Carey Perloff

Tom Stoppard and Carey Perloff

Carey Perloff, Harold Pinter during rehearsals 

at Classic Stage Company in 1989. Photo by Tom Chargin

Carey Perloff and Harold Pinter

Tom Stoppard, Carey Perloff, 2012, in Rehearsal for THE HARD PROBLEM at A.C.T.  Photo by Kevin Berne


This study links two seemingly divergent artists in a revisionist context that sheds new light on both. While it is generally assumed that Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard sit at opposite ends of the aesthetic, theatrical and political spectrum, I argue that by examining them together, many new insights can be gleaned about their work and their place in the theatrical canon. This contention is supported by my extensive archival information, arising from three decades of close collaboration with both playwrights.

It is my belief that a play yields its meaning most vividly and specifically through the actual process of casting, designing, rehearsing, staging and producing. Over the course of my career as a director and an Artistic Director, first at the Classic Stage Company in New York (from 1988-1992) and then at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco (1992-2018), I worked on numerous occasions with both Pinter and Stoppard in the rehearsal room and was able to develop an understanding of how to unlock the plays through practical and analytic means.

This book does not cover the entire oeuvre of either writer, but references the major plays while focusing on selected works as case studies for the understanding of fundamental “rules of play” pertaining to each writer. By reexamining their artistic biographies, and in particular by teasing out the fascinating impact that being Jewish (and thus “outsiders”) had on the nature of Pinter and Stoppard's work, I provide new ways of positioning their plays for the current moment.

This reevaluation of Pinter and Stoppard's work moves beyond academic notions of “postmodern” and “realistic” drama to provide a contemporary director's point of view on the way their work functions today as drama on stage. Thirty years after the major criticism on both playwrights first emerged, the time has come for a fresh examination of the unique contribution of their work in the twenty-first century.