Book by theater professor looks at new ways of directing

Ewert Kevin
Ewert

In his newest book, Dr. Kevin Ewert, professor of theater, introduces students to current practices of directing Shakespeare.

The book, “Shakespeare and Directing in Practice,” is the fifth book in the “Shakespeare in Practice” series published by Macmillan International.

Ewert said the volume has been a long time in the making. In 2013, publisher Palgrave Macmillan commissioned him to write about directing for its new series Shakespeare in Practice, but Ewert said it embodies what he has learned over a career of watching, acting and directing Shakespeare.

“In some ways it charts a 30-year project of giving up all the things I thought I knew about directing and finding much more interesting ideas to put in their place,” he said.

The book draws on Ewert's experiences watching Shakespeare productions in Canada, studying Shakespeare in England, directing professionally for many years in Pittsburgh and in Durham, N.C., and working with his theater students at Pitt-Bradford.

“Like many, I imagine, I started by thinking directing was about telling other people what to do and how to do it, and to do this the director had to know everything about everything in advance: 'King Lear is about this' or 'Hamlet is about that.' At least, that's how I directed my first Shakespeare production, but it turned out really, really badly.”

Now, Ewert said, his approach to directing has changed from claiming the role of insufferable know-it-all to acting as curator and editor of company-created work.  “As always,” Ewert said, “The best test case is Shakespeare. Scripts by Shakespeare don't tell you a lot about what to do, but they are these amazing open structures that somehow support all the creativity and invention that actors and directors and designers and audiences pour into them.”

In writing the book, Ewert largely avoided what he calls “the usual suspects” of Shakespeare performance studies - the big repertory companies in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom. Instead, he spent time looking at the working methods of lesser known but often more innovative practitioners. The book's final chapter is the record of a freewheeling discussion between Ewert and the co-producing artistic directors of Austin, Texas, Rude Mechs theater company: “Kindred spirits,” he said, “in making theater that asks good questions instead of providing the best answers, and that doesn't just look and feel exactly like the last piece of theater you saw.”

Ewert has taught at Pitt-Bradford since 1999, after earning his doctorate in Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Institute. He served as the series editor for Palgrave Macmillan's “The Shakespeare Handbooks: Shakespeare's Contemporaries” and was the associate editor for “The Routledge Companion to Actors' Shakespeare.”

The book is available in hardback, paperback and e-book at macmillanihe.com and Amazon.com.