Unlike many books that examine the how of making theater, Brian Kulick’s The Secret Life of Theater: On the Nature and Function of Theatrical Representation (Routledge, 2019) examines the why. Using Jorge Luis Borges’ story Averroes’s Search as a guide, Kulick defines theatre via its proximity to play, ritual, imitation, and religion, all of which share elements of theatricality. He then takes us on a whirlwind tour of theatrical history by examining key stage moments from some classic works of theater, from Agamemnon to Angels in America. Finally, Kulick looks at theater’s changing relationship to fellow-feeling, whether pity, sympathy, or empathy, and articulates how the union of thought and feeling is a key insight of theatrical representation. By rekindling our sense of fellow-feeling and allowing us to see the world anew, Kulick suggests theater may provide valuable emotional and intellectual resources for our troubled times.

Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.

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