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The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected

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WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT, BIRNAM WOOD COMES TO DUNSINANE HILL The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy presents a profoundly original theory of drama that speaks to modern audiences living in an increasingly volatile world driven by artificial intelligence, gene editing, globalization, and mutual assured destruction ideologies. Tragedy, according to risk theatre, puts us face to f WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT, BIRNAM WOOD COMES TO DUNSINANE HILL The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy presents a profoundly original theory of drama that speaks to modern audiences living in an increasingly volatile world driven by artificial intelligence, gene editing, globalization, and mutual assured destruction ideologies. Tragedy, according to risk theatre, puts us face to face with the unexpected implications of our actions by simulating the profound impact of highly improbable events. In this book, classicist Edwin Wong shows how tragedy imitates reality: heroes, by taking inordinate risks, trigger devastating low-probability, high-consequence outcomes. Such a theatre forces audiences to ask themselves a most timely question---what happens when the perfect bet goes wrong? Not only does Wong reinterpret classic tragedies from Aeschylus to O'Neill through the risk theatre lens, he also invites dramatists to create tomorrow's theatre. As the world becomes increasingly unpredictable, the most compelling dramas will be high-stakes tragedies that dramatize the unintended consequences of today's risk takers who are taking us past the point of no return....


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WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT, BIRNAM WOOD COMES TO DUNSINANE HILL The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy presents a profoundly original theory of drama that speaks to modern audiences living in an increasingly volatile world driven by artificial intelligence, gene editing, globalization, and mutual assured destruction ideologies. Tragedy, according to risk theatre, puts us face to f WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT, BIRNAM WOOD COMES TO DUNSINANE HILL The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy presents a profoundly original theory of drama that speaks to modern audiences living in an increasingly volatile world driven by artificial intelligence, gene editing, globalization, and mutual assured destruction ideologies. Tragedy, according to risk theatre, puts us face to face with the unexpected implications of our actions by simulating the profound impact of highly improbable events. In this book, classicist Edwin Wong shows how tragedy imitates reality: heroes, by taking inordinate risks, trigger devastating low-probability, high-consequence outcomes. Such a theatre forces audiences to ask themselves a most timely question---what happens when the perfect bet goes wrong? Not only does Wong reinterpret classic tragedies from Aeschylus to O'Neill through the risk theatre lens, he also invites dramatists to create tomorrow's theatre. As the world becomes increasingly unpredictable, the most compelling dramas will be high-stakes tragedies that dramatize the unintended consequences of today's risk takers who are taking us past the point of no return....

51 review for The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cavak

    Anyone who has taken a story writing or screenplay class in America has likely come across The Hero With a Thousand Faces at some point. If not the exact book itself, then another author has often either borrowed quotes or elements of Campbell's classic hero's journey. Some teachers consider it inseparable to modern cinema and media; it's just about everywhere. But if Campbell's ideas cause resistance—which is becoming a trend nowadays, in my personal experience at least—Wong's smooth model Anyone who has taken a story writing or screenplay class in America has likely come across The Hero With a Thousand Faces at some point. If not the exact book itself, then another author has often either borrowed quotes or elements of Campbell's classic hero's journey. Some teachers consider it inseparable to modern cinema and media; it's just about everywhere. But if Campbell's ideas cause resistance—which is becoming a trend nowadays, in my personal experience at least—Wong's smooth model may be a wiser introduction. Campbell's form may get learners lost in the message, the process, and the terminology for understanding a work. Wong's methodology encourages a focused structure for a character's thought processes throughout the story. It's through establishing their personal risks and the consequences of their actions that there can be a real momentum. For me, and I'm sure others, that is the best-if-felt heart. Makes a story beat and dance with life. Sure, Wong arranges his processes for the tragedy genre in mind, so there are certain constraints that may not apply. Like a fateful mishap tripping the heroes' supposed victory and leading to a death may not be appropriate for a children's book. But I believe most of Wong's proposed techniques can be used for anything that has a story. I'd recommend this for anyone who wants to write or needs a refresher on character building, not just in the theater world too. Useful framing device if you're feeling stuck. The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is a nimble read. If I were to criticize the writing, it's close to a dry textbook with cohesive examples. Depending on the type of reader you are, that might mean a fascinating analysis or a snore fest. Several popular Shakespearean examples too, so that might not be up your alley to reread if you've already read so much of Shakespeare. For me though, I enjoyed the overall experience and I learned something. If I lived in LA, I'd be up to seeing it in person too. Maybe someday, eh? I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Reader Views

    Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/19) In “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” author Edwin Wong brings tragedy into the 21st century. Tragedy imitates reality. Yet in our modern times, tragedy no longer has the same impact that it used to have. The last great tragedies were written a very long time ago. To help tragedy make a comeback, the author developed the risk theatre model of tragedy. This working model is to contain original material, while still having roots from tradition. Tr Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/19) In “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” author Edwin Wong brings tragedy into the 21st century. Tragedy imitates reality. Yet in our modern times, tragedy no longer has the same impact that it used to have. The last great tragedies were written a very long time ago. To help tragedy make a comeback, the author developed the risk theatre model of tragedy. This working model is to contain original material, while still having roots from tradition. Traditional material might include material from the fifth century Athens, the English Renaissance, or the German Romantics. The author believes that “risk” is central to the idea of tragedy. Risk Theater supports the idea that every drama act in a tragedy is a gambling act based upon risk. While restoring tragedy to an art in our modern times, current issues must be considered. Incorporating science and technology into tragedies greatly increases the opportunities for something to go horribly wrong. The author refers to this as low-probability, high-consequence risk. There is a thrill that comes from taking such risks. The audience loves a good thrill! I found “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” to be well written and very thought provoking. Edwin Wong has done an excellent job of educating readers on the historical aspects of not only tragedies, but drama in general. Readers will gain a great understanding of the structure, philosophy and poetics of tragedy. In explaining Wong’s risk theatre model, readers will learn how to tie the past aspects of drama into the present. This will enable to do a comparison of the past to the present. The author gives great examples of tragedies to support his information. Readers will then be able to incorporate this knowledge into how modern tragedies should be written using this model. A bibliography is also available in the back of the book. In addition to supporting the information presented, this list can also be used as a great resource if a reader chooses to go more in depth. The index will also make it easier to locate information in the book. I think that “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy,” by Edwin Wong will be enjoyed by both writers and people who enjoy great drama. For myself, I enjoyed being able to read it a few days before I am to travel to Los Angeles to see a play. Personally, I feel what I learned while reading this will give me a greater perspective on the play. I will be able to view it with more depth. I think that this book would be a great resource for critical thinking courses such as a class on analytical reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Conchita Serri

    I had to re-read the "The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy" by Edwin Wong. It was too good. It is a delight to recreate the possible scenarios exposed by the author in a very original thematic treatment of theater that invites further discussion and analysis. It is also a compendium of high academic and cogent discourse, a complete high level 'theory' on how to model and perform stage plays. He couples it with almost a 'how-to' reference guide on how to produce compelling theater by presenting the I had to re-read the "The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy" by Edwin Wong. It was too good. It is a delight to recreate the possible scenarios exposed by the author in a very original thematic treatment of theater that invites further discussion and analysis. It is also a compendium of high academic and cogent discourse, a complete high level 'theory' on how to model and perform stage plays. He couples it with almost a 'how-to' reference guide on how to produce compelling theater by presenting the reader with an exhaustive analysis and classification of different facets of prior stage productions, from the Greek classics to modern times’ productions. The book is chock’full of insights and intriguing revelations. Edwin draws a narrative comparing and contrasting different elements of risk and relates these to modern audiences. The author's vast breadth of knowledge, drawing upon his years of experience as a theatre critic and forward thinker in the performing arts world has crafted together a robust tome with incredible completeness and complexity - which should be on every aspiring playwright's desk. I can anticipate a wave of theater academics referencing this book in their class syllabus.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    If you love literature--theater, film, novels, history, biography, opera, whatever--you need to read this extraordinary work. Wong presents a new theory of tragedy, which contrasts those of Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and others. The classic theory, outlined by Aristotle, states that the hero has a "tragic flaw" that causes him or her to make a "tragic mistake." But Wong argues that the hero might not in fact make a mistake; instead he or she makes a calculated risk that backfires. Wong's approac If you love literature--theater, film, novels, history, biography, opera, whatever--you need to read this extraordinary work. Wong presents a new theory of tragedy, which contrasts those of Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and others. The classic theory, outlined by Aristotle, states that the hero has a "tragic flaw" that causes him or her to make a "tragic mistake." But Wong argues that the hero might not in fact make a mistake; instead he or she makes a calculated risk that backfires. Wong's approach is especially pertinent to the modern condition. For most of history, the consequences of decisions were for the most part local. Today, even minor decisions can have global repercussions. Also, we live in the age of science, where calculation of odds has become commonplace. many bemoan that this calculation takes the heart and soul out of life. The Age of the Algorithm can, in fact, suck the agency out of even the most strong-willed people. All the more reason for Wong's brilliant thesis. If you're an avid reader (which I assume is the case, since you're on Goodreads) or a writer, read this book. It's sometimes dense and filled with examples from ancient literature unfamiliar to many moderns. No matter. Read it--twice. You will never read another work of literature the same way. (To read my Q&A with the author, go to theelementsofwriting.com/wong.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike Routliffe

    Tragedy scholar Edwin Wong has combined the elements of entertainment, hard work and the gamble into his kiln of language. Adding the fire of his mind he has shaped a solid and aesthetically pleasing framework for the aspiring playwright or master dramatic wordsmith. Wongs' Risk Theatre is a well thought out and flexible structure built with the intention of reviving tragic theatre of the past using modern allegories and scenarios. With his unique model, he poses that nothing worth anything can Tragedy scholar Edwin Wong has combined the elements of entertainment, hard work and the gamble into his kiln of language. Adding the fire of his mind he has shaped a solid and aesthetically pleasing framework for the aspiring playwright or master dramatic wordsmith. Wongs' Risk Theatre is a well thought out and flexible structure built with the intention of reviving tragic theatre of the past using modern allegories and scenarios. With his unique model, he poses that nothing worth anything can be gained without considerable risk. On top of offering us his work, Wong has laid down his own wager, betting that someone risking it all by writing their own play and offering it up for the world to see, can win a considerable prize. This book is well worth the read. Wongs' powers of persuasion will convince you that he did not use necromancy but only a shovel, a compass and a pen to lead us back to an art that was not dead, but waiting for the right moment to resurface.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Duncan

    I have just finished reading Edwin Wong's 'The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy 'and, although I was initially skeptical of his bold claim of an original theory of tragic drama, I was intrigued at the prospect of reading about this classicist's main belief. As I turned the pages his theory grew on me and I found myself both convinced and gripped by this new perspective on tragedy. His low- probability, high-consequence outcome theory does indeed resonate with the risk takers of today and I thorough I have just finished reading Edwin Wong's 'The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy 'and, although I was initially skeptical of his bold claim of an original theory of tragic drama, I was intrigued at the prospect of reading about this classicist's main belief. As I turned the pages his theory grew on me and I found myself both convinced and gripped by this new perspective on tragedy. His low- probability, high-consequence outcome theory does indeed resonate with the risk takers of today and I thoroughly recommend this scholarly work to anyone interested in both theatrical and real life tragedy based on risk. As the author himself writes, 'A working model of tragedy that is both original and rooted in tradition.' A remarkable book in every way. A must for every serious dramatist to read, ponder over and act upon.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    The idea the author promotes in this book is that dramatic tragedy always involves bets: Macbeth bets that killing Duncan will lead to Macbeths’s political ascension, for example. But while the theory is an interesting and potentially valuable one, the author never engages with the enormous body of existing scholarship on the tragedy or dramatic form. His lack of desire or ability to propose his theory in dialogue with theory is a serious failing of the book, and as such I can’t recommend it. Th The idea the author promotes in this book is that dramatic tragedy always involves bets: Macbeth bets that killing Duncan will lead to Macbeths’s political ascension, for example. But while the theory is an interesting and potentially valuable one, the author never engages with the enormous body of existing scholarship on the tragedy or dramatic form. His lack of desire or ability to propose his theory in dialogue with theory is a serious failing of the book, and as such I can’t recommend it. This is a shame, because if the author ha chandler the topic using a more scholarly approach, his ideas could be taken far more seriously and as part of the ongoing conversation in theater studies about form, motivation, and other things.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I just finished reading The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected by Edwin Wong. The author introduces Wong's theory of Risk Theatre which is his updating of classical tragedy. Wong emphasizes that his main character usually has a lot at stake, be it his crown, position as a god or a military general. His risk is great but the rewards are even greater. The tragic cycle is complete when the hero goes all in or bets it all in order to achieve his goal. This book would I just finished reading The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected by Edwin Wong. The author introduces Wong's theory of Risk Theatre which is his updating of classical tragedy. Wong emphasizes that his main character usually has a lot at stake, be it his crown, position as a god or a military general. His risk is great but the rewards are even greater. The tragic cycle is complete when the hero goes all in or bets it all in order to achieve his goal. This book would make an excellent theatre text.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Donald Connolly

    I've been dealing with theatre actively and academically for many years, and the idea of "tragedy" was wrapped in the mystique of motivations and nobility and flaws that put it out of reach for me as a playwright. This book strips away the mystique and makes the form available to me. Seeing risk as the fulcrum of the action clears my head and lets me see contemporary situations and conflicts in the light of risk and potential tragedy. Especially meaningful to me is the concept of 3 Forms of Trag I've been dealing with theatre actively and academically for many years, and the idea of "tragedy" was wrapped in the mystique of motivations and nobility and flaws that put it out of reach for me as a playwright. This book strips away the mystique and makes the form available to me. Seeing risk as the fulcrum of the action clears my head and lets me see contemporary situations and conflicts in the light of risk and potential tragedy. Especially meaningful to me is the concept of 3 Forms of Tragedy. That supports a variety of plot lines which helps me see more clearly what I have already written, and guides me in what might come. There are not many pages in th book which are without my underlines, or with "stars" in the margin.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    Edwin Wong has written a masterpiece. His writing his clear, extremely well-researched and presented in a very engaging manner. His risk theatre model captures the readers' imagination and is presented in a way that appeals to the academic and the layperson. It was a challenging, but worthwhile read. Highly recommend. Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of the book. Edwin Wong has written a masterpiece. His writing his clear, extremely well-researched and presented in a very engaging manner. His risk theatre model captures the readers' imagination and is presented in a way that appeals to the academic and the layperson. It was a challenging, but worthwhile read. Highly recommend. Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Billy Buttons

    This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought: Title: The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected Author: Edwin Wong Star Rating: 4.5 Stars Number of Readers: 17 Stats Editing: 8/10 Writing Style: 7/10 Content: 9/10 Cover: 10/10 Of the 17 readers: 14 would read another book by this author. 17 thought the cover was good or excellent. 11 felt it was easy to follow. 14 would recommend this story to another reader to try. Of all the readers, 12 This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought: Title: The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected Author: Edwin Wong Star Rating: 4.5 Stars Number of Readers: 17 Stats Editing: 8/10 Writing Style: 7/10 Content: 9/10 Cover: 10/10 Of the 17 readers: 14 would read another book by this author. 17 thought the cover was good or excellent. 11 felt it was easy to follow. 14 would recommend this story to another reader to try. Of all the readers, 12 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘subject knowledge’. Of all the readers, 5 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘writing style’. 15 felt the pacing was good or excellent. 14 thought the author understood the readership and what they wanted. Readers’ Comments ‘Theatre analyzed in terms of risk! What a very clever way of looking at things. This author seems to be a very smart fellow. Intriguing.’ Male reader, aged 72 ‘What I loved the most about this was how original it was. I read a lot of theatre-related books and this was totally different. The writing is concise and the author’s knowledge of the subject is apparent on every page.’ Female reader, aged 52 ‘An interesting, thought-provoking look at classical theatre and risk and how modern theatre must find a way of relating to the modern audience. Although it’s rather wordy and a little re-reading was often in order, it was still a gripping read.’ Female reader, aged 61 ‘A cleverly worked out theory on risk/tragedy in theatre and how the audience can connect to it.’ Male reader, aged 52 To Sum It Up: ‘A thought-provoking look at tragedy in theatre. A FINALIST and highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Goldstone

    An original and invigorating read, with the provocative thesis that the gods of modern economics have replaced those of antiquity. Wong’s insights into the mechanics of tragedy-writing provide a valuable counterpoint to more conventional schools of dramaturgy. I don’t necessarily agree with his contention that history always looks to the past, but found his discussion of writing history v. writing tragedy opened up new paths of thought.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve Romagnoli

    A most excellent and original work regarding tragedy from the perspective of risks and consequences and how it intersects and reflects within our rapidly evolving world. A book of insights that will be invaluable to theatre goers, writers, directors, actors or as an engaging college text. Highly recommended!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bill Alliston

    Won this book through Goodreads. Not relevant to me but I passed it on to an actor friend who stated the material was "invaluable and relatable" to his profession. Thanks to the author, Edwin Wong, for offering a free copy through Goodreads. Won this book through Goodreads. Not relevant to me but I passed it on to an actor friend who stated the material was "invaluable and relatable" to his profession. Thanks to the author, Edwin Wong, for offering a free copy through Goodreads.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Excellent... somewhat of a modernised poetics (Aristotle)....recommend to thespian, philosopher, literary oriented, and lay....

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robin Rowland

    Innovative 21st century look at bringing classic tragedy (Greek and Elizabethan mainly) into the modern Chaotic universe.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Interesting and perceptive approach to analysing and understanding tragedy theatre. Let down by an entirely uninteresting section on money and exchange

  18. 5 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fíona V.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jules Marie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kadiri Saliu

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trica Johnson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sunnymay

  28. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zach Yancey

  31. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  32. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

  33. 4 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  34. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  35. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Muscat

  36. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Johnston

  37. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

  38. 5 out of 5

    Walter Lipke

  39. 5 out of 5

    Alena Anderson

  40. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

  41. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Stone

  42. 5 out of 5

    F

  43. 5 out of 5

    Jerrilynn Atherton

  44. 4 out of 5

    Pat

  45. 5 out of 5

    Karyn Palmer

  46. 4 out of 5

    Margo

  47. 5 out of 5

    ROY Law

  48. 5 out of 5

    Barbie Campbell

  49. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Lavender

  50. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  51. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Tilton

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