This volume in the Great Lives series effectively straddles the fence between trade book and textbook with its two-column pages as well as its length and scope. The lives of 27 actors, playwrights, and other figures in theater (mostly men, mostly dead) are treated at length, with the emphasis often on the early years of those included: Anton Chekhov, Sarah Bernhardt, Amiri Baraka (he, Luis Miguel Valdez, and Jean-Louis Barrault are the only living subjects), P.T. Barnum, Sean O'Casey, and Helen Hayes represent several hundred years of theater. The choices are mystifying (skip the Greeks, for Shakespeare and Moliâ‰¤re are as far back as this reaches; forget Japanese theater and other non-Western traditions), but that may be less important than what Weitzman has achieved. Readers are introduced to passionate, determined souls who each gained great recognition, though not always health, wealth, or happiness. The author places the innovation or success of the artist or showman in the context of the times and with the perspective of external influences. His style is clear and uncondescending, resulting in a browsable book that dispenses example after example of what happens when unique individuals follow their hearts.