Catalogue


Playwrights at work : the Paris review /
edited by George Plimpton.
imprint
New York : Modern Library, c2000.
description
xiii, 411 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
ISBN
0679640215 (acid-free paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
added author
imprint
New York : Modern Library, c2000.
isbn
0679640215 (acid-free paper)
general note
"Interviews with: Albee, Beckett, Guare, Hellman, Ionesco, Mamet, Miller, Pinter, Shepard, Simon, Stoppard, Wasserstein, Wilder, Williams, Wilson"--Cover.
catalogue key
3855724
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
INTRODUCTION by John Lahr We need stories; but, as the twenty-first century begins, most of the stories we're told on television and in film are corporate creations, calculated to pick the pockets of the public. The theater's charm and its power is that it is the last bastion of the individual voice, where the secrets of the psyche and the sins of the society can be explored in community with others. "I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being," Thornton Wilder tellsThe Paris Reviewin this volume. He goes on: "This supremacy of the theater derives from the fact that it is always 'now' on the stage." Ours is an age of perpetual distraction, a virtual reality which Wilder didn't live to see; "the now" is what a large part of the video-addicted public will pay anything to avoid. Entertainment has become atomized, inevitably, the cross-fertilization that is implied in the wordcivilization(whose root is the Latin forcity) has been eroded by the new technology. The public has become habituated to its solitude; it has also grown increasingly uncomfortable in large groups. The onslaught of technological escape, which tickles the society to death, has weakened the appetite for active play. When all is provided, nothing need be sought. In the republic the result is a palpable psychic mutation--a passive, credulous, restless mass at once overexcited and underinformed. At its best, theater is an antidote to the whiff of barbarity in the millennial air. "My feeling is that people in a group, en masse, watching something, react differently, and perhaps more profoundly, than they do when they're alone in their living rooms," Arthur Miller says here. In the dark, facing the stage, surrounded by others, the paying customer can let himself go; he is emboldened. The theatrical encounter allows a member of the public to think against received opinions. He can submerge himself in the extraordinary, admit his darkest, most infantile wishes, feel the pulse of the contemporary, hear the sludge of street talk turned into poetry. This enterprise can be joyous and dangerous; when the theater's game is good and tense, it is both. "We live inwhatis, but we find a thousand ways not to face it," Thornton Wilder says. "Great theater strengthens our faculty to face it." The playwright has to call the story out of himself; the audience has to call the energy out of the actors. This responsibility has its excitements and its disappointments. Whether you talk, eat, make out, or leave a film, the performances remain the same; the movie happens without a public. The play needs an audience. So the paying customer enters the theater on his mettle; he has a certain unstated but real emotional responsibility to the group. He has to rouse himself from his inveterate entropy and to be alert. "The theater made everybody in the audience behave better, as if they were all in on the same secret," John Guare says in theseParis Reviewinterviews, recalling the empowering magic of his childhood theatergoing. "I found it amazing that what was up on that stage could make these people who didn't know each other laugh, respond, gasp in exactly the same way at the same time." A playwright is an altogether different literary species from a novelist, who marshals words merely onto the page. "What is so different about the stage is that you're justthere, stuck--there are your characters stuck on the stage, you've got to live with them and deal with them," Harold Pinter says. The novelist never sees the reader walk out of his book. He is not writing in space and time; he doesn't have to coax a character he's created to speak the words as written. Consequently, a playwright is a raffish hybrid, a kind of cro
First Chapter
INTRODUCTION

by John Lahr

We need stories; but, as the twenty-first century begins, most of the stories we're told on television and in film are corporate creations, calculated to pick the pockets of the public. The theater's charm and its power is that it is the last bastion of the individual voice, where the secrets of the psyche and the sins of the society can be explored in community with others. "I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being," Thornton Wilder tellsThe Paris Reviewin this volume. He goes on: "This supremacy of the theater derives from the fact that it is always 'now' on the stage." Ours is an age of perpetual distraction, a virtual reality which Wilder didn't live to see; "the now" is what a large part of the video-addicted public will pay anything to avoid. Entertainment has become atomized, inevitably, the cross-fertilization that is implied in the wordcivilization(whose root is the Latin forcity) has been eroded by the new technology. The public has become habituated to its solitude; it has also grown increasingly uncomfortable in large groups. The onslaught of technological escape, which tickles the society to death, has weakened the appetite for active play. When all is provided, nothing need be sought. In the republic the result is a palpable psychic mutation--a passive, credulous, restless mass at once overexcited and underinformed. At its best, theater is an antidote to the whiff of barbarity in the millennial air. "My feeling is that people in a group, en masse, watching something, react differently, and perhaps more profoundly, than they do when they're alone in their living rooms," Arthur Miller says here. In the dark, facing the stage, surrounded by others, the paying customer can let himself go; he is emboldened. The theatrical encounter allows a member of the public to think against received opinions. He can submerge himself in the extraordinary, admit his darkest, most infantile wishes, feel the pulse of the contemporary, hear the sludge of street talk turned into poetry. This enterprise can be joyous and dangerous; when the theater's game is good and tense, it is both. "We live inwhatis, but we find a thousand ways not to face it," Thornton Wilder says. "Great theater strengthens our faculty to face it." The playwright has to call the story out of himself; the audience has to call the energy out of the actors. This responsibility has its excitements and its disappointments. Whether you talk, eat, make out, or leave a film, the performances remain the same; the movie happens without a public. The play needs an audience. So the paying customer enters the theater on his mettle; he has a certain unstated but real emotional responsibility to the group. He has to rouse himself from his inveterate entropy and to be alert. "The theater made everybody in the audience behave better, as if they were all in on the same secret," John Guare says in theseParis Reviewinterviews, recalling the empowering magic of his childhood theatergoing. "I found it amazing that what was up on that stage could make these people who didn't know each other laugh, respond, gasp in exactly the same way at the same time."

A playwright is an altogether different literary species from a novelist, who marshals words merely onto the page. "What is so different about the stage is that you're justthere, stuck--there are your characters stuck on the stage, you've got to live with them and deal with them," Harold Pinter says. The novelist never sees the reader walk out of his book. He is not writing in space and time; he doesn't have to coax a character he's created to speak the words as written. Consequently, a playwright is a raffish hybrid, a kind of cro
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-05-15:
This, the third in a series of reprints from the Paris Review (after Best Writers at Work and Women Writers at Work), is an intriguing primary-source collection of interviews with 16 renowned playwrights. The pieces start with a Thornton Wilder interview in 1956 and continue with Lillian Hellman (1965), Samuel Beckett (1987), Tennessee Williams (1981), Eugene Ionesco (1984), Arthur Miller (1966 and 1999), Neil Simon (1992), Edward Albee (1966), Harold Pinter (1966), Tom Stoppard (1988), John Guare (1992), Sam Shepard (1997), August Wilson (1999), David Mamet (1997), and Wendy Wasserstein (1997). The resulting essays are varied owing to the different approaches of both interviewer and playwright, but, overall, this is an excellent gathering of brilliant minds in the theater, and these interviews provide significant insight into the works of the writers. A great addition to literature and theater collections.DJ. Sara Paulk, Coastal Plain Regional Lib., Tifton, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, May 2000
Library Journal, May 2000
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Summaries
Main Description
The third installment in the Modern Library's Paris Review "Writers at Work" series, this is an all-new gathering of interviews with the most important and compelling playwrights of our time. Their singular takes on their craft, their influences, their lives, the state of contemporary theater, and the tricks of the trade create an illuminating and unparalleled record of the life of the theater itself. "At its best, theater is an antidote to the whiff of barbarity in the millennial air. 'My feeling is that people in a group, en masse, watching something, react differently, and perhaps more profoundly, than they do when they're alone in their living rooms,' Arthur Miller says here. In the dark, facing the stage, surrounded by others, the paying customer can let himself go; he is emboldened. The theatrical encounter allows a member of the public to think against received opinions. He can submerge himself in the extraordinary, admit his darkest, most infantile wishes, feel the pulse of the contemporary, hear the sludge of street talk turned into poetry. This enterprise can be joyous and dangerous; when the theater's game is good and tense, it is both." --from the Introduction by John Lahr
Bowker Data Service Summary
Playwrights At Work is a collection of interviews with the most important and compelling playwrights of our time from Edward Albee to Tennessee Williams.

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