Getting Off: Lee Breuer on Performance

Getting Off: Lee Breuer on Performance


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Since he first arrived on the New York art/theatre/performance scene in 1970, Lee Breuer has been at the forefront of the American theatrical avant-garde, creating challenging works both independently and with Mabou Mines, the company he co-founded with JoAnne Akalaitis, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, and David Warrilow. By blending disciplines and techniques from widely different cultures, he has created a unique performance genre fusing sound and musical components, visual arts, and arresting movement/dance/puppetry into a groundbreaking form.

Breuer’s work as a director includes radical adaptations of major works, such as his celebrated stagings of The Lost Ones by Samuel Beckett, The Gospel at Colonus, inspired by Sophocles, a gender-reversed King Lear, and a revolutionary reinterpretation of Ibsen with Mabou Mines DollHouse.

Breuer has also been a prolific writer who redefines the concept of character and the use of biography in such works as The Shaggy Dog Animation, A Prelude to Death in Venice, Hajj, Ecco Porco, and La Divina Caricatura in a distinctive American voice.

In this volume, theatre historian and journalist Stephen Nunns has assembled a unique look into one of contemporary theatre’s most singular creative minds. Using interviews and excerpts from Breuer’s writings, with added historical commentary, the thrilling result is equal parts autobiography, artistic manifesto, and critical exploration. Extensively illustrated with photographs of his work from around the world, this is a one-of-a-kind portrait of the artist and theatrical activist at work.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781559365338
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group
Publication date: 07/09/2019
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Lee Breuer (Chevalier and MacArthur Fellow) is a writer and director whose work expands the boundaries of storytelling in the theatre. He is a founding artistic director of Mabou Mines. The Gospel at Colonus, his unprecedented merger of Greek theatre and gospel service, is now a classic of the contemporary stage, as is his post-Brechtian production Mabou Mines DollHouse.

Stephen Nunns is a professor at Towson University. From 1996 to 2000, he was an associate editor at American Theatre magazine, and his writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, and other publications.

Table of Contents

Foreword Sharon Levy ix

Explanatory Note xiii

Introduction: Animal Magnetism: Lee Breuer and the Search for an American Classicism xv

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 1) 3

Chapter 1 Happy Just to Keep My Edge (2007) 5

Chapter 2 The Animation of Asher Leopold (1970/2004) 17

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 2) 35

Chapter 3 The Avant-Garde Kid (2001) 37

Chapter 4 Down and Out in Paris and London (and the Netherlands and Berlin …) (2004) 41

Chapter 5 Mabou Mines: How We Work (1976) 45

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 3) 50

Chapter 6 Between Art and Performance (1998) 51

Chapter 7 An Actor Evolves (1977) 55

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 4) 59

Chapter 8 A Sense of Direction (2001) 61

Chapter 9 The Avant-Garde Is Alive and Well and Living in Women (1982) 71

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 5) 77

Chapter 10 Prelude to Prelude (1980/2009) 79

Chapter 11 Working with Wood (2010) 83

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 6) 87

Chapter 12 Synthesis (2007) 89

Chapter 13 Mabou Mines Lear, a Critical Detour (2014) 97

Chapter 14 Adapt or Perish (1999) 105

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 7) 117

Chapter 15 The Funding Game (1980) 119

Chapter 16 The Two-Handed Gun (1991) 125

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 8) 134

Chapter 17 Dog Days at Mabou Mines, a Critical Detour (2002) 135

Chapter 18 The Emergent Martyr (2001) 145

Chapter 19 Comedy and the System (2009) 153

Chapter 20 Why Dramatize? (2005) 159

The Theatre and its Trouble (Excerpt 9) 164

Chapter 21 On Hajj, Ruth Maleczech, and the Myth of Mabou Mines (2015) 165

Chapter 22 The Fifth Voyage 179

Conclusion 189

Chronology of Work 195

List of Photographs 215

Acknowledgements 217

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