Saturday, February 24, 2007

For Lent, I'm giving up...

It's not
What you thought
When you first began it
You got
What you want
Now you can hardly stand it though,
By now you know
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up

Prepare a list of what you need
Before you sign away the deed
'Cause it's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up
No, it's not going to stop
'Til you wise up
No, it's not going to stop
So just...
Give up

Aimee Mann, "Wise Up"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

E15, "The Actor's Calling"

To grasp the full significance of life is the actor’s duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.
James Dean

Acting is about giving something away, handing yourself over to whatever role you are asked to play…
Alan Rickman

Be daring, be different, be impractical; be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
Cecil Beaton

Regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
Thornton Wilder

The language of the body is the key that can unlock the soul.
Konstantin Stanislavsky

The camera doesn’t remind me of a gun, but it does remind me of a weapon. I believe the revolution will be fought with a camera, with films, and at a certain point guns will be unfeasible. Minds will be won in the theatre instead of on the battlefield.
Dennis Hopper

An actor, like every human being, has a very thin part of him which he uses all the time and which he considers to be himself. There is a vast area which is himself that he doesn’t know. By experimenting and taking risks a new process starts – what one actor once called a ‘number of drawers’ in himself that he has never opened.
Peter Brook

We don’t want bores in the theatre. Give us something that is different.
Dame Sybil Thorndike

If you want a bourgeois existence, you shouldn’t be an actor. You’re in the wrong profession.
Uta Hagen

Every now and then, when you’re on stage, you hear the best sound a player can hear. It’s a sound you can’t get in movies or television. It is the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you’ve it them where they live.
Shelley Winters

He who is incapable of feeling strong passions, of being shaken by anger, of living in every sense of the word, will never be a good actor.
Sarah Bernhardt

Quotes from the prospectus of the East 15 Acting School, Essex, England

Friday, February 16, 2007

Aaron Zeitlin poem

Praise me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Curse me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Praise me or curse me
And I will know that you love me.

Sing out my graces, says God,
Raise your fist against me and revile, says God.
Sing out graces or revile,
Reviling is also a kind of praise,
says God.

But if you sit fenced off in your apathy,
says God,
If you sit entrenched in: "I don't give a hang," says God,
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and don't cry out,
If you don't praise and you don't revile,
Then I created you in vain, says God.

Aaron Zeitlin

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Eighteenth-Century Playbill

An 18th-Century Playbill

This evening, and during the summer season, will be performed several new exercises of
Rope Dancing, Tumbling, Vaulting, Equilibrium, Ladder Dancing and Balancing,

by Madame Kerman,
Sampson Rogetzi,
Monsieur German
and Mesieur Dominique,

With a new Grand Dance, called Apollo and Daphne,
by Mr. Phillips,
Mrs. Lebrune,
and others.

Singing by Mrs Phillips and Mrs Jackson.

Likewise the Extraordinary Performance of Herr von Eckenberg,
who imitates the lark, thrush, blackbird, goldfish,
canary-bird, flageolet and German flute.

A Sailor’s Dance by Mr Phillips.

And Mesieur Dominique flies through a Hogshead and Forces Both Ends Out.

To which will be added The Harlot’s Progress:
Harlequin by Mr. Phillips,
Miss Kitty by Mrs Phillips.

Also an Exact Representation of the late Glorious Victory
gained over the French at the Battle of Dettingen,
with the taking of the White Household Standard by the Scots Greys,
Blowing Up the bridge, and Destroying and Drowning most part of the French Army.

Every evening
at five o’clock.

Welles, Guthrie, Mamet - On Theatre

I believe the Theatre, like Ballet and Grand Opera, is already an anachronism. The Theatre, as we know it, is now in its last stages; the end cannot be far off.
Orson Welles

I think the Theatre will survive. It is bound to, as long as mankind demands to be amused, terrified, interested, shocked, corrupted and delighted.
Tyrone Guthrie

We are elected to supply the dreams of the body politic – we are the dream makers of the society. What we act out, design, write, springs not from meaningless individual fancy, but from the soul of the times.
David Mamet

David Mamet, "Theater & Dreams"

The theater is an expression of our dream life, our unconscious aspirations – a response to that which is best, most troubled, most visionary in our society.

In dreams we do not seek answers which our conscious rational mind is capable of supplying, we seek answers to those questions which the conscious mind is incompetent to deal with. So with the drama, if the question posed is one which can be answered rationally – e.g. how does one fix a car, should white people be nice to black people, are the physically handicapped entitled to our respect – our enjoyment of the drama is incomplete. We feel diverted but not fulfilled. Only if the question posed is one whose complexity and depth renders it unsusceptible to rational examination does the dramatic treatment seem to us appropriate, and the dramatic solution become enlightening.

Ecclesiastes 9:12. "For man also know it's not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil man, and as the birds that are caught in a snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time when it follows a suddenly upon them."

The solution is the dream.

The theatrical artist serves the same function in society that dreams do in our subconscious life-the subconscious life of the individual. We are elected to supply the dreams of the body politic-we are the dream makers of the society. What we act out, design, write, springs not from meaningless individual fancy, but from the soul of the times – that soul both observed by and expressed in the artist.

We all dream each night, but sometimes we are reluctant to remember a dream; just so we, as a collective artistic unity, create poetic theatrical dreams, but it sometimes we are reluctant to remember (stage, acccept, support) them.

The mass media pander to the low and the lowest of the low in the human experience. They, finally, debase us through the sheer weight of their mindlessness. Every reiteration of the idea that nothing matters debases the human spirit. It denies what we know to be true. In denying what we know, we are as a nation which cannot remember its dreams – like an unhappy person who cannot remember his dreams and so denies that he does dream, and denies that there are such things as dreams.

Who is going to speak up? Who's going to speak for the human spirit? The artist. The actor. Dedicated to the idea that the theater is the place we go to hear the truth.

Theatre – true theatre – is an art whose benefits will cheer us, and will warm us, it will care for us, and to elevate our soul out of the story times. The place we can go to hear the truth.

From three essays in "Writing In Restaurants" by David Mamet;
"A National Dream-Life"
"A Tradition of the Theater as Art"
"Decay: Some Thoughts For Actors"

Ron Reed, scenes from "A Bright Particular Star"

Henry Irving & His Wife

It was at the opening of “The Bells,” you will remember that, Henry Irving's first great triumph. Some three or four years after had married and retired from the stage. Mr. Irving arranged for his wife, Florence, to sit in a box with their friends, the Hain-Friswells I believe it must have been. After the ovation – there were several curtain calls, absolutely everyone knew it to be a smashing success, and Mr. Irving in particular – his wife waited outside in a carriage as he made his way back to her through a thicket of well-wishers. As they drove home, Irving was ecstatic – he was the toast of the London theater. “Florence, we shall soon have our own coach and a pair!” To which his wife replied, "are you going on making a fool of yourself like this all your life?" He did not reply, except to order the driver to stop as they passed Hyde Park corner. Mr. Irving got out of the carriage and walked away, never to return home or speak to his wife again.


Mark Twain on Junius Brutus Booth
(deleted scene)

Junius Brutus Booth. They say he left a tremendous theatrical legacy in this country prior to his triumphant return to the American stage. Fact is he fled to the States, at least that's how the story plays on my side of the pond. Traded his wife for Covent Garden flower girl, booked a pair of schooner tickets home to the United States of, and never looked back. Junius Brutus Booth and his offspring, the Booth boys, Edwin and John Wilkes, true blue native sons; braggarts, madmen, drunkards, and assassins – drunkards most of all. They do our nation proud.

Before his hasty departure from these sceptred shores, Junius toured England playing any theater that would have him, provided there was a pub within staggering distance of the stage door. Mr. Booth believed in the balanced life – excess in all things, including vanity and contempt for his audience. If he must interrupt his drinking to suffer the twin indignities of donning tights and a British accent, they were damn well going to listen, and he took it upon himself to do what ever he deemed necessary to encourage their rapt attention.

Do you know Manchester? Nothing but factories and, what was worse, factory workers – at least, that is how Booth saw it. Button factories. Booth was engaged to play the role of Hamlet as a visiting guest star for a Manchester company. At one particular performance it seems that Junius found the attentions of his working-class audience insufficient, to the point where, come the dueling scene, Mr. Booth saw fit to enliven the festivities for the enjoyment of his buccaneering spectators. He undertook to beat poor Laertes to a bloody pulp with his bare fists. The stunned audience fell silent. When at last the local actor laid bleeding and unconscious at his feet, Junius Brutus Booth turned to the crowd and said, "So what do you think of that, you bunch of damn button makers?" Oh, the life of the theater.

Do you ever have occasion to improvise in such a manner, Miss Ward?


Lilia Dreams

Charlie. I am in awe of the work you are doing amongst the poor.

Lilia. I’m no Octavia Hill! I visit with people who look like they want to talk, that's all. Most often I have to be at home. It's no hardship to sing a song or recite a poem.

Charlie. Not for you!

Lilia. No. That's just how I’m made.

Charlie. I like how you’re made.


Lilia. But this isn’t all, you know, all I'm meant to do. I feel it when I play in Shakespeare. I feel it when I can do something for one of the tenants, something that actually makes a difference. I have work to do, work the world has need of. Only – I am not doing it!

Charlie. Perhaps you are.

Lilia. I'm not! Otherwise, why this yearning? I'm made for something bigger, Charlie, something... Something I don't know.

Charlie. You need a larger stage, that's all.

Lilia. When my father speaks, people are enthralled. They say it is like listening to Jesus.

Charlie. You can sense it in his books.

Lilia. In Philadelphia, 3000 people crammed into a 2800 seat theater to hear him speak, about "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" if you can believe it. And they said it was better than any sermon they had ever heard! That God spoke through him.

Charlie. I believe that.

Lilia. What if I have that in me? And I do nothing but babysit my brothers and read poems to the poor people.

Charlie. Those sacrifices may be of more account than you know.

Lilia. And they may be of less! I think it lives in me, just as it does in my father. Sometimes it presses so hard inside me, I fear it will seep out through my skin if I don't find a way to let it out! That I will bleed from the eyes! (Beat) I'm sorry.

Charlie. No!

Lilia. I've never spoken of these things.

Charlie. No.

Lilia. Something takes hold when I'm on a stage, inside a character. And it could transform people, somehow. Why am I telling you all this? I don't even know you, and I pour my silly ideas in your ear! I feel embarrassed.

(Charlie looks in her eyes, then leans over and kisses her tentatively on the cheek.)

Lilia. Oh my. Charlie. Now I feel embarrassed.


George MacDonald on Theatre
(from an actual letter)

It has come to my recent attention that a number of your circle have expressed disapproval of the theatrical work carried out by my family. Let me say this. What society so called may say or do, I simply will not heed one straw! We are only taking up an art that has been unjustly undervalued and left too much to unfit representation, and I shall not hesitate to take my share with my children. The time is short, and there is none for humbug, whether social or ecclesiastical. There is time only for truth and justice and graciousness and lovingkindness, and we hope to learn and teach some of all these things. What God has put in us, we will let come out, and not be ashamed!

Yours, Dr. George MacDonald

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Christopher Durang, "Peter Pan"

When I was eight years old, someone brought me to this... theatre. Full of lots of other children. We were supposed to be watching a production of Peter Pan. And I remember that something seemed terribly wrong with the whole production. Odd things kept happening.

For instance, when the children would fly, the ropes they were on would just keep breaking ... and the actors would come thumping to the ground and they had to be carried off by stagehands. And there seemed to be an unlimited supply of understudies, to take their places, and then they'd just fall to the ground. And then the crocodile that chases Captain Hook, seemed to be a real crocodile, it wasn't an actor. And at one point it fell off the stage and crushed a couple of kids in the front row. And then some of the understudies came and took their places in the audience. And from scene to scene, Wendy just seemed to get fatter and fatter until finally by the end of act one she was completely immobile and they had to move her off stage with a cart.

You remember how in the second act Tinkerbell drinks some poison that Peter is about to drink in order to save him? And then Peter turns to the audience and he says, "Tinkerbell is going to die because not enough people believe in fairies. But if all of you clap your hands real hard to show that you do believe in fairies, maybe she won't die."

So, we all started to clap. I clapped so long and so hard that my palms hurt and they even started to bleed I clapped so hard. Then suddenly the actress playing Peter Pan turned to the audience and she said, "That wasn't enough. You did not clap hard enough. Tinkerbell is dead." And then we all started to cry. The actress stomped off stage and refused to continue with the production. They finally had to lower the curtain. The ushers had to come help us out of the aisles and into the street.

I don't think that any of us were ever the same after that experience. It certainly turned me against theatre. And even more damagingly, I think it's warped my total sense of life. I mean nothing seems worth trying if Tinkerbell is just going to die.

from 'Denity Crisis
by Christopher Durang