Vanishing Acts

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Theater Since the Sixties

Gordon Rogoff

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In this outstanding collection of critical writings, some published here for the first time, Gordon Rogoff tells the story of live theater in America over the past forty years. His view of modern drama and its performance is rich with the insights of both a discerning critic and an individual for whom the making of theater is a passion. As Rogoff explores the topics of acting, directing, playwriting, Shakespeare productions, opera, and theater criticism, he celebrates live theater’s victories over new realms while deploring the threat of imitative repertories, acting styles, and playwriting. Throughout the book he underscores his conviction that dramatic literature and performance may be taken as a book of instruction for the way we lead our lives.

Rogoff ranges widely in his discussions, considering the work of Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Ariane Mnouchkine, Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Alban Berg, and Tony Kushner among others, and the performances of such actors as Laurence Olivier, Donald Wolfit, Judi Dench, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Lee J. Cobb, Vanessa Redgrave, and Geraldine Page. He registers dissenting notes about the accomplishments of Joseph Papp, Eugene O’Neill, and Arthur Miller. In his concluding essay, Rogoff contends that nostalgia—“our millennial nemesis”—may be a way of forgetting rather than remembering.

Gordon Rogoff is professor of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at the Yale School of Drama and professor emeritus of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is an Obie-award winning director and as one of America’s most respected theater critics, he received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

"Reading Rogoff on Berg, one is struck—as everywhere in this book—by his urbanity, intelligence and attentiveness: the essay is as good as anything (on the subject) by Adorno. Gordon Rogoff may be our only indispensable critic; certainly he is our most searching, our most passionate."—Mac Wellman, playwright, poet, and novelist

"An independent, passionate, and literate response to four of the most remarkable decades in the history of Western theatre."—Irving Wardle

"Vanishing Acts is filled with an allusive, analytic rigour which takes on actors, directors, and those who become both, with an unremitting liveliness. . . . It is a dedicated tussle with our culture, out of which arises again and again the author’s heartfelt cry for a Theatre which will one day do full justice to the constant convulsions of [Rogoff’s] indigenously dramatic native land: a Theatre not of cruelty or Absurdity—but of Necessity."—Peter Shaffer

"Rogoff has immersed himself in the theater culture of our time. For him, as for his audience, every instance of theater is rich with aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional potential."—Una Chaudhuri, New York University

“One of the few remaining articulate and passionate critics is Gordon Rogoff . . . he writes with an eloquence that occasionally approaches that of the playwrights he loves: Ibsen, Shaw, Strindberg and Tennessee Williams. …[O]ne can’t help . . . wishing that if the theater can’t be better, at least there could be more critics like Rogoff.” —Arnold Aronson, New York Times Book Review

"Scholars, blessed and cursed with contradictory pressures and relatively deadline-free leisure to report our insights into theatre, have much to learn from critics as informed and dedicated as Rogoff, whose experience as a dramaturg is evident in the historical and narrative sensitivity of his writing. his reviews offer a descriptive immediacy that places important performances in their times."—Carol Burbank, New England Theatre Journal

“In this collection of 75 essays and short pieces, Rogoff…does not fail to provoke, confront, question or defend. He is passionate and intelligent--always a good combination—and his love of theater informs every sentence. . . . [H]e challenges readers to rethink their positions and therefore is a writer one does not easily forget.”—Susan L. Peters, Library Journal

“Rogoff is a masterful writer in his genre and therefore an ideal model for students seeking to develop their own vocabulary about theater and performance. His reviews are also historical resources, teaching students both the history of the form and how it lived—and lives—onstage.”—Shawn-Marie Garrett

“Like all the best in his profession, Gordon Rogoff writes to advance his vision of a possible theater. His insights and wryness and patient love imply that vision all through this invaluable book.”—Stanley Kauffmann

“Reading through this collection gives one a sense of just how rich and engaging an experience it must be to sit in his seminar room. . . . [T]he critiques included are thoughtful and provocative, and Rogoff’s reader likely will enjoy the chance to wade through the tangle of actors, writers, helmers and productions summoned in these pages.”—Pamela Renner, Variety
ISBN: 9780300087772
Publication Date: September 10, 2000
320 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4