On Stage, Off Stage

by Stephen Peithman
New books cover a lot of ground.

Recent months have brought an intriguing variety of theatre books to our attention — many on topics not frequently covered.

A good example is Theodore Mann, who with Jose Quintero co-founded Circle in the Square Theatre — often mentioned as the birthplace of the off-Broadway theatre movement — in 1951. Ten years later, he established the Circle in the Square Theatre School. Equally important, Mann produced and/or directed more than 200 productions with such actors as Jason Robards, Gerald-ine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline, Maureen Stapleton, Rip Torn, George C. Scott, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman. Mann’s memoir, Journeys In The Night: Creating a New American Theatre with Circle In The Square, tells the story of all this, as well as his personal life. (The two are so intertwined that they are virtually a single story.) If you ever won-dered how off-Broadway came to be and how it has managed to survive, this is the book to read. The book includes a DVD of the 1977 CBS-TV Camera Three program “Twenty Five Years of Circle in the Square,” featuring Hoffman, Jones, Scott, Mann and others talking about their expe-riences at the theatre, plus excerpts from Death of a Salesman, Mourning Becomes Electra and The Lady from the Sea. [$34.95 Applause Theatre and Cinema Books] 



Kenneth Tynan was the 20th century’s most influential theatre critic. Famous for heralding Brecht, Beckett and Pinter, his writing was stylish, discerning and witty. Kenneth Tynan: Theatre Writings collects over 100 of his reviews, including his astonishingly accurate assessments of the first performances of Waiting for Godot, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A View from the Bridge, The Entertainer and A Taste of Honey. Also included are articles on Broadway musicals, censorship, Bertolt Brecht and the need for a national theatre. Indeed, Tynan moved from theatre writing in 1962 to join Laurence Olivier’s new National Theatre as its liter-ary manager. He died in July 1980, but his influence is still felt —and needed — as proven in this collection, selected and edited by Biographer Dominic Shellard, with a foreword by Tom Stoppard. [$24.95, Drama Publishers]


Restaging the Sixties: Radical Theaters and Their Legacies, explores the artistry, politics, and legacies of eight radical collectives: The Living Theatre, the Open Theatre, the Performance Group, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, El Teatro Campesino, At the Foot of the Mountain, the Free Southern Theater and Bread and Puppet Theatre. Each group is given its own extended es-say — each by a different author — helping us understand how the creation of these groups overlapped with political interests that underscored the notion of social collectives as a radical alternative to mainstream society. [$35, University of Michigan Press]







Bill Sapsis is no stranger to Stage Directions readers. He has been working in and around theatre for more than 35 years, and as an expert in theatrical rigging, his words of wisdom have ap-peared in these pages more than once. His new book, Heads! & Tales: Uncle Bill’s Musings on the Theatrical Experience, is a collection of pieces on such topics as theatre safety, rope, curtain track, counterweight systems, product testing, trade shows and learning from one’s mistakes. His style is confident, informative and no-nonsense, with a strong sense of humor (often about him-self) that underscores his deep love for theatre. As a result, he makes even strictly technical top-ics enjoyable reading. [$19.95, Sapsis Publications]





Improvs are typically over in a matter of minutes. However, Kenn Adams presents a step-by-step method for long-form improvisation in How to Improvise a Full-Length Play. He explores plot structure, storytelling and character development, as well as advanced scene work. Readers will find tips on spontaneity, connection and collaboration, and learn the needs of a well-constructed play. In fact, even if you never intend to improvise an extended piece of this sort, Adams’ dissec-tion of a play’s building blocks in chapter three is invaluable — including building the arc of the play, establishing relationships and moving the plot forward. Also included are 30 exercises that focus on the various elements needed to create an entire improvised play. [$16.95, Allworth Press]






One on One: The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century, includes the work of more than 70 authors, spotlighting Broadway, off-Broadway, regional and experimental writings since 2000. It’s that experimental edge that gives this collection a leg up on most anthologies of its kind. An introduction also explains how to choose, practice and perform a speech for auditions, and there are both comic and dramatic monologues for young, older and multicultural players. Selections include Anna Deavere Smith’s take on abusive relationships in House Arrest; August Wilson’s perspective on the trials of those who survived coming to America — and those who did not (Gem of the Ocean); and William Gibson’s recreation of the dark, early days of Israel in Golda’s Balcony. Additional works providing monologues include David Auburn’s Are You Ready?, Theresa Rebeck’s Bad Dates and Brian Dykstra’s The Committee, among others. [$14.95, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books]