Modern Theatre Guides


Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Bloomsbury Publishing

Every day, in some part of the world, an Arthur Miller play is performed.In the nearly 60 years since its first production, the Pulitzer Prizewinning Death of a Salesman has been become a classic, a staple of school anthologies of American literature and of acting companies' repertoires. It has received worldwide productions, whether as a study of parent-child relationships, as in its landmark 1976 production directed by Miller in Beijing, or as a critique of Western capitalism and has been filmed once for television and twice for movies.

"...a carefully structured guide for students that offers a captivating in-depth study of the text...Enriching our approaches to Arthur Miller's plays, this concise theatre guide is a solid contribution to the study of Death of a Salesman as it offers a systematic and extensive analysis of the play. Besides, a step from the theatre to the economics of the '30s and '40s brings us to realize that this volume demonstrates the authors' remarkable knowledge of American historical, social and political context...that this book-length study guide deserves attention not only because it features explanations of key themes, motifs, and symbols, together with a detailed analysis of major characters, but also because it includes practical group exercises for students to come to a better understanding of the play's structure. Full of dates, data, and specific details, Hays and Nicholson's fully informed theatre guide explores both theory and practice and strikes us as a carefully documented look into a worthwhile corner of American theatrical history. This very concise theatre guide undoubtedly represents an analytical tour de force." - Revue Française d'Etudes Américaines

August Wilson's Fences

Bloomsbury Publishing

Fences represents the decade of the 1950s, and, when it premiered in 1985, it won the Pulitzer Prize. Set during the beginnings of the civil rights movement, it also concerns generational change and renewal, ending with a celebration of the life of its protagonist, even though it takes place at his funeral. Critics and scholars have lauded August Wilson's work for its universality and its ability, especially in Fences, to transcend racial barriers and this play helped to earn him the titles of "America's greatest playwright" and "the African American Shakespeare."

'Fences, the centerpiece of August Wilson's epic ten-play cycle, is a moving tale of one man's struggle to create a home and family in a world that seems bent on destroying his dreams...In this book, Menson-Furr displays her considerable talents as an award-winning teacher, explaining the play with a straight-forward facility that should connect with students of all levels. This book is an excellent introduction to one of the most important American plays of the late 20th century, serving also as an excellent introduction to August Wilson, one of the most important American playwrights of the last fifty years.' - William W. Demastes, Louisiana State University, USA

"It is wonderful... [with] value to scholars and theatre artists alike. Anyone looking to structure a semester of study around this classic of American theatre will find this to be an invaluable resource. Likewise, for any actor, or other theatre artist, looking to stage a production of Fences, the workshop information, coupled with the background and contextual analysis that Dr. Furr provides, will greatly support their desire for a fully realized and in depth representation of what Mr. Wilson envisioned." - Reginald C. Brown, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Memphis

Caryl Churchill's Top Girls

Bloomsbury Publishing

Caryl Churchill is widely considered to be one of the most innovative playwrights to haveemerged in post-war British theatre. Identified as a socialist feminist writer, she is one of the few British women playwrights to have been incorporated into the dramatic canon. Top Girls is one of Churchill's most well known and often studied works, using an all female cast to critique bourgeois feminism during the Thatcher era.

"A comprehensive and insightful approach...Tycer's commentary and analysis; reception and production histories, and practical ideas for understanding the play combine to persuade and to explicate Top Girls as 'still without significant equal in the feminist or mainstream canons'" - Professor Elaine Aston, Lancaster University, UK

Briefly reviewed in the Year's work in English Studies journal, vol 89, No. 1 'The book provides intelligent readings of key scenes from the play and useful cultural and political background, as well as the changing critical views that this landmark play has elicited during a period of over twenty years'

David Mamet's Oleanna

Bloomsbury Publishing

David Mamet is widely considered to be the voice of contemporary American Theatre. His use of what is taken to be realistic language together with minimalist staging creates a postmodern combination that pushes an audience in conflicting directions. The result is that initial audiences for Oleanna were aroused to applaud and loudly react to the ending of the play when a male teacher beats a female student. The issues the play raises about political correctness are turned on their head. Oleanna is a particularly complex play in terms of both form and content and this guide offers a theoretically informed introductory analysis. It provides students with a comprehensive critical introduction to the play and includes new interpretations of the text in light of recent developments in Mamet's playwriting and the intervening shifts in the political landscape.

"David Sauer has taken a key play in the 20th century canon, and, with critical insight and analytic skills, explained what made it such a key theatrical, but also social and political event. Mamet's Oleanna touched a nerve in American society. Sauer explains just why that was so without forgetting that it is first and foremost a deeply impressive dramatic work." - Professor Christopher Bigsby, School of American Studies, University of East Anglia, UK

Mentioned in The Bookseller, 10 April 2009.

Mentioned in The Bookseller, 10 April 2009.

John Osborne's Look Back in Anger

Bloomsbury Publishing

Look Back in Anger is one of the few works of drama that are indisputably central to British culture in general, and its name is one of the most well-known in postwar cultural history. Its premiere in 1956 sparked off the first "new wave" of kitchen-sink drama and the cultural phenomenon of the angry young man. The play's anti-hero, Jimmy Porter, became the spokesman of a generation. Osborne's play is a key milestone in "new writing" for British theatre, and the Royal Court-which produced the play-has since become one of the most important new writing theatres in the UK.

'An indispensable and comprehensive survey of this iconic play's history.' Dominic Cooke, Artistic Director, Royal Court Theatre

Briefly reviewed in the Year's work in English Studies journal, vol 89, No. 1 'Sierz not only brings us up to date with current critical debates and controversies about the play ... but also discusses notable recent productions of the play and includes useful extracts from new interviews with actors such as David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Emma Fielding'

Patrick Marber's Closer

Bloomsbury Publishing

Closer emerged as one of the most successful plays of the 1990s, and one with a continuing afterlife through the academy award nominated film adaptation in 2004. Although the work of dramatists such as Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill initially attracted the most critical and academic attention, Patrick Marber's Closer had long West End and Broadway runs. The play has since gone on to repeat this success in over 30 other countries.

Sarah Kane's Blasted

Bloomsbury Publishing

Blasted has been labelled as one of the landmark plays of post-war British theatre, achieving its iconic status and, indeed, its notoriety, very quickly. Sarah Kane's suicide in 1999 consolidated a process of singling-out that had begun four years earlier with the 'national outrage' initiated by the media's scandalised response to the premiere of Blasted. The brutal content of the play resulted in much-quoted hostility from the critics. Academic attention to the play has begun a process of re-evaluation, debating the production and reception of the play and key issues including its status as a classic example of 'in-yer-face' drama.

This guide provides a comprehensive critical introduction to Blasted, giving students an overview of the play's significance, a brief biography of Sarah Kane and a guide to socio-political background; a detailed analysis of the play's structure, style and characters; an analysis of key production issues and choices; an overview of key productions from the 1995 Royal Court premiere to today; and a chapter exploring possibilities and exercises for practical work on the play. An annotated guide to further reading highlights key secondary material including useful websites.

"An informative and vital exploration of Kane's play, its various contexts and wider theatrical possibilities. Helen Iball's characteristically smart and engaging analysis draws together different forms of knowledge of Blasted, and invites its reassessment as part of the properly and intrinsically revolutionary process that constitutes morally re-evaluative theatre practice." - Professor David Ian Rabey, Drama and Theatre Studies, Aberystwyth University, UK

Mention -Book News, November 2008

'This accessible, student-friendly publication reminds us once again of Kane's status as a playwright with significant global impact' English Oxford Journal, 2010

Sarah Kane's Blasted 9780826492036 Briefly reviewed in the Year's work in English Studies journal, vol 89, No. 1  'This is the most ambitious treatment of the play to date in terms of both its analysis and revaluation of the play to date in terms of both its analysis and revaluation of the play and its inclusion of new interview material. Iball provides fascinating analysis of the play in terms of the importance that space within the hotel setting provides, and with it the body as another form of space that is marked out.'

Tom Stoppard's Arcadia

Bloomsbury Publishing

Tom Stoppard is widely regarded as one of the leading contemporary British playwrights, a writer who has earned an intriguing mix of both critical and commercial success. Arcadia is considered by many critics to be Stoppard's masterpiece, a work that weds his love for words and ideas in his early career, with his emphasis on storytelling and emotional engagement in his later career.

With its engaging alteration between past and present Arcadia offers a comedic and entertaining exploration of chaos theory, entropy, the Second Law of thermodynamics, iterated algorithms, fractals, and other concepts culled from the realms of math and science.

"An enlightening entryway into Stoppard's luminous play, Fleming's commentary on Arcadia is informed by his attention to theatrical issues as well as his deep understanding of the of the play's multilayered themes." - Professor Michael Vanden Heuvel, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

"Fleming's book offers the student and Stoppard enthusiast a fully researched and clearly written analysis of what many call Stoppard's best play. From the background and context section describing Stoppard's entire oeuvre to date, to the final section offering suggestions for teaching Arcadia, this book situates the play squarely within Stoppard's writing about science. Fleming's precise analyses of the play's characters and his informed discussion of its themes offer the student and instructor an intelligent framework for understanding Arcadia as a profound and comic play of ideas." - Katherine E. Kelly, Texas A&M University, USA 

Briefly reviewed in the Year's work in English Studies journal, vol 89, No. 1  'Drawing on previously unpublished material with Stoppard, Fleming's volume traces the history of the play's production and its cultural and historical context'

Tony Kushner's Angels in America

Bloomsbury Publishing

Angels in America paved a new way for American theatre in its combination of heightened theatricality and politics. Tony Kushner has emerged as one of the American theatre's leading playwrights and productions worldwide have meant that the play has been recognized as the most important American play in decades. With the scope of the characters' sexual, class and religious affiliations in the play, Angels in America offers a unique possibility to discuss the construction of American identity in the late 1980s and 1990s. This guide provides a comprehensive critical introduction to the play, giving students an overview of the background and context; detailed analysis of the play including its structure, style and characters; analysis of key production issues and choices; an overview of the performance history from the first performances of Millennium Approaches and Perestroika to recent productions and the 2003 HBO adaptation; and an annotated guide to further reading highlighting key critical approaches.

Modern Theatre Guides offer concise, accessible and informed introductions to the key plays of modern times. Each book is carefully structured to offer a systematic study of the play in its biographical, historical, social and political context, an in-depth study of the text, an overview of the work's production history including screen adaptations, and practical workshopping exercises. They also include a timeline and suggestions for further reading which highlight key critical approaches. This will enable students to develop their understanding of playwrights and theatre-makers, as well as inspiring them to broaden their studies.