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378 Comparative Drama who, taking responsibility for overseeing the development of the creative process, served as an instigator, mediator. editor, director, and administrator . Then, working together, often over months, they would develop the initial situation into a series of related scenes. For example, Twilight, which Ogden documents in debUt, is a collage of scenes on old age and dying. As a new piece expanded, the other members of the company would often become involved. Although guided by a liberal-socialist sensibility, the Werkteater has not been primarily a political theater. Instead, as Ogden notes, "the actors were deeply .concerned with capturing· fundamental human experiences --isolation, loneliness, loss, and lack of power, but also yearnings for communication, play, friendship, and love." The company's techniques and aims seem to generate out of an existential rather than political concern for the alienation of the individual in modem culture. "In their professional playing and playmaking, they drew heavily on their personal friendships, jealousies, frictions, love affairs, and mundane worries." It would thus seem that the company's strong attraction to Chekhov's plays derived in part from an empathy for the characters' painful isolation within a social community. This affinity for Chekhov, even more perhaps than their training in Stanislavskian acting techniques at the Amsterdam Theater School, has apparently guided their playmaking and performance methods. Ogden identifies seven major characteristics of the Werkteater: (1) the primacy of the actor; (2) playmaking through playing; (3) use of a stimulator; (4) long experience together; (5) variety in kinds of performances; (6) an intimate playing space; (7) steady contact with the audience. He also mentions another key trait that probably deserves to be called "major"-the commitment to a language-based theater, however visual and physical the productions became in· their techniques and emotional register. Many of these traits are typical of alternative or art theaters. But perhaps the Werkteater's most defining quality has been the use of a stimulator, for the group was able to maintain and develop itself as a cOllective by shifting the responsibility for decision making from actor to actor with each new work in progress. In this way the creative work was accomplished without anyone person coming to dominate and control the company. As Ogden makes clear, the Werkteater hili beeD one of the very few actors' companies to function sUlicessfully in this way. Ogden's study is divided into four parts: an overview of the Werkteater and its historical place in the modem tradition; a detailed reconstruction and study of Twilight (developed 1973-75), including the full text with actors' commentary on the facing page; a descriptive and theoretical analysis of the "performance dynamics" of not only the playmaking procedures and purposes but also the production relationship that was achieved between actors and audience; and a chronology of the Werkteater seasons 1970-86, with information on each type of work, the developers, the cast, the initial date of performance, and the media. The book includes forty-five photographs, twenty-one of which help document a production of Twilight. Ogden, a sympathetic observer,Qifers a convincing case for the Reviews 379 importance of the Werkteater. Clearly he is an advocate, but this in no way undermines the value of his study as theater history. Indeed, part of the fine accomplishment of this labor of love, a decade in the making, is Ogden's own imaginative approach to scholarship. He audaciously combines the historical methods of documentation, performance reconstruction ,and iconography with the critical methods of reception theory, influence study, and social commentary. He is especially astute on acting methods and aims. The result is· a carefully researched and well written contribution to contemporary theater studies, of key interest not only to theater historians and drama critics, but also, as Ogden states, "for actors and students of the theatre." This is an admirable work of scholarship, written for a wide audience. THOMAS POSTLEWAIT Indiana University Nancy Klein Maguire, ed. Renaissance Tragicomedy: Explorations in Genre and Politics. New York: AMS Press, 1987. pp. + 244. $34.50. This collection of essays was originally a group of papers presented in two scholarly conferences in late 1983. The editor explains that the contributors were "irritated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 379-381
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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