Now that I’ve completed my list of eight dramatists for a new Theatre of Revolt, the only thing left is to acknowledge once again that this is a list compiled, like Robert Brustein’s, “partly by principle, partly by prejudice.” Readers will agree with some of these entries and disagree with others, even upon the basis of the definitions I outlined in my introduction. There are many writers I could easily have included had I not limited myself to eight. I would have particularly liked to write about David Rudkin, Edward Bond, and Caryl Churchill, but I have not studied their work as intensively as these eight others. The lack of readily-available translated texts for writers in other European languages — and for writers on other continents than North America and Europe — as well as a lack of time to devote to this study have led, I am sure, to gaping holes which I invite others to fill. And then there are other dramatists quite celebrated both in America and elsewhere whom I have difficulty celebrating, partly from blindness and partly from considered opinion. I confess that I am not as enamored of Tony Kushner’s work as other critics and writers are — and this is a blind spot. Among other Americans, however, Wallace Shawn would much more readily have deserved a place in this list than David Mamet — and this is considered opinion. Also obviously, I have concentrated on dramatists, not directors or other theatre artists. In the main, this is because I based this project on the seemingly archaic presumption that the dramatist, the writer, is at the center of the theatrical enterprise. Others will disagree, and are welcome to, and to come up with their own lists if they’re so inclined.
For the record, and convenient reading, here are links to the introduction and to the entries on all eight dramatists:
- Bertolt Brecht
- Samuel Beckett
- Edward Albee
- Heiner Müller
- Harold Pinter
- Richard Foreman
- Howard Barker
- Sarah Kane
Anybody taking this up as a book project will be daunted not only by Brustein’s considerable achievement but also by the realignment of concerns that the work of these eight dramatists describe. Among philosophers, Nietzsche was at the center of Brustein’s thinking. For these eight, Adorno and Bataille would perhaps serve as a more appropriate philosophical context. Clearly, it would be a ground-up effort. But as I stated in my introduction, I can do no more myself for the moment than suggest a starting point. Drawing a map, however, is the best place to begin, if you wish to get the lay of the land.
I should note that I am aware of the dangers that such a project suggests. I am certain that I could most probably be accused of the sin of popularization — in writing for a general audience, and in trying to fit these plays into a context of my own devising, I risk simplifying and distorting (however impossible it may be to avoid it) the work of these most complex writers for my own ends. I must plead nolo contendre, and only beg the mercy of the court, offering as my excuse my wish and fervent hope that these plays and writers do in fact become more popular — that their plays be produced more, that they be studied in the classroom, that they be read at home. It is perhaps a foolish dream, but one I’m willing to dream.