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Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Be Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Berlin, in the Paris of the 1960s, and in a spectrum of contemporary performance in Europe and the United States. This is a work of historical materialist theater scholarship, which combines a materialism grounded in a socialist tradition of cultural studies with some of the insights developed in recent years by theorists of affect, and addresses some fundamental questions about the social function and political potential of theater within modern capitalism. Passionate Amateurs argues that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time, and freedom. Its title concept is a theoretical and historical figure, someone whose work in theater is undertaken within capitalism, but motivated by a love that desires something different. In addition to its theoretical originality, it offers a significant new reading of a major Chekhov play, the most sustained scholarly engagement to date with Benjamin’s “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” the first major consideration of Godard’s La chinoise as a “theatrical” work, and the first chapter-length discussion of the work of The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, an American company rapidly gaining a profile in the European theater scene. Passionate Amateurscontributes to the development of theater and performance studies in a way that moves beyond debates over the differences between theater and performance in order to tell a powerful, historically grounded story about what theater and performance are for in the modern world.


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Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Be Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Berlin, in the Paris of the 1960s, and in a spectrum of contemporary performance in Europe and the United States. This is a work of historical materialist theater scholarship, which combines a materialism grounded in a socialist tradition of cultural studies with some of the insights developed in recent years by theorists of affect, and addresses some fundamental questions about the social function and political potential of theater within modern capitalism. Passionate Amateurs argues that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time, and freedom. Its title concept is a theoretical and historical figure, someone whose work in theater is undertaken within capitalism, but motivated by a love that desires something different. In addition to its theoretical originality, it offers a significant new reading of a major Chekhov play, the most sustained scholarly engagement to date with Benjamin’s “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” the first major consideration of Godard’s La chinoise as a “theatrical” work, and the first chapter-length discussion of the work of The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, an American company rapidly gaining a profile in the European theater scene. Passionate Amateurscontributes to the development of theater and performance studies in a way that moves beyond debates over the differences between theater and performance in order to tell a powerful, historically grounded story about what theater and performance are for in the modern world.

21 review for Passionate Amateurs: Theatre, Communism, and Love

  1. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    In this book Ridout makes the case that theatre--or at least some theatre--challenges capitalism at a fundamental level, not through direct ideological/content challenges, but by confusing the logics upon which capitalism is built, especially the distinction between work and leisure and the movement of time. He illustrates these challenges by looking at specific examples of modern and contemporary (mostly European) theatre and film. In Ridout's reading, theatre is imbued with communist potential, In this book Ridout makes the case that theatre--or at least some theatre--challenges capitalism at a fundamental level, not through direct ideological/content challenges, but by confusing the logics upon which capitalism is built, especially the distinction between work and leisure and the movement of time. He illustrates these challenges by looking at specific examples of modern and contemporary (mostly European) theatre and film. In Ridout's reading, theatre is imbued with communist potential, by which he means the potential to build communities outside the dominance of capitalist ideology, precisely because it troubles the distinctions inherent in capitalist life. For instance, capitalist presumes a distinction between productive work and unproductive leisure time, but theatre undermines this binary. On the one hand, whenever the spectator goes to the theatre, they are going to consume the work of others, which means that what is leisure time for the one is labor time for the other. But on a more fundamental level--because this disparity between labor and leisure time is true throughout much of the service/entertainment industry--theatre blurs the labor/leisure line because seeing a show (or, at least, the kinds of shows Ridout analyzes) is also a form of social engagement. Theatre is a sphere that critiques and questions social norms, political norms, norms of justice, norms of power, etc. and it tends to demand of spectators a degree of critical engagement with those issues. In other words, what at first appears to be leisure time for the spectator is, in fact, a form of intellectual labor as spectators grapple with questions of morality, practicality, socio-cultural issues, etc. And this grappling happens alongside the labor of the actors, but it is not the economically productive labor envisioned/idealized by capitalism. Instead it is a form of social production taking place in the gaps between capitalist ideology, and therefore it is capable of producing communistic/communal spaces offering an alternative to the organizing principles of capitalism.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Swetank Gupta

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kari Barclay

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rob Samuels

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  6. 4 out of 5

    Peter Sheehy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Allan

  8. 5 out of 5

    Better_things

  9. 5 out of 5

    ML Character

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  11. 5 out of 5

    Irma Mayorga

  12. 4 out of 5

    Raptor

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Rios

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elise

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wren

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Max McKune

  19. 4 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 5 out of 5

    G.

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