previous theatre experiences conditioned new ones, as, most notably, when we see an actor in a new role while remembering him or her in previous appearances. My 2001 book The Haunted Stage was devoted to this phenomenon. As it happened, the year that book appeared, I attended a performance that could have been created to illustrate almost every major...

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2002 Big Art’s Flicker

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pp. 218-223

In the closing years of the twentieth century, I was struck by the evergreater use of visual technology in the theatre. Like other trends, particularly technological ones, I first became aware of this in German productions, where during the 1990s the work of Frank Castorf in Berlin dominated cutting-edge theatre there by his radical postmodern reinterpretations of classic texts and by his innovative mixing of live video with stage action. As this technology continually improved, this...

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2003 Lee Breuer’s Dollhouse

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pp. 223-227

When I attended Lee Breuer’s Dollhouse at the recently opened Saint Ann’s Warehouse in 2003, I had been attending the work of this innovative director, both on his own and as a member of Mabou Mines for more than twenty years, since the early animations. I rarely missed a Breuer production, and always found much to admire as well as almost inevitably choices that seemed to me excessive and self-indulgent. His visual and general theatrical imagination, particularly in his ingenious...

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2004 Ivo van Hove’s Hedda Gabler

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pp. 227-232

By the end of the twentieth century I had become a regular attendee of the Berlin Theatertreffen and a time-to-time attendee at other festivals, including Avignon, Edinburgh, the Ibsen Festival in Oslo, and elsewhere. I had not yet, however, attended the National Dutch Festival founded in 1986 in Amsterdam, in imitation of the German Theatertreffen, presenting the ten outstanding Netherlands productions from the previous season. I attended this festival for the first time at its tenth...

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2005 Romeo Castellucci’s Tragedia Endogonidia L.#09

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pp. 232-237

In the previous section I mentioned the surprisingly large number of major continental European directors and companies that have never been seen in New York. High on that list would surely be the Societas Raffaello Sanzio, based in Cesena, Italy, and headed by Romeo Castellucci. Since the early 1990s their stunning visual and auditory collages toured widely in Europe and elsewhere, although never to New York. Fortunately for adventurous New York theatre-goers, however, Peak Performances, a...

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2006 Rimini Protokoll’s Wallenstein

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pp. 237-242

Since 1963 the city of Berlin has each spring presented the Theatertreffen festival. As my interest in German theatre grew, I attended this festival more and more regularly and have attended annually since 1995, seeing there some of my most memorable theatre. One of the companies I have most enjoyed both at the festival and in other offerings has been Rimini Protokoll, one of Europe’s leading experimental groups and a pioneer in the vogue for bringing nontheatrical material,...

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2007 August Wilson’s Radio Golf

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pp. 242-246

My introduction to the work of August Wilson was not propitious. Between 1979 and 1986 I was teaching at Indiana University, and this restricted my New York theatre-going primarily to vacations there or when passing through coming or going to Europe. Eager to seize every opportunity to attend New York theatre, I would even from time to time go to a show the night I arrived from Europe, weary and jet-lagged, hardly an ideal viewing situation. That was the situation in the fall of...

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2008 Signa’s The Ruby Town Oracle

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pp. 246-251

One of the developments that most struck me in the theatre of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century was the ever-increasing interest in the “real,” in the “real” texts of the documentary theatre, the use of “real” people onstage by groups like Rimini Protokoll, and the use of “real” scenery and locations in so-called site-specific theatre. This use of elements from the nontheatrical world, at first essentially confined to the performance area, began, in many experiments toward the end of...

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2009 The Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliet

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pp. 251-256

Theatre has always employed a significant amount of material from outside the theatre in its creations, but the twenty-first century has seen a particularly widespread experimentation with such material— nontheatrical actors in groups like Rimini Protokoll, nontheatrical spaces and human interactions in groups like Signa, and calculatedly nontheatrical language in groups like the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, so named not for the state, but after a chapter title in Franz Kafka’s unfinished...

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2010 The Passion Play at Oberammergau

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pp. 256-260

One of the most famous European theatre events is the passion play performed in the small Bavarian community of Oberammergau every ten years. Its history is a formidable one; it was established in the year 1633 by citizens seeking to be spared the bubonic plague ravaging the region by performing a play on the life and death of Jesus. Although the text has been many times reworked, the play has been performed with only a few minor interruptions through the centuries since that date. More than half...

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Coda (2014): The Transport Group’s I Remember Mama

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pp. 261-268

The reader may well have remarked how the operations of memory, clearly central to this writing project from the outset, have become even more prominent in the more recent essays. This is doubtless because a lifetime of theatre-going inevitably engages one in the process of remembering, but it is also because during the last decade or two I have become more and more concerned with the centrality of memory to the experience of all theatre, whether my own or someone else’s. My first book of...

Index

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pp. 269-280