Monday, January 29, 2024





by Samuel L. Leiter

My friend and critical colleague, James F. Wilson, who serves as Executive Officer of the Theatre and Performance Program at the Graduate Center, has written a tidy, timely, and trenchant study titled Failure, Fascism, and Teachers in American Theatre (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023, 216 pp.), about how teachers have been treated in 20th-century American drama. His monograph, whose subtitle alludes to a major work by Brazilian theatre practitioner/theorist Augusto Boal, packs a great deal of valuable information and insight into its compact size.

Wilson’s aim is to consider how playwrights have examined the multiple personal, political, and practical issues facing modern educators. Despite being an academic work based on deep research, reflected in an abundance of footnotes, his book is written in a refreshingly clear and cogent style, rarely deploying the jargon you might expect to find in such a study. Wilson’s seven chapters include an introduction followed by a look at “Schoolmarms, Spinsters, and Superwomen Teachers.” Subsequent chapters present “Unfit Teachers” in plays from the 1920s-1940s, the problem of “Radical Liberalism and Academic Freedom” during the Red Scare years, fascistic teachers as represented by three principal dramatic characters (Jean Brodie, Miss Margarida, and Sister Ignatius) from the 1960s-1980s, and an account of issues related to masculinity among male teachers in a profession dominated by women.

Many of the plays discussed will be known to theatre buffs, among them The Corn Is Green, The Male Animal, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but once popular yet now forgotten works, like Decision and The Velvet Glove, will be less familiar. Wilson thoughtfully provides the kind of historical context that helps bring these plays alive by describing not only the chief facts associated with their productions (theatres, length of runs, stars), but whatever controversy they may have stirred when produced. Some of these inspire what are among the book’s most memorable passages.

Failure, Fascism, and Teachers in American Theatre analyzes the dilemmas faced by educators through the years while also discoursing on the state of the teaching profession, be it in public schools, private schools, or colleges and universities. Politics, sexual and psychological conflicts, professional success or failure, issues of gender, teacher romances, professional rivalries, and the like are explored, as are major educational theories exemplified by the plays, such as those associated with Dewey, Neill, and Piaget. Wilson always makes clear how pertinent the issues he examines continue to be. It’s impossible, for example, not to pick up a newspaper today and read about the limits being imposed on teachers regarding what they or, indeed, anyone can say (or teach!) in class or public forums without provoking not only animosity but danger.

Although Wilson concentrates on American drama—plays, not musicals—he occasionally strays into premodern theatre, as when he discusses how Aristophanes’ The Clouds treats Socrates, or when he covers Holofernes in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. But the vast bulk of the book is concerned with plays produced in New York by 20th- and 21st-century playwrights, mainly—but not entirely—American and British. Among the titles—in addition to those already mentioned—are Young Woodley, Girls in Uniform, Autumn Crocus, The Children’s Hour, Brother Rat, Schoolhouse on the Lot, Women without Men, Trio, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rats of Norway, The Traitor, Picnic, The Egghead, The Miracle Worker, Child’s Play, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Quartermain’s Terms, Butley, The Heidi Chronicles, Oleanna, Wit, The History Boys, Office Hours, Schoolgirls; Or the African Mean Girls Play, Confederates, and Soft.

I may have skipped a play or two but even a complete list would reveal how selective Wilson’s is. That’s made even clearer by the extensive list of plays (and musicals) he provides in a chronologically organized appendix, a list that Wilson will, hopefully, one day post online so it can be expanded. Some selections in his text may seem more germane than others to his overall concerns, but, viewed within the context of the issues Wilson identifies, most of his choices deserve inclusion.

Failure, Fascism, and Teachers in American Theatre: Pedagogy of the Oppressors will probably find its most common resting place on the bookshelves of theatre professors for its useful survey of how drama has made extensive thematic use of the world of education. As Jim Wilson demonstrates, it’s a domain as significant for thoughtful dramatization as, for example, law, medicine, journalism, the military, business, the arts, science, or politics. His book should prove stimulating and informative even for teachers and administrators who never set foot inside a playhouse.






Friday, January 26, 2024

69. WHITE ROSE: THE MUSICAL (seen January 24, 2024)


For my review of White Rose: The Musical please click on THEATER LIFE.




By Samuel L. Leiter

My substantial review of this interesting but challenging new academic book will appear in the 2025 edition of Impressions: The Journal of the Japanese Art Society of America, edited by the redoubtable Julia Meech. Meanwhile, you can read a preview of the book here

Monday, January 15, 2024



Keller Kimbrough and Satoko Shimazaki’s (eds.) PUBLISHING THE STAGE: PRINT AND PERFORMANCE IN EARLY MODERN JAPAN (2011)

By Samuel L. Leiter

Readers familiar with my academic background who may have perused the list I recently posted on Facebook of books I read last year perhaps wondered why none of those 46 works dealt with Japanese theatre/culture. After completing my book Meiji Kabuki: Japanese Theatre through Foreign Eyes the previous year (published at the end of 2022), which required two years of immersion in Japan-related research (in both Japanese and English), and then having moved on to write Brooklyn Takes the Stage: Nineteenth-Century Theater in the City of Churches (just published), I decided to remain within the borders of Western theatre throughout 2023.

However, a new book published in December—Jonathan E. Zwicker’s Kabuki’s Nineteenth Century: Stage and Print in Early Modern Japan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023)came to my attention, stirring my Japanese theatre juices again; I quickly arranged to review it formally for the 2025 issue of Impressions: The Journal of the Japanese Art Society of America.

The subject of Prof. Zwicker’s book, the relationship between print media and 19th-century kabuki, reminded me of another book on my shelves, one I’ve had for years but never got around to reading (more’s the pity, as noted later), that deals with related material although written by multiple authors. I decided to read it as preparation for the new book only to discover that Zwicker (UC Berkeley) has a chapter in it, one of which he makes substantial use in his new publication.

The older book, Publishing the Stage: Print and Performance in Early Modern Japan (Boulder, C0: Center for Asian Studies, Boulder, CO, 2011, 247 pp.), was edited by Keller Kimbrough and Satoko Shimazaki (on whose Columbia University doctoral committee I later served as an outside advisor), using 11 papers delivered at the University of Colorado conference that gave the publication its name. This is a scholarly collection obviously aimed at a niche academic audience, its contributors coming from the US, Japan, and the UK.

Kimbrough and Shimazaki provide a useful introduction, which is followed by eight essays in English and three in Japanese, each expanded from their originals. (Two of the original 13 papers didn’t make it into the volume.) Helpfully, all the English-language writers use Japanese transcriptions for names and titles (in both roman letters and Chinese characters), albeit with occasional inconsistencies, and all the essays have an abstract in both Japanese and English at the back of the book. The writing is generally straightforward and accessible, although, as even Japanese culture specialists will admit, there are so many names, terms, and titles it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. I, too, have been guilty of this unavoidable situation. Fortunately, only one or two English-language participants stray somewhat into theoretical denseness, requiring a bit more effort to comprehend their points without falling asleep.

Given its subject, Publishing the Stage benefits from the many black/white images it reproduces, but several of these are too dimly printed to appreciate the commentary on them. Also, this is a paperback-only publication and its construction is not of the highest quality. Three days after I began reading it, the pages began to come loose from the binding. The most serious drawback of this otherwise valuable book, however, it its lack of an index.

Rather than attempt to describe the book’s wide-ranging coverage, let me quote from Kimbrough and Shimazaki’s opening paragraph in their introduction: “it seeks to examine the early-modern history of the Japanese stage—in particular, the seventeenth-century ko-jōruri  古浄瑠 (“old,” or pre-Chikamatsu) puppet theater, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century kabuki歌舞伎in the context of commercial publishing, a thriving urban industry that by the mid-1600s had become inextricably enmeshed in the evolving world of popular entertainment.” A brief glimpse at roughly half the papers should suffice to suggest what Kimbrough and Shimazaki are talking about.

I should mention that, while I’m in no way as knowledgeable on the subject of Edo-period theatrical publications as are the scholars in Publishing the Stage, interested readers may find useful my essay, ““Kabuki, Its History as Seen in Ukiyo-e Prints,” for The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, ed. by Amy Reigle Newland. Leiden, the Netherlands: Hotei (2006): 128-132.

Janice Shizue Kanemitsu’s article, “Guts and Tears: Kinpira Jōruri and Its Textual Transformation,” deals with the pre-Chikamatsu Monzaemon puppet theatre of the 17th century, focusing on works about the enormously popular young superhero samurai Sakata no Kinpira, whose stories, in the genre called Kinpira jōruri (jōruri being a term for puppet theatre), became even more widely disseminated through the images and texts of the new technologies of woodblock printing. These works were part of a movement in which heroic figures were involved in numerous prequels and sequels, not unlike those of the Star Wars spinoffs, both in the Kamigata region (Osaka/Kyoto) and Edo, the printed texts themselves influencing what was performed in their wake.

Following Hioki Atsuko’s “Unfolding Chūjōhime Lore: Following Leads from the Painted Life of Chūjōhime at the Taima Temple Nakanobō Cloister,” the least theatre-related essay in the book, we arrive at Katherine Saltzman-Li’s “Kabuki Knowledge: Professional Manuscripts and Commercial Texts on the Art of Kabuki.” This essay explores the wide range of materials that explained kabuki to both specialists or insiders, including “secret” traditions, and to the wide audience of kabuki fans who wanted to know everything they could about the theatre, much of which was presented in illustrated guides. Only the puppet theatre published its scripts, so kabuki fans had to do with ancillary publications that provided illustrated plot summaries and other methods of communicating what plays presented. For a good idea of what a 19th-century guidebook picturing stage techniques (including quick changes) looks like, see my article “What Really Happens Backstage (Okyôgen Gakuya no Honsetsu): A Nineteenth-Century Kabuki Document” Theatre Survey 38 (Fall 1997). 108-128. To my knowledge, it’s the only English-language article of its kind. Given the intrinsic interest in the backstage/onstage techniques of kabuki, something along the same lines for a different document might have been valuable in Publishing the Stage.

Next up is Yamashita Takumi’s “Kabuki in Late Nineteenth-Century European and American Publications.” In Japanese with healthy dollops of English quotes, it comes as a surprise because it treats precisely the topic that informs my book Meiji Kabuki. Hioki briefly examines only a handful of writings by the few foreigners who commented on their experiences at kabuki in the 1850s and 1860s; my book—which includes the writers cited by Yamashita, but much more fully—surveys the entire Edo period but goes into depth about the Meiji period (1868-1912). Seeing it here made me kick myself for having overlooked it (even as it sat so close to my desk) when I was doing my research.

“Publishing Illustrated Edo Actor Books,” by Matsura Ryōko, in Japanese, covers the phenomenon of actor picture books of several major artist schools, revealing how these books of actor pictures were received, what their goals were, how the artists were involved in the theatre world they depicted, and the way in which the portraits came to move from stylized representations to more accurate ones of the actors they depicted.

Following Yamashita Noriko’s “Late Edo-Period Formulations of Actor Mitate Prints: The Case of Portraits of the Thirty-Six Poetic Geniuses,” in Japanese, is Akiko Yano’s “Capturing the Body: Ryūkōsai’s Notes on ‘Realism’ in Representing Actors on Stage,” in which we learn about the relative lifelikeness of the actor portraits of Ryūkōsai Jokei, the late 18th-century Osaka artist who introduced full color woodblock prints of actors, although he was actually an amateur with another source of income. A long-lost work representing his artistic methods, rediscovered in 2010, is a principal part of the discussion, its contents displaying his belief that, before an actor could be properly illustrated, he must first be drawn naked and only then have his costume added.

Andrew Gerstle, perhaps the book’s best-known scholar of actor prints (Osaka’s in particular), provides “Creating Celebrity: Poetry in Osaka Actor Surimono and Prints,” in which he explains the connections of printed materials to kabuki’s need for publicity and financial support, with actor prints being of particular value in creating the kind of celebrity that would draw crowds. The differences between Edo and Kamigata play a part in this discussion, with Kamigata being less commercially oriented than its eastern theatrical counterpart. The rivalry between two Kamigata stars, Arashi Kichisaburō II and Nakamura Utaemon II, plays an important role in the essay, particularly with regard to the place of the poetry written on prints.

Adam Kern’s essay, “Kabuki Plays on Stage—and Comicbook [sic] Pictures on Stage—in Edo-Period Japan” examines the relationship between woodblock actor prints and their subjects in terms of the differences between what he calls a “reflection hypothesis” and its obverse, a “constructionist hypothesis.” These are too complex to describe here but they are essentially differentiated by the degree to which kabuki-related texts and images accurately reflect either textual or performative aspects, privileging page to stage, or instead help “to construct the stage by advertising, celebrating, memorializing even parodying . . . its various aspects.” Kern also questions the centrality of kabuki to Japanese popular culture during the Edo period, when such forms as the comic books known as kibyōshi—Kern’s specialty—held similarly potent cultural significance.

Skipping Robert Goree’s “Publishing Kabukiland: Late Edo Culture and Kyokutei Bakin’s Yakusha meisho zue,” we reach the final paper, Zwicker’s “Stage and Spectacle in an Age of Maps: Kabuki and the Cartographic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Japan.” The author looks at how Japanese writers and artists began to see kabuki not simply as a particular genre but as part of a gestalt embracing the universal idea of theatre, in the 19th-century sense of shibai, rather than kabuki. This is tied to the considerable degree to which theatre was conceptualized cartographically, its functional parts depicted as elements in maps, and even its actors used as metaphoric stand-ins for supposed places, revealing how “early nineteenth-century theater historians located, even quite literally mapped, contemporary theatrical practice in both historical and spatial dimensions.”

I now move on to see how Zwicker employs these concerns within the wider parameters of Kabuki’s Nineteenth Century. But it will be over a year before my response appears in Impressions.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024





By Samuel L. Leiter

Ever since the ancient Greeks, the theatre has been not simply a place for amusement, but a place where the great issues of the time could be presented in dramatic or comedic fashion. Still, theatre’s active participation in contemporary crises concerning society at large has often played second fiddle to the primary objective of providing entertainment. Entertainment and social consciousness, of course, need not have been exclusive, as such 19th-century melodramas about racism as Uncle Tom’s Cabin or The Octoroon revealed. Even hit plays like those derived from Dickens’s novels, like Oliver Twist, had important social messages to convey.

In fact, looked at broadly, countless dramas over the course of history can be said to have addressed the problems of their day, even if submerged within overtly commercial purposes. Which is why any single book focused on discussing how the modern theatre has confronted a wide range of social, political, scientific, racial, militaristic, and other problems is bound to be incomplete, able only to scratch the surface.

Dr. Carol Rocamora, a professor of dramatic literature at New York University who is also a distinguished author (bios of Chekhov and Václav Havel), Chekhov translator, playwright, and critic—she's also an admired colleague of mine at the Theater Pizzazz website—has taken on such a task, with mixed results, in Crisis: The Theatre Responds (city unspecified: Salamander Street, 2023, 250 pp). Her compact book makes a valiant, but unavoidably limited, attempt to provide an overview of how various playwrights have responded to major crises over the past 100 years.

According to the book jacket, the issues at stake run “from World War II to communism, apartheid, the AIDS epidemic, gay hate crime, urban race riots, conflict in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan, systemic racism, immigrant identity, the refugee crisis, authoritarianism, failing educational systems, environmental peril, and, most recently, the pandemic.” Mainly, Rocamora covers specific plays and playwrights, but one of her most important contributions is a chapter on the Belarus Free Theatre, originating in Minsk, which also plays an important part in Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard: A Biography, covered in my most recent book posting.

Her highly selective account begins with an overview of three internationally iconic figures, Germany’s Bertolt Brecht, South Africa’s Athol Fugard, and Czechoslovakia’s Havel. This is about the extent of her international coverage. She moves on to discuss Tony Kushner (mainly Angels in America), Anna Deveare Smith, and Moisés Kaufman, explicating the latter two’s work on documentary drama, which she calls “verbatim drama.” Rocamora, however, for some reason, doesn’t explain that people like Smith and Kaufman were following a well-established docudrama tradition, often using the exact words of their sources, a trend especially popular in the 1960s with works like In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer and The Investigation. The 1960s, in fact, are practically ignored, despite their intense preoccupation with protest drama.

Caryl Churchill gets a full chapter, followed by an array of other concerned dramatists—too many to list here—and their goals. After covering the Belarus Free Theatre, a subversive company suffering under an oppressive regime, Rocamora delves into many other writers, plays, productions, and issues, including several works that were done in England but never crossed the pond.

Plays she focuses on are treated in review-like essays that provide both descriptive and interpretive background as well as production histories, including cast members and directors, often with brief portraits of important performance elements. But, even in so concise a 100-year overview, Rocamora might have mentioned numerous other important crisis-oriented works, like those of the 1930s, when socio-politically oriented plays dominated so many stages, here and abroad; think, for instance, of the Living Newspapers and in-your-face agit-prop projects, not least of them Waiting for Lefty.

While the number of provocative works described, even briefly, is impressive, the number overlooked is even greater. And, even among the many plays based on important issues, too many noteworthy titles—some even more to the point than those included—are ignored. When dealing with plays about environmental and climate crises, for example, one searches in vain for such recent works as The Great Immensity and Crude.

Further, one sometimes feels that the crises investigated are, perhaps, not world-shaking enough for inclusion. For example, while immigration problems per se demand to be dramatized, problems of immigrant assimilation are so universal as to be—on the scale of crises—perhaps not so high. And, really, does The Lehman Trilogy deserve so much attention as an immigration drama rather than one about the pitfalls of capitalism? Moreover, when it comes to assimilation, you can go back a century and see the same issues at the heart of shows like Abie’s Irish Rose and The Jazz Singer, among so many others. Similarly, lots of space is given to plays about identity politics. Is this really one of the major crises of our times?

Even with these and other caveats (including the need for better proofreading to catch the too many typos), this remains a useful book. The writing is clear and crisp, there’s a thankful lack of academese, and the author’s ideas are typically wise and well expressed. It’s unlikely that most readers will be familiar with many of the works discussed, so there’s certainly much that they will find new even though it might have been better had Rocamora not spread her net so widely in determining what crises she would cover.

The parameters seem so broad there’s room for practically any play to find itself in the game if it somehow touches on a potentially sensitive topic. At the same time, important topics, like the HUAC hearings—think The Crucible, etc.—get no space. The author might also have mentioned, if only briefly, how representative theatre[ nations, like Germany, Poland, and France, not to mention Mother Russia (a Rocamora specialty) have handled crises. A broader vision of the history of how theatre has responded to crisis over the centuries would likewise have been advantageous.

Crisis: The Theatre Responds offers valuable content on how many playwrights—the majority from the last three decades—have used the drama as a way of expressing and confronting the most pressing issues of the day. Drawbacks and all, those interested in the modern theatre will learn much from it.

Saturday, January 6, 2024





By Samuel L. Leiter

Who would you say is currently the English-speaking world’s foremost living playwright? After reading Hermione Lee’s nearly two-inch thick Tom Stoppard: A Life (New York: Vintage, 2020, 872 pp.), I find it hard to think of anyone as worthy of the appellation as that magnificent work’s eponymous subject. For sheer output, consistency, intellectual and artistic rigor, commercial success, and critical renown, it’s hard to come up with anyone comparable, regardless of what language they write in. The man has surely won more titles and accolades than any other contemporary playwright, and it would seem only a matter of time before he receives, as did the late Harold Pinter, his closest competitor but also good friend, the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Stoppard (who distrusted biographies) selected Lee for the task, but her biography, while highly complimentary, is far from hagiographic. The picture she paints of this unusually successful writer, as treasured a human being as he is an artist, displays not only his genius but his weak spots. You put down this immense work of research, description, and analysis feeling you not only understand Stoppard better (if not, given his proclivity for intellectual hijinks, completely), but also wish to revisit his work, especially the ones you’ve never seen or read.

As has become increasingly familiar in recent years, Stoppard, born Tomás or Tomik Straüssler in Czechoslovakia in 1937, was an infant when his family—non-observant Jews—was forced to flee the Nazis. He spent his early years in Singapore and then India, raised in Darjeeling by his mother, Marta, after his father, a doctor, was killed. Marta’s marriage to the British officer Kenneth Stoppard allowed the family to move to England where Tom Stoppard and his siblings grew up, considering themselves English, with few ties to their Czech language or culture, much less their Jewish heritage.

Lee goes into great detail about Stoppard’s education (he never attended university, it should be noted), his early career as a journalist in Bristol, and his transition to writing plays, a trade at which—with 1968’s internationally popular Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—he quickly found success. The book explains not only the production circumstances of all his plays, but discusses their often difficult to grasp subjects: quantum physics. Fermat’s Last Theory, or the nature of consciousness, anyone?

Stoppard’s theatrical playwriting output is extensive, of course, with widely known (and often revived) titles such as Travesties, The Real Thing, Hapgood, Arcadia, Indian Ink, The Coast of Utopia, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Hard Problem, and Leopoldstadt. But he also wrote major screenplays for the movies and TV, like Shakespeare in Love (co-authored with Marc Norman) and TV’s Parade’s End (based on novels by Ford Madox Ford), contributed (often uncredited) to many others, adapted numerous European plays by writers like Schnitzler and Chekhov, wrote important radio dramas, and produced countless articles, speeches, and other written works. A key critical component Lee comments on is the balance in his dramatic writing between intellectual and emotional concerns; critics were so used to his brainy preoccupations they were often surprised when Stoppard’s plays began to stir their hearts.

His constant traveling to conferences and productions of his plays in far-flung corners of the globe are exhausting to read about; one can picture just how tiring they must have been for Stoppard, but he seems to have thought little of hopping on a plane to the States for a weekend of rehearsals or some other event before returning to the UK. Often, he’d be involved in several major projects at the same time, yet his stamina never seems to have failed him. Lee offers an excellent view of how, with the help of his topnotch PA, he was able to juggle so many balls.

Lee recounts Stoppard’s two marriages (to Miriam Stern and Sabrina Guinness, both exceptional women), his love affairs (most notably with the brilliant actresses Felicity Kendal and Sinéad Cusack), his family life with his parents (warmly loving mother, emotionally distanced stepfather), his offspring (one of whom, Ed Stoppard, is a noted leading man), and his countless friends in high places. Many of these persons are themselves well-described so you get a remarkably rounded picture of Stoppard’s life circumstances. Even his various homes are examined closely, making it possible to imagine what visiting him might have been like.

Theatre buffs will relish Lee’s coverage of his rehearsals, noting what it was like for actors and directors to work with Stoppard, who, while his own directing experiences were limited, was a keen participant in both new productions and revivals of his work. He was an inveterate reviser, his published plays often undergoing several editions to reflect changes made in recent productions. Sometimes he had to be asked to limit his advice to actors because it could interfere with the actual directors’ authority. But the book also offers invaluable insights into the working methods of leading directors, like Jack O’Brien, Trevor Nunn, and David Leveaux.

Also of interest are Stoppard’s political views. Although always taking a balanced view of life’s realities, his long-term tendency—based largely on his gratitude to England for his being able to live a charmed life there—was to favor Tory views, even to the extent of being a friend and supporter of Margaret Thatcher. Later, he moved more leftward, although never radically. Among his chief political activities, in which he was deeply involved, were those on behalf of writers in oppressive societies, which was one reason he became close friends with Czech playwright/political leader Václav Havel.

For all his enormous success, financially and otherwise, Stoppard appears to be a generous, modest, even self-deprecating man, devoted to his loved ones. Apart from what the tabloids made of his love life (Sinéad Cusack remained married to Jeremy Irons while consorting with the playwright), his life was generally scandal free. Considered handsome and dashing in his salad days, and a buddy of leading celebrities (like Mick Jagger, to whom his appearance was sometimes likened), he was ripe for paparazzi exploitation, but managed to keep his head without falling into the typical patterns of drug or alcohol abuse; his chain-smoking, however, was in a class by itself.

For many, the most intensely gripping part of Stoppard’s life was his eventual exploration of his Czech origins and Jewish roots. Having generally ignored his religious heritage, his own mother having willfully chosen to keep silent about it, Stoppard only began to dig into his Jewish roots in the 1990s. He made contact with surviving Czech relatives, discovering how many of his family members died in the Holocaust. This all proved fodder for his late plays Rock ‘n’ Roll and, most spectacularly, Leopoldstadt. Although I already was familiar with the story, reading it here brought tears to my eyes.

Hermione Lee’s book covers Stoppard’s life through the London success of the latter play, which would go on to an equally acclaimed New York production, and concludes with a fascinating discourse by Lee on the process of writing her biography, as well as a summation of her subject's personality. If Tom Stoppard is, indeed, the world’s foremost living playwright, I can’t imagine a better way to get to know the guy than through this thorough portrait of his life and work.