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Changing Stages
Changing Stages: A View of British and American Theater in the Twentieth Century


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The Television Schedule

(check your local listings and your local PBS station):

"Shakespeare" (8/26, 9:00 p.m. ET) How do changing interpretations of history's greatest playwright tell contemporary audiences as much about current times as they do about his plays?

"Ireland" (8/26, 10:00 p.m. ET) Eyre examines how William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, J.M. Synge and Sean O'Casey changed the course of English-speaking theater.

"America" (9/2, 9:00 p.m. ET) Eyre examines the work of Eugene O'Neill, Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Loraine Hansberry and Tennesse Williams in the context of the Great Depression, the "American Dream" and the Cold War, and the birth of the American musical, forged from a unique collision of diverse cultures.

"1956" (9/2, 10:00 p.m. ET) Eyre considers the glamour and nostalgia of British drama in wartime, examining the work of Noel Coward, Terrence Rattigan and the subversive Rodney Ackland - and why John Osborne's Look Back in Anger created a shockwave in 1956.

"Between Brecht and Beckett" (9/9, 9:00 p.m. ET) Against a background of disillusionment in the post-World War II era, Eyre explores the legacy of two giants of the theater, Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett. Their work inspired a generation of new writers.

"The Law of Gravity" (9/9, 10:00 p.m. ET) The final program surveys some of the ground-breaking work on the contemporary scene, from the blockbuster musical to the avant-garde. What is the theater of the future?

About the Author Excerpt Q&A
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Richard Eyre

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Nicholas Wright

Author Name

With more than 30 years of experience in the theater, Sir Richard Eyre is one of the world's most respected directors of stage and screen. From 1988-97, he served as artistic director of Britain's Royal National Theatre, a tenure which critics have described as a golden age comparable to the era in which Laurence Olivier held that post. Under Mr. Eyre's artistic direction, the National received millions of dollars in funding and countless awards--it won 24 awards in 1992 alone. In 1990, the National embarked on its most ambitious tour ever, of King Lear and Richard III, with Ian McKellan and Brian Cox in the respective title roles. Throughout his time at the theater company, Mr. Eyre oversaw productions including Carousel, Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls, Wind in the Willows, Madness of George III, the first part of Angels in America, An Inspector Calls, Absence of War, Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, and The Oedipus Plays. Within this nine-year span, the group became the first British theater company to visit Lithuania, and also traveled to Korea, mainland China, South Africa, and New Zealand.

In 1997, Mr. Eyre was nominated for a Tony Award for his direction of Skylight. His adaptation of King Lear, which starred Ian Holm and aired on PBS in 1998, earned him a Peabody Award. Mr. Eyre has taken the helm of many new productions as well, including Broadway's Amy's View, in which he directed Judi Dench. Judi Dench also stars, with Kate Winslet, in Mr. Eyre's recently completed feature film, Iris, based on the life of writer Iris Murdoch.

Born in 1943 in southwestern England, he studied at Cambridge and became associate director, then director of productions, at Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre. He went on to serve as artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse and later the producer of the BBC's Play for Today series.

Knighted four years ago, Mr. Eyre is a prolific writer on the subject of the theater. His publications also includes the autobiography Utopia and Other Places.

Nicholas Wright was born in South Africa in 1940 and started in the theatre as a child actor. He went to England to train at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and joined the Old Vic touring company as an actor. After working in repertory he became an assistant director in films and television. In 1969 he founded the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, where he was responsible for presenting a radically influential program of new plays. From 1984 to 1998, Wright was an associate director of the Royal National Theatre. His work as a director includes new plays by Ken Campbell, N. F. Simpson, John Antrobus, and Michael Hastings, as well as the first full-length stage plays of Caryl Churchill, David Lan, and Heathcote Williams. His productions abroad include works by Athol Fugard, Edward Bond, and Brecht. Wright is also the author of many plays, among them Mrs. Klein and Cressida. He lives in London.

Through the flash points of its glorious history, Richard Eyre and Nicholas Wright, two of today's most distinguished men of the theatre, celebrate the British and American stage as it has evolved over the course of the twentieth century. From Pygmalion's first Eliza Doolittle (Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who enchanted playwright George Bernard Shaw in 1914) and her equally piquant successors, to Uta Hagen in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; from Gertrude Lawrence and Noël Coward in his Private Lives (their performance as dazzling as the play itself), to Michael Frayn's Copenhagen--this stylish, astute, richly pictorial volume brings us the actors, directors, and playwrights who have shaped one hundred years of the theatre and the performances that live on in our minds
Lotte Lenya in The Threepenny Opera, Laurence Olivier in the British production of Eugene O'Neill's viscerally American Long Day's Journey into Night, Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in the Sun, Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead . . . Here is the essential mixture of Shakespearean heritage, Irish magic, American vitality, and Russian pathos that converged on the stage in an efflorescence of dramatic innovation. Eyre and Wright's survey of this brilliant period is allusive, intelligent, and intimate, rich in anecdote and infused with a deep love and understanding of the theatre.