This book examines the nuts and bolts of creating an effective theatrical ensemble and the politics of maintaining the company through thick and thin. The American co-authors evidently have a wide range of academic experience between them, giving them a clear understanding of the workings of the ensemble.
They begin by defining the ensemble approach, what it means to be a member of one and the importance of trust. They discuss the ancient origins of ensemble as a key part of human development and a reaction to fear, as people gathered together for the sake of survival and developed the ritual of storytelling around the campfire.
The qualities necessary for leading ensembles are discussed, with examples of leadership types ranging from Winnie The Pooh (with a light touch) through to the dangers of being a strict authority figure - the HAL 9000. It seems the ideal is karate-master Mr Miyagi.
The book looks at how a successful ensemble is created, beginning with a clear purpose, looking for the right people and being wary of such character types as the Wounded Puppy, the Scapegoat and the Orphan… There are essential ensemble members to find, such as the Glue, the Nurturer, the Rock and the Sparkplug. Anyone who has been involved in the ensemble process is sure to recognise some of these types. Further characters include the Black Hole, the Complainer, the Skeptic, the Controller, the Cheerleader and the Class Clown. You could have a lot of fun working out which one fits each member of your company, or indeed, your own family.
The co-authors contextualise the theory throughout with personal experiences and anecdotes. In the appendix they gather together a limited range of games and exercises from Keith Johnstone, Clive Barker, Augusto Boal and other sources.
If you are keen on an analytical or academic approach to forming a company and developing an ensemble production, then this book will be of great interest.