Actors perform in the stage show “Sakura - Japan in the Box” at the Meijiza theatre in Tokyo. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)   

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Before a grand set and a powerful script comes an idea. And these theatre veterans draw their inspiration from art, class struggle and even the fight between the good and the evil.

BloombergQuint spoke to theatre directors about their favourite books.

Arvind Gaur

A theatre director known for innovative, socially and politically relevant plays in India. He has founded the Asmita Theatre Group. Gaur was the recipient of a research fellowship awarded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (1997-98). He started his theatre journey with the classics like Tughlaq, Andha Yug, Caligula, Julius Caesar.

(Image courtesy: Arvind Gaur)
(Image courtesy: Arvind Gaur)

The Good Person Of Szechwan, By Bertolt Brecht

“This is my favourite play. It has influenced me tremendously. It talks of the constant fight between good and evil, and leaves the conclusion to the audience,” Gaur said. “Brecht’s analytical process has helped me shape my plays, and bring about contradictions to the fore in my plays.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Peter Brook And The Mahabharata. Critical Perspectives, Edited By David Williams

This book is about production and the process of performance. It is among the few books that gives such a critical perspective on performances, according to Gaur.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

The Little Clay Cart (Mrcchakatika), By Śūdraka

This is a Sanskrit play. It is a powerful political drama which talks of the class struggle, Gaur said. “This inspired me to do social and political theatre.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Natya Shastra, By Bharata Muni

This book focuses on different acting techniques, with emphasis on expressions, body language, and speech. It talks of the various ‘rasas’ in Indian theatre, according to Gaur. Rasa is the aesthetic flavour of any visual, literary or musical work that evokes an emotion or feeling in the reader or audience but cannot be described.

Amy Russell

Founder and Director of Embodied Poetics, a new school for intensive training in devised physical theatre. She is the co-founder of the London International School of Performing Arts.

 (Image courtesy: Amy Russell)
(Image courtesy: Amy Russell)

Le Corps Poétique: Un Enseignement De La Création Théâtrale (The Poetic Body : Teaching Creative Theatre), By Jacques Lecoq

Jacques Lecoq was one of the most inspirational theatre teachers of the 20th century European theatre, according to Russell. Due to his focus on creativity, improvisation and novelty, he also inspired a large number of directors, writers and theatre pioneers, she said.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Über Das Geistige In Der Kunst (Concerning The Spiritual In Art), By Wassily Kandinsky

A “groundbreaking work” in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, Russell said this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art.

Kandinsky crystallises ideas that were to influence many other modern artists in a wide variety of disciplines, including theatre and dance and the related arts of set design, stage and choreographic construction, she said.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Physical Theatres: A Critical Introduction, By Simon Murray And John Keefe

This is the first account to provide a comprehensive overview of non-text-based theatre, from experimental dance to traditional mime, according to Russell.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Dharma Art, By Chögyam Trungpa

This book is a meditation on art, repositioning it as a spiritual as well as a professional activity, russell said. “Dharma Art prioritises expression over the struggle or desire to achieve. Trungpa shows how the principles of Dharma Art extend to everyday life, as any activity can become a living art.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Movement Training For The Modern Actor, By Mark Evans

Focusing on the cultural history of modern movement training for actors, Evans traces the development of the “neutral” body as a significant area of practice within drama school training, Russell said.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Quasar Thakore Padamsee

An Indian stage actor-turned-theatre director. He has founded QTP, a theatre and arts management company.

(Image courtesy: Arghya Lahiri/QTP)
(Image courtesy: Arghya Lahiri/QTP)

An Actor Prepares, By Stanislavski

“This is an excellent handbook about acting. It deconstructed the whole process for me brilliantly,” Padamsee said.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Light On The Subject, By David Hays

This book takes a really complicated area like lighting and illustrates it beautifully, according to Padamsee. “A must for anybody who wants to understand lighting, editing and even story-telling. This is a must read for anyone involved in theatre.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Director And The Stage: From Naturalism To Grotowski, By Edward Braun

“This book traces the history of theatre through the development of the role of the director,” Padamsee said. “It offers brilliant insights, and has influenced me greatly, helping me understand different techniques in acting and directing.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Connecting Flights, By Robert Lepage

This book talks about why it is important to consistently do the same plays over and over again, according to Padamsee.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Atul Satya Koushik

A noted playwright and theatre producer/director known for his grand-scale production in different genres. He is also the founder of the Films and Theatre Society.

 (Image courtesy: Atul Satya Koushik)  
(Image courtesy: Atul Satya Koushik)  

Rashmirathi, By Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

“I grew up reading this ‘immortal’ text by Ramdhari Singh who was once the national poet of India,” Koushik said. “The gravity of thoughts expressed with an inspiring simplicity of words in this book is what motivated me to write play likes Chakravyuh and Raavan Ki Ramayan. The poems in this book laid the foundation of many of my poetic plays.”

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read

Gods, Demons And Others, By R K Narayan

“This book changed my experience at the way one looks at history. After I read this I could never look at any event in history (spiritual or otherwise) of India/world without trying to explore the other side of the coin,” Koushik said.

Getting Your Act Together: The Books Theatre Veterans Read