In his writings as a teacher, director, and theater critic, Harold Clurman often comes across as the most approachable of the formidable talents associated with the Group Theater and the many versions of "the Method," the American version of Stanislavsky's teaching. Written towards the end of his long career as one of the American theater's most successful directors, On Directing is a highly readable yet deeply insightful look at the job of a theatrical director.
Clurman's writing is supremely informative and rarely didactic. He is refreshingly honest about his own stylistic shortcomings, questioning, for example, whether his analytic methods are of any use whatsoever directing the plays of Shakespeare or other non-naturalistic playwrights. His most useful contribution to a director's toolbox is his designation of a "spine" to a play and all its characters, a short phrase always stated as an action. The third part of the book is devoted to Clurman's own notes, from first impression to detailed character analysis, of 10 scripts that he brought to the stage, including plays by Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Carson McCullers's own adaptation of The Member of the Wedding. On Directing reveals not only the author's breadth of knowledge and literary intelligence but also his common sense and warm sense of humor. --John Longenbaugh [via]