Between 1977 and 1992, the lectures and fragments collected in Ritual to Realism were prepared and delivered in a variety of theatre history courses to supplement assigned readings in dramatic literature. The lectures (and fragments thereof) have been collated into sixteen units that, presented chronologically, offer an easily-assimilated survey of Western theatre history-from the ceremonies of the ancient Greeks to the rituals proposed by members of the twentieth-century avant-garde. Designed for a general audience as well as theatre students, actors, directors, and designers, Ritual to Realism does not pretend to be exhaustive. Instead, it provides an entertaining, lively, fact-based consideration of major theatrical movements, theatre practice, playwrights, and dramatic works-virtually, something for everyone with an interest in theatre.
From the introduction, "Search through Ritual to Realism however you like, line by line, back and forth through the chapters that interest you, or strictly as you need to through the index. No matter how you do it, every page, every paragraph will give you pieces of information and ideas that remain as fresh, subversive and radical today as they were in Ancient Greece or Restoration England. Plays, like all artistic creations, have never really changed, holding steadfast in opposition to conventional ideas and commonplaces, striking against the grain, so to speak, as untouchable, blinding entities that have mesmerized the minds of people for millennia. It is easy to find such a notion as historical context to be too abstract, not personal enough to do a student any good in the theater right now. It is through the evolving process by which one develops as an artisan throughout life that one inevitably feels tied ever closer to the historical long-view of the theater. . . . This book is designed to fill your arsenal with tools. Let it be a step that will influence the way you create dramatic art for the rest of your career."