10 Theater Books for Quarantine Reading
Last week, Lauren hosted Martha Wade Steketee (Drama Desk Nominating Committee Chair, ATCA Chair) on a live chat. At the time, Steketee recommended several theater books for quarantine reading. Here is her list (plus a few more).
Act I | Moss Hart – Moss Hart’s Act One, which Lincoln Center Theater presented in 2014 as a play written and directed by James Lapine, is one of the great American memoirs, a glorious memorial to a bygone age filled with all the wonder, drama, and heartbreak that surrounded Broadway in the early twentieth century. Hart’s story inspired a generation of theatergoers, dramatists, and readers everywhere as he eloquently chronicled his impoverished childhood and his long, determined struggle to reach the opening night of his first Broadway hit. Act One is the quintessential American success story.
William Goldman | The Season – Playwright/novelist/screenwriter Goldman analyzes Broadway from the perspective of the audiences playwrights critics producers and actors. Very nearly perfect… It is a loose-limbed gossipy insider savvy nuts-and-bolts report on the annual search for the winning numbers that is now big-time American commercial theatre.
Elaine Stritch Biography | Still Here – Still Here is the first full telling of Elaine Stritch’s life. Rollicking but intimate, it tracks one of Broadway’s great personalities from her upbringing in Detroit during the Great Depression to her fateful move to New York City, where she studied alongside Marlon Brando, Bea Arthur, and Harry Belafonte. We accompany Elaine through her jagged rise to fame, to Hollywood and London, and across her later years, when she enjoyed a stunning renaissance, punctuated by a turn on the popular television show 30 Rock. We explore the influential—and often fraught—collaborations she developed with Noël Coward, Tennessee Williams, and above all Stephen Sondheim, as well as her courageous yet flawed attempts to control a serious drinking problem. And we see the entertainer triumphing over personal turmoil with the development of her Tony Award–winning one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which established her as an emblem of spiky independence and Manhattan life for an entirely new generation of admirers. In Still Here, Alexandra Jacobs conveys the full force of Stritch’s sardonic wit and brassy charm while acknowledging her many dark complexities. Following years of meticulous research and interviews, this is a portrait of a powerful, vulnerable, honest, and humorous figure who continues to reverberate in the public consciousness.
Stages | A Theater Memoir – “In STAGES Albert writes about his career as he lived it – with honesty, humor and a spirit of real adventure. It is filled with the camaraderie of great friendships and great times. If you are considering a career in the theatre, I urge you to read STAGES – you will be encouraged.” –PHILIP J. SMITH, Chairman, The Shubert Organization. The shows featured include: Little Shop of Horrors, The Grapes of Wrath, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Glengarry Glen Ross, As Is, The Boy from Oz, Steel Magnolias, One Mo’ Time, The Fantasticks, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Neon Woman, A Lie of the Mind, Let My People Come, Marry Me a Little, The Waverly Gallery and many more.
Something Wonderful Right Away – Prominent alumni (Mike Nichols, Joan Rivers, Robert Klein, among others) bring theatrical improvisation to life, with all the vitality, the power and the exuberance the satire and spontaneity that they made famous and that launched their careers. “An important book about the most important American theatrical endeavor since the Group Theatre. Plus, it’s fun to read.” David Mamet
Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination – Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination takes a critical, comprehensive look at one of the most inventive, influential, and internationally beloved Broadway musicals of all time – from its inception by a brilliant quartet of creators (Robbins, Bernstein, Sondheim, and Laurents) to its smashing success on film, to its ongoing popularity on stages around the world and its potent impact on the Great American Musical.
Rise Up!: Broadway and American Society from ‘Angels in America’ to ‘Hamilton’ – Penned by one of America’s best-known daily theatre critics and organized chronologically, this lively and readable book tells the story of Broadway’s renaissance from the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, via the disaster that was Spiderman: Turn off the Dark through the unparalleled financial, artistic and political success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
Channel of Peace – Written by Come From Away’s real-life Kevin Tuerff (Kevin T.), this book is a beautiful account of how the people of Gander rallied with boundless acts of generosity and compassion for the “plane people,” renewing Kevin’s spirituality and inspiring him to organize an annual and growing “giving back” day. His story, along with others, has reached thousands of people when it was incorporated into the Broadway musical Come From Away.
My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance – Drawing on his own life and career and the rich lore of The Lion King, Alton Fitzgerald White, Broadway’s longest running “King,” delivers his message of service — taking responsibility for and deriving happiness from commonplace achievements — as a philosophy that anyone can get through each day with satisfaction, pride and a sense of accomplishment. If you’ve ever wondered how an actor can perform the same role hundreds of times without burning out, in White’s book you’ll meet someone who does it for thousands more with unbated joy and renewal of purpose. From his life experience, White has learned the secret of tapping his inner resources to meet the challenge of routine and repetition in work and relationships. Hear what Alton Fitzgerald White has to say to RDU on Stage about mastering quarantine and so much more.
Defying Gravity – Stephen Schwartz is among the rare American composer-lyricists whose Broadway musicals have inspired passionate followings, resulting in blockbuster hits like Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin. In the revised and updated second edition of Defying Gravity, biographer Carol de Giere reveals how Schwartz’s beloved musicals came to life, adding four new chapters that shed light on the continuing Wicked phenomenon and exciting projects that include stage adaptations of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Alan Menken and The Prince of Egypt. Hear what de Giere had to say to RDU on Stage about Pippin and Godspell.
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