Books seem to multiply on my desk. It reminds me of the Mickey Mouse Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence in Fantasia. Like Mickey’s brooms and buckets, books arrive faster than I can read and write about them. But it’s a rather nice problem to have.
Let me draw your attention to the fourteen – yes, fourteen – interesting new performing arts books which have reached me in less than a month. They range from play texts to very practical how-to books. Several offer wider insights and background. All have something to teach students or anyone working or wanting to work in the industry.
In Musical Theatre Auditions and Casting, for example, Neil Rutherford – who has long experience on both sides of the table usefully takes the reader right through the process. The advice is very practical – for example, don’t pick a song with too many instrumental breaks in it because the panel is more likely to stop you mid-song if you give such opportunities.
Behind the Curtain is an entertaining account of life behind the scenes by an eminent actor
Mary Hammond’s Thank you – that’s all we need for today… covers more or less the same ground but is, if anything, even more practical. She is interesting, for example, on what you should wear for audtions and her book includes a CD of vocal warm ups. And few people know the subject better than Hammond, who founded the Royal Academy of Music’s musical theatre course and has worked as a performer and coach in every genre of musical theatre for many years.
Still on how-to books, it’s useful to have detailed advice which demystifies the working world of live theatre. Julius Green, producer of hundreds of shows, explains clearly in How to Produce a West End Show how to budget and finance a show, assemble a creative team, work with writers, directors and designers, book venues and advertise and market your show.
Moving on to background books, two companion volumes Modern British Playwriting: the 1990s by Aleks Sierz and Modern British Playwriting: the 1970s by Chris Megson, lead the reader through the history and social context of the respective decades before homing in on theatre and playwrights and the ways in which their work reflected or influenced events, trends and attitudes. Each book includes detailed essays and analysis of plays. Sierz is particularly good on Philip Ridley. Four further titles are due to complete this “Decades” series: three later this year, with the final volume in 2013.
Oberon Masters have two new titles in their slim, hardback “little” books. Behind the Curtain by Peter Bowles is an entertaining account of life behind the scenes by an eminent actor – full of anecdotes and insider information. Roger Foss’s May the Farce Be With You is a lightning tour of confused characters, absurd situations and bravura comic acting including an 80th birthday essay on Ray Cooney. Entertaining stuff.
The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre is a useful new reference book which does exactly what it promises. Entries run from Abbey Theatre and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to zarzuela (a 17th century Spanish musical play or operetta, since you ask) and Florenz Ziegfeld.
The most interesting and exciting new play text on my pile is Mark Rylance’s I am Shakespeare. Originally produced at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester in 2007, directed by Matthew Warchus, it is a fascinating exploration of the Shakespeare authorship question.
From Oberon Books – ever good at grouping plays in a single volume, which is useful for reading and comparative studying – comes Douglas Maxwell’s Plays for Young People (including “Helmet” and “Too Fast”) and Mixed Company: Three Early Jamaican Plays, edited by Yvonne Brewster.
Finally, Methuen Drama continues to add to its Arden library with three more early modern plays by playwrights other than Shakespeare. The Tragedy of Mariam is arguably the most interesting because it’s by a woman but it’s also useful to have new scholarly editions of ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore and The Renegado.
Happy reading and learning!
Enhance your own playwriting technique with The Stage Events’ The creative playwright on November 22, 2012. Y Touring Theatre’s creative director Nigel Townsend and playwright Judith Johnson will lead a practical half-day session that will show you how to develop, train and channel your creativity through the playwriting process. For more details, visit The Stage Events website.