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Focusing on both scripts and performance, Mirrors of Our Playing takes a fresh look at modern English-speaking drama, from its Anglo-Irish beginnings to its contemporary cross-fertilizations and international dispersals. It shows how most important English-speaking theater has been shaped in accord with several major paradigms, while it examines four major presences in that theater: Lord Byron, Samuel Beckett, Wole Soyinka, and Peter Brook.
Whitaker starts with the premise that a play in performance is a manifold mirror of the playing that constitutes our lives, shaped through the interaction of received paradigms and living presences. Each major paradigm—Brecht's dialectical theater, Synge's satirical tragicomic romance, Shaw's or Stoppard's serious farce, the Chekhovian community of heartbreak, or Beckett's or Pinter's world of hellish confinement—offers us one way of looking at and participating in the human situation. But each instance of theater must flesh out and modify one or more paradigms in terms of the specific presences of playwright, director, actors, and audiences, as well as presences from the past.
The book stands on the borderlands between text-oriented and performance-oriented criticism and will have wide appeal to scholars, students, and theater aficianados.