The Necessity of Theater

The Art of Watching and Being Watched

by Paul Woodruff

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780195332001
  • 9780199715756
  • 9780199887217
What is unique and essential about theater? What separates it from other arts? Do we need "theater" in some fundamental way? The art of theater, as Paul Woodruff says in this elegant and unique book, is as necessary - and as powerful - as language itself. Defining theater broadly, including sporting events and social rituals, he treats traditional theater as only one possibility in an art that - at its most powerful - can change lives and (as some peoples believe) bring a divine presence to earth.The Necessity of Theater analyzes the unique power of theater by separating it into the twin arts of watching and being watched, practiced together in harmony by watchers and the watched. Whereas performers practice the art of being watched - making their actions worth watching, and paying attention to action, choice, plot, character, mimesis, and the sacredness of performance space - audiences practice the art of watching: paying close attention. A good audience is emotionally engaged as spectators; their engagement takes a form of empathy that can lead to a special kind of human wisdom. As Plato implied, theater cannot teach us transcendent truths, but it can teach us about ourselves.Characteristically thoughtful, probing, and original, Paul Woodruff makes the case for theater as a unique form of expression connected to our most human instincts. The Necessity of Theater should appeal to anyone seriously interested or involved in theater or performance more broadly.

  • Oxford University Press; April 2008
  • ISBN: 9780199715756
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Necessity of Theater
  • Author: Paul Woodruff
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780195332001
  • 9780199715756
  • 9780199887217

In The Press

"...daring and inspiring..."--Times Literary Supplement
"He takes such care to be clear, to edify, that it seems ungrateful not to lap up every word.... If this book succeeds in any measure as a defense of theater, it will also have succeeded at something much larger."--New York Times Book Review
"Paul Woodruff has written a provocative call to arms that dares to reconsider the very nature of the theater and convincingly explains why live drama has to be an essential part of contemporary society. A modern Poetics -- exciting, innovative and incredibly inspiring. Anyone who seriously cares about the future of our theater must read this book."- -Peter Meineck, Artistic Director, Aquila Theatre Company & New York University
"...sophisticated, brilliant discussion of theater.... Woodruff writes in an engaging style that invites readers to reflect on their experience in social ceremonies, movie houses, places of worship, athletic contests, and homes and that will stimulate conversations and interactions in the classroom."--CHOICE
"The Necessity of Theater stood my idea of theater on its head, shook it, and emptied out the pockets."--William Broyles, Jr., screenwriter of Cast Away, Apollo 13, and Flags of Our Fathers


About The Author

Paul Woodruff is Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780195332001
  • 9780199715756
  • 9780199887217