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Title:Herbert Blau: directing a revolution in American theatre, 1952-1965
Author(s):Poynton, Amy
Director of Research:Lee, Esther K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lee, Esther K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hohman, Valleri J.; Oberdeck, Kathryn J.; Graves, Robert B.
Department / Program:Theatre
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Herbert Blau
American Theatre
American Directing
Theatre during the Cold War
Abstract:Herbert Blau is more widely known in theatre history as a theorist and less as a director who strove to identify his directorial style during a time when American values were evolving and American regional theatres were gaining recognition, specifically 1952-65. Using many of Blau’s books and articles - most notably his first book, The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto - plus a wide range of newspaper critiques, personal interviews, articles on Blau and on the Cold War, this dissertation examines Blau as a practical director behind the theory and defines the Blauian style of directing. It explores the journey of Blau from theatre novice to professional director and ponders whether he effectively engaged his personal theories, thoughts and political views to his work on stage. And, in the process, did he maintain, service, and advance the artistic integrity of the work itself? The chapters highlight Blau’s attempts to realize his theoretical ideas through his practical directorial work onstage through three key productions: Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children (1956); Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1957-58); and, Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death (1965). These productions represent the arc of Blau’s directing career from beginning theory through the avant-garde and onto the national stage. They are presented, in conversation with Blau’s own writings, in order to prove or disprove what he has said about his work and to offer an objective viewpoint. The probing work accomplished by Herbert Blau as he developed his directorial style at the height of the Cold War has not been given due credit in American theatre history texts. Blau’s goals as a director were to: 1) emulate and keep strong the ensemble ideas forged by Harold Clurman and the Group Theatre; 2) utilize discussion as a way to delve into the text at a time when discussion was looked upon as borderline subversive; 3) introduce to American theatre through production such new playwrights as Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Marie Irene Fornes, and Harold Pinter; and, 4) to ultimately change the direction of American professional theatre. This dissertation presents a clearer portrait of a man whose later theoretical writings have been described by Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan as “impenetrable,” but have ultimately been used by noted theatre theorists such as Richard Schechner, Elin Diamond, and Phillip Zarrilli to launch new theories that are currently reshaping and redefining the American theatre in the twenty-first century.
Issue Date:2012-09-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Amy Poynton
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-09-18
Date Deposited:2012-08

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