Smart, gossipy and oh-so-dramatic—squarely in the grand tradition of theater memoirs.




The Tony Award–winning director looks back on his apprenticeship years.

Born in 1939, O’Brien wrote two successful musicals at the University of Michigan and planned to become a successful Broadway lyricist/playwright. Then the APA Repertory Company arrived to inaugurate the university’s Professional Theatre Program, and he was swept into the glamorous orbit of leading lady Rosemary Harris and actor/director Ellis Rabb, who hired him after he graduated. O’Brien served as the volatile Rabb’s devoted amanuensis—dealing with practical matters, playing small parts, standing in for him onstage when he needed to direct rehearsals—while APA built a reputation in regional theater and stormed Broadway with a dazzling revival of You Can’t Take It With You. Himself unabashedly gay, O’Brien empathetically portrays the complicated marriage of Harris and the bisexual Rabb, which survived his homosexual affairs but foundered on his jealousy of her greater star power. Theater-history buffs will relish O’Brien’s vivid descriptions and cogent assessments of such famed APA productions as the Erwin Piscator–adapted War and Peace, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, directed by Eva Le Gallienne, and the black farce Pantagleize, a personal triumph for Rabb in the title role. O’Brien finally emerged from his mentor’s shadow when producer John Houseman, who joined APA in 1965, pushed him to direct Sean O’Casey’s Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, a less-than-auspicious debut, with the company heading toward dissolution as Rabb’s drinking and mental instability both increased. O’Brien closes the main narrative with his triumphant direction of the Houston Grand Opera’s 1976 Porgy and Bess; a sad afterword chronicles his final break with Rabb. A quarter-century as artistic director of San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and such Broadway hits as Hairspray were yet to come, but O’Brien’s evocative, loving reminiscences make clear how indelibly his artistic vision was forged in the crucible of regional and repertory theater, among some of the giants of the American stage.

Smart, gossipy and oh-so-dramatic—squarely in the grand tradition of theater memoirs.

Pub Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86547-898-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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