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The Alchemy of Astonishment: Engaging the Power of Theatre

University of Victoria, 2016

Have you ever seen a single moment in a play or film that you’ll never forget—something that made the whole audience gasp and gave you an unexpected insight? When theatre director Will Weigler analyzed nearly 100 stories about these kinds of unforgettable moments in performance, he realized that even though the plays were very different, there was an unmistakable pattern. They all had one thing in common. Weigler's research enabled him to develop a teachable vocabulary of staging strategies, which he has now turned into a new book, The Alchemy of Astonishment: Engaging the Power of Theatre (University of Victoria, 2016). Richly illustrated with the many stories of astonishing moments in performance drawn from his research, the result is a fascinating account of precisely how theatre makes an impact on an audience. Combining theory with application, The Alchemy of Astonishment is a valuable resource for scholars, educators, students, theatregoers, and theatre artists of every kind.


To make it easier to learn this theatrical vocabulary, Will Weigler and graphic designer Kit Maloney have created a supplementary deck of 55 Staging Strategy Cards as a companion to the book. The 4 x 6.5 inch (10.2 x 16.5 cm) cards, somewhat resembling Tarot cards, include five suits corresponding to the five chapters in the book. The face of each card has the name of its staging strategy and an iconic image to help remember it. On the reverse is a brief description of how it works and suggestions for how to implement it into a scene or show. They can be used as a teaching tool in classroom, theatre workshop, and script devising settings, as well as by individual playwrights and directors. The deck also features 18 cards—each one with three story prompts—that are designed to help an ensemble generate scenarios for practice in applying the vocabulary prior to creating a show.

The Alchemy of Astonishment book and cards are published by the University of Victoria. To order from the publisher, click here


Or for a greatly discounted shipping cost to orders outside of Canada,

you may order books and cards directly from me. Send inquiries here

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For a free download of the Introduction (which summarizes the theory and how to apply it), click here

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