Pub Date: 2014
ISBN 13: 978-1-6161016-6-4
Publisher: University Press of Florida
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This is an interesting book in that it is somewhat of a hybrid -- a combination of an Introduction to Theatre book and a Theatre History book. It read more
This is an interesting book in that it is somewhat of a hybrid -- a combination of an Introduction to Theatre book and a Theatre History book. It successfully covers all the major players in a theatre production while providing reasonably thorough descriptions of the history of those roles. It then supplements this with full chapters on Shakespeare, the American Musical, and the World Theatre. The book does not have an index or glossary.
The book is accurate and unbiased, following a fairly well-worn path used by many other introductory textbooks. One minor but important change should be made to the inset box called "Cross-Dressing in Performance: Dan, Hijra, Takarazuka" in the World Theatre chapter." In the description, the author refers to "transgendered women" -- the preferred term is "transgender women."
For the most part, the content should stand the test of time. The only parts that might have to be updated involve things like technology (in the lighting chapter) and changes in the geo-political climate (e.g., the segment on Chinese censorship). These are minor. Overall, this book should remain fairly stable.
This is a textbook that has a different author for each segment. While every chapter is clear and readable, some are more dynamic than others. I particularly commend Charlie Mitchell and Michelle Hayford's chapter "Mapping Reality," which is extremely well-written and fascinating.
The structure of the book is consistent, containing insets with interviews with a representative artist for each topic, thorough examinations of illustrative examples, and usually each chapter has an overview of the history as well as a thorough description of the duties and processes of each member of the artistic staff. (I say "usually" because the chapter on Costumes does not have an historic overview.)
Each chapter stands complete on its own, and can easily be separated from other chapters without causing students to be puzzled. Sometimes, this means a little redundancy between chapters, but nothing overly serious. Someone teaching a theatre history course could easily separate out those sections of each chapter devoted to the subject, and those focusing only on describing who does what on a show can do the same.
The book follows a logical progression through the various members of the artistic team with the puzzling exception of the playwright (I think the editor might consider adding a chapter concerning this important artist). The chapter on Genre seems a bit tacked on, although the part on "isms" is valuable.
Very easy to read online with many vibrant color pictures. The hyperlinked table of contents aids navigation. Without an index or glossary, having the subtopics included in the TOC might be helpful.
The book is very well-written and edited. Impressive.
Aside from the "transgender" issue mentioned above, this book includes a great deal of diversity.
As someone who teaches theatre history (but not an introduction to theatre class), I have always had to make a decision between assigning and expensive anthology of plays and an equally expensive theatre history textbook. I have always chosen the anthology and provided the theatre history through lecture. This book will allow me to assign the theatre history segments of the book to supplement the anthology, which will allow me to lecture less. Excellent resource!
There is a a wealth of information in this book and more detail in some sections than is commonly found in introductory texts. Yet it suffers from read more
There is a a wealth of information in this book and more detail in some sections than is commonly found in introductory texts. Yet it suffers from too little that pulls the separate discussions together to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. The Theatrical Production chapters are well crafted, balancing theory and practice in a way that both provides overview and gives the reader the way to begin in each specialized area. The various authors describe process in similar ways: steps and considerations are repeated across the chapters; which reinforces a generalized focus to the work. A separate chapter that addresses the development of the work as a whole, with emphasis on the collaborative process and the integration of individual efforts, would serve to fill in the gaps and foster a more comprehensive understanding, and provide the opportunity to include production management in the discussion. The Special Topics chapters are perhaps too detailed, setting that section off beyond the general purpose of the book. If elements of the special topics discussions were incorporated more in the earlier chapters, the Special Topics section could be used for further reading or advanced study. As it stands the detail is too specialized and the chapters, which individually are quite thorough treatments, fail to provide a comprehensive viewpoint. This is especially true with the World Theatre chapter, where the detailed presentation of select theatre forms creates a sense of difference rather than emphasize the universality of the theatrical impulse. The opportunity lies in the first chapter where too much is treated too broadly. The first chapter could easily become three or four if the sub-sections were expanded to match the level of detail in the production chapters and elements from the special topics chapters were integrated into the general discussion. The Beta version has no index or glossary. Specialty terms are introduced throughout the book, most notably in the Special Topics chapters. Many are presented without explanation in the text. A hyper-linked glossary would be a welcome addition.
The text appears to be accurate and error free for the most part, with one obvious oversight on page 43, where Oedipus is given to be both the son of Laius and Jocasta, and "not the son of King Laius."
As a general survey the information presented in the text has lasting relevance. Periodic updates to reference newer work and technologies may be desired to keep the discussion fresh, but not necessary. As a digital publication references can be updated relatively easily.
Awkward phrasing, convoluted and choppy syntax, and occasional non-sequiturs at the beginning make it hard to get interested in the text, but that evens out midway through the first chapter. The Theatrical Production chapters read very well with language that is both accessible and compelling. The Special Topics chapters are organized well and provide considerable insight, but often include references that are not explained in context.
The advantage of many writers is the richness of perspectives. That plays well in the production chapters where the authors clearly share a similar vision of the work. The inconsistency is between the three sections. The first section includes too much in a single chapter. Topics are hit on briefly and presented with too little detail. The third section too detailed to incorporate in a survey course. The production chapters are well balanced but their separate discussions remain solitary.
The single chapter covering history and criticism, the meaning and uses of theatre, and the nature of art, is inconsistent with the separate chapters afforded to each of the production areas. Divining a reading schedule that balances the work across a semester would be difficult.
The organization is good. The topics introduced in the first chapter develop the purpose and value of theatre and lead the student into the production chapters. The production chapters provide a framework for practice and promote a broader interest. The special topics chapters answer that call with more in depth study. The discussions of the nature of art and the uses of theatre in the first chapter are particularly good and well placed at the beginning of the book. The first chapter is too condensed with jumps in thought and random details that read as anecdotal rather than typical examples. Expanding the various topics of the first chapter would go far to make the text more well rounded and improve the flow.
The pages display well in i-books and there is a graphic display of pages available at the bottom of the page that allows quick navigation. Different reader software may provide other tools.
Grammar is typically quite good, with notable exceptions in the first chapter. (pg. 3 "The director who shaped this production, once a powerful creative force, is now helplessness."; pg. 7 " A working definition of art . . . has occupied us for centuries.")
A separate chapter for World Theatre that presents examples that are not referenced in the general discussion of the theatre, emphasizes the otherness of non-western traditions and works against the inclusive perspective of the first chapter.
Overall the book is an enjoyable read and includes material that I will use in classes. It suffers most from a first chapter that is too condensed and difficult to read. That would prevent my adopting it for an introduction to theatre class where I need a better balance.
This text is extremely helpful as a general resource and overview of theater. It is best for students who have little to no exposure to the arts and read more
This text is extremely helpful as a general resource and overview of theater. It is best for students who have little to no exposure to the arts and all the components that come together to create a production. It is also a good resource for students to understand Genre and how it relates to the different types/styles of theater; and the student will benefit greatly from understanding of how theater affects our day-to-day lives.
The content is accurate and does not appear biased. There is quite a bit of detail, and more so than other sections, upon Shakespeare. This may be intentional due to the intention of the instructor who compiled for instruction purposes. Regardless, I appreciated the amount of work put into compiling an enormous amount of vital information on theater.
Since commedia dell'arte is known for the mask work I believe offering an explanation in the way of an image or text would better describe the art form. Commedia dell’Arte which translates as “theatre of the professional" which has significance to theater overall. AND it is the first time women are found on stage performing.
There is an ease to reading the material within this text. I appreciate the attention placed upon how the material is presented and the clarity of how the material builds upon the each section.
This text offers consistent terminology that offers the student a vivid and concise resource for theater.
The structure of the reading sections are very easy to follow and find information. I appreciate the subsections and the bolding of sections within the text which helps finding information quickly and easily.
I believe it's difficult to speak about theater without mentioning the impact that the Greeks have played. And more specifically the origins of theater, most students are quite surprised when they learn this - and that the origins of theater are based in religious ritual. I give high points on the organization based on that alone, not on what I perceive as components important to include. (do acknowledge that elements of the amphitheater were addressed in Set Design.)
Images are very helpful to the student to better understand the text. I especially appreciate describing how designers play an intriguing role in the storytelling of a play and the images offered to illustrate lighting equipment, which can be very difficult for students to imagine without a reference.
'Wokabout Marketing' page 46 arti culating.....Acting page 51 actormanagers....Directoring page 65 riserlike....Lighting page 84 noh...page 86 (should be Noh) lightemitting....lighting page 136 (light-emitting) it may be a choice, I don't know. wellknown...page 154 centuryBCE ...page 157 Genre authenticlooking...page 160 wellknown..page 164 Englishspeaking...page 168 Stratfordupon-Avon...page 170 (Stratford-upon-Avon) Globe Theatre and the “Beere bayting” ...page 173 (Bear Baiting) postPuritan...page 177 Euripedes...page 180 Shakespeares...page 182 Interpreting Shakespeare In the theatrical tradition,...page 190 (the 'i' is capitalized within sentence.)
I find it would be essential to include a section on African American Theater. There is mention of the minstrel shows and the historical relevance thoug I believe that it would be beneficial to add a section addressing the progress of the movement of African Americans in theater after that.
I realize that Theater is a big subject and this text does a good job covering a nice variety - there is alot of Shakespeare in ratio to other subjects; it would seem that Commedia dell'arte could be properly explained: it is an extremely important Genre that greatly influenced not only Moliere but slapstick comedy (in fact the word 'slapstick' comes from the battochio used in commedia); Though, this in no way diminishes the value of the text for the new learner.
Though this book does cover a vast areas of theatre both in the west and other parts of the world it does not provide an index. read more
Though this book does cover a vast areas of theatre both in the west and other parts of the world it does not provide an index.
In areas of production and design I found that the book accurately portrayed the life of an artist in the field. It is refreshing to have members of the technical design as well as professionals in directing and acting included together.
I would say that the text will not be obsolete very quickly and or be able to be updated fairly easily.
Jargon in theatre is becoming less and less obscure to the general public as so much of our contemporary wold is being viewed through the theatrical/film lens. So even though there is jargon I don't see that as a problem.
The book is arranged in such a way that the separate sections exist on their own merits and internal structure. I admire that they authors don't try to sound like they are too alike. In fact though, I would prefer even more distinction between the voices.
I would say the strength of this book is that it can so easily be broken up into modular sections and used in a variety of classes.
I would prefer the text were arranged slightly differently. The flow of book is challenged by saving until the end all of the various international theatre instead of them being an appendix. I appreciate the attempt to try to include other theatre outside the west in the main text but they are not given enough weight or detail to merit it. I would prefer them to be separated.
There really aren't many charts. The images are helpful and contribute to the navigation of the text to find the section the student might want to find.
The inclusion of cultural sensitive issues in present in theatre in general. Including the world of theatre outside of the west shows a contrast to mainstream American/western culture. There is though a fringe theatre element that is no well represented and in my opinion cannot be expressed well in this kind of text. Cabaret, avant and improvisation theatre is impossible to pin down.
This text enters a very competitive market for introductory texts in Theatre. It is only partially comprehensive, as some aspects of theatrical read more
This text enters a very competitive market for introductory texts in Theatre. It is only partially comprehensive, as some aspects of theatrical production are omitted, or given short shrift, such as playwriting, producing and dramaturgy. A huge drawback is that there is no glossary, no index, and no citation information for the quoted material in the book. Wikipedia does a better job of documenting source material.
There are some spelling errors
With no mention of several of the important events in theatre in the last two years - particularly "Hamilton" - there are several sections (Introduction and Chapter on Musical Theatre) that are now obsolete. Text should be updated with additions to be current.
Lucidity of prose varies from author to author (there are nine contributors). The strongest sections are those on design, particularly that on Scene Design. Explanations of jargon/terminology in the field are adequate. Introduction in particular is arbitrary, meandering, and sometimes difficult to follow how the author is linking unrelated events. Text is interrupted by unrelated sidebars. Shakespeare section is circular, redundant, and in need of editing.
This varies from author to author. The chapter on acting is an odd wander through acting history that stops abruptly with no contemporary teachers noted. The Genre chapter contains a section on "Isms" then does not even mention Surrealism, Symbolism, Expressionism and Futurism. The discussion is arbitrary, hard to follow, and off on some genres, such as the origin of the term "melodrama."
Sections can stand alone - and some should stand apart - from the text. I would use the design sections from this text, and complement them with other sources on other areas in theatre production.
Discussion on Genre (one that would actually include more genres and be more organized) should be situated earlier in the text.
There are no links - to actual source material would be nice.
Uneven - beginning with the description of the text on the UMN site that is incorrect and poorly written. Several incorrect names, captions, accent marks.
The Directing chapter seems to imply that a director can manipulate a playwright's text at will - plays that are protected by copyright cannot be altered. Significant contributors to musical theatre omitted, such as the pioneering production, "Shuffle Along," and the work of George C. Wolfe. Although it's important to note the relationship of live theatre to film, there is too much mention of screen versions (and there should be a photograph of a stage production of "Les Mis" - not the movie).
Might be acceptable for high school students or community college students, but would need some supplementary materials.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One is "Creating a World" and is an overview of theatre from Greek Drama to present day productions. read more
The book is divided into three parts. Part One is "Creating a World" and is an overview of theatre from Greek Drama to present day productions. This section is an attempt to place theatre in a social and historical context. Part Two is "Theatrical Production" and is an overview of the actual practice of producing theatre. This section is divided into five chapters, "Acting," "Directing," "Set Design," "Costume Design," and "Lighting Design." These chapters are all in depth and effective explorations of the creative and practical process of theatrical production. Part Three is "Special Topics," which is a rather scattershot list of chapters that cover a variety of ideas: from "Genre," to "The American Musical," to "Shakespeare" and ending with "World Theatre." There is no glossary or index and the absence of these vital elements is very strongly felt.
The book is accurate as long as we trust the authors as the final arbiters of fact and knowledge. They do not cite any scholarly sources or hyperlink to any outside authorities. As a reader you must accept that their description of the topic is trustworthy and accurate.
The book seems relevant and up to date in a way that seems engaging and clear. References and images are from both recent and historical examples, although a great deal of information is drawn from university theatres rather than professional productions. The book will need updates soon, but the interface of the text seems to make this accessible.
The book is written in accessible language (if sometimes too familiar, which I'll touch on more in my comments). Occasionally jargon or technical terms are used without any explanations or context clues.
Each chapter in this book was written by nine individual writers in what seems like an environment where collaboration was not emphasized. This means that each chapter is tonally very different from the others. The first section, "Creating a World" seems to be from an entirely different text than any of the others which is very jarring. This also leads to repetition of key points.
Part Two and Part Three are divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within a course. Part Two in particular seems to be appropriate for an introductory Theatre course and the chapters lend themselves well to general discussion topics that impart information in clear, effective chunks. Part Three covers such a wide range of topics that it seems as though it is not designed for just one class and elements could be included in several different courses.
The second section of the book, "Theatrical Production," is divided into useful sections that are divisible into self-contained units that would be useful in a general education style theatre course. They are intelligently modeled and deliver information in clear and succinct points. The third sections, "Special Topics" also follows a structure that would allow an instructor to deliver sections of text at different points during a course. The first section of the book, "Creating a World," does not have this easy to access structure.
I read the book on my laptop and found the interface to be clear and accessible. There was no distortion of images or chart and the display did a very nice job of highlighting quotations and including "sidebars" that are useful for furthering more in depth discussion of specific examples.
I found no grammatical errors.
The book is culturally relevant and does not contain anything that is insensitive or offensive. The chapter on Directing does choose to describe the director as the "captain" of a production and to use the pronoun "he" throughout, which is a little unfortunate. The chapter in the Special Topics section on World Theatre is very strong and manages to cover a very diverse discussion of theatrical styles with an admirable degree of thoroughness.
This is an interesting and frustrating text. The greatest weakness of the book lies in its first section, "Mapping Reality; an Introduction to Theatre." This section is a digressive and rambling discussion of theatrical history and context that seems to have no fundamental idea of how to organize itself. It is not a history of the theatre nor is it an attempt to create a way to talk about theory. It's a mishmash of many different ideas about theatre presented in a scattershot style that is difficult to follow. The material seems too simple for an advanced discussion or seminar course and too discursive to be useful in an introductory general education course. The authorial voice veers from strong, unsupported statements, "Nothing has as much potential as a stage," or "Because theatre cannot help but generate meaning, it has a strong tendency to be allegorical" to statements that are vague to the point of being incomprehensible, "Theatre has other qualities that, collectively, make it distinct from other art forms" The second section of the book switches to a more specific discussion of the different roles played by members of a theatrical production's artistic team. These are strong and interesting and contain a good deal of information. While the discussion may be a little elevated for a basic or introductory course, they are well-written and include a number of good examples. The third section, "Special Topics" is marked by its varied approach. The first "Genres" is a discussion of theatrical forms that covers theatre from melodrama to farce and attempts to give an overview of the ways that theatrical genres have evolved and grown (without, it must be noted, ever mentioning the name Brecht.) It is a fairly strong entry if a little broad. The second, "The World of Shakespeare" is a very fast and loosely organized overview of Shakespeare and his influence on theatrical tradition. Far too heavy on the biographical details of Shakespeare's life it also attempts to outline an attempt to read Shakespeare's verse and understand language. It is unclear who this section is targeted towards - it is not detailed enough for an acting or voice class and too detailed for an introductory course. The last section is entitled "World Theatre" and is a worthy attempt, effectively using images and visual examples, to give an introduction to theatrical styles that might not be covered in most General Education theatre courses. Including examples from Iran, Japan, China and Central Asia, this section was presented logically and intelligently and is easily accessible. That the section on "World Theatre" is about the same length as the section on "The American Musical" could be a little problematic. Overall this text is a solid attempt to tell the story of theatre. Many of its chapters could be incorporated into Theatre History courses or Introductory Courses. By including a glossary and index the editors could strengthen its functionality and usefulness - their absence is sorely missed.
This text covers a lot of ground; perhaps too much. It starts out as an overview of the theatrical process, examining the different areas of read more
This text covers a lot of ground; perhaps too much. It starts out as an overview of the theatrical process, examining the different areas of production, performance and design, then shifts to an exploration of Shakespeare throughout the past five centuries, shifts to a journey through the history of musical theatre and then finishes with a broad, shallow sketch of world theatre. It attempts to pack a lot of information into one text and ends up feeling a bit schizophrenic. Each individual section could be useful in teaching a specific facet of the art of theatre; added together, it's a bit confusing.
While it feels generally accurate in its information, there are one or two significant exceptions (including the culture of the Indian 'hijras' in a theatrical text seems inappropriate and not relevant). The book does a nice job of stepping through the different areas of production - from performance to direction to design -- giving the neophyte a good overall understanding of what's involved in producing theatrical works. It's difficult to gauge the accuracy of the section on world theatre as it jumps around from country to country and attempts to summarize each culture with only a paragraph or two on each.
The first part of the book has great potential as an "Introduction to Theatre" text and gives a good picture of the many pieces of the theatrical puzzle. It is up-to-date in describing current practices and draws on quotes by modern theatre artists to illuminate the material. The information on musical theatre is also up-to-date, but will require periodic updates, as this area of the theatre world is changing rapidly and significantly even as I type this review. The Shakespeare information is good and should stand the test of time, though new trends in Shakespeare performance (gender equity in casting) are ever evolving and would be good to include in future updates. It is difficult to judge the information about world theatre as it does not stick to a single format, discussing historical theatre of some cultures and modern practices of others.
The first section of the book does a nice job of describing each area of the theatrical process and how it fits into the overall production process. It tends to get bogged down in minutiae at times (it doesn't seem necessary to list every type of lighting instrument of lighting board in use). The sections on Shakespeare and musical theatre are generally good. The final section on world theatre feels sprawling and confusing. Spending only a paragraph or two to describe a country's theatrical culture left me feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of names, dates and concepts. This section could easily be expanded into its own world theatre text if each area was expanded to include a more comprehensive picture of the culture and its performance tradition. I didn't feel like I really learned anything lasting from this part of the book.
The book starts out with some really useful and readable elements. The use of quotes by theatrical professionals gives the student in an introductory course and very relatable and human voice to attach to the esoteric demands of each part of the theatrical craft. These quotes quickly disappear, however, about a quarter of the way into the text. Sidebars are also quite useful in illuminating the material with information on some specific productions or facets of the theatre. It could use many more of these - especially in the sections on world theatre. It does make good use of production photos to understand the visual aspects of different theatrical forms.
The modularity of the material is, perhaps, both its strong points and weak point. Because it covers such a broad scope of information, it feels like four or five textbooks stitched into one. This could make it very relevant to a variety of different courses. This modularity, however, made me unsure of how it could be used as the main text for a single course. On the positive side, the information was divided into easily digestible sections and it never felt like it was over-long. The final section was sliced into so many small subsections, however, that I didn't feel like I was getting any useful takeaway information.
The information within each section is generally well presented and organized into an easy-to-grasp linear progression. It is the flow between sections that frustrated me. It starts out with good information about the theatrical process for the neophyte, progressing from the nuts-and-bolts of the theatrical world to a broader discussion of theatrical genres. The jump to a much more in-depth look at the works of Shakespeare and musical theatre took it to a different level of study beyond the introductory stage. The world theatre section attempted to present too much information with little depth and left me feeling disappointed in what I took away from the book, as a whole.
The book uses a lot of images, sidebars and quotes to illuminate the text (more at the beginning than later). This made it very readable and made some of the content much more relevant. There could be even more in later editions.
Aside from the occasional typo, the grammar of the text was very good.
This is one of the books strongest points. In nearly all of the discussions, it brought the information back to the present day. The information was timely and always brought the historical information into the modern world. The final section on world theatre, however, threw out a lot of information (names, dates, etc.) without giving a larger picture of the relevance to modern practice in general.
There was much about this book that I liked. It felt like it could be very useful for a variety of courses if taken in smaller slices (a good attribute for the Open Textbook world). I was frustrated, though, in that it almost tries to cover too much information. It starts out very specific and focused on modern practice and ends with a sprawling section attempting to touch on too many cultures with not enough information about each. I finished the book unsure about what information I could really take away about theatre in other countries when it was covered so briefly (sometimes summarizing an entire theatrical culture in one paragraph). If future editions could either pare away the final section or expand it to an entire text of its own, it could be much more useful and relevant.
The book takes a comprehensive look at theater. It starts out with an essay about the basic elements and qualities of theater, about meaning, etc. read more
The book takes a comprehensive look at theater. It starts out with an essay about the basic elements and qualities of theater, about meaning, etc. The sub-chapter about the origins of theater could have connected to a short historical overview. Thus, at first glance, a historical overview of theater is missing. But reading the book one realizes that the history of the theater is covered in various chapters. There is a significant historical perspective in all the main chapters (acting, directing, set design--where some elements of Greek, Roman, and old Christian church theater are explained--, lighting design, and in all the chapters of “Part Three: Special Topics,” which deal with genre, Shakespeare, the American Musical, and World Theater. Does this add up to a coherent historical overview? Not really, but after all this is not a book about the history of theater. Throughout the book, there are good interviews with a producer, a casting director, a sound designer, etc. those additional important roles in production that do not get a full chapter. My only issue with this is that these interviews are not mentioned in the table of contents. So, if someone is interested in looking up producing or sound design, they would think there is not one word about them in the book. Yes, these are only short interviews, but in an intro book they are helpful, and one should easily find them. Finally, a glossary (or at least an index) is definitely missing from this introductory book.
There is a little bit of script analysis in the first chapter, where the writer mentions protagonist and antagonist and some important points in the plot. But the explanation of theme is not clear. Most importantly, “dramatic action” is mentioned but not explained and "conflict" is not even mentioned (literally, the word "conflict" doesn't appear at all in the whole book), which is somewhat of a mistake.
The text will stay relevant for a long time.
Nice and clear prose.
The book is usually consistent in approaching its subject matter. The chapter about lighting design has too many details about the various lamps and other devices used in production. This type of detail is missing from the other chapters.
Seems correct. I haven't found any typos or mistakes.
In the chapter about directing, the theater director is usually referred to as a "he."
The book is in need of an index and a glossary with key concepts and terms being clearly explained. No scholarly sources, references, footnotes, or read more
The book is in need of an index and a glossary with key concepts and terms being clearly explained. No scholarly sources, references, footnotes, or works cited are listed. Attention to the relationship between text and image in conveying meaning as well as interest is needed, especially as an online resource.
Content is generally accurate - to the extent that we take the authors on trust as no attributions to sources are indicated. Content ( in all arts related subjects) is often a matter of opinion and judgment rather than a matter of being simply "error-free" and at times value judgments can be superficial and misconceived. I would instance the references to Samuel Beckett as just one example of this.
The text is not up-to-date or relevant in comparison with similar books in this field.( Further comment in my review on this) Attention to the relationship between text and image in conveying meaning as well as interest is needed, especially as an online resource. More engagement on the part of the editor with the conceptual unity and intentions of the book as well as the overall balance, focus and originality of content, would help.
The prose is accessible but the lucidity varies and technical terms are used on occasion without contextual explanation. As an instance (p.99) the contributor on set design mentions that "style choices, such as expressionistic, absurdist, epic, or postmodern, also foster a greater degree of abstraction in the design and directing choices." This is a throw away line but these are complex concepts and some explanation say of German Expressionism, not just in design, but in writing, in directing, in a socio-historical context should have been offered somewhere in the book.. These four genres or conventions all allude to 'theatrical worlds" as well, a concept that the editor seems not to pursue in the overall scheme of the book or in the editing.This is illustrated by the failure of the later chapter on 'genres' to address or refer back to this earlier chapter in any significant or meaningful way.
Consistency is affected by having nine contributing writers authoring non-collaborative chapters on their own particular specialism. This leads to the lack of any unifying voice and vision, and some needless repetition in places. There is no guiding framework to speak of.
Part II consisting of five chapters on theatrical production and Part III of the book consisting of four chapters on unrelated special topics can be subdivided into separate reading sections - but they would appear to address very differentiated student needs as practical or theoretical specialists
Theatrical Worlds consists of three sections: I Creating a World – Mapping Reality: An Introduction to Theatre, II Theatrical Production, with chapters on Acting, Directing, Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and III Special Topics, with chapters on Genre, The World of Shakespeare, The American Musical, and World Theatre. ‘Mapping Reality’, which sets out the premise or overview of the book is a rambling digression across definitions of fine art, aesthetics, the ‘qualities’ of theatre, and fails to set out any clear logic or map of the territory the reader is to explore.
There are no significant problems for interface issues - in fact reading the book, as I did on an Ipad, is a great advertisement for open text books as ease of use is a bonus. The interface though is overly conservative or traditional. The book could benefit from a graphic design artist’s input and reorganization of text and image as well as dynamic website integration with links to supportive images, film and in depth related reading
With nine contributing writers there are grammatical conflicts of style and tone, although no errors as such. Examples occur however of grammar or word usage unsuited to an academic text- "A famous quote states that..." and " Chekhov wrote scripts like The Cherry Orchard..."
The book addresses cultural relevance in a uniformly sensitive way and includes attention to divergence and ethnicities. Much of what is best in this respect is concentrated though in the one chapter on World Theatre, and the book could perhaps benefit from being more active in addressing the best of 'contemporary' theatre practice in this respect throughout its overall design.
An accessible open textbook on theatre is a welcome proposition. Theatrical Worlds is however a disappointing work that seems unclear about its target audience or the needs of its potential readers. “The intent of this book is not to strip away the feeling of magic that can happen in the presence of theatre…” state the authors, and yet the book achieves that very thing. This is a matter of tone and style, as well as substance and content, and a consequence of having nine contributing writers authoring non-collaborative chapters on their own particular specialism. This leads to the lack of any unifying voice and vision, and confusion as to what the book’s own guiding concept of theatrical ‘worlds’ is in the first place. Theatrical Worlds consists of three sections: I Creating a World – Mapping Reality: An Introduction to Theatre, II Theatrical Production, with chapters on Acting, Directing, Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and III Special Topics, with chapters on Genre, The World of Shakespeare, The American Musical, and World Theatre. ‘Mapping Reality’, which sets out the premise or overview of the book is a rambling digression across definitions of fine art, aesthetics, the ‘qualities’ of theatre, and goes on for some fifteen pages of text before we have any visual image or illustration of interest. Not the best introduction to the power of web interface, or integrated graphics and online texts. The chapter then addresses some of the uses of theatre, with the topics of drama therapy, evangelical agitprop, documentary theatre and case studies of activist theatre practice. At this point there is an interview with Broadway producer Ken Davenport and the chapter concludes with brief observations on the origins of theatre before a longer section on how to read a play, with the over-used plot example of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King as the play in focus. No production images of the play are offered, no images of global or divergent directorial or design interpretations to enliven the text. Theatrical Worlds could benefit from a graphic design artist’s input and reorganization of text and image as well as some dynamic website integration with web links directing readers to supportive images, film and in depth related reading. Given that illusion is the sine qua non of theatre the ‘Mapping Reality’ introduction never really elaborates on the concept of ‘reality’ it proposes - neither does it explore the intriguing metaphor of ‘mapping’ or orientating oneself within the theatre world’s own distinctive collaborative geography. The five chapters of Part II on theatrical production seem to narrow the target readership down to theatre majors, or students who clearly intend to participate in theatre production either as performers or designers. There is much of interest for such students in these various chapters but aspects of the various writers’ tone, style and subtext are troubling. In an age, for example, that is now enriched by the breakthrough interventions of women directors such as Julie Taymor, Katie Mitchell, Anne Bogart, Deborah Warner, Leigh Silverman, Marianne Elliott, Garry Hynes et al., it jars to read, “Simply put, the director is the “captain” of the collaborative team, responsible for all artistic aspects of the production. He is the person who makes sure that all of the pieces are put together….” (Directing, chapter 3) And, “… is the actor a craftsman or an artist? ... you could call the actor an artist because he applies creativity and imagination to this interpretation…” (Acting, chapter 2). The stand alone special topic chapters of Part III seem to belong to another book altogether. They have a narrative history emphasis and perspective and seem somewhat arbitrary topics to illustrate theatrical worlds - the American musical alongside the World of Shakespeare? Compare, contrast, discuss? Who was Shakespeare? What was Shakespeare? are not inspiring sub-headings and neither is the chapter itself which dwells overlong on the all too familiar historical/biographical narrative. The section that might have been rewarding, Interpreting Shakespeare, is afforded all of three paragraphs. This might have been a cross-cultural and artistic exploration of conceptual and realized performance, a history of Shakespeare as divergent theatrical production, ranging across contemporary practice, the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Peter Brook, Peter Hall, Yukio Ninagawa, Julie Taymor, on directors’ and actors’ visions of Shakespeare on stage, Shakespeare on film, in prisons, in schools, in site specific locations, warehouses, swimming pools, in London’s Globe Theatre, or as the deconstructed viscerally exciting immersive theatre of Britain’s Punchdrunk Theatre). The book’s contributors seem at times overly dry and academic,– as with the opening to the book’s final chapter on world theatre: “When approaching the topic of world theatre, it is necessary to first dispel some popular myths about theatre forms that are outside the traditional Western theatre aesthetic or canon.” The magic really does slip away. The book is in need of an index and a glossary with key concepts and terms being clearly explained. No scholarly sources, references, footnotes, or works cited are listed. Attention to the relationship between text and image in conveying meaning as well as interest is needed, especially as an online resource. More engagement on the part of the editor with the conceptual unity and intentions of the book as well as the overall balance, focus and originality of content, would help. Theatrical Worlds aspires to being a supportive, stimulating introductory inroad to the enormously broad field that is theatre study and theatre practice but there are many competitive texts in this field - Theatre: Collaborative Acts, (Wainscott and Fletcher), The World of Theatre: Tradition and Innovation, (Felner and Orenstein), The Theatre Experience, (Edwin Wilson), Theatre: A Way of Seeing, (Milly S. Barranger). Theatrical Worlds does not advance in any discernible way on such books and despite commendable intentions falls short in some significant ways.
Theatrical Worlds covers an impressive number of ideas and areas, going into both the methods of individual theatre practitioners and the historical read more
Theatrical Worlds covers an impressive number of ideas and areas, going into both the methods of individual theatre practitioners and the historical roots of the art of theatre. The beginning chapter of the book also explains the relevance of theatre to someone unfamiliar with theatre, or a young theatre artist at the beginning of study. It asks and elaborates on not only how theatre is made but also, the uses of theatre by posing the compelling question: “why theatre?” The quotes from key artists who have made significant contributions to the field add to the ideas of the book as well as the way the text is laid out or designed. The examples and ideas from all over the world add to the comprehensiveness and allow this book from becoming too American-centric. Though several significant playwrights are mentioned, the role of the playwright could be further explored and is deserving of its own chapter. Dramaturgs could be mentioned as well. The mention of Directors as Auteurs is a good addition, though it is important to note that contemporary plays in copyright cannot be altered by Directors. There is no index or glossary but the table of contents seems sufficient as much of the contents of the chapters is about defining theatrical terms in an in-depth way.
The book accurately describes each element that makes up a theatrical collaboration as well as historical figures and events.
The content is relevant and takes into account recent theatrical productions as well as historical ones. There are always new examples and new plays, musicals, and technologies that will need to be incorporated. Already, the Musical Theatre section feels as if it’s missing something for not mentioning the ground swell caused by the musical “Hamilton”, which is not a fault of the book but simply speaks to the need for periodic updates. Sometimes the book refers to “recent productions” or specific software and technological equipment for designers and technicians. This makes the book very relevant, and longevity is easy to accomplish with periodic updates. Updates should be relatively easy to implement under the chapter headings and sections defined in the book.
The text is written in a compelling yet accessible way. Various authors are at work here and that becomes a strength of the book by adding to its variety. The jargon and technical terminology is clearly defined and easy to read and digest.
The book consistently uses both historical and contemporary ways of exploring the ideas and methods of each section. Each chapter consistently defines terms and identifies significant theatre practitioners.
The way the book is divided easy allows a professor to assign particular sections at different points within the course. It would also be possible to assign a single section for an introductory course on one of the topics – for example, the lighting design section for an introductory lighting design class, making elements of this textbook useful to more specialized courses.
The topics flow well and are presented in a logical, clear fashion. The last chapter “Special Topics” becomes a sort of “catch all” for topics the authors wanted to explore further: Genre, Shakespeare, The American Musical and World Theatre. It is hard to determine why those four subjects and not others, yet, each of those subjects is worth mentioning and the chapters hold interest.
The images were clear, well presented and added to the experience of reading the text. The bookmark icon to the right of the pdf screen allows the reader to navigate easily between chapters. There doesn't seem to be a way the user can add a bookmark, highlight text, or take notes. Those elements would be useful if technically available.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is culturally inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds. The section on World Theatre includes theatre that though authentic to its origins, continues to evolve, dispelling the notion that world theatre is "static" or mired in past traditions. There are both traditional/historic and contemporary examples of theatre in India, Japan, China, The Middle East, West Africa, South Africa and Latin America.
This book seems best suited for non-theatre majors or those very new to the aspects of a theatrical production. The breadth involved allows this text to be useful to an introductory course – introducing students to the world of theatre. Many terms are defined and roles explained that those who have worked in and around the theatre will already be familiar with, but which would be illuminating for a newcomer to the field. That said, there are certain chapters, sections, or interviews in this book that could be pulled into a theatre history class or more specialized courses.
The comprehensiveness of the textbook is admirable. Given the daunting task of covering all aspects of theatre, the book attempts to cover an read more
The comprehensiveness of the textbook is admirable. Given the daunting task of covering all aspects of theatre, the book attempts to cover an impressive range of topics. Conspicuously absent are the dedicated Theatre History chapters that consume half of most published texts marketed to Theatre Appreciation classes. However, this text’s attempts to ground information in a historical context are largely successful. At times the history seems a bit too hefty. The text’s consistent historical approach can sometimes leave little room for practical information, particularly in the Acting chapter. Also conspicuously absent, but less understandably so, is a chapter on playwriting. The text’s attempts at comprehensiveness fall short only due to this exclusion and the exclusion of an index and/or glossary. The first chapter’s introduction to theatre includes subject matter that might not be included in older Introduction to Theatre texts, but is not only relevant but necessary for an understanding of contemporary practice. The Special Topics section is appealing. Every theatre instructor and/or practitioner will surely ask why these subjects (Genre, Shakespeare, Musicals, and World Theatre) as opposed to other pet topics. But this portion of the book is a healthy augmentation to the prior chapters. For those who find the prominence of Shakespeare in theatre academia problematic, the number of pages dedicated to the Bard will likely seem out of place. Considering the breadth of topics, depth must be sacrificed. The in-depth description of lighting instruments feels out of place as compared to the brief treatment the text offers almost all other material. One might be tempted to describe the depth as cursory, but considering the length of the text is similar to other books of the same subject and the exclusion of chapters focusing solely on history, the text discusses each topic to a satisfactory extent. The book is an introduction to ideas which will hopefully provoke students to investigate further and allow instructors to flesh out the material in class. Overall, the content provides an entrée to as many aspects of a very complicated and multifaceted art form as can be expected from one book.
The text is accurate and error-free. Almost every chapter is written by a different author, which goes far to avoid a biased perspective.
Updates to the text will be easy to implement. Some references will soon be outdated, but the basic content will not require an update in the near future.
The writing style is very appropriate for the undergraduate level. Esoteric references are almost always explained satisfactorily.
Considering the number of authors that contribute to the text, the consistency of terminology is decidedly strong. Each chapter has a unique perspective, but the cohesiveness of the text does not suffer.
The modularity of the text is its strongest feature. One could easily use different chapters in many different classes. Each chapter is a self-contained discussion of a single subject that can be used in a variety of ways.
Due to the modularity of the text, the structure seems to jump from one topic to the next without any attempts to transition smoothly. The inclusion of a subsection on sound design in the set design chapter is one example of how some subsections feel wedged into place. However, this structural characteristic does not detract from the overall effectiveness of the text.
The downloadable PDF format maintains images and text beautifully. The inability to bookmark and the lack of internal links in the PDF and online versions proves frustrating at times.
The grammar is correct.
The text is obviously mostly about contemporary Western theatre practice, particularly commercial theatre of North America. The chapter on World Theatre includes information that many texts on this subject would likely not include, which is admirable. Considering the approach to theatre, the text does not contain any offensive or insensitive material.
Theatrical Worlds is a practical and effective option for Introduction to Theatre and Theatre Appreciation classes. Although it may not be the choice for an instructor taking a decidedly Performance Studies approach, the breadth of information offered provides a solid launching point from which to shape a course for instructors of a variety of interests.
Table of Contents
Part One: Creating a World
- Mapping Reality: An Introduction to Theatre - Charlie Mitchell and Michelle Hayford
Part Two: Theatrical Production
- Acting - Charlie Mitchell
- Directing - Kevin Browne
- Set Design - Mark E. Mallett
- Costume Design - Stacey Galloway
- Lighting Design - Kasendra Djuren
Part Three: Special Topics
- Genre - Jim Davis
- The World of Shakespeare - Jeremy Fiebig
- The American Musical - Margaret R. Butler
- World Theatre - Michelle Hayford
About the Book
From the University of Florida College of Fine Arts, Charlie Mitchell and distinguished colleagues from across America present an introductory text for theatre and theoretical production. This book seeks to give insight into the people and processes that create theater. It does not strip away the feeling of magic but to add wonder for the artistry that make a production work well.
About the Contributors
Charlie Mitchell studied playwriting at Boston University with Nobel prize-winning author Derek Walcott. After earning a PhD from the University of Colorado, he was a production dramaturg for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and later for Playmakers Repertory, where he was a visiting professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For three years, he was an artistic associate and company member of the award-winning Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and has worked as an actor for a variety of theatres in New York City, Chicago, and Baltimore. Previously, he taught at Loyola University in Maryland. He completed his BFA actor training at Ithaca College.
Dr. Mitchell is the author of Shakespeare and Public Execution, an examination of how Shakespeare utilized commonly known tropes of execution for his own dramaturgical ends and the co-editor of Zora Neale Hurston: Collected Plays, the first compilation of the Harlem Renaissance writer's dramatic pieces including two thought to be lost. Theatrical Worlds is the first open source introductory theatre textbook.