Harold Clurman On Directing

ISBN 13: 9780025264106

On Directing

9780025264106: On Directing

“A straightforward, tasteful, and articulate account of what it is to bring a play to palpitating life upon a stage” (The New York Times Book Review).

In this classic guide to directing, we are taken logically from the choice of the play right through ever aspect of its production to performances and beyond. Harold Clurman, director of such memorable productions as A Member of the Wedding and Uncle Vanya, describes the pleasures and perils of working with such celebrated playwrights and actors as Marlon Brando, Arthur Miller, Julie Harris, and Lillian Hellman. He also presents his own directing notes for ten of his best-known productions.

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In his writings as a teacher, director, and theater critic, Harold Clurman often comes across as the most approachable of the formidable talents associated with the Group Theater and the many versions of "the Method," the American version of Stanislavsky's teaching. Written towards the end of his long career as one of the American theater's most successful directors, On Directing is a highly readable yet deeply insightful look at the job of a theatrical director.

Clurman's writing is supremely informative and rarely didactic. He is refreshingly honest about his own stylistic shortcomings, questioning, for example, whether his analytic methods are of any use whatsoever directing the plays of Shakespeare or other non-naturalistic playwrights. His most useful contribution to a director's toolbox is his designation of a "spine" to a play and all its characters, a short phrase always stated as an action. The third part of the book is devoted to Clurman's own notes, from first impression to detailed character analysis, of 10 scripts that he brought to the stage, including plays by Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Carson McCullers's own adaptation of The Member of the Wedding. On Directing reveals not only the author's breadth of knowledge and literary intelligence but also his common sense and warm sense of humor. --John Longenbaugh


"This is the statement of a person who has occupied a central position in the making of theatre," Clurman says in his introduction and it's no idle boast. As a founder of the seminal Group Theatre, as prominent critic, director and teacher, he has as much responsibility for the state of American theater today as anyone. And there's the rub: in the first half of this book Clurman restates every happy cliche, compounds every mistake, and justifies every misconception that has reduced the U.S. theater to its present second-rate status. As an ideologue for Broadway and its farm system, he dissects the art and craft of directing in terms of its cash equivalent - its ultimate commercial success. But when he interrupts his common-sense advice to "intelligent theatre goers" and young directors with frequent references to the bold productions of the Theatre Guild of which he was a member - productions more than thirty years old - it can only be considered a form of aesthetic grave robbing. The second half of the book is almost redeeming; a fascinating selection of notes on directing individual plays by the playwrights themselves, Odets on Rocket To The Moon, O'Neill on A Touch Of The Poet, The Waltz Of The Toreadors by Anouilh. Finally Clurman edits the work scripts of directors for several important productions, e.g., Giraudoux's The Trojan War Will Not Take Place, but all these are presented without annotation, remaining cryptic ciphers to the layman. Except for its value as source material, this doesn't deserve the sound of even one hand clapping. (Kirkus Reviews)

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