Reading selections of recent releases for theater-lovers

The winter of 2023 saw the release of a range of books on the performing arts and artists that run the gamut from autobiography and biography to a reference volume on a popular theatrical genre in the 20th century and a lesser-known drama by a multiple award-winning playwright.

Behind the Curtain: My Life And Rocky Horror – It’s been fifty years since the sci-fi glam-rock musical The Rocky Horror Show, with music, book, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien, made its 1973 debut at The Royal Court Theatre in London, launching its status as a camp cult classic that remains as popular today as it ever was, with a film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released in 1975, and a devoted following of fans around the globe.

In his new memoir, Martin Fitzgibbon, the lead drummer with the show’s original band, shares his recollections, previously untold anecdotes, and insights about the unforgettable experience he had at the very beginning of the iconic counter-culture phenomenon and the musicians and cast members who were there to share its reverberating overnight success with him, including breakout star Tim Curry, who originated the role of Dr Frank-N-Furter on stage and reprised it in the movie.

The author also takes us back in time to his life before Rocky Horror, growing up in a working-class area of West London, and forward to his future as a drummer, playing and touring with other bands and musicians following his departure, after two years with the show, during an emotionally difficult period. His very open, engaging, and readable personal account is illustrated with vintage black-and-white photographs.

Martin Fitzgibbon, Behind the Curtain: My Life And Rocky Horror (Tolworth: Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd., 2023), paperback, 174 pages, ISBN 978-1-80381-652-4, $17.99, eBook, ISBN 978-1-80381-653-1, $7.99.

Courtroom Dramas on the Stage, Volume II: The Twentieth Century – A new volume on trial plays mounted in the 20th century, by drama professor, historian, director, and award-winning writer Amnon Kabatchnik, has been released as part of his critically-acclaimed chronological reference series on the theatrical specialty of courtroom dramas. A follow-up to Kabatchnik’s first volume, the latest tome features a plot synopsis, production data, critical analyses, and biographical sketches of the playwrights, key actors, and directors in more than 90 entries, telling the stories of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and the accused, often charged with murder in the first degree.

Among the noteworthy plays by a roster of renowned international authors from the 1900s are works by Leo Tolstoy, Ayn Rand, W. Somerset Maugham, Arthur Miller, Jean Genet, Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, William Saroyan, James Baldwin, David Henry Hwang, Aaron Sorkin, and more, along with the genesis of courtroom melodramas by such veteran mystery writers as Agatha Christie (Witness for the Prosecution, 1953), and plays inspired by real-life events, including Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 expressionist drama Machinal, focused on a sensational 1927 murder case in Queens.

The book, filled with meticulously researched facts, is a must-have resource for theater historians, educators, and students, and fans of the titular genre.

Amnon Kabatchnik, Courtroom Dramas on the Stage, Volume II: The Twentieth Century (Orlando: BearManor Media, 2023), paperback, 506 pages, ISBN 979-8-88771-135-5, $35, eBook, $9.95.

The Callas Imprint: A Centennial Biography – Twelve years in the making, and marking the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her birth, classical music critic and author Sophia Lambton’s voluminous biography of Manhattan-born and Greek-bred soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977) – one of the most influential opera singers of the 20th century, hailed as “La Divina” (“The Divine One”) – presents an exhaustive and reverential look at the life, career, and on- and off-stage personas of the world-renowned diva, known as much for her unsurpassed musical and dramatic talent as for her temperamental behavior and longtime love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

Referencing 3,395 sources spanning 80 years and 21 countries (including never-before-seen correspondences and archival documents), the book features production, backstage, press, and personal photographs, previously unpublished letters between Callas and her legal separation lawyer and manager, as well as notes taken during their phone conversations from 1953 until her death in 1977. Also included are messages between the singer and conductors and artistic directors, and new interviews with those who knew Callas well – all of which attest to her extraordinary skill and legendary status, and illustrate the complexity of her self-contradictions and self-descriptions, habits and attitudes.

Sophia Lambton, The Callas Imprint: A Centennial Biography (London: The Crepuscular Press, 2023), paperback, 644 pages, ISBN 978-1-7392863-4-7, $17.79, eBook, ISBN 978-1-7392863-9-2, $5.99.

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism, with a Key to the Scriptures – Theatre Communications Group, (TCG), North America’s largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, has recently released in physical and digital formats the 2009 play by Tony Kushner – the only one by the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angels in America that wasn’t published immediately after its initial production.

The title of iHo, which had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and made its Off-Broadway debut in a slightly revised co-production of The Public Theater and Signature Theater Company in 2011, was inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and is a testament to the playwright’s intellectual complexity and interest in provocative socio-economic and religio-political issues, as well as stories of familial tensions.

Set in Brooklyn, over three days in June of 2007, the challenging drama is centered on retired longshoreman and longtime Communist Gus Marcantonio, who calls his adult children to the family’s brownstone to discuss his decision to sell it and then to commit suicide. Filled with intense emotion and acerbic wit, Kushner relays his epic tale through the interactions of eleven diverse figures grappling with change and loss of direction. The script is accompanied by the playwright’s introductory notes and appendices, including a chronology giving the historical background of the characters and instructions on how to read their often-overlapping dialogue.

Tony Kushner, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism, with a Key to the Scriptures (New York: TCG, 2023), paperback, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-55936-489-8, $19.95, eBook 978-1-55936-8001, $10.44.


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