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ELT 45 : 2 2002 necessary prior to my experiencing Reynolds's story. Taken all in all, I find it a useful volume I am glad to have read. lohn |. Conlon The University of Massachusetts Behind the Scenes Bernard F. Dukore. Shaw's Theater. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. 267 pp. $49.95 10 sketches by Bernard Shaw FOLLOWING Jean Reynolds's Pygmalion's Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw (1999), Bernard F. Dukore's Shaw's Theater is the second volume in the Florida Bernard Shaw series. It is divided into three sections : Part I is an updated version of Dukore's classic study, Bernard Shaw: Director (1971); Part II is a revised version of an article, "The Director as Interpreter: Shaw's Pygmalion" (1983); and Part III is a hitherto unpublished essay entitled "The Theater in Bernard Shaw's Drama." As Dukore writes in his preface, together they provide "a comprehensive treatment of the relation between Shaw's views of dramatic production and his use of the theater in his role as playwright." This is no small feat, considering Shaw's extensive critical and dramatic writings, from which Dukore quotes judiciously to produce a unique compendium of Shaw's views on virtually all aspects of the theater. Part I analyzes Shaw's theoretical pronouncements (reviews, essays, letters, prefaces) and then his practices (through numerous rehearsal notes). Shaw's dramatic principles might be summed up in his 1914 comment that play production is "the art of making the audience believe that real things are happening to real people," a statement to which Dukore frequently returns. As director, Shaw was the guiding artist in a play's production, still an uncommon practice when he began his career in the theater. Dukore demonstrates that Shaw left nothing to chance, planning blocking, crowd scenes, properties, and stage business in detail in his prompt books. For the 1912 production of Captain Brassbound's Conversion, Shaw even wrote dialogue for the five extras representing the crew! Many reading rehearsals were essential "to get the music right before going on to the stage," Shaw wrote. As for casting, Shaw believed that the actors' ages, appearances, and personalities were more important than their understanding of the play, telling Molly Tompkins in 1922 that "an actor stands in much the same relation to an author as a carpenter or mason to an architect: he need not understand the entire 236 BOOK REVIEWS design in the least; and he would not do his part of the job any better for such understanding." Yet Shaw was no stage dictator. What emerges is a portrait of a considerate director who believed actors should not be asked to learn their roles until after the first week of blocking rehearsals, or be directed in the presence of strangers, or shamed for their deficiencies before their peers. He often tailored a play to a specific cast so as to achieve an organic performance, making numerous changes in dialogue and stage business to sharpen characterization, shorten running time, or assist an actor. Shaw also frequently added to the printed text extensive changes made during rehearsals: in 1897 he wrote to Edith Craig, who played Prossy in Candida, requesting her to send him "any effective gags" for inclusion in the first collected edition of his plays. According to Shaw, good acting required physical training as well as what Shaw called "athletic articulation," but not, he cautioned actor Charles Charrington in 1895, the "mechanical study of poses and pronunciations ." He went so far as to suggest alphabet exercises for Janet Achurch and composed a diction scene for the film version of Pygmalion. Good acting must also be illusionistic: Shaw despised any posturing and stage tricks that destroyed stage realism. Above all, the actor must never substitute himself for the character. When Henry Irving died in 1905, Shaw wrote that he had played only one part, "the part of Irving." An actor must never anticipate the line or business to which he reacts, but aim for what Dukore calls "a moment-to-moment reality." Thus "even on the thousandth night," writes Shaw, an actor must "make the audience believe that he has never heard his cue before." Shaw paid...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 236-240
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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