American Voices

Five Contemporary Playwrights in Essays and Interviews


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About the Book

Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, David Mamet, Charles Fuller, and Marsha Norman were born within ten years of one another. While they are not linked to a particular movement or school, they are fellow members of a generation of writers, one that has come to prominence during a turning point in American theater: From the midseventies to the late eighties, emphasis on the written word returned after a decade dominated by “nonverbal” theater that subordinated language to the visual.
Each of these playwrights has regarded the written word as the center of a theatrical production. All have received the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The contexts of race, religion, region, class and gender from which they write are very different, yet each is “typically” American in some way. Through interviews with Wilson, Mamet, Fuller, and Norman and critical study of works of all five, Harriott examines their disparate voices and their distinctive images of America.

About the Author(s)

Esther Harriott is former managing editor at the New York Public Library, contributing book reviewer at Newsday and director of cultural affairs at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She lives in New York City.

Bibliographic Details

Esther Harriott
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 206
Bibliographic Info: references, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013 [1988]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7603-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0540-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction      xi
I. Sam Shepard: Inventing Identities      3
II. Lanford Wilson: To Vanish Without a Trace      19
III. Interview with Lanford Wilson      36
IV. David Mamet: Comedies of Bad Manners      61
V. Interview with David Mamet      77
VI. Charles Fuller: The Quest for Justice      101
VII. Interview with Charles Fuller      112
VIII. Marsha Norman: Getting Out      129
IX. Interview with Marsha Norman      148
Afterword      165
References      171
Selected Bibliography      175
Index      185

Book Reviews & Awards

“the essays are lucid, graceful, tinged with irony, and most importantly are informed by a passion for theater experienced in live performance and not merely talked about at a safe theoretical distance”—The Buffalo News; “Harriott has performed a signal service by focusing on playwrights who, she declares, represent a return to language centred playwriting. ”—Theatre Research International; “an important book”—VOYA; “scholarly and informative”—The Book Report; “Esther Harriott has performed a signal service by focusing on playwrights who represent a return to language-centered playwriting. The essays are interesting, necessary, thought-provoking…the discussion of [David] Mamet in particular is brilliant and illuminating. Her assessment of his recent work is an important contribution to the field.”—Douglas McDermott, Theatre Research International.