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Theatre by David Mamet

Theatre (2010)

by David Mamet

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Mamet, in his new role as apostate, explores the theatre, starting from the time of Stanislavsky and Chekov, whose plays needed to be secretive, first because of the totalitarian czars, then because of the totalitarian Bolsheviks. So nothing was explicit. But this tradition he says has carried on erroneously into the present, with bad consequences for the health of theatre.

He lambasts "Method" acting, since in his view there are no hidden lives to the characters other than what is made explicit by the words they actually say, as well as all the machinery and bureaucracy of modern theatre. He also demotes directing, since, for him, it's all up to the actors and the script, and the director has little role except for blocking the scenes.

It's a nice little read. In the section I found most interesting, he likens a good dramatic play to a communal and instinctual hunt, with the audience repeatedly asking, "Then what?"

He makes the ultimate point that it's the irrationality of a theatre audience that a good drama taps into; that it's about turning off one's rationality and getting back into something more primitive and deeply satisfying for a bit of time. ( )
  br77rino | Mar 27, 2014 |
Essays by the writer and director on staging a play based on his life-long experiences. Interesting and very direct opinions on schools of acting and directing, the value - or lack of value - in the rehearsal process . The primary importance of the text, particular plot. A short, entertaining read. ( )
  si | Feb 26, 2013 |
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A cranky collection of essays that take on pretentious directors and subsidized productions.
I have to admit that Mamet’s certainties and oversimplifications sometimes make one feel one is being bludgeoned over the head. But there is so much pretentiousness in the theatre, so much fluffy thinking and luvvie-speak, that Mamet’s firm views strike me as a bracing and necessary corrective even if they do sometimes seem brutally reductive.
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The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc., are all in form and function play-grounds, i.e., forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the perforance of an act apart.
- Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens
This book is dedicated to Linda Kimbrough
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I read a lot of technical material about the theatre when I was young.
There is no such thing as a ''Stanislavsky actor'' or a Meisner actor'' or a ''Method actor''. There are actors (of varying abilities) and nonactors.
Man is a predator. We know this because our eyes are in the front of our heads. The same conclusion may be reached by reading the newspapers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 086547947X, Paperback)

If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, “many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical.” As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors are good or they are non-actors, and good actors generally work best without the interference of a director, however well-intentioned. Issue plays, political correctness, method actors, impossible directions, Stanislavksy, and elitists all fall under Mamet’s critical gaze. To students, teachers, and directors who crave a blast of fresh air in a world that can be insular and fearful of change, Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better, including Mamet himself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:36 -0400)

Calls for no less than the death of the director and the end to acting theory, arguing that either actors are good or they are non-actors, and that good actors work best without the interference of a director.

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