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Challenging the thesis that tragedy no longer speaks to the contemporary world, Fantasia (director, Shakespeare at the Huntington) studies five tragedies, demonstrating the reasons behind that thesis while arguing the flaws inherent in its claim. The five plays, embedded in provocative chapter titles, are "Medea Lives in Texas," "King Lear or Survivor?," "Prozac for Phèdre," "Mary Stuart, Passion's Martyr," and "Long Day's Journey into Night: The Rise and Fall of the American Dream." Focusing on the human emotion of "shame," Fantasia notes in his introduction that "shame is anathema in the Age of Oprah," given the contemporary penchant to outsource blame, talk through humiliations, and seek all-too-readily-available forgiveness, no matter how grievous the transgression. Tragedy remains necessary today because it puts one in touch with "demonic" sources of shame, "that pure consciousness that is in direct contact with the very core of our being." That argument is not new but deserves Fantasia's reinforcement. He does service to the case by connecting these tragedies to hot spots of the contemporary imagination (e.g., Mary Stuart and Princess Diana) and demonstrating hunger for more than analyses by Dr. Phil. The play evaluations are solid, with the King Lear chapter benefiting well from Fantasia's theatrical background. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)
About the Author
Louis Fantasia has produced and directed more than 150 plays and operas worldwide. Director of the Shakespeare Globe Centre's Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance Institute from 1997 to 2002, Louis is currently director of Shakespeare at the Huntington, the teacher-training institute of the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California and Chair of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the New York Film Academy. He is the author of Instant Shakespeare (Ivan R. Dee, 2003).