Cover image for The continuum companion to twentieth century theatre
The continuum companion to twentieth century theatre
Chambers, Colin.
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Continuum, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxv, 866 pages ; 26 cm
Added Author:
Format :


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PN2035 .C65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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This work details practical topics such as directing, acting, design, lighting, sound, voice, wig and prop-making, to historical surveys raging from black theatre to gay and lesbian theatre; from pantomime, experimental theatre, theatre-in-the-round to architecture, funding, drag and circus.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This theater companion features more than 2,500 alphabetically arranged entries on a broad array of stage-related topics. Although the emphasis is on English-speaking theater in the twentieth century, the scope is surprisingly comprehensive. Entry types include people, companies, countries, branches of theater making, trends, genres, definitions, and historical surveys. The objective is to "define theater broadly and as a live and continuing activity." The geographical scope spans five continents, and the 280 contributors hail from 20 different countries. Entries vary in length from a few sentences to several pages, with the majority accompanied by a brief list of monographs to open the door to further research. A "Selective Reference Bibliography" also appears at the beginning of the book. There is no index, though there are cross-references. The lack of an index and of entries for individual plays means that in order to read about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for example, one would have to recall that the playwright is Edward Albee and go to his entry. This work differs from other single-volume theater reference works because of the diversity of its contributors. Whereas coverage is similar in scope to The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge, 1995), the latter features only entries written by scholars. Continuum offers not only entries by scholars but additional boxed entries written by active professional theater insiders, including voice teacher Cicely Berry, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, and actress Billie Whitelaw. The result is a less academic, more interesting style than the typical reference work. Although there is overlap, Continuum covers a wider geographic terrain than the Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre (Oxford, 1992) and is more contemporary. Only in the Continuum volume, for example, are there entries on digital performance and the Internet. Libraries with active theater collections will want this lively addition, but the price may be a bit steep for those already owning the Cambridge or Oxford volumes. Recommended for academic and public libraries with strong theater collections.

Library Journal Review

Chambers, former literary manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company and now at De Montfort Univ., Leicester, U.K., has brought together over 2500 entries that range widely over theater in the last century. The text serves well as a jumping off point, giving satisfactory information to readers seeking short answers (e.g., "What was the Hedgerow Theatre?"). In addition, topics are covered here that might otherwise prove elusive, as in the informative entry "Portuguese-Speaking African Theatre," found by first looking up Mozambique. However, even at its steep retail price, this book lacks illustrations, and given its vast scope and its limitations as a single volume, shortcomings are inevitable. For example, there is no entry for "Palestinian Theatre"; only upon looking up "Arab Theatre" can one find the appropriate article on "Middle East and North Africa" among the subheadings. Ngaio Marsh, an outstanding New Zealand theatrical figure, receives no mention, but one can learn about Jamaican playwright Una Marson. The entry on Noel Coward is significantly shorter than that on Federico Garcia Lorca, though both are major figures. The bibliographies attached to many articles are very brief (author, title, year published) and are not meant to be comprehensive; one can find as much or more while browsing any university online catalog. On the plus side, a particular highlight is the collection of articles throughout written by practicing theater professionals: Arnold Wesker on playwrighting, Ben Kingsley on preparing a part, Daniel Massey on performing Shaw, etc. All in all, as with so many one-volume encyclopedic works, this is a valuable but uneven work. Recommended for public and smaller academic libraries. Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The 2,500 entries in this international companion to 20th-century theater are the result of painstaking effort by 280 contributors from 20 countries. Chambers (De Montfort Univ., UK) has written several works on the theater, including The Story of Unity Theatre (CH, Apr'90). Coverage includes entries on "theatre institutions, key towns and cities, countries, genres, trends," terminology, and individuals associated with any aspect of the theater. Entries focus primarily on contemporary English-speaking theater, but the work's international coverage is broad, it uses contemporary terminology, and it features highlights from performers' perspective ("Performing Shaw"). The arrangement is alphabetical with abundant cross-references. An index, photographs, and illustrations would have been useful. The Facts on File Dictionary of the Theatre, ed. by William Packard, David Pickering, and Charlotte Savidge (CH, Jun '89), fails to provide entries as long or international coverage in as great depth as Chambers. Recommended for general readers through professionals. J. R. Carter Wilkes University