by James Roose-Evans. This is an old book, and so misses out on any real developments from the 80s on, but it does a nice job of contexualizing and describing the genesis of different avant-garde theater movements. It is restrictive to talk about Theatre rather than Performance, but he doesn’t give short shrift to other modes of performance — instead he describes how they influenced works that grew out of the theatre. A notable exception is Martha Graham, who he talks about in depth, which was fascinating.
For someone who’s read bits and pieces about the Open Theater, Peter Brook, Grotowski, Barba, and Artaud, this book is a short read to tie it all together. I felt like I lacked the big picture view of theater, and now I don’t. Now I feel like the techniques used by these different artists should enter more mainstream productions. A familiarity with different approaches to the theatrical is not just a way to learn some jargon. Many of the ideas of the avant-garde can help to create a more immediate theater, to find ways to make theater relevant to the audience in a way that changes them rather than one that follows blindly the old tropes into the graveyard. More on this to come.