Theatre: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199669820

Marvin Carlson
152 Pages
114 x 173 mm
Pub date
Oct 2014
Very Short Introductions


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  • Looks at theatre in its various forms, from shadow puppetry used by Buddhist monks and missionaries to the development of the Noh theatre in Japan
  • Explores how theatre has helped to shape culture
  • Examines its close relations with religion, from the passion plays to The Book of Mormon
  • Considers the often troubled relationship between literature and the dramatic text

From before history was recorded to the present day, theatre has been a major artistic form around the world. From puppetry to mimes and street theatre, this complex art has utilized all other art forms such as dance, literature, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture. Every aspect of human activity and human culture can be, and has been, incorporated into the creation of theatre.
In this Very Short Introduction Marvin Carlson takes us through Ancient Greece and Rome, to Medieval Japan and Europe, to America and beyond, and looks at how the various forms of theatre have been interpreted and enjoyed. Exploring the role that theatre artists play — from the actor and director to the designer and puppet-master, as well as the audience — this is an engaging exploration of what theatre has meant, and still means, to people of all ages at all times.


1: What is theatre?
2: Theatre and religion
3: Theatre and performance
4: Theatre and drama
5: The makers of theatre
Further reading

About the author: 

Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern Studies
Marvin Carlson is the Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He received his Ph.D. at Cornell University and served on the faculties of Cornell and Indiana before coming to CUNY. He has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the ASTR Distinguished Scholarship Award, the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, and the Calloway Prize for writing in theatre and drama. He has served as a judge for the Cairo Festival of Experimental Theatre and the Onaissis Playwriting Awards. He is the founding editor of the journal Western European Stages and the author of over two hundred scholarly articles and fourteen books in the areas of theatre history, theatre theory, dramatic literature, and performance studies.

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