BY LOGAN CULWELL-BLOCK
Looking for a theatrical summer title? We’ve got you covered with these theatre books coming out this summer.
And Then We Danced: A Voyage Into the Groove, by Henry Alford
When celebrated comic writer Henry Alford was asked to write about his experience at a Zumba class for The New York Times, he didn’t realize that it would be the beginning of a new obsession: dance. Now Alford has written about his “voyage” into the world of dance, from Bob Fosse to George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Arthur Murray. With new insight and Alford’s trademark humor, Alford offers this cultural history to show how dance so expertly expresses the human experience.
Peggy to Her Playwrights: The Letters of Margaret Ramsay, by Colin Chambers and Peggy Ramsay
Peggy Ramsay may not be a name you’ve heard before, but she was definitely an important figure in 20th-century theatre. As a play agent, she counted such playwrights as Alan Ayckbourn, Robert Bolt, Caryl Churchill, Joe Orton, and Howard Brenton as her clients, making her part of the development of such plays as Bedroom Farce, The Norman Conquests, and Loot. This new book, brought together by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s former literary manager, collects Ramsay’s correspondence with her playwright clients. Ramsay was known for her unusually candid letters, which now can provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at seminal works of the British theatre.
Off Sites: Contemporary Performance Beyond Site-Specific, by Bertie Ferdman
This new work from CUNY theatre professor Bertie Ferdman looks at site-specific theatre—theatre that is created for a specific non-traditional space rather than a typical theatre venue—and what makes it so vital. Specific productions discussed include David Levine’s Private Moment, Mary Ellen Strom and Ann Carlson’s Geyser Land, Jim Findlay’s Dream of the Red Chamber, and Lola Arias’Mi Vida Después. If you loved Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 and want to know more about theatre that pushes the boundaries of venue and performance space, check this one out.
The Costume Supervisor’s Toolkit, by Rebecca Pride
Looking for a backstage theatre job? This new book illuminates the ins and outs of being a costume supervisor, whether working for a theatre, opera, or dance company. This book will take you through the first design meetings all the way to fittings and final rehearsals, while espousing best practices, like how to create a “Costume Bible.”
Dance in the Mirror: The Ballet Photography of John R. Johnsen, by Kirsten Sørensen, Erik Aschengreen, and Anne Middelboe Christensen
Looking for a new coffee table book? This tome of showstopping photography offers a new collection of images featuring Danish ballet photographer John R. Johnsen. With dynamic photographs of such companies as New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Martha Graham Dance Company, this collection is the first time Johnsen’s work has been put together in a compendium. The pictures have been selected by Johnsen and are accompanied by commentary from ballet critics.
Playing to the Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry that Changed Acting Forever, by Peter Rader
Before we had Feud: Bette and Joan, there was the legendary feud of 19th century actors Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse, the former known for her over-the-top personality on and off the stage and the latter for her naturalistic acting style. Their differing styles—and the rising star power of both actors—led to a bitter offstage rivalry, complete with stolen lovers, playwrights, and roles. This new book not only presents and entertainingly dramatic story, it serves as a look into how their rivalry changed the theatre forever.
American Theatre Wing, an Oral History: 100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Million Miracles, by Patrick Pacheco
The American Theatre Wing may be best known to theatre fans as the co-producer of the Tony Awards, but in its more-than-a-century’s existence, the Wing has been an invaluable support to the art of theatre in ways that go well beyond an awards ceremony. Loaded with first person anecdotes and never-before-seen-photos, this book takes you from the Wing’s beginnings as a World War I charitable organization, to the establishment of the famed Stage Door Canteen during World War II, to the Wing of today that works tirelessly to support theatre on Broadway and all across the United States. This oral history is shared by such theatrical luminaries as Angela Lansbury, Rosie O’Donnell, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Harold Prince, Kenny Leon, Neil Patrick Harris, David Henry Hwang, Harvey Fierstein, and James Corden.
Music Essentials for Singers and Actors: Fundamentals of Notation, Sight-Singing, and Music Theory, by Andrew Gerle
If you’re an actor looking to improve your technical music skills, this is a great resource for you. New York composer, music director, and pianist Andrew Gerle created an easy-to-follow look at the essentials of music theory and sight-singing. He illuminates how mastering these topics can help actors learn music better and faster, and analyze it for deeper and richer acting choices. Broadway fans will also enjoy a foreward by Tony-winning actor and Wicked star Kristin Chenoweth.