THE DIVINE PASTIME: Theatre Essays by Harold Clurman


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A collection of essays by one of the most influential theatrical personages of our time, dealing with all facets of stagecraft -- playwright, actor, director, designer, company, audience and critic. Written as early as 1946 and as late as 1971, these pieces constitute a worthy survey of the period. They range from cursory reviews (My Fair Lady) to serious criticism (Tennessee Williams) -- although Clurman denies the validity of such a distinction. A recurring theme is that a production must be judged as an integration of many efforts; for example, a set is ""good"" not because it is beautiful, but because it serves the other elements of the show. The actor, too, may give a ""brilliant"" performance, but in doing so may ruin the production as a whole. On acting, Clurman -- one of the founding fathers of the Group Theatre which introduced the Method to America -- retains perspective where others have lost it: "". . . Undue emphasis on either aspect of acting -- 'inner' or 'outer' -- to the detriment of the other must cause a fatal distortion."" Yet he remains dated in mentioning a technique such as ""affective memory"" but not, for example, ""the method of physical actions."" His pieces on the major playwrights -- Eliot, Beckett, Brecht, O'Neill, Albee, Pinter -- are informed, judicious, and lucid, even when one feels an impulse to disagree. And his contributions on the theatrical innovations of the late '60's -- Grotowski, Artaud, Schechner, Peter Brook -- bring an intelligent vista to a bewildering turmoil. On the whole, Clurman's reputation as a keen theatrical mind is upheld by his latest book.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1974
Publisher: Macmillan