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Description - Conference of the Birds by John Heilpern

Conference of the Birds is John Heilpern's true story of an extraordinary journey. In December 1972, the director Peter Brook and an international troupe of actors (Helen Mirren and Yoshi Oida among them) left their Paris base to emerge again in the Sahara desert. It was the start of an 8,500-mile expedition through Africa without precedent in the history of theater. Brook was in search of a new beginning that has since been revealed in all his work--from Conference of the Birds and Carmen to The Mahabharata and beyond. At the heart of John Heilpern's brilliant account of the African experiment is a story that became a search for the miraculous.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780878301102
ISBN-10: 0878301100
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 17mm)
Pages: 338
Imprint: Routledge Member of the Taylor and Francis Group
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Inc
Publish Date: 25-Nov-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Conference of the Birds by John Heilpern

US Kirkus Review » In 1972, theater maverick Peter Brook climbed into a Land Rover and led an international band of actors and assorted helpers (including composer Elizabeth Swados and journalist Heilpern) through West Africa - developing mime-and-music theater pieces along the way, performing on a piece of carpet in marketplaces from Algeria to Dahomey. Why? To find, in non-industrialized societies, a friendly milieu for Brook's famous "empty space": theater reduced to its elemental, mythic, Zen-ish basics. This "journey in search of the miraculous" was less than a triumph, as Heilpern candidly reveals in his slightly precious but refreshingly double-edged account. The natives were rarely bowled over by The Shoe Show, The Bread Show, The Walking Show ("This consisted of actors walking") - scenarios by Heilpern and Brook fleshed out with improvisations and Swados' stick-and-rattle music. In fact, the most exciting theater was prodded by the Africans, whose own genuinely simple/sophisticated performances showed up Brook's hard-working "Theatre of Naivete." And matters were not aided by interpersonal tensions, bad food, malaria, and the endless weeks of roughing-it. Still, Heilpern's very personal chronicle is no hatchet job: while able to wax ironic about the rampant pretentiousness, he does project the esprit de corps and moments of genuine inspiration that occasionally redeemed this folly ("You mean to say you've come all the way to do this?" exclaimed a German passer-by upon seeing The Shoe Show). Less than earth-shattering raw material - but a taut, rarely gushy, slickly textured piece of reportage. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - John Heilpern

John Heilpern is Chief Drama Critic for The New York Observer and contributing editor to Vogue. He is the author of How Good is David Mamet, Anyway? also published this season by Routledge (see p. 000).

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