Underground Railway Theater, Engine of Delight & Social Change

Rated 5.00/5 based on 5 reviews
JULIE TAYMOR: "I am delighted to see this ebook on the great output of the Underground Railway Theater...a testament to the unbridled experimentation & success they have achieved." Written by the founding co-directors, with VIDEOS of PERFORMANCES combining ACTORS, PUPPETS & MUSIC in the DEVISING OF ENGAGED PLAYS from improvisation, it also includes PUPPET-COMMISSIONS from orchestras like the BSO More

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About Wes Sanders

Wes Sanders performed a variety of roles in Chicago, Boston and New York theaters (Equity from 1966) while completing his doctoral work in Drama at Northwestern University (Ph.D., 1969). He served as Associate Professor of Theater & English at Oberlin College, 1967-78, directing 17 productions from Euripides to Beckett.
Wes resigned (with tenure) from Oberlin, to start Underground Railway Theater (URT) with partner Debra Wise (1978). He served as Founding Artistic Director of the troupe for 20 years––acting, directing, singing, making and performing puppets, playwriting and teaching art-residencies. The company built its own theater in 2008 (Cambridge, Mass.) and will celebrate 40 years of continuous production in 2018.
Wes resigned from the staff of URT in 1998 to work on climate-change full-time. He lives in Denver.

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Reviews

Review by: Davyoung on Oct. 3, 2017 :
What a wonderful story this book tells, of creativity, courage, persistence, and innovation. I am recommending it to friends!
(reviewed 56 days after purchase)
Review by: Chris Thomas on Sep. 4, 2017 :
Wonderful book . It is a deeply engaging story, both personal and professional, that follows the evolution of the American theater from the 1960s through the early 2000s told by an actor, director, puppeteer and visionary who helped to shape it. The book is filled practical information about the founding, funding and day to day workings of an aspirational theater. It is also the story of a personal journey told by a narrator who is both erudite and engaging with photos and video clips of the company's work spanning four decades. I was enthralled by the ballet of three puppeteers performing the Firebird behind the shadow puppet screen. The ingenuity that the company brought to developing each piece both as collaborators and performers is well illustrated in video clips of the performances themselves.
(reviewed 60 days after purchase)
Review by: isdreader on Sep. 3, 2017 :
As an aspiring theater professional, Underground Railway Theater, Engine of Delight & Social Change is an invaluable resource for learning about the challenges of starting a nonprofit theater company committed to its values. This text is accessible for theater artists and non-practitioners alike in its explanation of the various resources the author and his colleagues used as tools for success. Furthermore, the use of video excerpts enhances the textual description. In the Mothers & Whores video, I was blown away by the performer’s ability to take on multiple personas within the same song; it felt like a one-woman show. What impresses me the most is how the founders of the Underground Railway Theater consistently evaluated their work through a lens of self-improvement. These artists strove to identify areas where they lagged behind, artistically, socially, or politically, and targeted their work toward these places. Often, there are references to personal growth, such as not knowing one’s own potential at first, but upon reflection noting the progress achieved. As a young theater artist, this information is reassuring because forging into the unknown is scary. In addition, this book reveals the artists’ deep concern for addressing contemporary social inequalities; specifically their awareness of their white privilege in attempting to tell the stories of minority groups. These artists sought communication between different races to work through tensions, and produce authentic storytelling. I step away from this book equipped with a profound understanding of the work ethic required to have a career in new work development, and a respect for the moral commitment of the artists who created the Underground Railway Theater.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: sunergy on Sep. 2, 2017 :
Thoroughly enjoyable is this book. I was fascinated more and more by the story of the social action orientation of Underground Railway Theater. The technical aspects of the puppetry, running a mobile business, the sources of inspiration, working with crowds to please and teach simultaneously - these are some of the reasons I liked the work.
The true show stoppers are the video clips as well as the excerpts from other members of the group in the sidebars. These 2 factors make this e-book Much more interesting than a standard book, and fully utilize the features of an electronic integrated media.
I also loved hearing about the on-the-spot trouble shooting and rebuilding of puppets before and even during the show. How little we mortals know about the travails behind the screen. Wes Sanders offers us a grand view of these efforts, while telling the
full 40 year saga of a theater troupe.
(reviewed 58 days after purchase)
Review by: yvodic on Aug. 13, 2017 :
Great book!
I just finished reading and enjoyed it. The book provides insights into all sorts of aspects relevant to a touring theatre: ways of creating plays, how to conduct research for a play, training, financing, cooperations with other institutions, different actors, other artists, the community, and the many many problems a young theatre company can run into. For me as a young puppeteer just starting out into a career in puppetry this was a very helpful text. Learning from a concrete example really helps me to put my own experiences into context, gives me valuable ideas of things to look into and to watch out for.
I appreciate the video material in this ebook a lot. This is finally a text I am reading as ebook where content and format match. and reading an ebook is not just saving shelf-meters in the living room.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
Review by: Kalabo on Aug. 6, 2017 : (no rating)
I am one of those"for whom theater is an ongoing love-interest" rather than a 'field of dreams," so I expected to sample the videos and delight in the puppet illustrations; instead I found my self hooked on the text from the first word. I know Wes and had seen the wonderful performances of The Firebird and The Tempest, but I had no idea of the origins of the Underground Railway Theater nor its history of touring many countries and engaging in so many public and activist ventures. It is amazing that URT has not only survived but triumphed over these forty years. A remarkable history of a remarkable enterprise.
(reviewed 33 days after purchase)
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