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In this article Richard Hornby argues that Ibsen's plays are badly performed today, or not performed at all, because of directors' refusal to take them with appropriate seriousness. The tendency is to stage the plays' reputation as simplistic social problem plays rather than as the complex, challenging, bizarre dramas that Ibsen actually wrote. In particular, directors avoid the grotesque elements that are the true ‘quintessence of Ibsenism’, and that are often remarkably similar in style to that of avant-garde playwrights today. Richard Hornby is Emeritus Professor of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside. For the past twenty-eight years he has been theatre critic for The Hudson Review, and is author of six books and over two hundred published articles on various aspects of theatre. This essay was delivered as the keynote address at the fourteenth annual Ibsen Festival of the Commonweal Theatre Company, Lanesboro, Minnesota, in April 2011.
British actor training has always been linked closely with the names of particular schools or conservatories. American actor training, however, has at least until recently been associated with the names of charismatic individuals – star teachers who conceived it as their function to prepare their pupils to be star actors, whether in film or on stage. Now that generation of teachers has died, and in the following article Richard Hornby explores the legacy of their teaching, in terms both of the training methods now practised and the expectations about a future career they are framed to meet. Richard Hornby is Professor of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside, and for over twenty years has been regular theatre critic for The Hudson Review. He is the author of five books and over a hundred articles on theatre. Notable books include Script into Performance, Mad about Theatre, and The End of Acting.
Challenging contemporary orthodoxies, notably Derrida's perception of the actor as an ‘interpretive slave’, Richard Hornby here suggests that so far from exerting a tyranny, the fixed text provides a lifeline which the actor, having grasped, then makes his or her own. If a tyranny exists, it is that of the auteur-director who denies the actor the creative freedom that can be claimed from the text on the page. Richard Hornby is Professor of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside, and regular theatre critic for The Hudson Review. He is the author of six books and over a hundred articles on theatre, the most recent being The End of Acting, published by Applause Books in 1992, and Mad about Theatre, a collection of his theatre reviews published by Applause in 1996. His well-known Script into Performance has gone through many editions, most recently in 1996, and his latest work, Theatre in Crisis, is due out next year. This essay is an adaptation of a paper he delivered in Amsterdam for the ‘Theatre and Cultural Memory’ conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research, held in July 2002.