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If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, "many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical." As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, "many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical." As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors are good or they are non-actors, and good actors generally work best without the interference of a director, however well-intentioned. Issue plays, political correctness, method actors, impossible directions, Stanislavksy, and elitists all fall under Mamet's critical gaze. To students, teachers, and directors who crave a blast of fresh air in a world that can be insular and fearful of change, Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better, including Mamet himself.


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If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, "many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical." As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, "many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical." As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors are good or they are non-actors, and good actors generally work best without the interference of a director, however well-intentioned. Issue plays, political correctness, method actors, impossible directions, Stanislavksy, and elitists all fall under Mamet's critical gaze. To students, teachers, and directors who crave a blast of fresh air in a world that can be insular and fearful of change, Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better, including Mamet himself.

30 review for Theatre

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    David Mamet explains his minimalist and consumer-oriented notion of theatre, and works to knock artists high on themselves down a peg. He believes that the point of drama is to examine the human condition, the measure of a well-written play is if the audience wants to know what happens next, and that the Method approach to acting is BS. He abhors issue plays and state-sponsorship, even though he himself admits that he has received grants before for his work. Instead, he believes drama should shi David Mamet explains his minimalist and consumer-oriented notion of theatre, and works to knock artists high on themselves down a peg. He believes that the point of drama is to examine the human condition, the measure of a well-written play is if the audience wants to know what happens next, and that the Method approach to acting is BS. He abhors issue plays and state-sponsorship, even though he himself admits that he has received grants before for his work. Instead, he believes drama should shine a light on the parts of humanity that we'd rather not see. We seek out drama to understand ourselves and explore what life is like. Issue plays are easy because they aren't as scary as confronting who we really are. And morality plays don't help us to understand ourselves; we go to morality plays to feel superior. He frequently uses hunting metaphors and flight metaphors. Many aspects of the play can work with little or no intervention; we just need to be willing to step back and given it room. He talks very frequently about the director who does something "interesting" with a play, implying that they are hijacking the theatre for their own ends or glorification. He also doesn't seem to think highly of critics, instead empowering the audience as the ultimate critic, who reviews the play by either buying a ticket (or not) and keeping their butt in the seat (or leaving partway through). Anyone can destroy, he says of the critic, but few can create. Some will try to rob the play of its power; as with those who hijack the play, it is for their own glorification. He also uses some religious metaphors; he seems to view the play as something sacred, and the act of changing it to "do something interesting" is profane. Finally, he really doesn't like Stanislavsky or the Method approach to acting. He considers the notion of character to be antiquated and unnecessary. Learning the craft is artificial. The real test is what happens in front of an audience - and how the audience reacts. The worth of art is determined by its ability to entertain. The audience is the teacher of both actors and writers. If they react the way you want, you're doing it right. Overall, an interesting read, especially for anyone involved in the arts - as an artist or administration. I don't agree with everything he says, but I was thoroughly entertained and laughed out loud many times.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tuti

    concise and useful

  3. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Rodgers

    "No one in the theatre is important except for the writer-" David Mamet, a playwright, probably What a pointless book. Theatre is a collaborative art, which has apparently passed over Mamet his entire life. His plays, by the way, are miserable. Ugh. "No one in the theatre is important except for the writer-" David Mamet, a playwright, probably What a pointless book. Theatre is a collaborative art, which has apparently passed over Mamet his entire life. His plays, by the way, are miserable. Ugh.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    An excellent primer for anyone who wants to get their feet wet without becoming mired in Stanislavsky, etc. Readable, practical prose that is both pithy and insightful. The repetition of his main points helps to drive them home to the uninitiated, and provides a good springboard for refining one's own positions. This book makes you want to go out and buy tickets to the nearest play, just to see if you still agree with his assertions as you spot instances of them in a live performance. An excellent primer for anyone who wants to get their feet wet without becoming mired in Stanislavsky, etc. Readable, practical prose that is both pithy and insightful. The repetition of his main points helps to drive them home to the uninitiated, and provides a good springboard for refining one's own positions. This book makes you want to go out and buy tickets to the nearest play, just to see if you still agree with his assertions as you spot instances of them in a live performance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Noemi

    For me, David Mamet is like Oscar Wilde. I don't agree with everything he says, but I sure do enjoy hearing him say it. The book is honest, insightful, funny and straightforward. I would take his thoughts on the role of the director and set designer with a grain of salt. I do agree that the imposition of a brilliant "concept" or a "vision" onto a text is often detrimental, but I see no harm in exploring different possibilities and time periods for staging as long as they are thoughtful and suppo For me, David Mamet is like Oscar Wilde. I don't agree with everything he says, but I sure do enjoy hearing him say it. The book is honest, insightful, funny and straightforward. I would take his thoughts on the role of the director and set designer with a grain of salt. I do agree that the imposition of a brilliant "concept" or a "vision" onto a text is often detrimental, but I see no harm in exploring different possibilities and time periods for staging as long as they are thoughtful and supported by the text. The director's job is not to rewrite the play, but to bring it to life. S/he shouldn't be discouraged from offering different interpretations. Mamet is a playwright, so I can understand where his feelings on the untouchability of the text come from. His critique of Stanislavsky, the Method and other "sacred" notions on acting and the rehearsal process that focus more on talking and self-exploration instead of actually staging the play (uncovering and playing the action) are spot on and extremely refreshing to read. Definitely recommend reading it, especially to those who feel overwhelmed by all the existing "great" theories on the theatre.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Lamp

    Three stars, because, despite all of the thoroughly exhausting diatribes about Brecht, the Soviet Union, Stanislavsky, liberalism, communism, and non-realist theatre, Mamet offers some excellent insights into what makes for good acting and how the director’s job is to get out of the actors’ way. However, most of this book is a miserable screed consisting of Mamet extolling the virtues of the free market and condemning liberal politics and social justice. He also sounds like a miserable collaborato Three stars, because, despite all of the thoroughly exhausting diatribes about Brecht, the Soviet Union, Stanislavsky, liberalism, communism, and non-realist theatre, Mamet offers some excellent insights into what makes for good acting and how the director’s job is to get out of the actors’ way. However, most of this book is a miserable screed consisting of Mamet extolling the virtues of the free market and condemning liberal politics and social justice. He also sounds like a miserable collaborator, complaining about designers, directors, and production staff with gusto. His disdain for academics, teachers, and critics is anti-intellectualism at its finest. All that being said, when he’s good, he’s really good, even if he’s a tiresome asshole.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dísa

    Short and sweet, nice for a inspiration boost but dont take everything to heart, Mamet is not a scholar and not a prophet.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    A new way of thinking for the actor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Loved this. Some quotes: The task of the playwright is to make the audience wonder what is going to happen next...The plot, the structure of incidents, is all the audience cares about.. a plot is the necessary structure of the incidents (that is the scenes), the failure of each scene driving the hero on toward a new attempt at the solution of a goal stated at the play's onset. The two hardest parts of writing drama are 1) discarding all the notes and sketches, and writing “at rise” and 2) acceptin Loved this. Some quotes: The task of the playwright is to make the audience wonder what is going to happen next...The plot, the structure of incidents, is all the audience cares about.. a plot is the necessary structure of the incidents (that is the scenes), the failure of each scene driving the hero on toward a new attempt at the solution of a goal stated at the play's onset. The two hardest parts of writing drama are 1) discarding all the notes and sketches, and writing “at rise” and 2) accepting the resulting draft and committing oneself to work on that, rather than bemoaning or exploring (which are the same thing) the difference between that draft and the actually nonexistent) ideal foreseen version of the play. Drama is about lies. Drama is about finding previously unsuspected meaning in chaos, about discovering truth that had previously obscured by lies, and about our persistence in accepting lies. In great drama we recognize that freedom may lie beyond and is achieved through painful questioning of what was before supposedly unquestionable. In great drama we follow a supposedly understood first principle to its astounding and unexpected conclusion. We are pleased to find ourselves able to revise our understanding.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    With this one I find that Mamet left a sour taste in my mouth, but damn I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that he makes some excellent points, mostly on the subject of theater theory. The sour taste in my mouth however comes from him thinking he knows so much about the craft of acting. If anyone knows the back-story on Mamet you would know that he is a failed actor who turned to playwriting. It's as if someone who never skied professionally and is open about their failed attempts at not only tha With this one I find that Mamet left a sour taste in my mouth, but damn I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that he makes some excellent points, mostly on the subject of theater theory. The sour taste in my mouth however comes from him thinking he knows so much about the craft of acting. If anyone knows the back-story on Mamet you would know that he is a failed actor who turned to playwriting. It's as if someone who never skied professionally and is open about their failed attempts at not only that, but flat-out skiing in general, then turns around and says I know all you need to know on the subject of skiing. I don't know about you, but I would take what they had to say with a big fat grain of salt, and I think that is the best way to read Mamet when he squawks about acting. Never the less this man is a true force in the theater world and knows a-hell-of-a-lot; please read because at the very least, if you don’t agree with a single thing, he will help you discover and better defend the things you do believe in, because if any of you out there are like me you will be yelling passionately at the things that sting. I have to give Mamet credit he makes you feel alive and ready to fight.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I definitely don't agree with everything Mamet has to say, and I'm actually pretty plus-minus on most of his plays. This book, however, is hilarious - start to finish. While one may disagree with him about his overarching ideas (that anyone other than the playwright and actors are essentially expendable, that the Method is comparable to "the daydreams of a 12-year-old girl, e.g., 'I wonder what Rhett Butler would do if he lived now?'") the points he makes are, for the most part, salient and incr I definitely don't agree with everything Mamet has to say, and I'm actually pretty plus-minus on most of his plays. This book, however, is hilarious - start to finish. While one may disagree with him about his overarching ideas (that anyone other than the playwright and actors are essentially expendable, that the Method is comparable to "the daydreams of a 12-year-old girl, e.g., 'I wonder what Rhett Butler would do if he lived now?'") the points he makes are, for the most part, salient and incredibly entertaining to read. This book is all about eviscerating the West's theatrical idols, and I think a healthy dose of skepticism and questioning the status quo is never a bad thing. Just make up your own mind. I rated 5 stars for how enjoyable the book was, not how right I thought he was. I probably averaged a dog-ear every 5 or so pages.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Mamet has opinions. we know that. here, he beats his themes to death: 1. theatre is about the playwright, the actor, and the audience. period. 2. directors are not really necessary. 3. design elements should be neutral. 4. actors should be trained to speak and move. period. 5. all that matters, ultimately, is whether the audience shows up. my favorite quote from the book is: "Though few can build a barn, anyone can set fire to it." there it is. Mamet has opinions. we know that. here, he beats his themes to death: 1. theatre is about the playwright, the actor, and the audience. period. 2. directors are not really necessary. 3. design elements should be neutral. 4. actors should be trained to speak and move. period. 5. all that matters, ultimately, is whether the audience shows up. my favorite quote from the book is: "Though few can build a barn, anyone can set fire to it." there it is.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fred Smith

    David Mamet sits us down and lectures for nearly 200 pages that the play is the thing, directors should get out of the way and paying audiences care only about what happens next. The fun here is that fans of the GlennGary GlennRoss author willingly oblige. Sure, the points within could be made with 50 pages of Cliff's notes, but what fun would philosophical lessons about the theater be without the "Mamet-speak"? A joy for Mamet fans and a must for theater practitioners. David Mamet sits us down and lectures for nearly 200 pages that the play is the thing, directors should get out of the way and paying audiences care only about what happens next. The fun here is that fans of the GlennGary GlennRoss author willingly oblige. Sure, the points within could be made with 50 pages of Cliff's notes, but what fun would philosophical lessons about the theater be without the "Mamet-speak"? A joy for Mamet fans and a must for theater practitioners.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is the ideal book to read from cover to cover in one sitting. Mamet has a gift for rhythm, snarky one liners and is obviously an incredibly jaded, but fair theatre lover. I made a couple pots of green tea and listened to Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis and read the book in a few hours. I learned a lot from this book and one of the key items was that Stanislavsky was a total bullshitter and completely wrong. You be the judge. I highly recommend this book to anyone into theatre.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Candy

    Oh my god. I read this in one sitting in a couple of hours and immediately left it next to his side of the bed for my husband to read. l young people who want to be artists, writers, poets, actors etc read this book. Mamet demystifies all the b.s. and intellectualism that stiffled art since the second world war...and it is truly entertaining and wonderful...

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    Short, often reptitive, rant on the purpose of theatre. Mamet has no use for the various theories of theatre, theatre direction and theatre acting and traces many of them back to a collectivist mindset which he completely rejects. I'm sure somebody someplace is applying for a grant in order to write a rebuttal. Short, often reptitive, rant on the purpose of theatre. Mamet has no use for the various theories of theatre, theatre direction and theatre acting and traces many of them back to a collectivist mindset which he completely rejects. I'm sure somebody someplace is applying for a grant in order to write a rebuttal.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Uzzi

    This was a real disappontment. Though the book has the advantage of being very brief (150 plus pages), it is just a one note diatribe about how Mamet doesn't think much of the directing profession nor formal acting classes and schools. There were a few (3 or 4) pages of interesting information re: play blocking near the end of the book. Don't bother. This was a real disappontment. Though the book has the advantage of being very brief (150 plus pages), it is just a one note diatribe about how Mamet doesn't think much of the directing profession nor formal acting classes and schools. There were a few (3 or 4) pages of interesting information re: play blocking near the end of the book. Don't bother.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    No, I don't agree with anything the man thinks. But if you can break through all of the self-important preaching and the thinly veiled chest-thumping anti-liberal dribble, it is possible to recognize some thoughtful challenges to the way we make art. This book has the most worn pages of any on my shelves, and for good reason. It's nice to be reminded of why I believe what I believe. No, I don't agree with anything the man thinks. But if you can break through all of the self-important preaching and the thinly veiled chest-thumping anti-liberal dribble, it is possible to recognize some thoughtful challenges to the way we make art. This book has the most worn pages of any on my shelves, and for good reason. It's nice to be reminded of why I believe what I believe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Darren

    There are lots of interesting and smart observations here, but some of Mamet's ideas about theater are so disrespectful of collaborators (outside of the playwright) that it was tough to push through, even though the book is brief. I think it's worth a read, so this is just a warning that there's not much pleasurable about the experience. There are lots of interesting and smart observations here, but some of Mamet's ideas about theater are so disrespectful of collaborators (outside of the playwright) that it was tough to push through, even though the book is brief. I think it's worth a read, so this is just a warning that there's not much pleasurable about the experience.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lora Covrett

    "Should the theatre be political? Absolutely not." - page 57 Apparently, David Mamet does not hold this statement to be true for books on the same topic. Half this book is insults and other, often political, ramblings that have nothing to do with the topic and half is very insightful, near genius. Enjoy. "Should the theatre be political? Absolutely not." - page 57 Apparently, David Mamet does not hold this statement to be true for books on the same topic. Half this book is insults and other, often political, ramblings that have nothing to do with the topic and half is very insightful, near genius. Enjoy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    I can't deny that David Mamet is a brilliant playwright or that his polemic against in-depth, formalized training is cogently expressed. But damnit, I disagree with most of what he says. All the time. He's still probably a genius, though. I can't deny that David Mamet is a brilliant playwright or that his polemic against in-depth, formalized training is cogently expressed. But damnit, I disagree with most of what he says. All the time. He's still probably a genius, though.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Ugh, such pompous pedantry from a second-rate playwright with control issues. There are a few things with which I agree, but mostly I was embarrassed by Mamet's anti-intellectual, myopically self-serving musings on the "theatre." Ugh, such pompous pedantry from a second-rate playwright with control issues. There are a few things with which I agree, but mostly I was embarrassed by Mamet's anti-intellectual, myopically self-serving musings on the "theatre."

  23. 5 out of 5

    John

    Loved reading this. Mamet puts it out there, whether we like it or not. I so appreciate the bravery (if that's what it's called, he may just not give a *%^$) he has to call it just as he sees it, no apology, whatsoever. Very insightful, either way. Loved reading this. Mamet puts it out there, whether we like it or not. I so appreciate the bravery (if that's what it's called, he may just not give a *%^$) he has to call it just as he sees it, no apology, whatsoever. Very insightful, either way.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    A practical, no frills essay stripping the mystery and hype of the theater away to get to it's basic and essential core. A refreshing bare bones practical man's guide to the craft. Highly recommended, especially to those who've been sucked into the theater and its politics. A practical, no frills essay stripping the mystery and hype of the theater away to get to it's basic and essential core. A refreshing bare bones practical man's guide to the craft. Highly recommended, especially to those who've been sucked into the theater and its politics.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    David Mamet tends to digress, but none-the-less gives a riveting outside view to the standards of theater. The somewhat self-depricating text is entertaining as well as though provoking. A must read for any actor/director/thespian.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ariella

    This was pretty great, but it does leave me wondering whether Mamet has any friends left in the theater world...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Not as good as True and False, but a worthwhile read. Was a little more meandering than I'd have liked. Not as good as True and False, but a worthwhile read. Was a little more meandering than I'd have liked.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Klára

    I wish I would rather do something useful than reading this piece of crap, something like staring out of my window or watching the ceiling.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Main

    I feel Mamet takes his ideas on directing a little too far, but otherwise this is a fantastic book

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Cooper

    Couple of nuggets of cool stuff, but damn this guy thinks highly of himself.

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