by Henry Carl Bial
University of Michigan Press, 2015
Cloth: 978-0-472-07292-7 | Paper: 978-0-472-05292-9 | eISBN: 978-0-472-12151-9
Library of Congress Classification PN2226.B53 2015
Dewey Decimal Classification 792.097471

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
Biblical texts have inspired more than 100 Broadway plays and musicals, ranging from early spectacles like Ben-Hur (1899) to more familiar works such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. What happens when a culture’s most sacred text enters its most commercial performance venue? Playing God focuses on eleven successful productions, as well as a few notable flops that highlight the difficulties in adapting the Old and New Testaments for the stage. The book is informed by both performance studies and theater history, combining analysis of play scripts with archival research into the actual circumstances of production and reception. Biblical plays, Henry Bial argues, balance religious and commercial considerations through a complex blend of spectacle, authenticity, sincerity, and irony. Though there is no magic formula for a successful adaptation, these four analytical lenses help explain why some biblical plays thrive while others have not.