Conversations with Anne: Twenty-four Interviews

Review by Tommer Peterson

Anne Bogart. 2012, 507 pages, Theatre Communications Group, New York

It is interesting, given the role of the first line of a play to provide a foundation for what is to unfold, that the first line of Anne Bogart’s introduction to this collection of interviews invokes the events of 9/11 and the need for deep, engaged conversation on substantive issues. What follows is a collection of mostly deeply engaged conversations, substantive, fascinating, revealing, and altogether rewarding, but for the most part distant from, and almost innocent of, the powerful and lasting changes in the national psyche that are the legacy of the events of 9/11.

What Bogart provides, instead, is a very personal and eclectic exchange, artist to artist, with a range of individuals who both drove and rode the influential changes in the theater, dance, and performance scene in New York and nationally in the last decades of the twentieth century. What emerges from the interviews are insights on the artists and on the work, more than a response to the political landscape. The informal kitchen table conversations between Bogart and her contemporaries provide opportunities for insights and surprises that would not be found in a more analytical approach. The attentive reader will also be rewarded with the unexpected connections between interviews years apart that reveal the influence of one artist on another and the ways innovation by one company later emerged in another.

What’s in this collection for funders? The spirit and courage of artists and ensembles during this explosive period in American theater are well captured in these interviews, and serve as a reminder of how far and how fast the field has come since the 1960s. Things weren’t always as they seem now. Similarly, no one seems to be following the rules, and the box folks now struggle to think outside of, had yet to be imposed.

The interviews are transcriptions of public conversations that took place primarily between 2003 and 2006. The list of subjects is stellar, if not definitive: JoAnne Akalaitis, Lee Breuer, Ben Cameron, Martha Clarke, Oskar Eustis, Zelda Fichandler, Richard Foreman, André Gregory, Tina Laudau, Elizabeth LeCompte, Eduardo Machado, Charles L. Mee Jr., Joseph V. Melillo, Meredith Monk, Mary Overlie, Peter Sellars, SITI Company, Molly Smith, Julie Taymor, Paula Vogel, Robert Woodruff, and Mary Zimmerman.