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Overview

The Craft of Comedy by Athene Seyler, Stephen Haggard

"a work on the art and craft of comedy as important in its own way as works by Stanislavski and Chekhov"Oxford Theatre Companion

In 1939, a young, inexperienced actor wrote to a famous actress of his acquaintance, asking for advice on playing comedy. She responded enthusiastically, and they corresponded variously over the next year. The Craft of Comedy, a record of these exchanges, soon emerged as one of the few classic texts in the field of comedy acting.

This major new edition takes a brilliant book and makes it better. Editor Robert Barton has devised extensive supplementary material, including:

  • An introduction to the correspondents, the culture of the time, and the evolution of their book;
  • Summaries, definitions, and exercises and practice scenes for readers wishing to explore Athene Seyler’s invaluable advice;
  • Photographs, additional essays by Seyler, and a guide to easily accessed video clips of her performing.

Seyler’s lucid guidance, and Barton’s scrupulous editorship, ensure this legendary work’s rightful status is restored: as one of the great practical guides to the craft of comedy, and an essential resource for actors and students of acting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780415527231
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 02/06/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

List of plates viii

Acknowledgments x

Introduction 1

Cultural contexts 3

Athene Seyler 7

Stephen Haggard 16

How the book evolved 20

1 Distorted truth 23

Stephen to Athene, June 8, 1939 23

Reply, June 10 24

Summary 27

Concepts: revue comedy, non-comic acting, comic foundation, comic spirit, distorted truth, comic state of mind 27

Exercises: Comic perspective, Adding delight 28

2 Tight-rope walking 31

Stephen to Athene, June 17, 1939 31

Reply, June 30 34

Summary 39

Concepts: comedy through situation, comedy through character, comedy of being out of character, lack of balance, distortion, tight-rope walking, over-statement, over-emphasis, understatement, shared secret, spiritual comprehension, personality, technique 39

Exercises: Personal tendencies, All out of proportion, Both sides now 40

3 Just do it 43

Stephen to Athene, July 20, 1939 43

Reply, July 21 46

Summary 53

Concepts: comedy essentials, national humor, farce, high comedy, comedy vein 53

Exercises: Delicate to broad, Sitting in fear, Bubbling with pleasure 54

4 Trust and confidence 57

Stephen to Athene, November 19, 1939 57

Reply, December 9 61

Summary 65

Concepts: confidence, taking the audience in, topping 66

Exercises: Assurance and creativity, Tricks of the trade 66

5 Rhythm 69

Stephen to Athene, January 15, 1940 69

Reply, January 22 74

Summary 84

Concepts: double take, breaking, rhythm, emphasis, business, breaking up the scene 84

Exercises: Scarfing, Opposition, Max and Anatol 85

6 Comedy of manners 87

Stephen to Athene, February 10, 1940 87

Reply, March 29 90

Summary 94

Concepts: leading up to a laugh, trodding on a laugh, antimodal comedy, three kinds of dramatic expression (poetic drama, straight drama or comedy, artificial or high comedy), leveling of emotion 94

Exercises: Period physical lives, Walk the walks 95

7 Delicate decadence 97

Stephen to Athene, April 18, 1940 97

Reply, April 20 98

Summary 110

Concepts: interest, manners without morals, line delivery, types 110

Exercises: Character distinctions, Relish and detail 111

8 The acting profession 113

Stephen to Athene, May 6, 1940 113

Reply, May 16 115

Stephen to Athene, May 31, 1940 117

Summary 119

Concepts: professional prerequisites, pursuing stardom, career pitfalls, career compensations 120

Exercise: Self-analysis 120

Appendices

A Seyler's second thoughts 121

Summary 123

Concepts: spiritual antiseptic, two kinds of comedy, power of an audience, final enunciation, feed line 123

Exercises: Line or character?, Endings, Post mortem 124

B Fans, trains and stays 127

Applications: training, rehearsal, homework 133

C Plays referenced and scenes for practice 135

D Video clips 137

Athene Seyler 137

Stephen Haggard 138

E Tribute by Prunella Scales 139

F Additional sources - comedy books 143

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