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A Director Calls: Stephen Daldry and the Theater Paperback – November 13, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (November 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520212622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520212626
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,571,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Lesser, editor and publisher of the Threepenny Review, probes the workings of British director Stephen Daldry and, through him, of the theater. Lesser says she had no particular interest in theater directors prior to attending Daldry's 1993 British revival of the J.B. Priestly warhorse An Inspector Calls. She found herself ``being spoken to . . . by a voice I understood.'' She was also intrigued as a literary critic by the idea of theater as the ultimate example of literary interpretation: work brought to ephemeral life by a team of artists, never affecting--or being affected by--its changing audiences in precisely the same way. Lesser spent months watching Daldry at work and talking to the writers, actors, and designers with whom he collaborates. She sat through multiple rehearsals and performances of several plays, including Daldry's hit 1995 restaging of An Inspector Calls in New York City. Her goal, she says, was to write a book that would ``fill the gap between the professor's scrutiny of a frozen script and the reviewer's response to a frozen performance,'' and ``to render into words the experience that takes place implicitly in the mind of the attentive theater goer.'' She falls short of her goal, for the same reason she is so intrigued by theater: Its experience can never be the same as a description of the experience. As hard as Lesser tries, her words can get no closer to the moments she depicts than Priestly's script gets to the magic of an actual performance of the play. But while Lesser's book is less than she intended about what theater is, it is filled with fascinating information about how it is done. Her piece-by-piece deconstruction of the directing process and her backstage revelations will be especially intriguing to people involved in the theater, in particular those playwrights naive enough to think their words are more than raw material to be thrown into the creative pot. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


I don't share her affection for what she concedes is Priestley's "creaky and predictable" text, but the passion and precision with which she describes Daldry's enhancements are stirring. In meticulous, chapter-long "close readings," she reviews his past career and examines the making of current projects. In the process, she brings in much of her lucid and evocative word-painting as well as the astute observations of non-theater writers like D.W. Winnicott and J.L. Austin. But the pleasures of her prose do not compensate for the book's historical shortcomings. -- The New York Times Book Review, Jonathan Kalb --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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More About the Author

Wendy Lesser was born in 1952 in California, where she grew up. She attended Harvard University, Cambridge University, and UC Berkeley, earning a PhD in English from Berkeley in 1982. Though she has taught on occasion (at UC Santa Cruz, Princeton University, and Hunter College, among other places), she has mainly supported herself over the years as a writer, editor, and consultant. From 1976 to 1980 she and her friend Katharine Ogden worked as public policy consultants through their firm Lesser & Ogden Associates. In 1980 Lesser founded The Threepenny Review, which she still edits; it has become one of the most respected and long-lasting literary magazines in America. She is the author of ten books (including one novel, two memoirs, several works of literary or cultural studies, and a biography of Shostakovich) and the editor of two. She also writes book, dance, art, and music reviews for a variety of publications in this country and abroad, dividing her year between Berkeley and New York so as to cover cultural activities on both coasts. Lesser is married to Richard Rizzo and has one son, Nick Rizzo.