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In the Press

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Theater buffs will love the way Rader captures a global moment in theater—Ibsen, Chekhov, and Shaw all make appearances.


A fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable book.

— Sarah Grant, Booklist


“Playing to the Gods is the best sort of dual biography, deftly intertwining the lives of two fascinating people. Rader masterfully plays these powerful women off each other. This is the book for all of us who binge-watched Feud.”

—Daniel de Visé, author of Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship
and a Classic American TV Show

“Rader’s fluid narrative moves from stage to boudoir with grace and intrigue, pitting two great theater rivals against one another in an epic battle of styles that elevates both to the iconic status they deserve.”

—Michael Sucsy, writer, director, and producer of Grey Gardens

"Scenes in this thrilling, deeply researched book are described almost cinematically, glimpsing the Divine Sarah bending over a makeup table in her native Paris, say, or Duse jolting across Neapolitan cobblestones in the actors’ cart where she started her career... Since [Rader] has a sizzling way of delivering 100-year-old scandals, the book often feels like hot tabloid dish, and you have to flip back to the endnotes to remember that it’s also well sourced and rigorous."

The New York Times— 

“Writing in a style both humorous and romantic, and throwing in juicy tidbits (catty notes, cheating lovers) all along.... This entertaining chronicle illustrates how both women captivated audiences and made a lasting impact on the theater.”

—Publishers Weekly–

“Delightfully readable and informative, Rader’s book examines a rivalry that defined modern theater while also exploring the origins of modern celebrity culture. A well-researched and thoroughly entertaining dual biography.”

—Kirkus Reviews–

“Palpably sensuous. Rader brings surging back to life two 19th century
theatrical titans and the world they inhabited. Bravo!”

—Scott Eyman, bestselling author of Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year
Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stuart 

“Entertaining and insightful. Rader has taken two legendary figures from theater’s past and put flesh on their bones—bringing them to life, charting their amazing careers, and illuminating their impact on the modern stage.”

—Richard Zoglin, author of Hope: Entertainer of the Century

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