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Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays Paperback – July 7, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0809311101 ISBN-10: 0809311100 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (July 7, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809311100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809311101
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“In fewer than 100 pages, this marvelously instructive book shows how to unlock the secrets of plot, character, theme, exposition, imagery, motivation, conflict, theatricality and pacing… Our editor says he learned more about dramatic structure in the few hours he spent with this 96-page book than he has in his 20-years of theater experience.”—Stage Directions



“Ball wrote [Backwards and Forwards] to help people who put on plays understand how a play works… He argues that scripts represent a special kind of writing—because it is writing meant to be staged, not read— and thus requires special reading techniques; these techniques are what he offers.”—Dramatics

About the Author

David Ball wrote Backwards and Forwards when he was  Professor of playwriting, acting, theater history, and literature at Carnegie-Mellon University. He had earlier been on the senior directing and literary staffs at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and more recently was Head of Drama at Duke University during that department's "Golden Years." His students have gone on to win  Emmies, Oscars, Obies, and Tony awards in every area of theater, TV, and film.  Backwards and Forwards has been the field's standard text for a quarter century, making Dr. Ball one of the most influential and respected of theater and film theorists, educators, and trainers of his generation. His own professional directing, producing, and writing credits encompass Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater, and film; and his landmark adaptation of Moliere's The Miser was staged in major regional theaters from coast to coast as one of Theatre de la Jeune Lune's Tony-award-winning productions.

More About the Author

David Ball is an award-winning North Carolina novelist and playwright. He was born deep in New York's Catskill Mountains in 1942. His daddy and granddaddy were Prohibition era bootleggers, his mother an antiques dealer. His plays have been staged off-Broadway and in America's leading professional theaters. He taught writing, acting, and directing at Lawrence, Carnegie-Mellon, and Duke universities. For 28 years his book BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS has been one of the theater and film world's standard and best-selling texts for writers, directors, designers, and actors. His theater students have won Oscars, Emmies, Obies, and Tony awards. He was on the directing and writing staffs of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Stage Company and the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and North Carolina's Duke Stage Company. He has traversed the widest areas of North Carolina's deep swamps and lived to write about it. Brought up in Stamford, Connecticut, where the only swamps were social ones, he studied science and engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and later attended Alfred University, the University of Maryland, Catholic University in D.C., and the University of Minnesota, from which he holds a Ph.D. in theater and communication. In the late 60s he served in the Peace Corps (Afghanistan). So far his favorite job has been taxi driver in Connecticut, 1960-62,in which his motto was "Tip high, complain low." His historical novel SWAMP OUTLAW is based on extensive personal interviews with the lead characters' direct descendants, and his forays into their swamps. He is currently one of America's leading trial consultants and jury experts, and a best-selling trial advocacy author.

Customer Reviews

Anyone who works in theatre or goes to the theatre should read this book.
Christilles
I have used this book as the basis of several theatre and playwriting classes that I have taught.
Mark S. Turvin
David Ball's book on script analysis should be read and understood by anyone who directs plays.
Stephen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on February 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
David Ball's book on script analysis should be read and understood by anyone who directs plays. He explains how to read a play through the very simple technique of reading it from start to finish--and then backwards, from finish to start. By doing so, he points out, the reader learns how one scene leads logically and progressively to the next. While the concept is simple and straightforward, you have to read Ball's book to see how this process can be used to ferret out every important detail of plot and character development.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By D. L. Ehlers on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Ball's book is a must-have for all students and professors of theatre. It demystifies the playwriting process and presents a simple, down-to-earth explanation of why a playscript works the way it does. In a word, it explains how scripts work. I find the deceptively simple explanations help the novices in my Introduction to Theatre classes understand how playscripts are put together and make a fun game of script analysis for these students--a concept that is often hard to communicate to Intro students. At the same time, it make so much sense that it becomes the cornerstone for Beginning Directing, Playwriting, and Script Analysis students. Students whom I teach using Ball's ideas always come through the semester with a lot of self-esteem because having such a solid cornerstone allows their creativity to take off in unexpected directions.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jp Christy on December 25, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A friend who teachs drama and directing at a local college recommended this book to me after he'd read a script I'd written. Not only is it a fast and interesting read, it offers simple and sometimes brilliant techniques for understanding and evaluating plays, movies, and even books. Even if you never plan to act or write, this well-written little book will enhance your appreciation of good story-telling. And if you ever had to endure discussions of "Hamlet" in high-school or college, you'll likely be surprised by Ball's unique take on the character as an example of dramatic writing.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Turvin on April 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have used this book as the basis of several theatre and playwriting classes that I have taught. Ball's language is simple, though the words he creates to explain his theories, such as "trigger" and "heap" (a trigger is the moment when people's motivations are exposed, while a heap is the result of that action) make it it easy for any non-theatre person to grasp the clever concepts.
By having a person read a play backwards, Ball shows how to grasp the playwright's intentions, and the character's movements. It's a basic theatrical literary theatre that is surprisingly effective, especially in trying to teach young writers how to create a play.
I highly recommend this book to the theatre neophyte as well as the theatre professional.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on December 3, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The scope of BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS is narrow, but its ambition is important. This is a book about how to read a play. More specifically, it's about how to read a play whose production you are planning. There are 96 pages in this book and many of them are only partially filled. Some of them are blank. So in very few pages, author David Ball gives some valuable and (I would say, essential) advice. So many bad productions are bad simply because of a basic misreading of the script. Ball tells prospective directors what's important and how to recognize what's important. His advice is very straightforward and concise. He does not pad the book by going off on tangents or use long anecdotes to illustrate a point. He makes a point and then moves on to the next one. I think this book should be compulsory reading for the director, but it is also valuable to the playwright, the actor and the designer. This book is basic. There is a great need to get back to basics. David Ball has done the theatre a great service by writing this valuable book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Megan on January 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I had a conversation yesterday in which the other theatre artist asked what approach this book advocated to script analysis:

"is it feminist theory? queer theory? Marxist?"

"No, it's the one where you read the script."

Seriously, I don't know what I was doing in the theatre prior to reading this book, and I am so excited to begin my next project now because I feel that I have so much improved in my grasp of how to read a play. Why I wasn't required to read this book in Intro to Theatre or one of my first design classes I don't know, but I am so happy that I did now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Weetus Cren on December 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have read a lot of books on the subjects of writing and acting. This book contains almost every important point in the tens of thousands of pages I have read when it comes to structure. If you are a writer you have to own this book! There is no wasted space in it. No actor or director on the planet should live without it either. You can read it in a day, but you'll read it again and again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David D. Smith on July 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been acting for ten years and got my first directing assignment. I know a lot about directing from having been directed, but this book was a great guide for script analysis with the big picture in mind, not just one character. The show was a success and the actors still like me.
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