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A Different Direction: 7 Possibilities for Saving the (Barely) Living Theater

ISBN: 9781936183197
Binding: Paperback
Author: John Ahart
Pages: 162
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 11/1/2010

The living theatre is potentially the most affecting of all the arts. It not only explores who we are and where we are going but how we are connected. As we are inundated with other versions of mass media we have nearly forgotten how important that connection is. We cannot afford to lose the power of this art at this time in our history.

John Ahart writes A Different Direction: 7 Possibilities for Saving the (Barely) Living Theatre from the refreshingly rare place of both skepticism and hope. He is after all suggesting major renovations to the very institution he has called home for so many years—tools to both reimagine and reinvent this amazing living human resource.

This is a book for directors actors designers playwrights and in fact all those for whom the idea of an art dealing in bone-deep truth and life-changing experiences might become not only a dream but a possibility.


John Ahart has had a long and distinguished career in the American theatre. A Different Direction is the product of his forty-one years of experience as director playwright designer and teacher.

At the University of Illinois he supervised the graduate directors’ workshop and later headed the MFA directing program for much of his thirty-two-year tenure directing a wide range of major works at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Since his retirement he has resided in Southern California where he has devoted his time to writing. His Director’s Eye has become a popular directing text called by one critic “…[one of the two] finest books ever written about the art of directing.”

A Different Direction brings together Ahart’s insight gained through four decades of practical experience creating original works directing theatre classics from Brecht to Beckett to Shakespeare using and developing nontraditional theatre spaces and building and sustaining a theatre company that gave voice to Americans spanning 160 years of our history.

Ahart holds a BA from Marietta College an MA from the University of Illinois and a PhD from the University of Minnesota.


"John Ahart’s A Different Direction isn’t 'just' a book on saving the theatre it’s a bible. Required reading for anyone who wants to rescue this seemingly dying art form. As someone who has spent the last thirty years of his theatre life trying to imitate John Ahart’s way of working I know he practices what he preaches. His plays were always alive present now. His book is no less. Ahart writes 'If we’re going to change the system if we’re going to pull the living theatre up from its mediocrity it seems to me we have some serious searching ahead.' It’s about time someone said it like it is."—Tom Isbell Actor Director Playwright and Professor University of Minnesota Duluth

"This brilliant book ignites a call to action. John Ahart challenges directors to make deeper connections to the way we think and feel about the stories we’re telling on stage. A Different Direction shows us how to build a vital artistic process—and we need that now more than ever."—Catherine Hurst Director and Assoc. Professor St. Michael’s College Burlington (VT)

"A Different Direction captures some of what made John Ahart such a great teacher—his influence remains with me to this day. Written in his unmistakable voice backed by his many years of experience this book will hopefully inspire a whole new generation to nurture the precious essence of theatre: that unique moment of community between a particular group of actors and spectators at a particular time—never repeated but with John’s mix of practical advice and passion perhaps endlessly renewed."—Ang Lee Oscar-winning Film Director

"Ahart is really getting at the essence of what makes the shared experience between performer and audience compelling and only possible when both are in the same room at the same time. A book every director should make his bible."—Larry Wilker Tony Award-winning Producer

It seems we need to be reminded again and again what is most important in theatre. I turn to John Ahart for my inspiration in this. Now readers of this book can do the same. —Myrna Selkirk Director and Assoc. Professor McGill University

"This compelling work is inspiring to theatre professionals theatre teachers and to all who love the American theatre!" —Carolyn Anderson Director and Professor Skidmore College

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