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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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Mamet’s Actors. A Life in the Theatre and Other Writings on the Art of Acting 251


Mamet’s Actors A Life in the Theater and Other Writings on the Art of Acting Jerry DICKEY University of Arizona In the introduction to his 1989 collection of essays titled Some Freaks, David Mamet ruminates on one of theater’s most legendary anecdotes: the infamous eighteen-hour coffee conversation between Constantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. This conversation, of course, not only cemented an artistic partnership be- tween the two men, but also proved the birthing place of that most- influential of modern theater companies, the Moscow Art Theatre. Writing a century after this marathon exchange, Mamet admits that its locale, the Moscow emporium called the Slavyansky Bazaar, has always served as a “talisman” for him throughout his career. “There, at the Slavyansky Bazaar,” he writes: it seemed to me, were all the good things in life […] good food, good con- versation, alcohol and tobacco […] the feeling that the universe had a plan for one, and that one was setting about on that marvelous adventure filled with both the virile certainty of risk and danger, and the unspeakable com- fort of ordination. “Yes,” the men said to each other. “Yes. Isn’t life like that…?” And I held that picture as a beautiful dream, and have been privi- leged to partake of it from time to time. (ix-x; the emphasis here and in all subsequent quotations is Mamet’s.) This dream, for Mamet, represents a seamless union between theater and life. It is an artistic vision that posits the theater not as a mirror to...

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