The 13 Best Books About the American Theatre

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The Season by William Goldman

William Goldman was a genius screenwriter and merely an okay playwright, but he had a deep and abiding love of the theatre and real faith in its potential. He poured all of this into his now-classic The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway. And candid it is. Goldman spent eighteen months conducting research, seeing every on and off Broadway show during the 1967-68 season, including many out-of-town tryouts. The book notably includes Hair and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but it’s impossible to overstate just how exhaustive Goldman is here. He captures the entirety of the season, including details that reportedly made more than a few people hate Goldman’s guts.

David Merrick: The Abominable Showman by Howard Kissel

This one focuses on David Merrick, the most outrageous producer in the history of Broadway. Titanic and legendary for his four decade string of hits and imports (though there were flops to spare, too), Merrick was also, unquestionably, the biggest asshole in the history of New York theatre. At any given moment he was either cruel to his peers and the artists working for him or cartoonishly awful to his many wives. But Kissel paints as sympathetic a portrait as he can, and the result is several parts Citizen Kane, as he recounts the rise of the non-profit theaters that made Merrick’s level of success unsustainable.

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