Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Contemporary Drama Guides by Bloomsbury

Check out the reviews of two contemporary drama guides

Both books are excellent study guides 

I for one will continue to use these books for reference in my role as a freelance theatre critic


ISBN 978-1-4081-3479-5
Published by Bloomsbury December 2013
Text: Christopher Innes, Martin Middeke, Matthew C. Roundane, Peter Paul Schnierer
479 pages

The in depth introduction is 15 pages long and explains the structure of the book and how the book surveys 25 American playwrights with emphasis on plays of those who appeared in the 1970s or later, with Arthur Miller’s and Edward Albee’s post-1970 work the only exception. With this recent time being a starting point, there is a scholarly reassessment made, of how American dramatists have progressed in significance since and how their work had been received, not just as rhetoric for a Nation, but symbolically speaking. A team of scholars have, as contributors, explored reasons why contemporary plays have become important, artistically, in the US. Social trends have been overviewed and wider contrasts and comparisons have been made. A bibliography of published plays and a select list of critical works are included

This book provides an authoritative interpretation of over 5 (or more) plays by 25 major Contemporary American Playwrights (over 140 plays are detailed). Each chapter looks at the life and social backgrounds of each dramatist and what is regarded to be their important plays


The 25 American Playwrights featured in the book are listed below with the authors’ names in brackets:
Maria Irene Fornes (Scott T Cummings),
Richard Greenberg (Jochen Achilles, Ina Bergmann),
John Guare (Ken Urban)
David Henry Hwang (Russell VandenBroucke),
Adrienne Kennedy (Klaus Benesch),
Tony Kushner (James Fisher),
Neil Labute (Christopher Innes),
David Mamet (Toby Zinman),
Donald Margulies (Kerstin Schmidt),
Terence McNally (Peter Paul Schnierer),
Marsha Norman (Annalisa Brugnoli),
Suzan Lori Parks (Ilka Saal),
Sarah Ruhl (Deborah Geis),
John Patrick Shanley (Annette J Saddik),
Wallace Shawn (Martin Middeke),
Sam Shepherd (Katherine Weiss),
Christopher Shinn (Stephen Bottoms),
Luis Valdez (Jorge Huerta),
Paula Vogel (Joanna Mansbridge),
Naomi Wallace (Pia Wiegmink),
Wendy Wasserstein (Frazer Lively),
August Wilson (Sandra G Shannon),
William S. Yellow Robe, Jr (Birgit Dawes)
and Miller and Albee as already mentioned written by Susan C W Abbotson and Thomas P Adler respectively

Using Neil Labute as an example the format throughout is like this – Labute’s chapter opens with a short biography, talks of his influences, his first play, and his stage work including his work as a director, and how he went on to write film script and to direct films. Tells of his strong international reach, particularly London and how he is viewed on both sides of the Atlantic. Four of his plays are discussed in regard to style, dramaturgical concerns and contextual relevance plus the critical reception is analysed. There are one or two examples from the script and the chapter finishes with a Summary, the primary and secondary sources are listed as are the Notes

…to reiterate the structure of the chapters – they are in four parts. First an introduction which is a biographical sketch of each playwright, followed by a chronological ordered analysis of major work, a Summary of the playwrights contribution to contemporary American theatre and a bibliography of primary texts
Plain text (some italic) with Quotes
List of Contributors
Index (11 pages)




a comprehensive Drama study guide


Modern British Playwriting 2000-2009 by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978-1-4081-2956-2
Text: Dan Rebellato, Jacqueline Bolton, Michael Pearce, Nadine Holdsworth , Lynette Goddard and Andrew Haydon for Chapter 1
Published by Bloomsbury Oct 2013

340 pages
Being one of a series of six volumes, this book relates to theatre from 2000 – 2009. In the preface the series editors Richard Boon and Philip Roberts explain how the book fits with others from the series in reassessing theatre for a specific decade; and this is followed by acknowledgements by editor, Dan Rebellato. In Rebellato’s introduction his overview of life in Britain in the 2000s comes in six categories:Domestic Life, Society, Culture, Media, Science and technology and Political events. Each category follows a chronological order of events. Chapter 1 reflects on verbatim responses to the political happenings of the decade, the impact of technological advances (growth of multi-media productions) on theatrical pieces; topics also include, site specific theatre; and the growing influences over this time in regard to the staging of new work including the popularity of ‘Scratch Nights’. Other headings for this Chapter are entitled: The Royal Court, the money and the new writing industry, Authors, National Theatre, Criticism, Autumn 2009: Postcards from the end of the decade
Rebellato’s introduction is interesting reading and an effective recapping of what has come to be known as The Noughties, and these sections are useful as a point of reference. And Chapter 1 is indeed a ‘punchy’ viewpoint from the reputable theatre critic and blogger – Andrew Haydon
Here the authors’ go all out to demonstrate how the works of five British dramatists are deemed as being representative of the last decade (the 2000s) in a contextual sense. The names of the playwrights follow with the author’s name in brackets:
Simon Stephens (Jacqueline Bolton),
Tim Crouch (Dan Rebellato),
Roy Williams (Michael Pearce),
David Grieg (Nadine Holdsworth),
and Debbie Tucker Green (Lynette Goddard).
The introductions of the five playwrights and their plays are designed to enlighten us, so we might come to understand them and so be appreciative of their work. Showing examples of their differing approaches to script writing and providing explanations of intended messages, in relation to themes, is crucial in regard to us recognizing and defining what is or may have been in their minds; thus educating in the process of writing effectively for Stage. The book demonstrates how playwriting can hold on to a message, take it forward by creating a situation/setting, one that can be acted out, and, therefore, be used as a vehicle for that message to transcend.
Includes interviews.
The book is well structured. From pages 213 to 285 there are real documents presented; these are largely unseen and unpublished alternative sections to the plays mentioned in the book. This section is fascinating and insightful. Pages of ‘Notes’ include publishing attributes, quotes, acknowledgements, online links, websites and blog addresses and recommended books and articles and bibliography information. The book ends with little work related bios about the authors entitled ‘Note on Contributors’ and, finally, a 19 page Index
Paperback. Fact boxes in the introduction. Plain text (some italics). Upper cased headings in bold. Text set out in medium length to long length paragraphs
An intelligible book for writers, theatre critics and for students of theatre studies

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