Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xii

I would never have begun this project, much less completed it, without the steady guidance, unfailing support, and luminous example of Marc Robinson. He shepherded the early research that led to this book with his perfectly judged editorial suggestions, large and small, his generously given ideas, and his unflagging faith. And he has continued to offer essential support and guidance since. His beautiful scholarship sets the standard to which I aspire. The only way I can think to repay him is to strive to be as good a mentor to my students as he has been to me....

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Introduction: Re-enchanting the World

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pp. 3-36

“Choose the least important day in your life...It will be important enough.”1 This is the knowing counsel given by the ghost of Mrs. Gibbs to Emily Webb, herself recently deceased, as she is about to make her brief, wrenching return to the world of the living in the third act of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. When Emily does return, she finds the humble phenomena she previously took for granted, the texture of an unimportant day, staged before her in a theater of revived experience. At once a spectator and an actor in the resurrected drama of her own past, Emily watches milk being delivered...

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Chapter 1. Brightness Is Seeing in a New Way: Thornton Wilder’s Everyday Departures

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pp. 37-74

Thornton Wilder wrote on the move. He liked to say that he measured his composition by the daily walks he took while thinking about it, so many miles to the page. The physical momentum helped him keep words and ideas in motion. As he once put it in his journals:

Having always “got” my writing on long walks I have learned to prevent its solidifying, its “jelling” in my head; always when the moment of writing comes it is ready for that moment’s novelty, excitement,...

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Chapter 2. Mediating the Method

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pp. 75-104

I BELIEVE “THAT THE USE OF NOISE...TO MAKE MUSIC...WILL CONTINUE AND INCREASE UNTIL WE REACH A MUSIC PRODUCED THROUGH THE AID OF ELECTRICAL INSTRUMENTS.”1 Thus runs the cross-page mantra intercut into the opening passages of John Cage’s prescient essay “The Future of Music: Credo.” Cage’s ideas were, of course, germinal for the American theatrical avant-garde. Chance operations, perceptual experiments, and found materials continue to be important concepts for latter-day progressive theater-makers. But my argument here is that Cage’s early writings also anticipated another,...

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Chapter 3. As in Heavenly Raiment: Stuart Sherman’s Ecstatic Quotidian

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pp. 105-146

Stuart Sherman’s “spectacles”—the monumental sequence of miniature performances he worked at for more than 25 years between 1975 and his death in 2001—are a study in illuminating paradoxes.1 Viewed as a series, the pieces constitute a remarkable body of continuous work, or even a single, ever-expanding performance piece, in more than eighteen parts, a decadeslong durational project made up of tiny fleeting molecules of performance, as transitively beguiling as they are difficult to retain in memory.

Sherman devoted his artistic career to reimagining the everyday. His name...

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Chapter 4. Dancing to the Cosmic Murmur: Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Poetics of the Everyday

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pp. 147-192

In the eerie final chapter of Franz Kafka’s novel Amerika, his hapless hero figure, Karl Rossmann, having fled Europe under duress and endured many picaresque adventures, encounters a strange advertisement, proffering a tantalizing promise of democratic welcome to the weary expatriate:

The Oklahoma Theatre will engage members for its company today at Clayton race-course from six o’clock in the morning until midnight. The great Theatre of Oklahoma calls you! Today only and never again! If you miss your chance now you miss it forever! If...

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Coda: Ghosts in the Machine: Noise, Presence, and the Archival Everyday

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pp. 193-204

I conclude by discussing an actorless theater piece that relies almost entirely on the uncanny gaze of technology to achieve its illusions of immediacy, substituting mediated signs of everydayness for the physical presence of performers. In this way, it represents both a culmination of the theater of the everyday’s tendency to amplify human perception with technology, and a response to a cultural situation in which the ubiquity of digital recording surrounds us with eerily preserved scraps of ordinary experience. It is also a discomfiting harbinger of future visions of the digital...

Notes

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pp. 205-220

Bibliography

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pp. 221-228

Index

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pp. 229-234