Category: Critics


Here are two new reviews of American and British Theatrical Biographies:
Containing nearly double the number of entries and surveying more than twice the number of volumes than the original 1979 edition, this well-organized catalog for special collections provides an excellent starting point for anyone taking on the task of research in the history of the American and British theater. Works indexed include the Burns Mantle Best Plays series, the Theatre World yearbooks, the Who Was Who annuals, and numerous other published books. Individual full-length biographies are not cited. Although some of the sources surveyed are also available in e-book format (as this title is), the author has excluded Internet sources “for a variety of reasons, such as unreliability of content, existence, and accessibility.” Each entry includes basic biographical information, including name (with cross-references to stage names and other pseudonyms), birth and death dates, nationality, occupation, and a code to the sources listed at the front of the first volume. The range of entries is wide, extending from the early days of theater to the present day. Since the focus is on performers “working in live theatre before paying audiences,” film and television actors are excluded unless they have actually appeared onstage. Artists performing in other theatrical arenas, such as opera, dance, circus, music, and music halls, are included, as are critics and others in stage-related occupations. You might not want to “put your daughter on the stage,” but you will want to put this title on the shelf if your library supports theater research and studyBooklist

 
Scholars seeking quick references to biographies of the important contributors in American and British theater, past and present, will welcome this two-volume set by Wearing (emer., English, Univ. of Arizona). The set is an expansion of Wearing’s American and British Theatrical Biography: A Directory (CH, Jan’80). Covering some 130 scholarly theatrical resources, these volumes feature information on about 90,000 people. Cross-referencing is provided for those thespians who appeared under various names during their careers. The index also includes listings from ballet, opera, music, circus, and music halls for those who contributed to the theater world. This resource will be useful for universities with historical theater programs and for the hard-core theatrical scholar. Summing Up: Recommended. Choice

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The critics verdicts:
Arms and the Man:

“Wearing assembles much here for advanced researchers to delight in, too. The informative intrdouction, the appendices . . . and the abundance of annotations throughout the text attest to his passion for detail and intimate knowledge of his subject. . . . The competence and breadth of Wearing’s research, his judicious selection of supplementary material, and his insight into Shaw’s life and work make this edition of Arms and the Man an obvious choice for classroom teaching and pleasure reading. Moreover, it should be the one of record for any serious scholar.” Professor Brad Kent, Université Laval, Canada.

The Second Mrs Tanqueray:

“Although I have known this play for many years, J.P. Wearing’s introduction sheds new light on many interesting aspects of the piece, which I look forward to teaching afresh with the benefit of this text. The footnotes and the supplementary material all help in understanding the play, placing it in the social and legal context of its day. Not that it is a mere period piece; Pinero’s skill as a playwright is impressive, and one hopes that this edition will encourage new productions.” Richard Foulkes, Professor, University of Leicester

“A century and more after the fact, A. W. Pinero’s most penetrating play, The Second Mrs Tanqueray, has now been given a full-dress evaluative and contextual editorial treatment that does complete justice to its subject. J. P. Wearing, editor of Pinero’s letters, has brought his finely honed scholarly skills and broad knowledge of English theatre and culture to the task of presenting the single most authoritative text of Pinero’s play in existence and surrounding it with several sets of informative critical, social, and cultural writing, along with a comprehensive introduction, chronology, and bibliography. An immense amount of research lies behind this enterprise, and a great range of potential readers, from undergraduate and graduate students to historians and critics, will be the beneficiaries.” Joseph Donohue, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts
The Shakespeare Diaries:

“J.P. Wearing’s The Shakespeare’s Diaries…is a genuine work of scholarly imagination…a work of prodigious research, based on all the facts we know about Shakespeare’s life. The book is crammed with fascinating incident…there is much engaging stuff about his relations with the actors in his company, with the Dark Lady (Aemilia Lanier) who deceived him with Southampton, and with such fellow playwrights as Ben Jonson and John Marston…The Diary is crammed full of plague and deaths and burials, as well as gossip about the great and the near great, including the Essex Rebellion and the War of the Theatres. Shakespeare comes across as a mild, gentle, and generous human being.” Robert Brustein.
“In The Shakespeare Diaries: A Fictional Autobiography J. P. Wearing combines factual accuracy with the vividness of fiction in a delightful and entertaining book. The lush detail and fascinating context make this “faction,” as Wearing describes it, far more stimulating and memorable than non-fiction, while generous annotations lend scholarly authority to this work. We get to know Shakespeare as a person through his family and friends and through his private aspirations, motives, fears, and ruminations, not to mention his carnal appetites as a gay blade–sure to surprise, if not scandalize. We meet the irrascible Ben Jonson, and we feel death breathing down our collars. Plague, taverns, duels and envy bring Shakespeare’s England to life. His discussions with colleagues lend background and depth to the famous plays and characters we know so well. Would that I had had access to Shakespeare’s and Nashe’s discussions on The Merchant of Venice when I was a student! Although Professor Wearing incorporates many of Shakespeare’s own words into his diaries, he has many an interesting muse and beautiful phrase of his own, all carefully presented in authentic Elizabethan and Jacobean English. I didn’t want the book to end and felt sad when it did. I had grown quite fond of Will, and suddenly I missed him. Were the last words of the last entry Shakespeare’s or Wearing’s? “Little there is in this life that surpasseth the company of good friends.” Juri Sobol.
“The author . . . is a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona who has spent his life steeped in literature. His goal, judging by the blurb on the back of the book, is both to entertain and educate. As a way of introducing students to William Shakespeare, this book could be a real boon. Despite the author’s use of cod Shakespearean language, not to mention liberal quotes from the Bard himself, this is a good read that should not put off too many younger readers, as the works of the playwright and poet himself can with their arcane and archaic use of the English language. The best example of this might be in the use of the full text of certain sonnets, the language of which contrasts greatly with the general text of the ‘diaries.’ . . . Wearing has also gone to considerable trouble to cover pretty much everything that Shakespeare has written and quite possibly a fair amount that was loosely attributed to him. In this way, readers will get a good overview of the works and the thought processes that might possibly have gone into them. They will also discover that Shakespeare spent an inordinate amount of his time with other playwrights, first Marlowe and then Jonson and,additionally, his sex life was varied to say the least. We all know that he slept with his wife before they married. The affairs with Marlowe, Southampton and other men and women have been better kept secrets until now. The professor has also frequently been overambitious in his attempts to get into Shakespeare’s mind. In attempting to demonstrate his subject’s foresight, far too often he merely demonstrates his own hindsight, apparently innocently introducing subjects that lo and behold are used a few pages later in the creation of a play. The diaries also contain some interesting if not wholly realistic criticism of the plays. In one of the longest entries, a man who is ostensibly Thomas Nashe analyses an early draft of The Merchant of Venice using the kind of sensibilities that are far more 21st-century liberal American than contemporary. Overall, any book that makes the Shakespearean canon more accessible is to be welcomed. While the diaries are unlikely to convince anybody that they really reflect the thoughts of the great man, they are a good mechanism to bring his life and writings to a wider public.” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide, 19 November 2007.
“The end result is a fictional autobiography, or what Wearing supposes Shakespeare himself might have written had he kept an ongoing diary. Thus the diaries include virtually every known fact about Shakespeare, details of his many theatrical and social contemporaries, allusions to historical events, as well as what the author’s introduction describes as ‘Shakespeare’s views’ on his own works and those of other dramatists. In an admirable attempt to lend the diaries an air of authenticity, Wearing employs only those words that were part of the dominant Elizabethan and Jacobean vocabularies in addition to lines, fragments and phrases drawn from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. There is, naturally enough, much in the diaries that requires further explanation and Wearing’s ample footnotes are, in that regard, helpful. An overview of Shakespeare’s known activities (of which there are few) and historical timelines precede each chapter, while an extensive introduction offers much fuller factual material, extended references to the plays and other additional details. . . . the depth of Wearing’s scholarship is admirable.” Heidi Maier.
Bernard Shaw and Nancy Astor:

“What a splendid sequence of letters . . . The pertinent and concise annotations–extremely well done by J. P. Wearing-resemble lively stage directions. . . . Wearing’s annotations are so thorough he notes that Violet Pond is interviewed in the supplement to the DVD edition of an otherwise abysmally bad film, Gosford Park.”- John A. Bertolini, English Literature in Transition.
“Wearing’s fine introduction offers a balanced assessment of the Shaw/Astor relationship, his headnotes provide the necessary sociopolitical context, and his annotations are scrupulously researched . . . Although only glimpses of [her] paradoxical temperament emerge in Astor’s few surviving letters to Shaw (who may have destroyed the others himself), Wearing skillfully completes her portrait from biographies and autobiographies, diaries and letters, personal accounts by Astor family members (in particular her niece, actress Joyce Grenfell), and other sources. One is left with the impression that if Shaw did not succeed in outrunning his feminine tornado, it was not through lack of will, but rather because he was drawn to a ‘vigor, vitality, and cheek’ (Shavian trademarks!) that left him ‘far from indifferent.'”-Michel W. Pharand, SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies.

The London Stage: A Calendar of Plays and Players:
“If nothing else, these books prove that London was, is, and always will be the theatre capital of the world. They also represent a mind-boggling amount of research by their author, for whom I have nothing but praise and admiration…no one interested in theatre history can be without these volumes. . . . various indexes provide for easy access…Anyone researching the career of a film personality who made occasional British stage appearances cannot afford to be without this volume- and, of course, it is an absolute “must” for students and scholars of the theater. “– CLASSIC IMAGES

“…a major reference source. “– ARBA

“Scrupulous and superb. “– BALLET REVIEW

“Wearing’s calendars are important contributions to scholarship, providing the raw material for work in social and cultural history…Good scholarship and good browsing for all. “– CHOICE

“…so chocked full of information American performing arts researchers should be aware of it even if they think the London stage has nothing to do with their work. The cultural link between New York and London is so strong, the exchange of performers and productions so common, little else needs to be written about it…monumental ongoing series is one of the best examples I can point to of how modern theatrical research should be done. There’s no better source for the London Stage… “– THE BIG REEL

“Future editors and theatre historians will find an indispensable reference work in… The London Stage…”– THE YEAR’S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES

“…Remarkably complete and easy to use…. A rich source of factual information…A fascinating overview of a decade’s theatrical activity. “– THEATRE SURVEY

“…a major reference work for our century. . . . Wearing’s latest addition shows no signs of faltering. His extraordinary project is quietly turning into a major reference work for our century…. It is inconceivable that the entire series… will not be on the shelves of college and university reference rooms. “– LITERARY RESEARCH
“The historian of taste will find a vast reservoir of raw data here. The theatre historian has been given the freedom of a decade, and will know how to use it. It remains for the reviewer only to applaud the encyclopedic industry of Dr. Wearing and the resourcefulness with which he has tackled a problem whose scale is so vast. And now we can look forward to the 1930’s. “– COMPARATIVE DRAMA

“Provides a wealth of detail…Should be purchased for in-depth theater or English literature collections. “– REFERENCE BOOKS BULLETIN

“This installment covers a very fertile decade of the theater…Wearing’s series is an essential tool for scholarly study of British theater. “– WILSON LIBRARY BULLETIN

G.B. Shaw: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him:

“For the long period it covers, G. B. Shaw is the prime source of published material on Shaw, from major books to hundreds upon hundreds of one- or two-page notices and reviews in several languages. Its chronological arrangement, combined with the scope of its coverage and its annotations, give it the enduring quality of being the very best research tool for tracing the evolution of critical and popular reactions to Shaw and his plays . . . G. B. Shaw is a vast storehouse of references to the full range of Shaw material (except for works by Shaw).”-Charles A. Carpenter, SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies