Real Life Drama: The Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940

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9780802133007: Real Life Drama: The Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940

Book by Smith, Wendy

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From Publishers Weekly:

Widely considered America's finest acting ensemble during the 1930s, the Group Theatre, with its self-defined mission to reconnect theater to the world of ideas and actions, staged plays that confronted social and moral issues. Brought strikingly to life here by New York-based writer-editor Smith, members Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, Stella and Luther Adler, Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan and an ill-assorted band of idealistic actors living hand to mouth are seen welded in a collective of creativity that was also a tangle of jealousies, love affairs and explosive feuds. While the Group, "on Broadway but not of it," never resolved the contradiction of working in commercial theater with a noncommmercial philosophy, this prodigiously researched, definitive chronicle demonstrates that its quest for emotional truth revolutionized the craft of acting. A shrewd mix of history, criticism, biography and gossip, the book reveals that the company meant different things to different members: for Stella Adler, raised on European classics in Yiddish theater, playing a faded Southern belle held little attraction, neither did the ensemble's communal life; playwright Odets looked to the Group for artistic and spiritual salvation; Clurman, flamboyant, often arrogant but approachable, held the others together. Smith forthrightly deals with the still controversial issue of the Group's politicization, tracing members' growing radicalism and ties to workers' theaters around the country. From its birth in the Depression to its breakup as Hitler's armies overran Europe, the Group's 10-year saga, as told here, is dramatic and inspirational, illuminating the actors' efforts to make art a force for change, to integrate work and personal life. Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Dense in character, incident, and ideas, Smith's book is a compassionate history of The Group Theatre and the turbulent times that produced, adulated, and ground it up. Most of the greats in American actor training and theater practice came together in a blaze of idealism to change the quality of theater in this country by developing a high level of realistic ensemble acting and a theater directly responsive to political realities. Change theater they did, though not quite in the ways they intended. This book tells their story better than it has been told before. Its research is substantial, it is well written, and it is committed to what was right and lasting in The Group. Smith's book is required reading on the development of modern American theater.
- Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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