From the Publisher
“Sharp, savvy. . . . Icily hilarious. . . . Mr. Mamet writes with insight, idiosyncrasy, and a Godzillian imperviousness to opposition.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times on Bambi vs. Godzilla
“Winningly pugnacious. . . . [Bambi vs. Godzilla] is funny and angry and intemperate and passionate enough to tell the truth about movies.” San Francisco Chronicle on Bambi vs. Godzilla
“This is a book infused with love – the sweet, helpless love Mamet has for film, and the communal process that makes it.” Los Angeles Times on Bambi vs. Godzilla
“Playful . . . deft. . . . Mamet the dramatist has developed a career as a prolific philosophical essayist.” Chicago Sun-Times on Bambi vs. Godzilla
…fans of [Mamet's] friendlier, funnier prose collections like Writing in Restaurants (1987) will find his cutting wit, as ever, on point.
The Washington Post
In this manifesto, playwright Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross; Speed the Plow) appears to take great pleasure in attacking age-old theories of acting and directing. By definition, he posits, an actor is a good actor; if the person onstage is not good, then he or she is not an actor. Other targets are books of theory, which Mamet admits he read voraciously when he fell in love with the theater; he now writes, "on reflection, I had (and have) very little idea what they were talking about." Some of his main points are that theater should entertain, rehearsal time should be used to block the play and have the actors understand what they are speaking (rather than feeling), and the job of the playwright is to "make the audience wonder what is going to happen next. That's it." VERDICT Mamet is a superb playwright, and the ideas he shares would have made an excellent journal article. As a $22 hardcover, this is recommended only for die-hard Mamet disciples and exhaustive theater collections with large budgets.—Susan Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston
Read an Excerpt
The greenroom is that common room between the street and the stage. In coming backstage, one enters the greenroom first. I've heard, over the years, several derivations of the term: The original room was painted green, or was constructed by a man named Green. None are convincing.
Early nineteenth-century British novels refer to the greenroom in a country house. They mean by this that transitional space known in New England as the mudroom. This mudroom in old farmhouses (including my own) allowed the farmer, hunter, outdoorsman to divest himself of those accoutrements that were needed on the land but inappropriate in the house. Mine, in Vermont, was filled, according to the seasons, with fishing rods, snowshoes, muddy boots, firearms, longbows, skis, skates, a snow shovel, a maul, the walls covered with hooks bearing all sorts of coats and caps, and on the floor a wooden drying rack covered with gloves, gaiters, sweaters.
In Vermont, the mudroom; in England, the greenroom, where one knocked off the grass, grain, and green of the field. On the farm, the greenroom was the space between the farm and the home; in the theatre, it rests between the sacred and the profane.
Many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be considered heretical.
That is, if the theatre were a religion. But, though its origins are linked with religion, the theatre as an art is a profession, and, in its appearance as show business, is something of a racket.
This book is a compilation and a distillation of those thoughts and attendant practices I have used in my forty years in the professional theatre. They are the rules by which I function as an artist and by which I have been able to make a living.
Faced with a difficult medical decision, we are most comforted to hear the physician endorse one of the choices by saying, "This is what I would do if it were my own child."
The ideas herein, similarly, are what I would (and do) tell my own children and my students. I will gladly test their practicality and practicability against anyone willing to put his particular philosophy to a practical test.
Of what might such a test consist? The ability to motivate an actor to perform an action simply and unself-consciously; to involve an audience; and, at a somewhat more abstract level, to communicate a directorial or literary vision to a designer such that his designs will serve the show.
Finally, I am suggesting and describing a way of thinking about the drama (analysis) and of communicating the subsequent conclusions using language and vocabulary (direction).
Impracticable theory is an impediment to both art and sustenance, and benefits no one save the intellectual to whom theatrical thought is an abstract and enjoyable exercise. But the point of the theatre is to give the audience enjoyment, and it is my experience that to do so, the practitioner is going to have to learn discipline.
This is primarily a discipline of thought and speech. Its overriding principle is never to consider or to suggest that which is impossible to accomplish.
As a young student I abhorred direction and instruction that was incapable of being done. I still do. It called for a collusion between the student and the teacher-director: "I will pretend to an approximation of what I think you want if you will refrain from criticizing me."
The theatre does not need more teachers or more directors; it needs more writers and actors, and both come from the same applicant pool: those who are affronted, bemused, fascinated, or saddened by the infinite variety of human interaction, which always bodes so promising and usually ends so ill.
This applicant pool is interested in the truth, and they love to act and write.
Here follow certain thoughts about these people and the audience that craves their productions.
Excerpted from Theatre by .
Copyright © 2010 by David Mamet.
Published in 2010 by Faber and Faber, Inc..
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.