This guide to playreading for students and practitioners of both theater and literature complements, rather then contradicts or repeats, traditional methods of literary analysis of scripts.
Ball developed his method during his work as Literary Director at the Guthrie Theater, building his guide on the crafts playwrights of every period and style use to make their plays stageworthy. The text is full of tools for students and practitioners to use as they investigate plot, character, theme, exposition, imagery, motivation/obstacle/conflict, theatricality, and the other crucial parts of the superstructure of a play. He includes guides for discovering what the playwright considers the play's most important elements, thus permitting interpretation based on the foundation of the play rather than its details.
Using "Hamlet" as illustration, Ball assures a familiar base for illustrating script-reading techniques as well as examples of the kinds of misinterpretation readers can fall prey to by ignoring the craft of the playwright. Of immense utility to those who want to put plays on the stage (actors, directors, designers, production specialists) "Backwards and Forwards" is also a fine playwriting manual because the structures it describes are the primary tools of the playwright.