In theater there are three big categories that plays or musicals can fit into. There are new works, premieres (work that was seen somewhere else, but not locally), and everything else. Everything else is a lot of theater. Most of it, in fact. But “done before” doesn’t mean DONE. I have seen MacBeth five times on stage. Some of been more successful than others, but they were all different. The director chose an approach, worked with the designers, made some cuts to the text (and what gets cut is always very telling), worked with the actors, and a new MacBeth was born. Once in a while I will see a production that I know can’t be topped, but that doesn’t mean I won’t see other productions. I constantly compare, contrast, critique, and learn from new productions.
[I should note--new takes on old favorites are very tough to pull off. But an excellent example of a wonderful retake is Pirates running at the A.R.T. right now. An 80 minute Pirates of Penzance--very faithful to the spirit of the source material, but a completely new take on it.]
Though the playwright is the writer, a director is a storyteller in theater. Again, these are broad strokes (actors, dramaturgs, designers, they all help shape a production tremendously). And so a director will become one of my trusted storytellers in the collaborative world of theater.
I have been thinking about my TBR pile, which is enormous. There are some books on the pile that sounded interesting. But most of the books? Either recommended by a trusted source, or written by a trusted storyteller. The author could be trying something completely different, but I’m in. I will take a leap. I have been thinking a lot about plot, and about characters, and the balance needed to tell a good story. But the storyteller is what really matters.
Am I alone in this? How do you chose your books? Do you have favorite authors who immediately go on your list? Who are some of them?
J.A. Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource. She is a mystery writer. Her short story, “Tag, You’re Dead” was published in Level Best Book’s anthology THIN ICE, “Her Wish” is in Level Best Books’ DEAD CALM, and “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” is in BLOOD MOON. She is a social media fan, and tweets under @JulieHennrikus. She wrestles with allusions of athleticism, is an avid theater goer and a member of Red Sox nation. Her website is jahennrikus.com