If you’d like to catch up on your reading during this extended hiatus of live theater, these top three book selections offer a variety of themes for different ages and interests, from the script of a Tony-nominated hit to a child’s dream of making it on Broadway to a comprehensive look at an avant-garde art form.
The Sound Inside – For his stellar Broadway debut with the profoundly unsettling two-hander The Sound Inside, award-winning playwright Adam Rapp has garnered a well-deserved Tony nomination in the category of Best Play of the 2019-20 season. If you missed the acclaimed production at Studio 54, or if you saw it and can’t get it out of your mind, the potent script of Rapp’s enigmatic rumination on loneliness, death, and the power of the arts – using an economy of means to describe the characters’ solitary personalities, their troubled situations, and the isolating impact of their devotion to writing – is available in a paperback edition from Theatre Communications Group (TCG). As with the evocative Broadway staging (directed by David Cromer and starring Mary-Louise Parker – both of whom also received Tony nods), there are no words wasted, and the unexpected trajectory of the intimate narrative will leave you wondering what’s real and what’s fiction, in this dramatic meta-theatrical intersection of life and art.
Adam Rapp, The Sound Inside (New York: Theatre Communications Group, December 2019), 96 pp., paperback, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-55936-977-0, eBook, ISBN 978-1-55936-935-0.
Broadway Baby – Just in time to get a jump on your holiday shopping comes a new children’s book for theater-lovers of all ages, in a limited hardback edition from Meteor 17, available exclusively from PlaybillStore.com. When theater operator and producer Russell Miller (Guys & Dolls, Blood Brothers, Paramour, On The Town) couldn’t find a Broadway-themed gift for his producing partner’s newborn daughter, he decided to create one of his own. The result is a delightfully playful love letter to the New York stage – co-authored with publisher, writer, and marketing specialist Judith A. Proffer and masterfully designed by art director and graphic designer Hugh Syme – celebrating the excitement of musical theater and creativity through one baby’s dream of becoming a Broadway star. Adorable, colorful, full-page illustrations by award-winning artist Yoko Matsuoka capture the magic and glamour of the baby’s journey from crib to playground to the heart of NYC and opening night on Broadway, as we all dream of the end of the coronavirus shutdown and the reopening of theaters (referenced in the images). A portion of the proceeds from sales of this special edition will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Russell Miller with Judith A. Proffer, Broadway Baby, illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka (Los Angeles: Meteor 17 Books, 2020), 46 pp., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-7324491-9-0.
Butoh: Cradling Empty Space – This month, during the New York Butoh Institute Festival 2020, Vangeline – teacher, dancer, choreographer, and Founding Artistic Director of the Vangeline Theater and the New York Butoh Institute – launched her new book (available from Amazon and other noted booksellers), encompassing 20 years of research, interviews, experience, and observations, to shed light on the long-held mysteries and misconceptions about the “Dance of Darkness.” Originating in post-World War II Japan, the performance art form, based in modern dance, French mime, and the Surrealist movement, gained worldwide popularity in the 1970s, but still remains enigmatic today. Consequently, the expert author brings her 21st-century female-centric, cross-cultural, scientific perspective to answer the central question, “What is butoh?” In 21 chapters, supplemented with 66 rare photos, relevant charts and graphs, and an extensive bibliography, Vangeline explores the history, challenges, and possibilities inherent in butoh, its key concept of empty space, and its unique contributions to dance, theater, and performance art.
Vangeline, Butoh: Cradling Empty Space (New York: Butoh Institute, October 2020), 244 pp., paperback, $35.99, ISBN 978-1-7357660-1-0, eBook, $25.99.