Robert Brustein's new book is not simply a collection of his theatre writings. It also functions as a precise barometer of contemporary society, measuring the pressures of our current cultural climate. Never one to shy away from controversy, Mr. Brustein includes in this new volume accounts of his celebrated Town Hall debate with August Wilson over the issue of segregated casting; his spirited defense of the national Endowment for the Arts against its enemies on the political right; his eloquent response to the impact of political correctness on the theatre and the university; and his forthright criticism of what he calls "coercive philanthropy"-the tendency of funding agencies to impose their own political and social agendas on artistic institutions. He closes with deft portraits of some of the people he believes have enhanced the art of the theatre he has written about for more than forty years, including Chekhov, Brecht, Sam Shepard, Orson Welles, Eugene Ionesco, Stella Adler, Joe Papp, and William Shakespeare. Cultural Calisthenics shows Mr. Brustein at his best: an outstanding critic of drama and a prescient observer of our times.
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