Friday, April 23, 2010

Backwards and Forwards (1983)

Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays by David Ball

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another overdue book from the library. Recommended by 'becoming a dramaturgist' friend Deb, I had to ask my local library to find it somewhere else in the state. By the time I got the book, the time allowed to read, even this slim book, was not adequate.

Author David Ball was a professor in the Drama Department at Carnegie Mellon when he wrote this book. He has impeccable credentials since then as well. That being said, I found some of his writing rather juvenile. He refers to those who don't understand a play as "dumb readers". Once you get past those types of comments, which are probably meant to draw in the especially educated readers of his book and as a joke, his concept of playreading is fascinating.

His primary suggestion is that you cannot understand a play in totality unless you can connect all the dots. Why do things happen? What propels them?  He posits that by being able to start at the end and work your way to the beginning of the play you will see those important connections.

Using HAMLET as a major focus, he discusses how the play can be built to the best advantage for performance. This is an important book for anyone interested in directing, playwriting, or dramaturgy.

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  1. Interesting. Last night, watching a play for the third night in a row, I opined during intermission that a particular scene was gratuitous and deserved to be lopped. My more knowledgeable friend replied, "But then how could the kids change their costumes?" Duh.

  2. There appear to be many scenes like that especially in musicals. What would we do without them?