Moment Work: Tectonic Theater Project’s Process Of Devising Theater, by Moises Kaufman and Barbara Pitts McAdams with a lot of others
I can only think of one reason why someone who is a remotely decent or morally upright person would want to take a look at this, and it is to see the sort of depravity and corruption on all levels that is involved with contemporary theater. Even that is not much of a good reason to recommend this book for others to read. It is not particularly surprising that the attack on authorial authority in contemporary theater is so high, as that gives me one more reason not to appreciate the theater and what it has to offer given the fact that we can add a failure to respect the insight of authors and a desire to steal clout from others to the existing moral failure that actors and plays have long had. I have to say that after reading this book I will actively avoid any play that comes from Tectonic Theater and will actively speak negatively about the theater’s work to others, so the book had that going for it that it allowed me to at least know one enemy of good drama in the contemporary scene. That is quite an accomplishment, if not an enviable one.
This book is about three hundred pages long and as might be expected the authors choose not to structure it in a conventional way. After a preface and introduction the first part of the book looks at the history and approach of Tectonic towards plays, including a look at postmodernism and deconstruct, the history of the troupe, and a discussion of such matters as the focus on theatrical narrative as well as collaboration and the role of the theater artist as opposed to the playwright. The second part of the book goes into detail about the process of moment work, including how one makes moments through prepping the space and various improvisational approaches like “I begin/I end” and moments that involve two or more people and that focus on sharing moments, layering, and creating tension. This also includes additional layers that construct short narratives through layering moments and consecutive sequencing of material and a third layer of creating a piece through using throughlines and adapting source material, after which the authors tout their miserable and decadent plays as examples of this approach. The book then ends with a series of essays that praise Brecht (always a bad sign) and talk about what people bring into the room when it comes to their own perspectives, which the authors fail to recognize as being dominant in the sort of work that they make and which is largely only appreciated by others of their own kind.
This book is a classic example of the problems that result when people try to talk about their truth and end up providing monotonous trash instead of the bold and brave creativity that they fancy they are doing. The authors of this book purport to provide bold new insights on texts and end up pushing alphabet community propaganda, be it one-man plays about German transvestites or propagandistic plays that disregard the truth of what happened to someone in Laramie because it doesn’t fit their worldview and agenda, or the staging of a boldly queer and somehow obscure Tennessee Williams play about a one-armed gigolo. Given the lack of respect that the authors of this book have for their Creator, it is not surprising that they would be sadly mistaken about the level of boldness in their attempts to deconstruct drama and give less respect to playwrights so that they can steal some of the honor and glory of such efforts for themselves. Again, this is not a book I can warmly recommend to anything but a bonfire. Far better it deserves to be forgotten, as do the plays that the theater touts so highly.