"Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not going to play this particular scene tonight." - Sabina
Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth (1942) telescopes an audacious stretch of western history and mythology into a family drama, showing how the course of human events operates like theatre itself: constantly mutable, vanishing and beginning again.
Kyle Gillette explores Wilder’s extraordinary play in three parts. Part I unpacks the play’s singular yet deeply interconnected place in theatre history, comparing its metatheatrics to those of Stein, Pirandello and Brecht, and finding its anticipation of American fantasias in the works of Vogel and Kushner. Part II turns to the play’s many historic and mythic sources, and examines its concentration of western progress and power into the model of a white, American upper-middle-class nuclear family. Part III takes a longer view, tangling with the play’s philosophical stakes.
Gillette magnifies the play’s ideas and connections, teasing out historical, theoretical and philosophical questions on behalf of readers, scholars and audience members alike.
Chapter One: Metatheatre
Chapter Two: Metahistory
Chapter Three: Metaphysics
Routledge’s Fourth Wall books are short, accessible accounts of some of modern theatre’s best loved works. They take a subjective but easily digestible approach to their topics, allowing their authors the opportunity to explore their chosen subject in a way that is absorbing enough to be of use both to lovers of theatre and those who are being asked to study a play more deeply.
Each book in the series looks at a specific play, variously exploring its themes, contexts and characteristics while prioritising original, insightful writing over complexity or scholarly weight. While other cultural products such as albums and films are well served by this kind of writing, the Fourth Wall series aims to find room between rigorous analysis and the short format of reviews or articles. They are extended accounts that get to the heart of their chosen works without being bound by the density that academic treatments can often require.