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books and company Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present Marvin Carlson Cornell University Press; 530 pp.; $45 (cloth) Theories of the Theatre arrives at a time when theatre critics and scholars are becoming increasingly interested In theory, which has never been a major issue in American theatre criticism. Carlson's book begins with Aristotle and more or less ends with Derrida, who is deconstructing the production of western culture Aristotle helped set down. Carlson took upon himself the exhaustive job of outlining the major and often minor theories of drama and theory in the history of western thought. We should be grateful for this textbook which brings together in one setting a theoretical survey which has never been taken elsewhere. As such it makes a good companion to the Barrett H. Clark classic European Theories of the Drama. Carlson's book sticks close to the established theoretical line so there aren't really any surprises here, and it would have been exciting to discover the work of eccentric figures left out of history books, or only mentioned in passing. Also, though Carlson limited his book to western theory, this may not have been such a wise choice since there is so much interest now in Asian performance. Major Indian and Japanese theories could easily have been accommodated in the volume. All in all, this book is a necessary starting point for future theories of theatre that are likely to be written in the coming years. Bonnie Marranca A History of the Theatre Glynne Wickham Cambridge University Press; 264 pp.; $29.95 (cloth) Western Theatre: Revolution and Revival Patti P. Gillespie and Kenneth M. Cameron Macmillan; 575 pp.; unpriced The burden of successfully inculcating something like an historical sensibility falls heavily on the writer who would present a unified account of theatre's origins and subsequent development and its relation to the society and culture which shaped it and which it reflects. The scope of this task 116 is daunting and is made more formidable by the American insistence on inclusivity , a requirement which threatens to overwhelm the reader with the sheer bulk of the work or to succumb to laundry lists in order to assure the reader that the author too knows that there were more than three or four playwrightslperformers/companies extant in that period. Add further the commerical necessity that the volume suffice as a text for courses as varied as a one-semester historical overview and more detailed study of particular epochs, and the writer's undertaking is remarkable less for what is produced than that the project is completed at all. Two recent books, one British and one American, tackles these problems with considerable success. Glynne Wickham has divided A History of the Theatre into five separate sections, "corresponding to a major shift In society's view of itself." In order to ensure a consistent viewpoint, he elects to present his history as "actors seeking to collaborate with [others] ... in a constant attempt to forecast what audiences hope for from the public forum that is the theatre." He also sees as a particularly significant pattern the role of amateurs in infusing the theatre with fresh dynamics which are adopted and heightened by professionals, and identifies as his major objective the illustration of this principle in action. By identifying social constructs and the theatrical form within them (e.g., Communities and Their Gods, Princes and Their Servants), Wickham provides a broad cultural framework for his discussions, though particular social and political developments are only sketched in. This tactic is especially successful in the first section in which he rejects the hobbling of mere chronology and considers the religious role of theatre in oriental and occidental culture, which highlights the formal similarities of theatrical presentation. Half the length of the American volume, Wickham's study relies heavily on lists, charts, and timelines to convey chronological information , and is attractively illustrated for the general reader. Patti Gillespie and Kenneth Cameron in Western Theatre: Revolution and Revival use similar devices to free the prose from endless recitations of facts, and include as well helpful geographical maps and schematic drawings. In addition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 116-118
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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