This excerpt from Jonathan Kalb's forthcoming book Great Lengths: Seven Works of Marathon Theater from University of Michigan Press considers the recent proliferation of lengthy theater pieces, or “marathon theater” events, in their historical and cultural contexts. He discusses the historical precedents of extended theatrical events, such as those by City Dionysia, Japanese Noh theater, medieval mystery plays, and Wagnerian opera. Kalb considers changes in the theater industry and media culture over the last several decades that may have influenced this sudden proliferation. He also reflects on the complex cultural connotations of the term marathon, both as an advertising strategy and as a communal event.

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