Top 100 Theater Books–A Reply

I am very pleased that Ken Davenport has named one of my books–What Playwrights Talk About When They Talk About Writing–one of the “Top 100 Theater Books Every Theater Maker Should Read.”

I modestly suggest that he has short-changed theater history though. I think he should have also included two of mine–Something Wonderful Right Away (about Second City) and The O’Neill (about the O’Neill Center) because they tell the stories of two companies that changed the American stage.

Others I recommend:

“The Fervent Years” by Harold Clurman (about the Group Theatre)

“The Transcendent Years” about Circle Rep and “Creating Life Onstage” by Marshall W. Mason

“A Theatre of Our Own” by Richard Christiansen (the history of Chicago theatre)

“Bigger, Brighter, Louder” and “Rise Up!” by Chris Jones (vivid history with a sociological bent)

“Furious Improvisation” by Susan Quinn (about the Federal Theater Project)

“Life Among the Playwrights” by John F. Wharton (about a group of playwrights who banded together to commercially produce each other’s work)

“Improvisation for the Theatre” by Viola Spolin (one of the American theatre’s ESSENTIAL texts)

“The Compass” by Janet Coleman

“Improvise. Scene from the Inside Out” by Mick Napier

“Subsequent Stagings” by Jonathan Miller (about staging the revivals of classics)

“Words With Music” by Lehman Engel (the first systematic attempt to figure out how musical librettos are built)

“Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation” by Charna HalpernDel Close and Kim “Howard” Johnson, Author

Also the various essential biographies and memoirs — Odets, Miller, Williams, Hansberry, O’Neill, Gershwin, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Loesser, etc., John Lahr on almost anybody, Kenneth Tynan on almost anything and Robert Brustein (even if he makes you furious). (I wish Michael Feingold would publish a collection.)

It’s late and I’m sure there are obvious books I’m missing. Anybody want to make other suggestions?

About dgsweet

I write for and about theater. I spent a number of years as a resident playwright of a theater in Chicago which put up 14 of my plays, and I still think of Chicago as my primary theatrical home, though I actually live in New York. I serve on the Council of the Dramatists Guild. Between plays, I write books, most notably SOMETHING WONDERFUL RIGHT AWAY (about Second City), THE O'NEILL (about the O'Neill Center) and THE DRAMATIST'S TOOLKIT (a text on playwriting craft). I also occasionally perform a solo show called YOU ONLY SHOOT THE ONES YOU LOVE. I enjoy visiting theaters outside of New York. I can be reached at
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