The Crafty Art Of Playmaking


With over 60 plays written and premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough before going on to play in the West End, London's Royal National Theatre, or Broadway, Alan Ayckbourn's expertise in writing and directing plays is unsurpassed. He is, literally, the world's most widely performed contemporary playwright. For the first time, here in The Crafty Art of Playmaking, he shares all his tricks of the trade. From helpful hints on writing (Where do you start? How do you continue? What is comedy and how do...
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The Crafty Art of Playmaking

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With over 60 plays written and premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough before going on to play in the West End, London's Royal National Theatre, or Broadway, Alan Ayckbourn's expertise in writing and directing plays is unsurpassed. He is, literally, the world's most widely performed contemporary playwright. For the first time, here in The Crafty Art of Playmaking, he shares all his tricks of the trade. From helpful hints on writing (Where do you start? How do you continue? What is comedy and how do you write it? What is tragedy and how does it work?) to tips on directing (How do you work with actors and technicians? When should one sit back and listen to the other experts? How does one cope with rehearsals?), the book provides a complete primer for the aspiring playwright and a refresher for those more experienced. Written in Ayckbourn's elegant and entertaining style, The Crafty Art of Playmaking is crafty, indeed, and has as many wry and sophisticated moments as his Round and Round the Garden or Woman in Mind. It's a gift for his legion of admirers. It's a must for those who would like their plays to be as successful and entertaining as Ayckbourn's own.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a practical and disciplined look...After 44 years at his profession, Ayckbourn knows what he's talking about."—Lloyd Rose, Washington Post Book World

"...amusing, thought-provoking, and helpful in turn...his experiences are well worth the price of the book."—Susan L. Peters, Library Journal

" entrancing read-no matter what part you play in playmaking."—Dany Margolies, Back Stage

"...a polished gem of theater lore..."—Publishers Weekly Annex

"The New York Times on Alan Ayckbourn's recent House and Garden: As ingeniously constructed a work as the contemporary theater has to offer... House and Garden does justice not only to Mr. Ayckbourn's miraculous engineering but to his lightly astringent, not quite farcical humor as well. "— The New York Times

The Washington Post
With this slender book, Ayckbourn may have invented his own genre -- the memoir of work. Many, many directors and playwrights have written their memoirs, but these have usually been as much about their lives as their craft: "I was inspired at the age of 10, traumatized at the age of 11"; "So then Larry -- as he insisted I call him -- said to me. . . ." The Crafty Art of Playmaking, though witty throughout, is a practical and disciplined look at what is, despite its reputation for excess, the practical and disciplined art of the theater. — Lloyd Rose
The New Yorker
Margaret Croyden's Conversations with Peter Brook, 1970-2000 addresses the work of the man who's been called "the most important contemporary theatre director in the West." When Brook founded the International Center of Theatre Research, in Paris in 1970, he wanted a theatre company "that would offer a fusion of cultures, temperaments, styles, and backgrounds." The Center's highly experimental projects have included a nine-hour production of "The Mahabharata" and "Orghast," a treatment of the Prometheus myth performed amid the ruins of Persepolis in an incomprehensible language invented by Ted Hughes. Brook insists that he has "never believed in any theatre sect, any theatre line, or any theatre theory whatsoever," but he remains uncompromising in his view of what theatre should be: "The theatre is there as food for higher perceptions. It's through the theatre that the faculty for perceiving more vividly can be matched."

In The Crafty Art of Playmaking, the veteran writer-director Alan Ayckbourn defines theatre direction as "the art of responding to the needs of others." Often, this is collaborative: in his view, "a choice made by the actor is worth five imposed by the director." For the most part, Ayckbourn restricts himself to practical advice in a series of "Obvious Rules" covering every conceivable aspect of the production -- from "Obvious Rule No. 51: Beware the manic-depressive costume designer" to "Obvious Rule No. 87: If you can't hold your liquor, never drink with actors." Violate that last rule at your own risk: "Directors tend rapidly to lose their credibility once they've got hopelessly drunk and been carried home to bed, having made a pass at half the cast or been sick on their shoes," he writes. (Leo Carey)
Publishers Weekly
The author of 64 plays, Ayckbourn has garnered international acclaim as a writer-director and remains one of the most widely performed living playwrights. Now he throws a spotlight on his stagecraft secrets and insights in this slim but valuable handbook on how to write and direct plays. It's designed to chronologically carry readers from a play's inspiration and creation to auditions, read-throughs, rehearsals, previews and press night. Ayckbourn covers "obvious rules" such as "Never start a play without an idea" and "The best comedy springs from the utterly serious" and explicates his dicta with brief, occasionally humorous essays. For instance, his rule that "People in general are reluctant to reveal themselves" cues a three-page explanation: "We are most of us by nature secretive creatures... In making characters reveal themselves they must be given a cause, a motive. The classic, slight corny one is to get them drunk. Otherwise, they probably open up through desperation, or anger, or deliberately to hurt each other." The pages on directors and directing cover such areas as casting, lighting, costume and sound design, choreographers, tech rehearsals and dealing with producers and stars. In addition to inserting amusing anecdotes, Ayckbourn also shares relevant passages from his own plays, including Relatively Speaking, Just Between Ourselves, Taking Steps and Season's Greetings. Rather than taking an academic approach, Ayckbourn's stylish writing conveys a feeling that readers have been invited into a near-empty auditorium to witness a private rehearsal. This book, a polished gem of theater lore, concludes with an appendix listing Ayckbourn's plays. (May 19) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ayckbourn has been an extremely prolific and popular playwright (he has had more than 60 plays produced), and in this slim volume he shares several decades of learned wisdom and acquired expertise. Some of the advice may seem a little too obvious ("Never start a play without an idea"), but for the most part his insights are amusing, thought-provoking, and helpful in turn. To illustrate his points, he draws on examples from his own plays, giving one a quick introduction to Ayckbourn as well as to playwriting. Of particular interest are his thoughts on directing, somewhat ironic as rule No. 43 is "Beware of the writer-director." Since most playwrights don't have the opportunity to direct their own work, Ayckbourn is unusual, and his experiences are well worth the price of the book. The overall tone is breezy, lighthearted, and fun. Since there are as many theories of good playwriting as writers, it's a pleasure to read one that at least brings a smile to one's face. For a far more serious and theoretical work (and one that stands in total contrast to Ayckbourn's), try Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing or Louis Catron's highly practical The Elements of Playwriting. Recommended for academic libraries with theater collections.-Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403962294
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST PALGRA
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,363,346
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Ayckbourn is one of England's most prolific and widely performed living playwrights with over sixty plays in his catalogue. In 1997, he received a knighthood for his services to the theater. He was represented in New York this year with simultaneous productions of his plays "House" and "Garden" at the Manhattan Theater Club's two stages. He lives in England.

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Table of Contents

• PART I: Writing
• Comedy or Drama?
• The Initial Idea
• Construction
• Time
• Location
• Characters
• Final Countdown
• Dialogue
• Tidying up
• PART II: Directing
• The Director's Role
• A Sort of History
• The Producer
• The Author
• Stars
• Set Designers
• Costume Designers
• The Lighting Designer
• The Sound Designer
• Other Experts
• Casting
• Auditions
• Before the First Rehearsal
• The Rehearsal Period
• The First Day
• Exploration
• Early Days
• As You Proceed
• Notes
• Comedy
• Later Days
• The DSM
• Technicals
• Dress Rehearsals
• Previews
• Press Night
• Afterwards
• Chronology of Plays

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