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Leading theater artists and scholars offer reflections on and interpretations of the life and thought of Herbert Blau

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Herbert Blau (1926–2013) was the most influential theater theorist, practitioner, and educator of his generation. He was the leading American interpreter of the works of Samuel Beckett and as a director was instrumental in introducing works of the European avant-garde to American audiences. He was also one of the most far-reaching and thoughtful American theorists of theater and performance, and author of influential books such as The Dubious SpectacleThe Audience, and Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point.

In The Very Thought of Herbert Blau, distinguished artists and scholars offer reflections on what made Blau's contributions so visionary, transformative, and unforgettable, and why his ideas endure in both seminar rooms and studios. The contributors, including Lee Breuer, Sue-Ellen Case, Gautam Dasgupta, Elin Diamond, S. E. Gontarski, Linda Gregerson, Martin Harries, Bill Irwin, Julia Jarcho, Anthony Kubiak, Daniel Listoe, Clark Lunberry, Bonnie Marranca, Peggy Phelan, Joseph Roach, Richard Schechner, Morton Subotnick, Julie Taymor, and Gregory Whitehead, respond to Blau's fierce and polymorphous intellect, his relentless drive and determination, and his audacity, his authority, to think, as he frequently insisted, "at the very nerve ends of thought."

Clark Lunberry is Professor of English, University of North Florida. Joseph Roach is Sterling Professor of Theater at Yale University.

“Herbert Blau was a High Modernist to the core, a position from which he was able to critique the unruliness of the Postmodern, challenge those whose work failed to dig deeply enough into the understanding of theatre, and most importantly, to open doors into understanding Beckett, Brecht, Artaud, and others . . .These essays elucidate and further challenge Blau’s body of work and will be of immense value: new generations of theatre/performance scholars will find avenues for engaging with Blau’s work, while those familiar with Blau’s ideas will welcome the opportunity to re-engage with them.”
—John Lutterbie, Stony Brook University

"This review cannot adequately represent the volume’s rich, moving conversations... by focusing on Blau’s separating presence, the contributors
trace the historical trajectory of theatre studies from the post–World War II formulation of modern drama; to Artaudian back-to-basics performance, post-structuralist theory, and performance studies; and on to the current era of post-theory, which fortunately Herbert Blau lived to see – and write about."
Modern Drama

- Iris Smith Fischer

"The Very Thought of Herbert Blau, edited by Clark Lunberry and Joseph Roach, provides an excellent introduction for readers unfamiliar with Blau’s work and serves as a Festschrift for those already better acquainted. It features contributions from leading American scholars and theatre artists in the form of personal reflections, critical analyses, poems, correspondence, and wide-ranging dialogues, including a reprinted 1992 PAJ interview. Together, these inclusions shed light on a thinker whose work actively reshaped debates in the field of contemporary performance in ways that continue to reverberate."
-- PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art

- Joseph Cermatori