Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays / Edition 2

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This guide to playreading for students and practitioners of both theater and literature complements, rather then contradicts or repeats, traditional methods of literary analysis of scripts.

Ball developed his method during his work as Literary Director at the Guthrie Theater, building his guide on the crafts playwrights of every period and style use to make their plays stageworthy. The text is full of tools for students and practitioners to use as they investigate plot, character, theme, exposition, imagery, motivation/obstacle/conflict, theatricality, and the other crucial parts of the superstructure of a play. He includes guides for discovering what the playwright considers the play’s most important elements, thus permitting interpretation based on the foundation of the play rather than its details.

Using Hamlet as illustration, Ball assures a familiar base for illustrating script-reading techniques as well as examples of the kinds of misinterpretation readers can fall prey to by ignoring the craft of the playwright. Of immense utility to those who want to put plays on the stage (actors, directors, designers, production specialists) Backwards and Forwards is also a fine playwriting manual because the structures it describes are the primary tools of the playwright.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In fewer than 100 pages, this marvelously instructive book shows how to unlock the secrets of plot, character, theme, exposition, imagery, motivation, conflict, theatricality and pacing… Our editor says he learned more about dramatic structure in the few hours he spent with this 96-page book than he has in his 20-years of theater experience.”—Stage Directions

“Ball wrote [Backwards and Forwards] to help people who put on plays understand how a play works… He argues that scripts represent a special kind of writing—because it is writing meant to be staged, not read— and thus requires special reading techniques; these techniques are what he offers.”—Dramatics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809311101
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1983
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 125,050
  • Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Ball is Professor of playwriting, acting, theater history, and literature at Carnegie-Mellon University and Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Metropolitan Stage Company. He has published two plays, Assassin! and an adaptation of Woyzeck, and has written and directed more than one hundred plays in professional, academic, and community theaters.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2007

    Ball's deep!

    David Ball circuitously describes the creating and production of the theatrical process beginning with the script and ending with the live production. His uniquely specific approach to script analysis provides: the theater practitioner with a perverse array of metaphoric processes by which he or she can obtrusively interpret a play. Using William Shakespeare¿s Hamlet as a stepping-stone, Ball ¿wanders¿ his way from Shakespeare¿s original concept to his own esoteric interpretation like a child in a candy-store reaching for the lollipop on-top-of-the-seven-foot shelf. This, -is delicious! Backwards and Forwards treads water in a quarry of sophomoric action and unmitigated retardation of character. This: one rule '1' there are no rules '2' action is the frontwards momentum achieved when-so-ever character moves from my room to your room '3' THE WORD THREE: 1,2, this is what 'we' are talking about. If it isn¿t, it isn¿t¿

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2004

    An Excellent Exposition on Dramatic Architecture

    I was introduced to David's slim volume at Duke University where David was chair of the theatre department in the late eighties. Now, as head of publications at one of the nation's premier play publishers in New York City, not a work day goes by that the principles David so concisely and elegantly introduced me to as an undergraduate don't figure into my understanding of what makes for successful drama. Read and take the time to absorb the principles in David's little book, and you will begin to see them everywhere -- on the stage, in films, in novels, in nonfiction, in the newspaper, even in poetry. BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS and a big stack of plays read in the light of it will do more to illuminate drama for you than a hundred other books on the art and craft of theatre by giving you a vocabulary and the ability to identify the fundamental building blocks of drama that most people, even many theatre professionals, have, at best, only an intuitive grasp of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2001

    Start at the Beginning

    I have used this book since college, although it was not assigned until one of my last theatre classes--I wish I had it from my first day. This book is an indispensible tool for script disection whether you be an actor, director, designer, or English teacher. Throw away all of the other books on play interpretation, and replace it with this small, insightful volume!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2010

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