The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected

The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected

by Edwin Wong


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The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy presents a profoundly original theory of drama that speaks to modern audiences living in an increasingly volatile world driven by artificial intelligence, gene editing, globalization, and mutual assured destruction ideologies. Tragedy, according to risk theatre, puts us face to face with the unexpected implications of our actions by simulating the profound impact of highly improbable events.

In this book, classicist Edwin Wong shows how tragedy imitates reality: heroes, by taking inordinate risks, trigger devastating low-probability, high-consequence outcomes. Such a theatre forces audiences to ask themselves a most timely question--what happens when the perfect bet goes wrong?

Not only does Wong reinterpret classic tragedies from Aeschylus to O'Neill through the risk theatre lens, he also invites dramatists to create tomorrow's theatre. As the world becomes increasingly unpredictable, the most compelling dramas will be high-stakes tragedies that dramatize the unintended consequences of today's risk takers who are taking us past the point of no return...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781525537561
Publisher: FriesenPress
Publication date: 02/04/2019
Pages: 378
Sales rank: 81,391
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Edwin Wong founded the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwright Competition with Langham Court Theatre to align tragedy with the modern fascination with uncertainty and chance. It is the world's largest competition for the writing of tragedy (visit for details). He is an award-winning classicist with a master's degree from Brown University, where he concentrated on ancient theatre. His other research interests include epic poetry, where he has published a solution to the contradiction between Homeric fate and free will by drawing attention to the peculiar mechanics of chess endgames. He lives in Victoria, BC and blogs at

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The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
AlanThurston 7 months ago
If you ever plan to write, read or act in a tragedy this is the book for you! The author writes that "after two and a half millennia, tragedy is still a term in search of a definition." He interestingly describes how each age creates its own model. The ancients "assigned the unexpected outcome to the will of the gods" while the Elizabethans established "the first great age of tragedy in the era of probability". Mr. Wong provides a model for our highly technological time where "the possibility of doing great good or evil has increased" where "the unexpected always prevails". He makes a very convincing case that the study of tragedy enhances our understanding of life and its value. As did I, readers of this highly stimulating book will undoubtedly ask themselves what they would be willing to wager in their lives and for what. As an actor who has performed in tragedies, and a playwright who has attempted to write one, I know that this is a book to which I will often refer. PS: Be sure to read the footnotes which are chock full of good stuff from Wild Bill Hickok anecdotes to the link between tragedy and goats! Tragedy will rise again!!
DanielCurzon More than 1 year ago
If you haven't read a scholarly book in a while and you feel that your brains are getting rusty, I recommend THE RISK MODEL of TRAGEDY. It manages to be highbrow but lucid, free of the cant of so much modern critical theory. The theatrical genre of tragedy was deemed to be needed along with comedy in ancient Greece, Elizabethan England, and should be re-invented in the USA today, if we truly want to be great. What are we afraid of?
Reader_Views 12 days ago
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/19) In “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” author Edwin Wong brings tragedy into the 21st century. Tragedy imitates reality. Yet in our modern times, tragedy no longer has the same impact that it used to have. The last great tragedies were written a very long time ago. To help tragedy make a comeback, the author developed the risk theatre model of tragedy. This working model is to contain original material, while still having roots from tradition. Traditional material might include material from the fifth century Athens, the English Renaissance, or the German Romantics. The author believes that “risk” is central to the idea of tragedy. Risk Theater supports the idea that every drama act in a tragedy is a gambling act based upon risk. While restoring tragedy to an art in our modern times, current issues must be considered. Incorporating science and technology into tragedies greatly increases the opportunities for something to go horribly wrong. The author refers to this as low-probability, high-consequence risk. There is a thrill that comes from taking such risks. The audience loves a good thrill! I found “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” to be well written and very thought provoking. Edwin Wong has done an excellent job of educating readers on the historical aspects of not only tragedies, but drama in general. Readers will gain a great understanding of the structure, philosophy and poetics of tragedy. In explaining Wong’s risk theatre model, readers will learn how to tie the past aspects of drama into the present. This will enable to do a comparison of the past to the present. The author gives great examples of tragedies to support his information. Readers will then be able to incorporate this knowledge into how modern tragedies should be written using this model. A bibliography is also available in the back of the book. In addition to supporting the information presented, this list can also be used as a great resource if a reader chooses to go more in depth. The index will also make it easier to locate information in the book. I think that “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” by Edwin Wong will be enjoyed by both writers and people who enjoy great drama. For myself, I enjoyed being able to read it a few days before I am to travel to Los Angeles to see a play. Personally, I feel what I learned while reading this will give me a greater perspective on the play. I will be able to view it with more depth. I think that this book would be a great resource for critical thinking courses such as a class on analytical reading.
ReadersFavorite 3 months ago
Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite Edwin Wong’s The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is one of those books that invite one to discover new things about old fields. In this case, the subject is tragedy, one of the classic forms of art. Wong reaffirms its importance in our time because we are living in a world that has been hugely influenced by artificial intelligence, technology, and globalization. Tragedy has some similarities with modern conducts. In our time, tragic heroes are those who take risks that have a profound impact on society. This is why Wong suggests a new model of tragedy: the risk theatre. What does he mean by “risk theatre”? Risk theatre interprets the best ages of tragedy in a modern key. Risk is the main topic of tragedy, and heroes are like gamblers who pay the price of discovery. Through a series of interesting dissertations and examples, Wong clarifies his point of view in a persuasive way. The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is a clear essay, where every part has been structured to make the general picture as precise as possible. Wong is an analytical writer and it is easy to follow his line of reasoning through his consistent exposition. He gives several enlightening examples that often draw to original conclusions. I appreciated the references to classic tragedies and the invitation to create the theatre of tomorrow. The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is a book that will interest both specialists and book lovers who want to know “how it works.” It is also a recommended reading for modern risk takers.