Theater Theory Books That Changed My Practice

Over the past 14 years I have studied theater in as many variations as I can possibly find. I took classes on design (obviously), historical dance, Shakespeare, modern dance, indian dance, theater history, playwriting, theatrical rendering, drafting, well you get the picture. During this educational process I read a LOT of books, on theater theory. Since I finished my MA, I find myself returning to a few books that really stood out to me and recommending them to friends and family that are interested in learning more about what I do. Her are 3 of my top Theater Theory book choices and why I love them.

1) Ways of Seeing by John Berger

  This book is a must read for anyone in the visual arts field. It is a study on the way in which we perceive the visual world and how that shapes both ourselves and our society.  Although it was written more than 30 years ago, this book still holds up in today’s art world (not a claim that all can make) and it is small enough (only 165 pages), and easy enough to understand that even the most art-illiterate reader can get something out of this book.

2) What is Scenography? by Pamela Howard

As a self identifying Scenographer this book was paramount in helping to shape my perceptions of theatrical design. I read this book in preparation for my studies in the U.K. and it helped me adapt to the styles that are in practice on the other side of the pond.  It was also an important reminder that theater design is not just about sets and backdrops but about shaping a space and creating a playground (so to speak) for the actors and directors to use.

3) Space in Performance: Making Meaning in The Theatre                    by Gay Mcauley

This book is a bit thicker then the previous two, I used it for research when writing my MA thesis. Still, it is a wonderful text which examines the relationship between performer, spectator, and space. I would highly recommend this for someone who is already familiar with theater design theory and wants to push their understanding of theater practice.


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