Performance (Working In The Theatre #147)

Welcome to the American Theatre Wing seminars
on Working in the Theatre. These seminars are coming to you from the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York, which is right in the heart of Times Square. It’s
the heart beat of the theatre. Everything that is good goes out to the country. And
everything in the country that is good. And some marvelous things that are happening all
around the country come back into New York. These seminars of the American Theatre Wing
are but one of its year round programs. We do hospital shows. We go to places where people
can’t get out to go to the theatre. We go to AIDS centers so that we can help those
that are so unhappy be a little bit lighter. And then, we have our Saturday Theatre for
Children Program, which is indeed a marvelous program. It goes to the schools on Saturday
mornings. And children line up to see a play. They make that decision, to buy a ticket.
No child is ever turned away. But they get in the habit of buying a ticket not because
it’s the greatest thing in the world to see a Broadway play but it’s important for them
to see a Broadway or Off Broadway play. So we hope that this pattern will last throughout
their lives. And we’ve seen a great deal of evidence that it is. They are coming into
the theatre. And then, we have the seminar program, which is a wonderful thing in which
the very knowledgeable people in the theatre share their experiences, and share their knowledge
with each other and with students and with theatre professionals in the theatre, so that
the continuity of quality theatre goes on. I don’t want to take up any time to tell you
any more. We’re best known for the Tony Awards. But, that’s just the carrot really. Everyone
here is a potential and has been a Tony Award winner. But that’s not why they’re here. They’re
here because they have a deep respect for their art. And they have honed their art.
And they are willing to share it with each other. So before we go any further, I’m going
to turn this seminar over to Jean Dalrymple, as Co Chairwoman. Jean is perhaps a … wonderful
example of what we talk about in the theatre. She has been a producer, a director, an author.
And she continues to serve the American Theatre wing as a very hard working Board member.
And Ed Wilson, who is a critic for the WALL STREET JOURNAL, but today he’s not here as
a critic. Ed is here to just talk about the theatre that he loves. And he is Director
at the Center for the Advanced Study in Theatre Arts. I’m Isabelle Stevenson, and I’m President
of the American Theatre Wing. And I am now going to turn this over to Ed and Jean, who
will introduce our panelists. Thank you, Isabelle. (APPLAUSE) We have so
many outstanding performers today that I’m not going to list
their credits. If I did, it would take up the full hour.
So I’m simply going to introduce them very quickly the ones
on my side. Starting at my far right, one of the outstanding
performers of our time and currently in ORPHEUS DESCENDING
… Miss Vanessa Redgrave. (APPLAUSE) Next to her,
a performer currently in a play called SECRET RAPTURE,
which comes from England and is by David Hair, formerly known
very well in terms of her television show … THE DAYS
AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD … Blair Brown. (APPLAUSE) Next to her,
a performer whose credits alone would take the full hour,
and who is currently the star of M BUTTERFLY … Mr.
Tony Randall. (APPLAUSE) And on my right, the current star
… one of the current stars of SWEENEY TODD, Beth Fowler.
(APPLAUSE) Way down there is a star of another kind.
(LAUGHTER) She is something that is really new to the theatre today. I mean new in the
last fifteen years or so. She is a casting director. And she has cast innumerable plays.
And I don’t know really which one you cast that’s on Broadway now. Would you please tell
And of course, thanks to her, we don’t need to introduce
her. She’s well known all over the world. And there… she
made a tremendous hit in the productions I did, so I’ve
always loved her. That was PAL JOEY. And right … right
now, she’s doing what? LOVE LETTERS, with Jason Robards.
Yes. Occasionally. (APPLAUSE)
LOVE LETTERS is really one of the most extraordinary things that’s come to Broadway. And you were
wonderful in it. Thank you very much, Jean.
And then we have right next to her, the star of that
extraordinary smash hit Off Broadway, EVERYBODY’S MONEY.
(??) And that is Kevin Conway. (APPLAUSE) Pamela Mason
Brown has been around for… Wright. Pamela Payton Wright.
Pop! (LAUGHTER) Pamela Payton Wright … thank you! She’s
been around. And I’ve seen her in so many wonderful things.
And… and right now, she’s starring in… M BUTTERFLY.
… in M BUTTERFLY. Yes, you’re playing the wife, which you played from the beginning.
No, no I haven’t. No, well that’s what it said in my material.
I’m very sorry. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) And here’s
a stalwart of the theatre. And he’s always playing larger than
life people. And right now, he really has one. That’s SWEENEY
As Isabelle said, this is a seminar about working in the
theatre… how performers get started, how they develop
their craft, and how they enhance their talents. And I
really want to start off by asking each person on the panel
to tell us in a way how they got started. What determined
their going into the theatre? It’s such a hazardous craft,
and a hazardous profession. Was there one thing … one
person … one experience they had that made it certain for
them that they would go into the theatre. Blair?
Oh! Um…. (LAUGHTER). I… I actually became an actor by
default. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a surgeon.
And it’s just very lucky for mankind that I found the
theatre… (LAUGHTER)…and I played doctors, and I’m not
actually operating on you. I… I was in college. I found I
didn’t want to go to school any longer. I… I didn’t want
to get married. So I thought … well now, the theatre
looks interesting. And I thought, I’ll try that until I got
myself together to get a real job. My mother was a teacher.
My father had worked in government. It never occurred to me
that theatre was a full time occupation. I think I thought
that actors all had other jobs and that this was a hobby.
And I auditioned for the National Theatre School of Canada,
which was a Sandinee [sic] School … a Michelle Sandinee
School … classical training. I got in on a wonderful
fluke, and went and then thought … I’m home. This is it.
This is what I want to do. So that’s … my little tale.
That’s my… (LAUGHTER) I would like to ask Elaine how she started…
’cause I’ve known her for years. But I really don’t know
how she began. Well … I think this is the nightmare of
every actress in the world … what made you get into theatre,
or how did you get in the theatre. None of my family
had anything to do with the theatre. But my Mom had a very
… had a best friend. And his name was Bobby Clark. The
young people in the audience will not remember him. But he
was a brilliant . . . brilliant actor comedian.
Comedian. And Mother sort of knew him. Mother was very
rich when she was a little girl. And Bobby was very poor. But she found him, someplace
on the other side of the track. And they fell in love at the age of eight. And when … Bobby
said that when he was fifteen, he was gonna run away and join the circus. And Mother said,
can I go with you? And he said, sure. And Mother told… foolishly told her brother,
or wisely told her brother. And she was caught and taken home. So I’ve always felt that I
should be the one that went to the station. And Bobby went on to join the circus and then
became a big Broadway star. So he was my only link with the theatre. And I used to talk
to Bobby about it when I was a little girl. And … this is gonna sound egotistical, and
I don’t mean it that way. I mean it very seriously. He said to me one day, at Jane Davie’s Restaurant
… anybody remember that? Yes. Fifty Fifth Street.
And I was fifteen. And I thought I wanted to be an actress. And he said . . .I think
I saw NOW VOYAGER, I don’t know. (LAUGHTER) But I . . . Bobby Clark said to
me in order to succeed in the theatre, you have to be dynamite. Are you? And I said yes.
And he said, then go for it. And I think it’s a strange story for a fifteen year old to
say that. But some place in me, it must have been such an enormously
definite desire that I just became . . .and . .. I there was not an egotistical bone in
my body. I was scared to death. But I did answer that question so quickly that I feel
that I was okay. And the I know that actresses used to play a game about that awful question
“why did you go into the theatre?” And I said once, to get a good table. But you know(LAUGHTER)
but you do those frivolous things to get away from the real meaning of what you and if I
told you why I became an actress, we’d be here all day. And I don’t wanna do that. But
that was an indication of it. I think some place inside of you, you have to have such
a definite feeling that you can do it, really do it. And then you go, “Wow.” And usually
people who think that way make it. Very good. Very good.
I think. Absolutely. I agree.
Kevin, what about you? Well. . .it. . .it really. . .it’s sort of
similar. I think that we all that there’s a connection, really, in terms of finding
something that you have to do, you know. And I didn’t for a long time, I didn’t know what
I wanted to do. I didn’t get into the theatre till I was about twenty seven. And … the
… the … what happened before that is … (LAUGHS) … of no interest. And…
Well it might be, but … Well, it … yeah. But … wait for my book.
The… it just… I went … of all people, it sounds strange. Anthony Newley… I just
went to see STOP THE WORLD, I WANNA GET OFF. And … he … he came out … and I had
never been to the theatre before … in my life. I grew up in New York, but never been
to live theatre … until I was about twenty six, twenty seven.
Never once? No. And… it…it just … it was that place
downtown, you know, with the … you know, and the … I
used to drink down there once in a while. I’d go with my
cronies. But I never really… I didn’t like it. It wasn’t
comfortable for me.
Did you go to the movies at least? Oh sure. (LAUGHTER) Movies, yeah. And…
At least. But it wasn’t… I wasn’t … culturally elevated
at all at that time. And … and … or nor am I yet.
But it… (LAUGHTER) … there was something that I…
I got dragged kicking and screaming to see this show, STOP
THE WORLD, I WANNA GET OFF. I didn’t wanna see it. I had
no desire to … to sit in a theatre. It all seemed weird.
T … TV and movies seemed…you know. And the energy and
connection that … that he had with his audience. And
the music I think helped a lot too. It just came right
out, over. And it sounds corny and … and all that stuff.
But it… I sat there, and I… I found myself taking
in the energy of the performers, and then throwing it right
back at them. And when I left, I thought … wow … what
an interesting or strange experience. I’ve never had anything
like that before. Still didn’t do anything for me. It took another … while for me to
even think about going and taking acting classes. Did you go to acting school after that, or
how did … After.
You did go to acting school, then. Right. And . . .and I… I studied with a
… a wonderful … not at the beginning. I wasted about a
year, just … just hanging around acting school, you know,
not really working very hard. And then there was one
teacher that sort of was inspirational to me. And … and she…
Who … who was that? Well, her name was Ellen Green … not of
course the actress, Ellen Green. She’s now a… she married a … an
Italian Count and moved to Italy, you know … (LAUGHTER)
… deserted me, like everybody else in my life. Then she
… this acting teacher did too. She was smart, too.
She was smart. She got out while the getting was good. And
then I studied with Uta for about … Uta Hagen for about
… two and a half years. And … and you know, it was…
it was pretty good, once I made the decision to get into
it. Pamela … what about you?
I … I was shy. I think from … the earliest I can
remember, I was attracted to the theatre. It was the
story telling aspect of it. I never thought, in the early
days, that I would have … and … and I had to be forced
to… I found myself with a group of actors in high school.
It was quite a good drama department there. Where was that?
In Memphis, Tennessee. And… I was fourteen at the time.
And I don’t know why I was in this class. I was the only
sophomore in it. I think my Mother had some thing to do
with it. She thought I wasn’t … I. . .there wasn’t enough
in the school to challenge me. So she asked them for
something else. And I was in a class with juniors and
seniors. And they did a play. They did BLITHE SPIRIT. So…
I chose the smallest role to … to read for. And I got it.
And then they did another play. They did ALL MY SONS, by
Arthur Miller. And again, I chose the role of Sue, the
next door neighbor. And they pushed me up to read for Kate
Keller. I was just a little girl. And so I went up. And I
read for it. And I got it. (LAUGHTER) And… I did it. And
I loved doing it. It was… I was in a story, you know? And
I loved it. And … then I had grownups coming back and
telling me that I was good. So that feeling of … (SIGHS)
… you know. And that’s when, I guess, you know I got the
… well, I had response, you know, that was saying I was
good at something. And I loved doing it, so that sort of
led me on. And I went to college. And again, I… I studied
literature. I… I … I really still don’t feel that
university is a good place to study acting, because it’s
not really academic. But I studied the literature that I
loved. And then, towards the end I thought, well I better
choose something to do. I’m coming to the end, you know, of
college. So… (LAUGHTER) … I, you know, applied for a
… a Fullbright, because I wanted to leave the country…
for … you know, not because I was … you know… I just
felt like this would be the time to travel. And I wanted to
concentrate on acting for a couple of years before becoming
professional, if that’s what I was gonna do. So I got a
Fullbright to a school in London. But I turned it down in
the end. I tried to get them to send me to the other school
that I wanted to go to. But the school they were sending me
to, the reason I didn’t wanna go was because it was all
Fullbright students. And I thought, well it would be like
being in this country. They’re all Americans. And they
wouldn’t see reason. So I was convinced to turn it down. So
I turned it down. And Stacy Keach says he’s … he got that
one. And he went to that school. (LAUGHTER) But anyway, I
went to school there for two years. And then I … came
back to this country on a boat. And I thought, well I
better stay in New York. It was right before probably I met
Elaine, we were just reminiscing with… I was really from
… you know, I was a shy young girl…still. And… I… I
had grown up in the south. By that time, I was from
Pennsylvania. When I got to this country, I thought, well
I’d better stay in New York for a week and face the music.
I better … you know, this is it. I’m not in school any
more. Come back to work. I was there about a day, and I
went home to Alabama. (LAUGHTER) And… well, my father was
ill. So I… I thought, I better go now. And I wrote
letters to… I wanted to work in rep. And I wanted to play
lots of parts. I didn’t wanna be stuck in one thing, you
know, and so… I was really a … you know, an actor who
had sort of… I never wanted to sort of… it was a
success. It was the literature. So anyway, I wrote to five
repertory companies I chose. And somebody thought it was
. . . you know, there were a few things…. And then you were hooked, obviously. (LAUGHTER)
Yeah, and one thing led to another and I’ve stayed in the theatre.
Bob. Well like Blair and Kevin, I… I sort of
backed into theatre. From my earliest memories, I had planned somehow and … and I’m not
even clear to this day why, but … on being a … a priest. I came from a large Irish
Catholic family. And my role models going to school were priests. I… I… I liked
the fact that they’re … they were living lives of … of service. And the priests I
knew were very virile, strong, charismatic men. And so I did end up going to the seminary
after high school. In the meantime, growing up in… in Southern California in the fifties
and sixties, there was no such thing as live theatre. As a matter of fact, I played leads
in musicals and playsbefore I had ever seen one … which was … is kind of a … a…
I guess a strange way to go into theatre. But I … I was so virginal about it. And
and again, the … the response was amazing to me, that … that people would respond
so viscerally to what I kind of did off the top of my head, or the bottom of my soul,
or wherever it was coming from… I don’t know. But anyway, I went to the seminary.
And… in the summers between my studies, a friend of mine in the seminary … his father
had been a leading light on Broadway in the late fortiesand fifties. A fellow by the name
of Paul Crabtree, who had been with the Theatre Guild. And he opened a theatre in Tennessee.
And he came to the seminary and auditioned me in the biology lab to play the… (LAUGHTER)
… the lead in something called TENNESSEE USA, a historical pageant about the … the
history of Tennessee … and required a fresh faced, open young kid who played the guitar
and … could be a semi-heart throb in… in Tennessee. And this is … (LAUGHTER) … thirty
years ago. And I’ve managed to be able to … to do that … pull that off. Anyway,
I … I went back to the seminary, after this golden summer of … of theatre and being
the … the kind of local star. And … and … also having some of my first real one
on ones with… with ladies … with girls. And I went back to the seminary, and among
other things, I looked around once. I said, hey! There’s no ladies here! (LAUGHTER) And…
for many reasons, the Paulist fathers and myself came to a mutual agreement that perhaps
I… (LAUGHTER) … it was best… in the interest of the Catholic Church as well as
my own… to depart. So I did. That’s our gain… I … at that point.
Beth, what about you? Well, I’m connecting on all levels here. Here
we have an … an almost priest. I went to a small Catholic
women’s college, because I wanted to … that was
where the mother house of the Dominican order was. And when
I … I was going to go through freshman and sophomore
year. And then, when I was a junior, I’d enter. That was my
plan. So I’d be fully educated with my degree when I left.
And I was going to be a music teacher. I was gonna be the
singing nun, you know. (LAUGHTER) And … the nuns didn’t want
me either. So I… I stayed through college and I got my
degree and … and became a grade school music teacher. And
in the meantime, during high school and so forth,
I was… I also went to a … a Catholic high school. And
there were very small budgets on everything. And there were no plays being done. But we
belonged to the Forensic League. And so I’d turn up with a, you know, state trophy every
once in a while for oratorical declamation and, you know, neat stuff like that. But…
I always sang. But I … taught for several years. And I … did community theatre. And
somebody saw me, you know, do a part in Community theatre and said … why don’t you try out
for my summer stock theatre? And I thought, well that would be a fun thing to do for the
summer. And I auditioned and … and did one of those, you know, eight shows in nine weeks
at the Grist Mill Musical Playhouse, which was aptly named. And… (LAUGHTER) … did
my first roles and got my Equity Card. And I thought … this is … this is a lot of
fun. But I’m really not as good as everybody else. But I kept getting encouraged. And then
I… I did a couple of guest artist things. And then … some stuff was going on in the…
in the school system where I was working. And teachers were … upset about this, that
and the other thing. And they were threatening to go on strike. And that all upset and embarrassed
me. So I thought … well, I’ll go play actress for a couple of years until they get that
out of their system, and I get this out of my system. And that was twenty years ago.
So… (LAUGHTER) … that’s my… Aren’t we glad that you did that.
Tony … Hmm …
You begin. What did you do? Oh. I really have so little to tell. I just
… when I was twelve years old, I saw a play … a school play. And I thought – “Jesus,
these kids stink. I… (LAUGHTER) … I can do that.” That’s … that’s… that’s my whole
story. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) What was your first job … paying job? Oh, I … well this was in Tulsa. And I got
little jobs around town … radio. And I had an act. I’d
work at, you know, parties … things … (INAUDIBLE).
.. What was … what was the act?
Imitations. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Yeah. Who could you imitate?
Oh, all the stars of the day. You know, Lionel Barrymore
and everyone. Same things everybody did. I imitated other
imitators, I guess. (LAUGHTER) When did you come to New York?
I came to New York to go to the Neighborhood Playhouse. And
… and there, Sanford Meisner made me an actor.
Oh, that’s … nicely put. Nicely put. (APPLAUSE) Vanessa, I … you … now you come from a
family of performers. Was it…
Yes. … was it a choice on your part, or did you
feel … was it sort of taken for granted that you would
go into the theatre?
Well, I … you never know what the rest of your family are
taking for granted, thank goodness. Because if you did,
(LAUGHS) you might not manage to do anything. But … no,
I… I… I… it was in the war. And we were evacuated.
And there was a boy who was four years old… older than my
brother or myself. I suppose I was about four and a half.
And his father and mother had given him the materials to
make himself a theatre. And he’d got electric lights into
it. And he made it himself, with their help … with money
and so on. And… so every minute, we … we were gathered
’round this theatre. And he invented plays. And he did all
the voices. And bit by bit, he grudgingly admitted that
maybe I and my brother might be helping in some sort of
way. So we’d started to help. And he found th at was
exciting. So then he started to write plays with living
actors, instead of models with plaster scene that you move
on the end of sticks across the stage. (LAUGHTER) So he
started writing plays. And we performed them. And the
audience paid a half penny, which used to go to the
merchant seaman’s fund for. . .for distressed families in
the war. And so it was moments of illusion, that … that’s
how it happened. That’s … that’s why I went into the
theatre. (LAUGHS)
It was because of your own experience, not because of …
what did … but what influence do you think the family
had? Well, an enormous influence, obviously.
Yes, they must have. But … but if you’re just taking for you
… how it all started. Well, that’s how it all started,
as far as I was concerned.
And Olivier knew beforehand, didn’t he? Well, I just don’t know. I mean, you know,
Olivier was… liked making an occasion a real occasion. So I think he thought, I’ll
make Michael and Rachel remember tonight. And you know, he said…(INAUDIBLE) … (LAUGHTER)
What she’s not telling is that … the night she was born,
her … her father was on stage with Olivier. And Olivier
announced a … a new leading lady was born tonight.
(LAUGHTER) And he called it, didn’t he? (APPLAUSE) Did . . .all of you all have talked … or
several of you have talked about the response from the audience
… what it meant … that first time you saw STOP
THE WORLD. And all of you are performing now, except Rosemary,
who is helping people… (LAUGHS)…find their way
to the stage. Tell us something about your current performance
in terms of the audience response … the difference
perhaps between matinee and evening, or weekend and weekday.
And so, is there a real difference in terms of … Tony,
what … what is the … what is the … what diffe rence
do you notice? And what does it mean to the actor, in terms
of the response you get?
Well, matinees we get old ladies. (LAUGHTER) You look out
and there’s nothing but white hair. And our play is…
(LAUGHTER) … I can’t even… I hope my mother doesn’t…
I… I can’t talk about our play. It’s so… it’s so
dirty. (LAUGHTER) And … and the response from … I
get… I see these old ladies… (LAUGHS) … sitting there
like this. It’s a different story entirely. And there’s one
point in the play where… (LAUGHS) … a woman, not …
not Pamela … gives the various synonyms for the male
member. (LAUGHTER) And… Yes?
Yes. (LAUGHTER) And last Wednesday when she said “cock”, a
woman in the audience went “hoo!”. (LAUGHTER) That only
happens at Wednesday matinees. Tony, though, I have heard that there have
been more . . . there’s been a more responsive audience in your kind of play not necessarily
your play with the matinee audience. Because they don’t feel embarrassed about sitting
next to their husbands, are able to freely enjoy this. And women are not, you know, that
repressed. But they are able to enjoy it without their husbands or be self conscious about
it. You don’t find that, apparently. No. (LAUGHTER)
Okay. All right. You find it in a comedy. In a comedy, the
laughs are different with certain audiences. But this is a serious play. And the re . . . it
has a cumulative power. And the end, the result is always the same.
No matter what Yeah
. . .performance. . . that’s right. Yeah.
But it varies, I presume, as before you get to that point, in terms of . . .
No, I vary. (LAUGHTER) That’s all. Vanessa, you’re playing the same role here
that you played in London. Uh huh.
Is there a difference? Do you find a difference in the two audiences?
A. . . a slight, but noticeable difference, yes.
What is that? That the . . . the audience are more lively
here, and less in awe of Tennessee Williams, and respond with much more laughter, much
more quickly. We had the … we had laughter, which to me, if you hear laughter, you can
tell much more that … of whether the serious things are coming over, if you hear laughter.
So … so here, the audience is seen much less in awe of Tennesee Williams. In England,
I used to get a … there used to be a lot of people who would say … oh, I… I…
I’ve come to see your play. But Tennessee Williams, I thought it would be very heavy.
But what a lovely surprise. He wasn’t heavy at all. It was… it was really terrific.
In England, Tennessee Williams, amongst ordinary people, has got a reputation like … Shakespeare,
Tennessee Williams, Beethoven… (LAUGHTER) … you know. And then they come and they
find that … here’s a man writing in… in a way that makes your eyes and ears open.
And you sit forward in your seat. And you laugh and you feel human again. He’s that
sort of writer. Well I suppose Americans know that. So … the audience starts that way…
(VOICES OVERLAP) Don’t you think it was a wonderful idea of his to do that … to make
it really melodramatic, and to have all those lights and sounds and different
things, that it never had before, which is…
You talking about Peter Hall’s direction… Yes. Yes.
Well I think that Peter Hall’s direction is… is terrific.
I think it’s superb. Because he’s done what Tennessee’s actually
written in the text he wants.
Yes, exactly. Bob, what about you? (LAUGHTER) What … what
about audiences at SWEENEY TODD? Because you are
… you … you and Beth are playing very close to the audience. That’s one of the features
of this production, as opposed to the original production. What about audience responsel
in terms of different times when you play and just the response generally?
Well one of the thrills of doing it in the configuration that we’re doing it now is that
I have a very visceral sense of the audience’s response, which is in turn very visceral.
We … we share something that I’ve never shared on Broadway with an audience … a
… a connection that… it… it’s like an intake of breath that is shared. And also,
in… in terms of the matinee thing … we were discussing this in the Green Room. I’ve
found… I don’t know if… if Beth feels this as strongly as I do. But we’ve all joked
about … on Broadway … about playing matinees and the blue haired ladies and all of that.
And thank God for them. They pay my … my salary.
In SWEENEY, it’s the first time I absolutely look forward to playing matinees. Even in
the beginning when … when they were rather small audiences, they’ve… they’ve … now
our matinees are … are pretty much filled. But even when they were smaller, somehow the
response is unclouded. And in our play, it’s … in… in our piece, it’s very important
right from the beginning … at least from the way I’ve approached playing this … this
role … that the audience know exactly where this man is coming from … that they don’t
just see this raging maniac to be. But they see a
broken man. And they know why he’s broken. And they can start that journey from square
A. It’s very important. It’s a very quiet moment where I think they begin to learn this
emotionally, not intellectually. And it’s set… Susan, the
director Susan Shulman, set up the moment beautifully. It’s there to be had. And if
I’m up to it, it’s there to be had. And I find in the matinee that it is… it is subsumed
by the audience much more deeply. It… I I can feel it, going out to them. And my theory
is … that for instance, in the evening very often Broadway has become an … an entire
social evening of … paying the babysitter, paying the parking lot attendant, having a
wonderful meal on Restaurant Row, maybe a cocktail or two more than you might
have at home, or having an entire bottle of wine rather than a glass. And I think the
empathy required by a piece like ours is somewhat dulled by overeating and … and
perhaps overimbibing. And I think that it’s … it … people don’t set out to do that.
But it’s sort of the … the … what happens, and particularly Saturday nights. And Saturday
nights are the one night where we all have to
work harder. I mean, the audience has to be work past what they have gone through for
the two hours before they sit in the seats. And I have to work harder to get
them on board. So that’s been my experience. And because of the dramatic
nature or the melodramatic nature of the show, all of these responses are much more dramatic.
Perhaps. What do you bring … what do you bring forth,
to … when you say… I have to work harder, to… in
order to develop? I have to be more up. (VOICES OVERIAP)
What do you…
By working, I mean clear myself so much and fill up with
SWEENEY that… I gotta get it. And … and… it’s … how
I do that is … depends on lots of things. But it’s …
it’s a kind of emotional concentration. It takes tremendous concentration, SWEENEY.
Yes. Not this kind of concentration. It’s some other kind
that I can’t even describe. Does that come from training that you’ve had
… that you can call upon? Or does it come from the roles
that you’ve had?
It comes from all of the mistakes I made in trying to get to that.
I think that you somehow, more than ever, make the people
understand your madness. Because it is a madness. Well I think that what the start of it is…
is…is empathy for someone who was unable to keep
his family together. And … and the one thing I bring
to the role … and my wife is here tonight, or this afternoon,
whatever this is… (LAUGHTER) … is… is I… I
have a… a beloved wife and a very beloved young daughter.
And I don’t think any of the fellows who’ve played SWEENEY
that I know, and I know most of them personally, a number
of them are married. But I don’t think they have a small
daughter. And that has put a button in me. And I donit look
at pictures or anything before I go on. But there is a
button that can be pushed. And when I am… in this state
of … of clarity, and the audience is ready for it,
and the … and the words and the music of this piece touch
that button, then … (LAUGHS) … I am on my way. It’s
like being… set up on a roller coaster. And once you’ve
made to that … to that height, then it’s…PHOOOOOSH.
Kevin, you’re … I think this is a … a very important subject
that we were talking about. Because it’s the audience comes
into that very, very important ingredient. And I think
if we would … I’d like to hear the difference between
working downtown audiences and Broadway audiences,
from Blair or maybe…
Well, it’s interesting. We’re in this sort of golden period
of previews right now, where audiences come in and they
haven’t read anything about the show. They don’t know what
they’re supposed to think. They don’t know if they disagree
with what the paper said. They don’t know anything. So the
character of the audiences nightly is quite different. And
it’s very exciting thi s … this time, I find. Differences
between downtown and uptown. I think … I think our show
works better uptown. We needed a Broadway house. We needed
the kind of openness and size. Because this is an epic
play. And that … when we were working downtown at the
Festival, in a much smaller theatre, I felt we were kind of
pushing the walls and plastering people against their
seats. The audiences downtown are very enthusiastic. I
mean, I think they were very unabashed about showing what
they feel … whether they like it or not. Uptown … I
found audiences have been very responsive. I … we … I
think we were expecting a kind of cooling. But . . .right
now, I think there’s a great … there’s a lot of energy.
But there is that excitement in previews anyway, when
people are seeing something that they don’t know.
(VOICES OVERLAP) Did you have to make many adjustments in
moving from the smaller space to the larger space?
No. Mainly it was just vocally. We had to find that…
Project. … find … yeah, find the space. But it’s
such a perfect house … we’re at the Barrymore … that
the acoustics in that house are so…
Beautiful theatre. … lovely that it’s a very easy house in
that way. Kevin, you’re in a play where I presume other
people’s money … a lot of the audience comes … you
probably get a lot of Wall Street and investment type people.
We … we get them from really downtown. Exactly. From really downtown… (LAUGHTER)
… from Wall Street. They have to come uptown to get downtown.
What… Do you do a Monday performance? (LAUGHTER)
Did you do a Monday performance?
No, but we should have. (LAUGHTER) Okay.
What is interesting that night, when … when that … or
Friday, you know. Because we usually … the … the
stretch limols are usually clogging Minetta Lane, you know,
which is… in fact, we’re … we’re at war with this woman
that lives in Minetta Lane, ’cause she just cannot
abide that these limousines are parked in Minetta Lane. And
they’re not supposed to be. But limousines of… in New
York park anywhere they want. And… so she’s on a
one woman crusade to get them all ticketed and things. But
… wait’ll … wait’ll the theatres turn into a movie
house. She’ll know how … how good she has it.
What about this audience though, do they … do they
respond to all the sort of in stuff about leveraged buyouts
and all this kind of thing? Well my favorite audience with this show are
lawyers, because there’s so many slams against lawyers
in the show. And lawyers are such masochists … that they
love it. (LAUGHTER) And they sit there. And they come
back over and over again, in order to … to … to … to
feel the sweet sting of these… (LAUGHTER) … barbs. And
they bring… it’s become a client show. A lot of people
have been back three or four times bringing their out of
town clients. In terms of differences, obviously, we’re getting
a more Broadway audience Off Broad… Broadway for
this particular show. But … what … during the summer,
we had quite a few tourists. And it was interesting to people
that didn’t get any of the jargon about corporate take
overs and poison pills and all that stuff … still knew something
was happening. And… and … in … in a way,
it … it’s obviously changed after eight months. I … I
don’t know. I’ve watched it happen every show I’ve…
I’ve done any long run, that you just get a different group
of people that come later on to see things, rather than
the people that rush to see it in the first couple of
months when it’s still … hot. But in a way, the … they
… they go more for the serious aspects of the play. You know,
what Vanessa said which is so true, that any decent good
drama has to be funny. It has to have moments of … because
we all have those moments, I like to think anyway, of…
SWEENEY… … of both…
… In SWEENEY TODD, does anybody miss the audience? I
don’t mean the audience. I mean the orchestra? In SWEENEY TODD, you go … you’ve got…
Would you like to … me to address that? I missed it
desperately the first few rehearsals, where we had the …
the synthesizers. Because I didn’t know when to enter,
vocally. The acoustical instruments have such a presence.
And of course, we’re acclimated to them . . . that and
we’ve been rehearsing with piano. And they came in with
these, you know, little moog things that kind of mush into
the sound. And we just didn’t know and the music is so
sophisticated. We just didn’t know when to make our
entrances. And then we’d watch madly the conductor to see
that we were on the right beat. But now, I don’t miss it at
all. And I think that the the audience has a lot easier
time of becoming acclimated. And we’ve gotten very nice response about it. Because people
do address that, when they. . .it’s one of the things that they mention. And I
love, you know, in this space the synthesizers. And it is one of his greatest scores.
Yes. And it just seems a shame
There are textures that certainly are missed. Yeah. Yes.
But in the context of of the way we’re doing it, I . . .
If we had the orchestra, we wouldn’t have room for the audience. (LAUGHTER)
(VOICES OVERLAP) You know, I’d like to ask Rosemary a question. Because we’ve heard references
to actor training. . . the Neighborhood Playhouse, Uta Hagen. And you see more
performers than almost anybody on a regular basis. How . . .how do you feel about the
state of actor training now, compared with fifteen years ago?
Oh, I think it’s much improved. You do?
I think it really is. I think… fifteen or twenty years ago, I mean, for example, Pamela
felt she had to go Parsley … to go to London to get some training. I mean, any … anyone
who wanted to have real theatre training and be able to work in the classics would often
go … go to London. I mean, the Neighborhood Playhouse really was trained for theatre of
the fifties and the sixties, and … and domestic drama and all that. And to … to deal with
Shakespeare, people felt they needed London. They don’t anymore I think. I think there’s
a whole conservatory of movement here. I mean, the Juilliards and the … and the … and
the NYU’s, and a lot of programs that are not academic but really take you in on basis
of audition. And there’s, you know, forty hours a week of voice and singing and acting,
and allof it. So that’s where I … that’s what I think of a good program.
Isn’t that also we … we are having more … not a … a
national theatre, where people work with each other, but on
Off Broadway, like Playwrights Horizons and Circle Rep and
companies like that, where performers will go to to work
with another performer… It’s true.
… which is what brought the British performer into our
light as … as… (VOICES OVERLAP) And many of these conservatories
… they’re… … they’re excellent.
… they’re run by professionals, not by teachers. I mean,
actors who … who teach, rather than teachers who…
We have enough of them to have a classical theatre?
Oh, we definitely do. We have enough actors to have a classical theatre.
We do? (VOICES OVERLAP) We don’t have enough money,
or whatever. Yeah.
But we’ve got the talent. Tony . . .
Just to join in what you were saying,’cause . . . or the question you were asked, because
I came to New York and saw theatre in New York, not anywhere else, for the first time
in 1955. I saw a season with Paul Muny and Frederick March and Shirley Booth and Julie
Harris, and at least another ten of the greats. And they were in Arthur Miller’s VIEW FROM
THE BRIDGE, Van Heflin . . . a lot of new work. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Joseph Schildkraut.
But predominately new work. And it was that that made me realize that theatre wasn’t and
must not be what the theatre that I’d seen in England had made me think it should be
and must be. It . . . it was the reason why I’d have – I mean, I had an idea from British
theatre and I’d love that idea, until I saw American theatre and American actors. I’d
thought, you know, theatre is . . .is jewel and it’s velvet and it’s trumpet fanfares
and it’s Stratford on Avon. And it’s putting on masses of makeup and having lovely disguises.
And sometimes you wear a lovely dress. And one day, you’ll stand in the center of the
stage and you’ll do Portia’s casket scene. I mean, that was my idea of theatre until
I came and saw 1955 56 season that winter. And
. . .and it amazes me to think that that(LAUGHS) that extraordinary
talent and life that there was anybody who ever wanted to come to England to study drama.
(LAUGHTER) Because honestly, I can’t think that we had anything to teach them, except
some some wonderful actors who you can see. But I think what our drama schools . . .
But they did. If they wanted They didn’t teach us anything. (LAUGHTER)
Our drama schools were dreadful. And they’re much better now. So I’m glad that all our
drama schools are getting better. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Tony, you seem very thoughtful there. Yes, I was. .. she’s. . .I was astonished
that I had had such an extraordinary influence on Vanessa Redgrave’s career. (LAUGHTER) Because
. . .because if she saw Paul Muny, she saw . . .saw me. It was INHERIT THE WIND with
Paul Muny. (VOICES OVERLAP) That’s right, actually, it
was INHERIT THE WIND. And it’sit’s unbelievable that you don’t remember
I was in that. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) What did you play?
What did I play? (LAUGHTER) The reporter. (LAUGHTER)
It was a stupendous production. Oh, it was, it was indeed.
And play. Mmm.
What brought you into that? But I . . .I changed your life and you didn’t even know it. (LAUGHTER)
That’s how it happens(LAUGHTER) Elaine, what about some of the audiences at
LOVE LETTERS? Do they . . . Ah…
That’s a different experience, ’cause you… (VOICES OVERLAP) Yeah, well that was a wild
experience, because we didn’t know what was … they … they
describe it at the producer’s office as a runaway horse.
No … no one knew what it was . . .where it was gonna
take them. And it… it was extraordinary that a reading
with everybody with their glasses on sitting at a table.
. .suddenly became . . .like a … a … an epic piece
of theatre. You took … you take two people through their
whole lifetime. And the audiences are so … not reverent,
but they’re just so emotional. And they respond so unbelievably
to two people sitting there, reading about their
letters that have been sent back to each other. And they’re
just people. They aren’t Edna Saint Vincent Millay. They are
just two kids that went to college and … and grew up together.
And I’m just … mad about the … the reaction of
the audiences. It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve
ever done in my whole life. And I’ve been in a lot of costumes.
(LAUGHTER) But you know, I just put on my little black
dress and go over there with my glasses. And then, of course,
there’s constant jokes about … I hope I remember
all my lines and that. (LAUGHTER) And it … you know, one
television interviewer said to me, how do you learn all
those lines? And she was interviewing me on LOVE LETTERS.
So there is a woman who really doesn’t do her homework.
(LAUGHTER) But it was, you know, it’s… it’s been a fascinating
experience. And I was hoping to be called on to answer
the question about audiences. I think everybody has so
many different ideas about audiences. And I want to tell
you something. I’m very emotional about audiences. And I…
it’s part of the reason I went into the theatre, to get
back to the first question. I’m just nuts about the human
race. And it makes me mad to hear actors talk about … not
mad, but I’d like to talk to lem about it … about a good
house and a bad house. It reminds me of Kennedy’s line.
Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you
can do for your country. And that’s the way I feel about the
… about the theatre. I think actors should think about
what they can do for that bunch of people that came out and
drove and parked their car and spent their salary and walked
into that theatre to give their full attention to you
up there. (APPLAUSE) It’s quite a… it’s quite a…
it’s quite a tribute to a human being. Talk about response
and why you went into the theatre. How many people live
their whole lifetime and have two hours where that many
people are focused on them. It’s a joy. And I think we
should try every night to please them, no matter what
they are or who they are or how … anything. I think they’re
wonderful people. (APPLAUSE)
When I was in high school and was being coached by a nun…
it was one of the few acting teachers I’ve ever had. She
sat under one basketball hoop and I’d stand under the
other. And when I was going to go out in front of my first
audiences … and I was of course terrified at the age of
fifteen … she gave me wonderful advice that I still
remember and I share with other young actors to this day.
Just remember that the people out there are at least
somebody’s son, or somebody’s daughter, and maybe
somebody’s mother or somebody’s father. And maybe even
somebody’s grandfather or grandmother. She knew I was very
attached to my family. And that’s all I needed. And I
looked out there and saw … and saw all this wonderful
family. I get goose bumps just thinking about recalling
that moment. But… I still do, on opening night, remember
that. These … these are people who want to love me… if
I’m good. You know, they want … they came here to have a
good one. They … you know … most of them. (VOICES OVERLAP) How do you get … how do
you get the qualities and the qualifications of being able to woo that audience, if you
come out and are booted, then the audience is not there just to see you in SWEENEY TODD,
but they’ve had a good meal and they’ve done all of that that you say they have, Bob. But
… and you have to then say, look… I’ve got to go past them. What do you call upon?
And where are you to to make sure that you give that audience everything that they deserve?
The demands you make on yourself, I think. Absolutely.
Pleasing yourself comes first. That is not … that’s not
selfishness. (VOICES OVERLAP) If you can like yourself, wow
… they’re gonna stand up. And what do you do? Do you come out? It’s
a small theatre … very small.
Well you know, the … the first responsibility to me is to
my character, you know. And it… it … and what … what
he would do and whatever. And I totally agree. I mean, you
go out there and sometimes it’s not in a responsive audience. That doesn’t mean they’re axe murderers.
They’re just … they’re not a responsive audience.
(LAUGHTER) And … and … and … it … and sometimes it’s,
you know, they… it … the only thing you can do to
get … past it, I mean, the main responsibility is that
you’re always ready. I mean, physically and emotionally
and whatever, that you as a performer are always at peak.
And that includes matinees, you know? I mean, I can’t
stand it when I see people walk through matinees and things
like that because it’s a matinee. Because the thing
is … and … and it’s not I’m, you know, putting a halo
over my head. I’ve got no choice. It’s what I love to do.
(VOICES OVERLAP) And I … and I very lucky to do
it. … collaborators with us.
I think that’s very important. We can’t make them do anything, obviously.
But allow them to become collaborators. Theatre is collaborative
… on this side of the presidium. But I think in
the… in the moment that it happens, it … it… in the
most exalted moment, it’s… it’s a mutual collaboration
which is why I’m sure you are so emotional about it, Elaine.
Because you’ve felt those moments so strongly. And
they are absolutely transcendent. And… I … I…
I just want to try and provide the setting as best we can
in matinees or evenings or whenever, when that collaboration
can take place. Because then everybody gets their money’s
worth plus… something that … that has no monetary
value. It makes live theatre live, because you’re
reaching out to that ingredient, that … that very important
ingredient that … that no other entertainment can do.
Can I just say something before we canonize the audience
too much. (LAUGHTER) Audiences are changing, at least in my
experience, over the last twenty years. It can’t be that
long. It can’t be that long. But it . . .that there is I
don’t know if it’s television or whatever. I mean, you can
see the way people come, how they dress when they go to the
theatre. And their reactions. There are people that sit
there and think that they can talk back to you. Now in in
my particular show, it’s it’s great. Because it’s part
pseudo¬-standup comedy anyway. But theit there is a . . .
a something I wish that we could do to . . .to educate the
or not educate the audience, but just somehow get people to respect it a little bit more.
And sometimes the audiences do . . .there there are individual members of the audience.
And I won’t go(VOICES OVERLAP) Played in the round? In the. . .in the round.
We. . . we. . .then we’re the audience. Our feet are on the stage and the actors are right
there. So I make my entrance in this way. The guy goes(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) And every
time . . . every. . .this is part of the human race you love so . . .
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) You wouldn’t have your story to tell if he
didn’t do it. (LAUGHTER) For the whole evening, every time I passed
by him(LAUGHTER) I think they . . .
I love it! I love it, Tony! (LAUGHTER) Obviously, Vanessa wasn’t in that audience
when they did INHERIT THE WIND. Otherwise . . .
No she would have (VOICES OVERLAP)
no, I’m talking about playing in the round. I know. I know. But I think that . . .
When they’re this close to you. I… I think that too is something that’s
important, is to learn that difference of being able to work in the round with audiences.
And … and … what we’re talking about is… is being prepared and … and not … that’s
the difference between the professional, the … the former, who has prepared for their
career and knows what we’re doing and has a responsibility to it. And that’s what working
in the theatre is. And now we’re just about to go to questions from the audience. And
so … don’t go away. But please take a deep breath, stand up, stretch and come back again
… very quickly. And we’ll have questions from the audience, ’cause this has been an
extraordinary panel. (APPLAUSE) (BREAK IN SESSION)
(APPLAUSE) We’re back at the American Theatre Wing Seminars
on Working in the Theatre, which are coming to you from the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York. I’m
Isabelle Stevenson. I’m President of the American Theatre
Wing. And I am indeed proud to have this fantastic panel
that we had today. And we’ve been talking about what it is
to work in the theatre, and how important everybody is in
this collaboration, and how important the audience is. And
I’m gonna turn this over to Jean Dalrymple, who is our
co anchor who is now anchor. And Jean has something very
important to say about the audience. And I think … all of
the performers here have had that Jean’s point is a very
personal one. Would you like to start this now?
Yes. I wanted to say that when an audience seems bad to the cast, the cast gives up.
They don’t do anything about it. They just play into the hands of the bad audience. I
say the thing they have to do is find somebody who looks sympathetic and play on that person.
And then the next one, and the next one. And go through the audience and find the people
who like it. And work to them. And pretty soon, you’d be astonished, it becomes warmer
and warmer. And then by the second act, they’re with you. And this is really a fact. I was
an actress. And I used to do that, and get the rest of the people in the company to do
it. And it worked. We did not have a dead audience at the end of the show … ever.
Well with all due respect, with your charm, I … I… if I were on the stage with you,
I would let you go after those sympathetic types… (LAUGHTER) I would go after the guy
who was yawning… (LAUGHTER) … particularly in my current role. Because I carry a razor
in my hand. (LAUGHTER) And I would… if I couldn’t get him with empathy, I would frighten
him and then seduce him. Right, well that’s the way to do it. (LAUGHTER
AND APPLAUSE) … together we could get him.
In between this, Tony Randall was wonderfully regaling as
we’re working with … Paul Muny, who was one of the greats
of the theatre. And it… it was something… I wish part
of it could be shared with the audience as well. You talked
about a scaffold that he had built. Can you quickly just
recap a few of those lines for the people now? Because it’s
a very important part of working in the theatre. Well it… it gets a little technical, I’m
afraid. Because all of us believe that you work simply and
… and try to find the role, and leave yourself alone and
let it happen to you. And he did exactly the opposite. He
began ACTING BIG, from the very first rehearsal. And it
was terrible … just terrible, all this acting he did. And
with READINGS of the lines and … and strange … over … overdoing
everything in the most cliched manner. Is that … SO?
(LAUGHTER) It was JUST HORRIBLE! And we… it was
fifty five actors in the company. And we … we looked at
each other … this is Paul Muny? The … well, we knew
he was a great actor. But it… it… it… it was a scaffolding he built. He … he felt
comfortable. Also, he did other strange things. He … he put on
a complete makeup for every rehearsal. He bought six
hundred dollars worth of makeup. (LAUGHTER) You cannot use up six hundred dollars worth
of makeup in your career. (LAUGHTER) And he put on a complete makeup … weird… long
hair, short hair, beard, everything. He just … he just had to cover himself with … with
disguises. And … and they were all fake. And it… it was bad. And also, he … he
tape recorded his role. And we’d hear him, sitting listening to his own voice. And … and
you’d think … good acting cannot come from just listening to your own voice. Nothing
happened. And..and it was… it was all this bad old fashioned stock company acting. Suddenly
one day, he has a oration [sic] to the jury in… in the second act.
Of INHERIT THE WIND. Of INHERIT THE WIND, yes. And he couldn’t
learn his lines … very unusual for an actor who’s been an
actor since… since childhood. And my experience has been
that actors who have trouble learning their lines started
late. But those who began early could learn that fast. But
he had been an actor since he was… since he was … his
parents were actors. And he could not learn his lines.
And held sit there with the … held read from the script
like this, and do all this acting at the same time while
reading the script. (LAUGHTER) And it was just… it was
embarrassing. And suddenly, one day in the middle of this
PACING LIKE A TIGER … SCREAMING. The speech last … lasted
about ten minutes. (LAUGHTER) We were like this. We
couldn’t speak. And there was an old guy in the company named
Louie Hector. Some people may remember Louie Hector. And
he leaned over to me and he said, that baby can act. (LAUGHTER
Do you have a scaffolding? Do you … or… Oh yeah.
What is yours? Sometimes I… I work from… I’m … you
know, sometimes I’ve … we all work with our physical accoutrements
and try to think … well, what does such a person
… how do they walk? How do they breathe? What clothes
do they like? How does what’s inside them express itself?
Well it can only express itself in its connection with
objects outside them. But I’ve… I sometimes find exactly
that problem, that I’ve … I’ve made a scaffolding that…
for very good reasons. But then suddenly, I find that I’m
imprisoned inside it. And then I have to break it down
and throw it all away. Quite specifically, rather like
… like you’re saying. I mean, that … not … not that
I want to compare myself. (VOICES OVERLAP) But I will … I’ll
find false… something … color, lenses… I’ll get the
wig… I’ll get it all worked out to convince myself that this is how this person would
be. And people say, what the hell are you doing that for? And I’ll say, because I’m
sure this person would do… it … this … would have this sort of corset, if it’s that time
in period, or would wear these sort of shoes, and would have this sort of handkerchief,
and would what have you, what have you. But … perhaps sometimes I make some bad mistakes
when I do that, which wouldn’t be surprising. And I find it’s become a scaffolding that
I’ve got to throw away, because I can’t breathe through it.
Mmm hmm. But you need that big … place first, to begin to
discard the… (VOICES OVERLAP) Well, I mean I guess. Every
actor does. We all, in you know, whatever our process is,
we’re all concerned with these questions, aren’t we?
Jean? I… I just want to say that I think acting
is mental. I think you must grab the minds of the people,
and hold onto them. And it’s a …it… it’s a strange thing
that you feel you can do it. And you say to that person
who looks sympathetic, I am going to get her mind and
I’m going to hold onto it. And hers. And hers. And you
do. And you mustn’t let go. And it’s tremendous concentration.
But it holds them together. And pretty soon, they
come to you in a body. But it’s a I… I’m convinced that acting
is mental. I think great comedians tell the audience
before they speak… I’m going to by funny. Now you laugh.
And they do. They build it up. And then they hit it. Bang.
And it goes. And that’s all mental, and all concentration.
Isn’t it? We’re about to turn the … this part of the
program over to questions from the audience. And there
are so many questions. I am going to start right now.
Would you please tell us and … and make it as brief as possible,
’cause so many people want to ask.
Okay. My name is Judy Jawitz and my question is addressed
to Blair Brown. You work in so many medias. Do you prefer
working in television, theatre, or film? Well I’m… I think probably, like most everybody
here, I enjoy working on good material. And it doesn’t…
it doesn’t really matter what the medium is.
And you … the sort of pluses and minuses of each one come
along. I’m loving doing a play now. I love how strong
you feel… how you become like a big Clydesdale… like a
big ox, and sort of plodding through. Whereas, film … working
in film a lot of times is sort of a war of attrition,
keeping your your sort of mental and emotional and
physical, you know, capacities honed for that kind of adrenalin
rush, the way you have to work in television and film.
Good parts, that’s all it is … good parts, good directors,
good actors. And that suits me fine.
Thank you. My name is Pearl Levinson. And my question
is addressed to the panel. How do you sustain a top performance
each time, when the play is long running?
You should be so lucky. (LAUGHTER) Who would like to take that?
I remember what my … my wife told me, who is also an
actor. She says, every night is opening night for somebody
out there. That’s a … that’s the way to do it.
My name is John Francis Fox. My question is addressed to
Vanessa Redgrave., Did you ever see Anna Magniani in the
film version of ORPHEUS DESCENDING? And did her performance
or any other one have a favorable influence on your
performance? Yes, yes, yes, yes. (LAUGHTER)
My name is Lexa Rosianne . And sort of as a follow up to
that question to Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Randall. When
recreating a role, is it hard not to stub your toe on what
someone has done before? I think it’s a good point. Tony?
You could ask that of Bob or any one of us. Ah no, no it
doesn’t matter a bit. You just have to ignore it. Or steal
what you can. (LAUGHTER) Bob and I both have played A MUSIC
MAN. Well you can’t play A MUSIC MAN. They want … the
audiences will let you play it. But the reviewers will
review Robert Preston. (LAUGHTER) And I… I told Bob. I
said, you never got such notices in your life, as when I
played A MUSIC MAN. (LAUGHTER) But that … that’s in some
people’s minds. But … no, you just have to attack the
role as if no one’s ever … how … who … who was the
first Hamlet? Well I… I think …
It’s up for grabs, so anybody can play can play it. That’s all.
I think what’s been happening is… is… is more and more
of stars taking over roles. And it’s not replacing. It is
putting their own stamp… They better.
… on a role. And … and I… I constantly hear people say to me, I don’t know how X
was so great. Because when I saw so and so’s performance, it was absolutely marvelous.
And … and that happens more and more,’as people are doing that. It … it … at one
time if you replaced someone, it was something that … oh well, I was just doing it. But
now, you put your own stamp on it. And that’s what’s important. And that’s what you’re doing
now in M BUTTERFLY, Tony. And it’s… Who was the original Felix? (LAUGHTER)
Would you go on. Who was?
I know when I played(VOICES OVERLAP) Wrong! Art Carney.
Really? Yeah.
I know when I did AS YOU LIKE IT for the first time, I was really puzzled. Because you know,
you think well this is Shakespeare, this wonderful comedy. And and and I played a record, which
amongst a bunch of old records that my father had got of one scene of Edith Evans playing
with and he was playing Orlando. And it had been recorded by the BBC and put onto a record.
And I listened to it again and again and again, until I knew every route she’d been on that
one scene. There were she hadn’t recorded any other scenes. And I didn’t change a thing.
Because because it was like an A to Zed. You know, if you’re going into a major city, and
you don’t know your way, and you don’t you’d be crazy not to turn to somebody who really
does know the way, and say well the best way, if you want to come out alive, is that you
go down this avenue, take a turn on the thing. You halt there for a few minutes, wait till
the traffic light. And – and that’s what I did, listening to this scene. And because
I did that, that gave me a breakthrough to understanding something that I could never
have understood in a million years. And nobody would have ever been able to explain to me
… only her voice and the chart that she’d made, as it were, of precisely how she phrased
all her sentences. Bob?
As Miss Redgrave has suggested, I think the theatre is such
a continuum, and … and so much we … we get from our…
from those who have gone before us in our memories or in
things we’ve read … things we’ve witnessed … even just
kind of spirits sometimes. I… I happen to have worked
with Robert Preston in a film some years before I did MUSIC
MAN. And … he was … he was a riveting personality. And
I’m sure I was… I was haunted somewhat by his spirit, and
a little … and chased by it on stage too. So … so these
things are both negative and positive. But but with
theatre, we … we take what is given to us and we pass it
along. And my greatest dream is that some day, somebody
will have an acretion [sic] that he lifted from me in
something. And … and I think there’s … there’s great
redemption in the theatre because of that. Well in the old days, it used to be… I mean
it was a piece of business was handed down, from generation
to generation. And… and you felt lucky if you
were allowed to do that piece of business. But now the…
for many good reasons, their attitudes are different. But
still… Some of my first work was with Michael Langham.
at Straford, Ontario and … at the Guthrie.
And I remember doing MERCHANT OF VENICE with him. And he
had been Tyrone Guthrie’s assistant when Tyrone Guthrie had
done MERCHANT OF VENICE with Dorothy Tooten. And I knew
I was getting some blocking and some ideas that they had
found, you know, then Michael had used and then I had gotten.
And it was really wonderful to feel a line in that way.
Because it’s very hard, particularly here, since…
I feel that Felix Unger is better known as a character all
over the world then almost any character that’s ever been
created. What do you think? (LAUGHTER) Yeah. I just look at my bank account, and…
(LAUGHTER) Would you like to ask a question?
I have a question for the panel, but more specifically for Miss Tischler. After having
spent some time in one of those forty hour a week classical conservatory programs, I
now find myself trying to beat the cycle of finding representation and work, and having
them say… talk to us when you have more experience. How do I get around that cycle:
Well, you should I think try to do showcase work in the
City, which you don’t need an agent for, you know. And an
agent wouldn’t be interested in it, because it’s not much
money. I think you also should try to go to the … the
hundreds of resident theatres around the country … that
… which is the … the biggest employment source, on any
Equity contract, is the resident theatres. And I think New
York… you’ll come back to if you want or not. But… it’s
important to work. And I think it’s to work … there’s
very few jobs here. Very few jobs here. May I ask a question? How do you … how do
you get your … your … your talent? Must it be submitted
by an agent? No, no.
Where do you find it? It’s a lot of ways. I mean, I … we go to
the theatre… Somebody who’s not working in a play. You
haven’t seen them, but … they want to be seen and heard
by you. What happens?
Well, I recommend people to … actors to directors of…
Uh huh. … usually his … whose work I know. And
I know it through going to the theatre about five nights
a week. And films too. Or holding auditions at … at
the Festival, at the … at my office. And to see the work
of new actors. And … and that’s how they come into the
process. So you need to get auditioned. And you need to work.
And you need to work….it’s hard to work in New York.
It’s … there’s more work outside of New York.
So … go west. … for each character, and then they select?
Well, I think more than three or four. I mean, it depends.
I mean, in a…in a … ten, fifteen actors (INAUDIBLE)
sometimes. Sometimes three or four, depending on the role,
you know. We’re … we’re working on MACBETH now, and you
know … there’s not a lot of Lady MacBeth’s in the world.
(LAUGHTER) Are the producers, the director … they often
make the final choice. (LAUGHTER) That’s wonderful. He said, how about you?
Would you like to (VOICES OVERLAP) Playing Lady MacBeth is (VOICES OVERLAP)
I know. I know. And there’s always … and there’s always
dinner theatre too, right? (LAUGHTER) First I want to … my name is Frank McGraw.
I’d like to thank Miss Stritch for starting the conversation
on the audience. I think that was very important.
Thank you. But my question is for Pamela Payton Wright. An
actor or actress I think spends so much time in their
training to become emotionally available. And you obviously
are very. And I … admire that work. How do you protect
yourself from the abrasiveness of this industry?
Oh. How do you mean protect? Well… Valium. (LAUGHTER)
I have a… Maybe … maybe Miss Brown might have a … an
answer to that, since she’s had some dealings with the
network. Well, they’re brutal experiences… (VOICES
OVERLAP) Thank you very much. I don’t think anybody
feels it’s abrasive that’s up on this panel. I think
everybody feels a love of an audience, and a…
Yeah, it’s a tough business. That’s another story.
… the love of what they’re doing. Yeah, I think he was talking about the business,
not the audience. Well…
The business itself. But still it’s… it’s still the business
that you chose. And it’s a wonderful… it’s a wonderful business.
Well it has (VOICES OVERLAP) The whole problem in… in the business is…is
working (VOICES OVERLAP) If you’re working, it’s a
wonderful business. When you’re out of work, it’s a…
it’s a nightmare.
It depends on how much you made on the time that you were
working. (LAUGHTER) And then you can go spend it and have a
lovely time. I think that’s fun. (LAUGHTER) To forget about
it for a while. No, quite seriously. But there’s a lot of
good … you know, I was just … looked at Vanessa and …
and winked. Because … no offense… because I’m just rape
… roping you into this. There’s a lot of terrible stuff
about the … excuse me … the business we’re in. There’s
a lot of negatives about show business. The rejection, the
sadness, the things that performers go through. My God! And
then there’s the other wonderful thing. I mean, why should
we be different than anybody else? I think it’s like
anything else. But it sure has its downs, Isabelle.
It has a tremendous amount… WOW! … I know. But you’ve … that’s what … well
you started this by saying, I knew that I had to do this.
Right. This is what I had to do, more than anything
else in the world … and therefore, I’m going to do it.
But I think you really have to do it. You have to.
You don’t think you could wake up in the morning if you
could do something else, to choose this. That’s right.
‘Cause it’s very painful. I think Jean wants to say something.
Well there’s still no business like show business. LAUGHTER
AND APPLAUSE) Well I think it’s an awful jungle … you
know, for many reasons… especially for the young people.
And I think the young and the older people have got a lot
of courage. Because they have to go through what I didn’t
have to go through when I was young. I think it is horrendous
business … absolutely horrendous. And it says a lot
for a lot of human beings … the fact that for moments,
when you’re working together, before you get it on, for
moments on the stage, for moments in an audience, you do
make something close to what it should really be like. But
mostly, I think it’s completely horrendous. And the young
people have got a really horrible time of it. (VOICES OVERLAP)
That’s my view. And I think they’re very brave. (APPLAUSE)
I can’t think of any better note to end this seminar on
Working in the Theatre. (LAUGHTER) It… it’s been
stupendous. It’s been a wonderful panel. And when I think
that everyone on this panel is working could be… (VOICES
OVERLAP) … could either be … having a nap, playing with
their family or … or just having a good lunch or staying
at home or singing or taking a lesson … have given up
their time and … to come to the Graduate Center of the
City University of New York to be with us today on this
panel. It’s just one of the seminars on Working in the
Theatre that the American Theatre Wing gives. We do one on
the performance. And we do one on the playwright/director. And we do one on the performance, on the production,
which is the whole show from option to opening,
from … this time from London to New York. And also, there
is a seminar on the design. This is … these are the people
that work in the creative end of the theatre. And there
is also an American Theatre Wing award to them, which
goes out into Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway. It has
nothing to do with the Tony Awards, which is what we are
best known for. But year after year, year after year, the
American Theatre Wing works throughout the year to bring what
is so good in the theatre … the talents and the time and
the concern. So thank you very much for being here. (APPLAUSE)

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