10 Great Theater Books

Selections mine, blubs via Amazon.

Theatre Writings, Kenneth Tynan
The best of Kenneth Tynan’s theatre criticism, selected and edited by his biographer Dominic Shellard – with a foreword by Tom Stoppard.

This volume is an edited selection of theatre criticism by one of the most significant and influential writers on British theatre. Spanning the years 1944 to 1965, it includes all of Tynan’s major theatre reviews and articles written for the Evening Standard, the Daily Sketch and the Observer.

It also includes the text of his substantial 1964 speech to the Royal Society of Arts, setting out his vision for the National Theatre.

Tynan’s writings on theatre, according to eminent theatre historian Dominic Shellard, influenced the evolution of the whole of post-war theatre in Britain. And, with their characteristic mix of hyperbole, irreverence and prescience, they remain brilliantly entertaining today.

‘You can open this book on almost any page and come across a phrase or a vignette which is the next best thing to having been there’ – Tom Stoppard, from his Foreword

The Life of the Drama, Eric Bentley
“Eric Bentley’s radical new look at the grammar of theatre…is a work of exceptional virtue… The book justifies its title by being precisely about the ways in which life manifests itself in the theatre…This is a book to be read again and again.” – Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books

How Plays Work, David Edgar
Distinguished playwright David Edgar examines the mechanisms and techniques which dramatists throughout the ages have employed to structure their plays and to express their meaning.

Written for playwrights and playgoers alike, Edgar’s analysis starts with the building blocks of whole plays – plot, character creation, genre and structure – and moves on to scenes and devices. He shows how plays share a common architecture without which the uniqueness of their authors’ vision would be invisible.

What does King Lear have in common with Cinderella? What does Jaws owe to Ibsen? From Aeschylus to Alan Ayckbourn, from Chekhov to Caryl Churchill, are there common principles by which all plays work?

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, Keith Johnstone
Impro isn’t just about the theater, it’s about life, about the ability to live improvisationally. Read it. Try the exercises out for yourself.

Great Moments in the Theatre, Benedict Nightingale
Renowned critic Benedict Nightingale, who served as chief theatre critic for the London Times from 1990–2010, collects what he considers the greatest moments from the past 2,500 years of theater. His informative and entertaining essays cover and celebrate a vast array of diverse, historical and important openings and events

On Acting, Laurence Olivier
If you want to read Olivier has to say about acting, read this. It’s fascinating. Amazon, having asked me to give a review, refuses to publish it unless I write five more words beyo the prior sentence, but I have nothing to add.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s most famous play is one of the greatest stories in the literature of the world.

Distressed by his father’s death and his mother’s over-hasty remarriage, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is faced by a specter from beyond the grave bearing a grim message of murder and revenge. The young prince is driven to the edge of madness by his struggle to understand the situation he finds himself in and to do his duty. Many others, including Hamlet’s beloved, the innocent Ophelia, are swept up in his tragedy.

The Best of Off-Broadway: Eight Contemporary Obie-Winning Plays
David Mamet –  Edmond
Wallace Shawn –  Aunt Dan and Lemon
Maria Irene Fornes – The Danube
Susan-Lori Parks – The Imperceptible Mutablilities of the Third Kingdom
Samuel Beckett – Ohio Impromptu
Christopher Durang –  The Marriage of Bette and Boo
Eric Bogosian – Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
Craig Lucas –  Prelude to a Kiss

27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Plays, Tennessee Williams
The thirteen one-act plays collected in this volume include some of Tennessee Williams’s finest and most powerful work.

They are full of the perception of life as it is, and the passion for life as it ought to be, which have made The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire classics of the American theater.

Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, Eric Bogosian
In his fifth, brashest solo show, Eric Bogosian again aims scorching social commentary at the contemporary urban and suburban scene. From subway panhandlers to barbecue-crazed millionaires, Bogosian reveals the hidden humor, fear, hypocrisy and rage of Americans – including, for the first time, “Eric Bogosian,” a hyperaggressive standup comic. With this seductive element of self-revelation, he heightens the disturbing connections between his characters and, by extension, between us and the people we try not to see – and not to be – every day.