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The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched

Overview


What is unique and essential about theater? What separates it from other arts? Do we need "theater" in some fundamental way? The art of theater, as Paul Woodruff says in this elegant and unique book, is as necessary - and as powerful - as language itself. Defining theater broadly, including sporting events and social rituals, he treats traditional theater as only one possibility in an art that - at its most powerful - can change lives and (as some peoples believe) bring a ...
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The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched

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Overview


What is unique and essential about theater? What separates it from other arts? Do we need "theater" in some fundamental way? The art of theater, as Paul Woodruff says in this elegant and unique book, is as necessary - and as powerful - as language itself. Defining theater broadly, including sporting events and social rituals, he treats traditional theater as only one possibility in an art that - at its most powerful - can change lives and (as some peoples believe) bring a divine presence to earth.
The Necessity of Theater analyzes the unique power of theater by separating it into the twin arts of watching and being watched, practiced together in harmony by watchers and the watched. Whereas performers practice the art of being watched - making their actions worth watching, and paying attention to action, choice, plot, character, mimesis, and the sacredness of performance space - audiences practice the art of watching: paying close attention. A good audience is emotionally engaged as spectators; their engagement takes a form of empathy that can lead to a special kind of human wisdom. As Plato implied, theater cannot teach us transcendent truths, but it can teach us about ourselves.
Characteristically thoughtful, probing, and original, Paul Woodruff makes the case for theater as a unique form of expression connected to our most human instincts. The Necessity of Theater should appeal to anyone seriously interested or involved in theater or performance more broadly.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...daring and inspiring..."--Times Literary Supplement

"He takes such care to be clear, to edify, that it seems ungrateful not to lap up every word.... If this book succeeds in any measure as a defense of theater, it will also have succeeded at something much larger."--New York Times Book Review

"Paul Woodruff has written a provocative call to arms that dares to reconsider the very nature of the theater and convincingly explains why live drama has to be an essential part of contemporary society. A modern Poetics -- exciting, innovative and incredibly inspiring. Anyone who seriously cares about the future of our theater must read this book."- -Peter Meineck, Artistic Director, Aquila Theatre Company & New York University

"...sophisticated, brilliant discussion of theater.... Woodruff writes in an engaging style that invites readers to reflect on their experience in social ceremonies, movie houses, places of worship, athletic contests, and homes and that will stimulate conversations and interactions in the classroom."--CHOICE

"The Necessity of Theater stood my idea of theater on its head, shook it, and emptied out the pockets."--William Broyles, Jr., screenwriter of Cast Away, Apollo 13, and Flags of Our Fathers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195394801
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/19/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 813,972
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Woodruff is Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas

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Table of Contents

Part One: The Art of Being Watched
1. Defining the Art
2. What Theater Makes
3. Action Worth Watching: Plot
4. Staging Choices
5. People Worth Watching: Characters
6. Sacred Space
7. Mimesis
Part Two: The Art of Watching
8. Emotion
9. Empathy
10. Laughter
11. Understanding Theater
12. The Mask of Wisdom
The Necessity of Theater
Part One: The Art of Being Watched
1. Defining the Art
2. What Theater Makes
3. Action Worth Watching: Plot
4. Staging Choices
5. People Worth Watching: Characters
6. Sacred Space
7. Mimesis
Part Two: The Art of Watching
8. Emotion
9. Empathy
10. Laughter
11. Understanding Theater
12. The Mask of Wisdom

Read More Show Less

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