Theatre senior editor Rob Weinert-Kendt curated this issue’s Approaches to Theatre Training special section, devoted to Technical Theatre and Production. His thoughtful remarks introduce the trio of richly detailed articles that comprise our coverage of the topic—one so broad and encompassing that TCG executive director Teresa Eyring refers to it in her column as “the huge iceberg supporting the tip that is the show.” She’s right: Considering the ancient, crafts-based origins of theatre technology and the exponential changes that have transformed it in our time, it’s hardly possible to gain a comprehensive view of the tech-training world from the limited vantage of a single issue. A wiser tack, Eyring suggests, is to “acknowledge the collaborative, intricate and even poetic nature” of the handiwork of those whose behind-the-scenes expertise make performances possible. That’s one thing we’re up to in these pages.
In deference to my colleagues’ thematic observations, I’ll aim my comments in other directions—toward the array of coverage, contemporary and historical, that fills out the issue. It leads off with senior editor Eliza Bent’s provocative conversation with Italian auteur director Romeo Castellucci, on the heels of an appearance at the Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival. The director’s job, Castellucci posits, is not to cultivate audience emotions but to “abandon the spectator” to the work on stage—to “leave him alone without any suggestion.” (For more on Castellucci, check out my essay on Poland’s Malta Festival.)
Castellucci’s austere attitude was shared, in a sense, by another European, the late Jerzy Grotowski, whose famous teaching stint at the University of California–Irvine in the 1980s is evoked in sometimes mystifying detail by “lab rat” Keith Fowler, who experienced it firsthand. A second slice of theatre history (we call these look-backs Antecedents) comes in a juicy excerpt from a new book about Britain’s National Theatre, recounting an aesthetic brawl between two giants, Peter Brook and Laurence Olivier. Their battle climaxes (excuse the entendre) in a confrontation not to be missed, when Olivier objects to Brook’s insertion of a 12-foot-tall golden phallus into the scenography of his 1968 staging of Seneca’s Oedipus.
Another oversized theatrical figure, playwright August Wilson, is the subject of an extended appreciation by writer and director Isaac Butler, on the occasion of the audio recording of Wilson’s entire American Century Cycle, slated for online and radio release later this year. A different legacy—that of WOW Café Theatre co-founders Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver—is celebrated in Alexis Clements’s article about the two New York City–based artists’ women-centered performance work over four decades.
There’s more—including Helen Shaw’s brisk preview of the January festival season that’s about to sweep through Manhattan, and Stuart Miller’s critical appreciation of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s widely produced “Elliot” trilogy. Finally, reviewer Wendy Smith steers the subject matter back toward the issue’s central theme as she evaluates a spate of new books devoted to various aspects of theatre training—and quotes professor of acting Jon Jory’s contention that “craft is the delivery system for the mind and heart.” Dive into these pages and see if you don’t agree.