“In ‘Magic Time’, Edwin Wilson chronicles the joys of a life well-lived in the theater. By turns captivating and informative, this compelling memoir demonstrates why Wilson remains in my experience the most inspiring playwriting teacher I had the good fortune to encounter.”
Author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, Landscape of the Body, Theatre Hall of Fame
“A wonderfully engaging journey through the glory days of the theatre by someone who saw it all. Ed Wilson has carved out a unique path as memorialist of the art he loved.”
Award winning flm critic author of From Reverence to Rape, Gone with the Wind revisited, Stephen Spielberg
“I have had many memorable nights, together with Ed Wilson. Congratulations on that ‘Magic Time.’ And thanks for the memories, all in one book!”
Emmy winning TV theatre critic
“A wonderfully engaging journey through the glory days of the theatre by someone who saw it all. Ed Wilson has carved out a unique path as memorialist of the art he Grab a Front Row ticket to Wilson’s engaging, colorful career in theatre – as a noted director, revered teacher, distinguished playwright and esteemed critical Go backstage and savor a rare glimpse into the glamour and glitz of many of Broadway’s legendary stars and playwrights. Raise the curtain and let the show begin … It’s Magic Time Indeed!”
Artist, writer, author of An Artist in Venice, Homes of American Presidents
“Magic Time is filled with beguiling recollections of people who have populated Edwin Wilson’s long, captivating life. Wilson - educator, producer, director, and former drama critic at the Wall Street Journal – tells his story in a narrative voice that’s elegant yet self-effacing and down-to-earth. Two-thirds of the book is akin to a leisurely fireside visit in which this accomplished raconteur conjures patricians from his privileged Nashville upbringing, his mentors at Yale (in particular, John Gassner and Robert Penn Warren), and the colorful cast of his producing days in New York City (most notably, George Abbott, Cheryl Crawford, Harold Clurman, Robert Whitehead, Peter Brook, and Lewis and Jay Presson Allen). The final third of the book — a collection of Wilson’s Journal reviews — transports us to the era from Nixon to the first President Bush, where we witness signal moments of A American theater through the enthusiastic gaze of an erudite critic who truly loves his vocation. Magic indeed! ”
Co-president, The Drama Desk and Drama Desk Awa
“From more than 50 years of experience as a playwright, teacher, director, and critic, Wilson has much to offer readers who care about the theater in the U.S. … George Bernard Shaw’s essays on Shakespeare, which Wilson researched for his dissertation, shaped his straightforward, lucid prose style, much in evidence here. … A golf outing with a Wall Street Journal writer eventually led to Wilson’s 23-year career as the paper’s theater critic. The assignment afforded him a look at what may have been the modern American theater’s final flowering, as evoked in Wilson’s articulate, entertaining reviews. …A fifth-row center seat for a perceptive look at a vital time on the Broadway boards”
“One of the best things to do next to seeing a live theater production is reading about live theater productions and the people who make them happen. Edwin Wilson, author of “Magic Time: A Memoir,” was a playwright, director, teacher, textbook author and critic for the Wall Street Journal. There is little doubt as to the magic that this thespian experienced throughout his entire and long lifetime. Wilson also served as president of the New York Drama Critics Circle and several Pulitzer Prize juries. He was on the faculty of Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center for many years. This book includes his notes on theater and other entertainments. But it’s theater where he found the magic. He shares it so vividly and personally that the book informs, excites and invites readers to share in the wonder of his theater experiences that will leave you spellbound. After boarding school, college and the draft, Wilson makes his way to Yale’s Drama School, where he researched Shaw on Shakespeare and earned his doctorate degree.”
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“His stories flow filled with exciting theater information. It’s seeing the first-ever production of “My Fair Lady” at the Shubert on a snowy day in New Haven when the show was almost canceled because Rex Harrison was too afraid to perform. It’s about one of his students named John Guare, whom Wilson described as a free-spirited playwright who had an incredible imagination and who wrote “The House of Blue Leaves” and “Six Degrees of Separation.” While it is exciting to read about the emergence of Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry and Edward Albee, Wilson enthusiastically describes America’s historical place in the field of the American musical. “Prior to the American musical there had been opera, oratorio, operetta … burlesque, the revue, and vaudeville,” he writes. Then Wilson, now in his 90s, talks about the arrival of Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and Lorenz Hart. He makes theater history come alive and full of excitement. His personal accounts are simply riveting to anyone who knows anything about theater. There’s nothing else in the world like live theater. No movie, television or virtual experience compares.”
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“Wilson points this out throughout this book by stating that “film is set in stone: it can be shown 100,000 times in 5,000 theaters and each showing will be identical to all the others.” On the other hand, he lets readers know, no two live theater productions are ever the same. Wilson’s title refers to what actors whisper when the lights go down just before the curtain opens: “It’s magic time.” The book starts with his personal background that is filled with privileged connections and opportunities he was fortunate to have. Wilson concludes with some of his reviews from the Wall Street Journal, where he was theater critic for some 23 years. However, at the core of the book, his incredible experiences and depth of knowledge as well as love of theater show through page after page. The book is most exciting when he realizes that theater is what his life is all about, and things fall into place in this personal, entertaining, information-packed book. It’s not only a great read, it’s very close to bringing the theater experience close to heart because it truly captures the “magic”.”
Active member of The American Theatre Critics Association, and a longtime member of the National Book Critics Circle
For over 40 years Ed Wilson’s book The Theatre Experience, through 14 editions, has been the most widely used college theatre textbook in the U. S. Focusing on what occurs when someone goes to the theatre, Ed has tapped into the joy, the enlightenment, the sheer fun of attending a theatre event. Now, with his memoir Magic Time he takes us into the rich, varied and, in some cases, remarkable events he has experienced during his life both inside and outside the theatre. Ed attended Vanderbilt University, the University of Edinburgh, and the Yale Drama School, where he received an MFA and the first DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts) degree awarded by Yale. He has taught theatre at Vanderbilt, Yale, and, for nearly 40 years, at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University. In addition, he has produced plays on and off Broadway and served one season as the resident director of the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, as well as another at the Theatre-By-the-Sea in Rhode Island.
He was the Assistant to the Producer of the Broadway play Big Fish, Little Fish directed by John Gielgud and starring Jason Robards, as well as the film Lord of the Flies directed by Peter Brook. On Broadway, he co-produced Agatha Sue, I Love You directed by George Abbott. He also produced a feature film, The Nashville Sound portions of which were acquired by Ken Burns for his 2019 documentary on country music. He was the moderator and producer of Spotlight, a television interview series on CUNY-TV and PBS (1989-93), consisting of ninety-one half-hour interviews with all the outstanding actors, actresses, playwrights, directors and producers of the day. Broadcast originally on 200 PBS stations in the United States, it is available today on YouTube.
For 23 years he was the theatre critic of the Wall Street Journal. A long-time member of the New York Drama Critics Circle, he was president of the Circle for several terms. He has been on the board of the John Golden Fund for nearly 50 years and served a term as President of the Theatre Development Fund (TDF), whose Board he was on for twenty-three years. He served a number of times on the Tony Nominating Committee as well as the Pulitzer Prize Drama Jury for which he several times served as Chair. The 14th edition of his pioneer book, The Theater Experience, the 10th edition of his text Theatre: The Lively Art (co-authored with Alvin Goldfarb), and the 7th edition of his theatre history text, Living Theatre (written with Goldfarb), have all appeared recently. He is also the editor of the book Shaw on Shakespeare as well as the author of a murder mystery, The Patron Murders. His memoir, Magic Time, is an enlightening and entertaining account of his life chronicling the theatre and his frequent encounters and associations with the most outstanding actors, directors, playwrights and producers of the 20th century. Told with Wilson’s incisive style and gift for humor, Magic Time will be published August 25, 2020 by Smith and Kraus.
The fourteenth edition of The Theatre Experience is students' ticket to the best seat in the house. From Broadway to makeshift theater spaces around the world, the author demonstrates the active and lively role they play as audience members by engaging them in the collaborative and creative processes behind and in front of the curtain. Wilson introduces students to the roles of the performers, directors, producers and designers, while emphasizing the insights they as audience members bring to any production. The fourteenth edition better accommodates today's teaching schedules, as well as improves accessibility for students by concise insight and up-to-date vibrant production visuals. Students join the creative process with The Theatre Experience, and rehearse for their role as life-long audience members.
"With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his." - From SHAW ON SHAKESPEARE Celebrated playwright, critic and essayist George Bernard Shaw was more like the Elizabethan master that he would ever admit. Both men were intristic dramatists who shared a rich and abiding respect for the stage. Shakespeare was the product of a tempestuous and enlightening era under the reign of his patron, Queen Elizabeth I; while G.B.S. reflected the racy and risque spirt of the late 19th century as the champion of modern drama by playwrights like Ibsen, and, later, himself. Culled from Shaw's reviews, prefaces, letters to actors and critics, and other writings, SHAW ON SHAKESPEARE offers a fascinating and unforgettable portrait of the 16th century playwright by his most outspoken critic. This is a witty and provocative classic that combines Shaw's prodigious critical acumen with a superlative prose style second to none (except, perhaps, Shakespeare!).
In its outstanding tenth edition, Theatre: The Lively Art remains the best-selling Introductory Theatre text for Theatre Appreciation courses. It incorporates a number of elements in one volume:
• An introduction to the audience’s experience of theatre
• An investigation of the elements of theatre: the audience; the text; theatre artists, including actors, directors, theatrical space; and scenic, costume, lighting and sound design
• A study of the important developments in the history of theatre
In addition to serving as an ideal text for non-majors, Theatre: The Lively Art will also prepare students who wish to continue studies in theatre, as majors, minors, or students from other disciplines who take advanced courses.
Living Theatre: A History conveys the excitement and variety of theatre throughout time, as well as the dynamic way in which our interpretation of theatre history is informed by contemporary scholarship. Rather than presenting readers with a mere catalog of historical facts and figures, it sets each period in context through an exploration of the social, political and economic conditions of the day, creating a vivid study of the developments in theatre during that time.
More than any other theatre history, Living Theatre connects the past theatre to the present theatre and the present theatre to the past, integrating history in a way that brings theatre of the past vividly alive and relevant to the theatre today.
“A smashing debut! Patron Murders is a diabolically witty mystery that begins as a classic backstage murder before spinning into the ether where New York’s leading patrons of the Arts are most inventively and gruesomely dispatched. The Art World trembles! Thanks to a gentleman actor doubling as detective [Shades of Lord Peter Wimsey], who mourns a mythical past where things like this never happened who also has a knack for using the latest technology, he solves the case most satisfactorily. Wilson’s intimate knowledge of the way New York works pays off with an ending right out of Moliere’s Misanthrope. I believe reviewers in another time would call this “A delicious romp.” I call it ‘A very good read.’”
-- John Guare, playwright, author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body; member of The Theatre Hall of Fame.