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Peter Brook

Brook, Peter, 1925–, English theatrical director, b. London, grad. Oxford (1943). An innovative, unconventional, and controversial figure, Brook mounts energetic productions in which the entire stage is utilized and realistic sets are banished in favor of bold, abstract, and austere settings. His approach is extremely physical, and he often has his actors sing, play musical instruments, and perform acrobatics. After apprenticing in various repertory companies, he began his long association with what became (1961) the Royal Shakespeare Company with his production of Love's Labour's Lost (1946). Subsequent Shakespearean productions included Measure for Measure (1950), Titus Andronicus (1955), King Lear (1962), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1970), which was set in a kind of adult playground with trapezes, stilts, and spinning plates. Other Brook productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company included his staging of Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade (1964, Tony Award for best director), a play within a play set in the insane asylum housing the Marquis de Sade that examines both revolution and madness, and US (1966), an attack on U.S. involvement in Vietnam. During the 1960s, Brook's productions were influenced both by the shock tactics of Antonin Artaud and the analytical detachment of Bertolt Brecht.

Brook has also directed films, such as Moderato Cantabile (1960), Lord of the Flies (1963), and King Lear (1971); and operas, such as Faust and Eugene Onegin. In the 1970s, he founded the International Center of Theatre Research in Paris, an assembly of actors, dancers, musicians, and other performers of many nationalities. Their most recognized achievement was a nine-hour presentation of the Indian epic The Mahabharata (1985). Since then Brook has created a variety of other theatrical works, including a version of Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1994); a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (1998); a streamlined Hamlet (2000); Tierno Bokar (2005), a theater piece based on the life of a West African Sufi in the 1930s; and The Grand Inquisitor, a parable adapted from Dostoyevsky (2006). His books on the theater include Empty Space (1969), The Shifting Point (1987), and The Open Door (1995).

See his The Open Door (1993) and his autobiographical Threads of Time (1998); Gregory Boyd, ed., Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook (1999), M. Croyden, Conversations with Peter Brook (2003); biographies by J. C. Trewin (1971), A. Hunt and G. Reeves (1995), and M. Kustow (2005); studies by D. Williams (1988), R. Helfer and G. Loney, ed. (1998), and A. Todd and J.-G. Lecat (2003).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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