Death in modern theatre – Q&A with Adrian Curtin

Posted by Alice Hoad - Monday, 11 Feb 2019


How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

Death in modern theatre investigates how dramatists and theatre-makers from the late nineteenth century to the present day have explored issues relating to death and dying in their work.

What book in your field has inspired you the most?

Andrew Sofer’s The Stage Life of Props (University of Michigan Press, 2003). It models a form of theoretically-informed dramatic and theatrical analysis that I admire. Moreover, it’s beautifully written.

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Physical places, no. Emotional places, yes. My father died while I was writing the book, which made the process more difficult. I decided to acknowledge this reality in the book and make something of it.

Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?

I brainstorm ideas and chapter outlines using Workflowy, a website/app that provides a simple but effective way to list things. If a stray thought comes into my head that I think might be useful, I add it to one of my lists. When it comes to actual writing I sidle up to a computer and get comfortable.

Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

The titles in MUP’s Theatre: Theory – Practice – Performance series are excellent. The prospect of having a book in this series appealed to me. Also, I had heard good things about the process of publishing with MUP, which, happily, turned out to be true.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on several related research projects concerning the intersection of classical music and theatre. I’m interested in issues of representation, dramatization, and theatricality.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out this project, what would it be?

Remember to think about the balance between unity and contrast (vis-à-vis content, tone, structure, etc.) across the whole book and not just in individual chapters. What kind of experience will the reader have from page to page and from chapter to chapter? Find a variety of rhythms and tones.

If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?

Pale Fire. That Charles Kinbote fellow did a terrible injustice to John Shade’s poem. And Nabokov was a co-conspirator. Shocking.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Plays (of course!). And short-form literary fiction.

Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

Anonymous has an impressively prolific and varied output. I would like to get to know her/him better. And Reviewer No. 2! Let’s see if they are as pithy in person.



Death in modern theatre: Stages of mortality is available to buy now.

Adrian Curtin is Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter.




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