"This volume sets for itself the encyclopedic task of recording the main essentials of information (about the stage) on a variety of phases. In doing so it should justify its right to be, for through it, leaders and members of school and community groups have in one volume a view of the subject as a whole."
In such a manner does Professor Wise avow his intentions of lighting the tortuous labyrinth of dramatic production for the lowly Torchbearer. The book, haphazardly and inappropriately illustrated, is divided into twelve chapters which deal with practically every phase of amateur production, and includes in addition a general directory containing information about available plays for amateur presentation, with bibliographies of the authors--and further still a list of costuming houses in the Middle West!
Of the text itself, chapter after chapter which gives early promise of being interesting and fruitful degenerates either into a mass of facts or goes off on a tangent of generalization which renders the information useless for practical purposes. When, however, Professor wise divorces himself from his charts and diagrams, he writes in a simple concise style. So in the last chapter of his book, dealing not with amateur dramatics but with the subject of the "Dramatic Value in Teaching" he illustrates the value of the psychology of the drama in teaching in a small rural school. He shows that making the children act out their primary stories, such as Robin Hood or perhaps some phase in the life of Lincoln and Washington arouses in the youngsters a remarkable degree of interest for the characters they impersonate.
Other chapters, unfortunately, serve only to confuse and irritate the average reader, marred as they are by the astounding mass of technical detail--sliding stages, Fortuny domes, swinging stages, and color symbolism in lighting--all, perhaps, not out of the range of community sympathy but most certainly out of the range of their purse.
Counterbalancing these disadvantages are interesting chapters on 'set construction"; on "Problems of Presenting Plays" (a clever alliterative phrase, which could well have been the book's title), and on Pageants and Masques. Especially to be recommended is the chapter on "Problems of Presenting Plays". here the duties of the director, his manner and methods, are clearly shaped and defined. Nothing is more difficult in an amateur theatrical group than to decide who shall be the dominant force in the production. Definitely and decisively does Professor Wise settle the question, and dramatic organizations should profit by his statements.
All in all the book falls considerably short of its desired achievement--that or blazing the trail for present and future generations of Thespians, merely because of a seeming desire on the part of the author to show a pedantic knowledge of the stage.
Another edition, of the same book deleting much of the technical garrulity and more effectively illustrated would accomplish much toward fulfilling the long felt desire in amateur dramatic for a clear, concise volume about school and community methods in the theatre.