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Miriam Chirico Presents New Book 'How to Teach a Play'

Published on March 19, 2020

Miriam Chirico Presents New Book 'How to Teach a Play'

miriam chirico

On March 11, Eastern faculty and staff packed the President’s Dining Room in Hurley Hall to hear English Professor Miriam Chirico describe the process of publishing her new book, “How to Teach a Play: Essential Exercises for Popular Plays.” The book contains exercises on dramatic texts from national and international scholars, including Maureen McDonnell, Eastern professor of English, and Alycia Bright-Holland, assistant professor of theatre at Eastern.

The book grew out of a panel discussion at a comparative drama conference that Chirico attended. She and colleague Kelly Younger, professor of drama at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, wanted to develop a new strategy for teaching drama that engendered more excitement in theatre performance while still respecting a playwright’s script.

“We believed we could teach students to discover, strengthen and use their dramatic imaginations to highlight the most distinguishing and exciting element of our genre —  performance,” said Chirico. “The crossover nature of this book bridges the all-too-apparent gap between how English and Theatre departments teach drama. It will encourage drama professors to imagine their theatres as classrooms and English professors to imagine their classrooms as theatres. But we had to get a contract!”

Initially Chirico and Younger were rejected by two publishers whose reviewers had harsh notes that amounted to calling the book proposal “old hat.” With feedback from other professors in the field, the two authors revised their concept and resubmitted it to Bloomsbury Press, which had originally rejected the idea.  

Bloomsbury Press reviewers liked the proposal’s cross-disciplinary linking of literature and theatre, focusing on performance, and described it as “disrupting the ordinary experience of the classroom, a solid notion and a welcome one.”  

Bloomsbury’s editor wrote the authors, “I’m delighted to report that following some great new peer reviews…your book…was accepted for publication at our board meeting. The reviews and revisions have helped us be clear about the primary market for the book (English instructors teaching drama) and the benefits it offers to instructors. The extra work was worth it. I am therefore pleased to offer you a contract to publish your work in all forms throughout the world.”

Chirico said working with Younger provided a nice balance on the book project, and was instrumental in dealing with inquiries from nearly 200 scholars from across the country who wanted to contribute teaching exercises. “Kelly’s technical savvy set up the review system . . .  the exercises (received from contributors) will turn students in the classroom into both performers and creators of meaning and establish an electrical tension in the room that we call performance!”

Written by Dwight Bachman