BWW Book Reviews: THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING
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by Michael T. Mooney
He has authored 77 full length plays, 11 musical revues, 4 one act plays, 6 plays for young people, 5 adaptations, and a screenplay. In addition, he has directed more than 300 productions, half of which are plays by other authors. He is often proclaimed as the most producEd English language playwright outside of Shakespeare, and he has received more than 35 major theatre awards including an Olivier and a Tony for Lifetime Achievement. On any given night, there is probably an Alan Ayckbourn play being produced somewhere in the world. How does he do it, you may well ask? Well, some of the answers are contained in this, his only book, THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING.
The title may tip you off to a rarely known fact: Ayckbourn considers himself a director first, and a playwright second. He is, therefore, in the business of 'making' plays, not just writing them. The title also imparts that he considers playmaking a 'craft', and as with any craft there are both artistic and practical decisions to be made. This unique and easy to read volume is formatted like a handbook - a show business primer for creatives, so to speak. It is divided into two parts: writing and directing, making it user friendly for those who choose to solely stay on the page or the stage. The book is also broken down into 100 'Obvious Rules' making it easy to answer the burning question 'What Would Ayckbourn Do?' in any given situation. Most are just that, obvious, but easily forgotten by even the most experienced writer or director. Some are quite humorous, such as #51 "Beware The Manic-Depressive Costume Designer" or #45 "All Writers Overwrite, Including Shakespeare" (which deals with fine art of cutting). There is a brief diversion into celebrity casting (Obvious Rule #48 "Stars Eat Authors for Breakfast"), which the amdram thesp should still read for amusement alone. Being an Ayckbourn text there is plenty of humor with lots of amusing anecdotes to satisfy the mere fan. Ayckbourn also dips generously into his rich canon to supply pithy examples of his Obvious Rules.
Anyone who has attended one of the author's convivial Q&A's or just met him in the lobby bar for a post-show drink, will recognize Ayckbourn's 'voice' in this marvelous book. As a director and writer of mere mortal proportions in comparison, I cherish this volume and refer to it frequently. All playmakers owe it to themselves and their art to read THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING. We can only benefit by being reminded of Ayckbourn's remarkable achievements.
THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING by Alan Ayckbourn
published by Faber and Faber Limited, London
copyright 2002 by Alan Ayckbourn