We easily accept that size matters in other areas of human endeavor, but what about works of the imagination? Why do some dramatic creations extend to five hours or more, and how does their great length help them accomplish extraordinarily ambitious aims? In Great Lengths, theater critic and scholar Jonathan Kalbexamines internationally prominent, marathon-length theater productions, including Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Nicholas Nickleby, and four other works. This is a book about extreme length, monumental scope, and intensive immersion in the theater in general, written by a passionate spectator reflecting on selected pinnacles of his theatergoing over 30 years.
The book’s examples, deliberately chosen for their diversity, range from adapted novels and epics, to dramatic chronicles with macrohistorical and macropolitical implications, to stagings of super-size classic plays, to “postdramatic” works that negotiate the border of life and art. Great Lengths thus offers a remarkable panorama of the surprisingly broad field of contemporary marathon theater—an art form many different types of savvy, screen-weaned audiences have sought out to provide increasingly rare experiences of awe, transcendence, and sustained immersion.
Publisher: University of Michigan Press