Performance (Working In The Theatre #181)


Welcome to the American Theatre Wing Seminars
on Working in the Theatre. These are coming to you from the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York, which is located right on 42nd Street, right
off 42nd Street, right off Times Square where the beat and the magic of live theatre is. Where Broadway, Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway
theatre all come together to share the wealth that is the magic of theatre. This is just one of the many programs of the
American Theatre Wing. But let me talk about the Tony Award. We are possibly very well known, as most of
you here know, for the Tony Award. It is not given for the longest run or the
greatest box office hit, but for the achievement and recognition of excellence in the craft
of theatre. And everything that the Wing does is based
on that. From our newest program, which is called Introduction
to Broadway, in which high school students are brought together, with the cooperation
of the Board of Education, high school division, and the wonderful producers of Broadway that
make available tickets so that we can provide theatre performances to youngsters who are
coming to the theatre for the first time. They pay a very minimal price for this, but
they do pay and they make the commitment to come to the theatre. Then we go all the way down to our Saturday
Theatre for Children Program, which is exactly that. It is a program in which the youngest children
come to school and they line up on Saturday mornings in order to see a live performance. From these two, the end of the children, the
very young children and the high school students, will come not only the enrichment that is
live theatre that nothing else can bring to them but live professional theatre, but future
audiences for the theatre. That’s what is so very important. They will come not because they’ve read a
great review, because they will have known what is good theatre, and as such they Will
come to see it no matter where it is. Our Programs that we have been doing, and
we’ve been doing for a very long time, we’ve had a very long run in this, and they all
come out of a wonderful woman’s concept. Antoinette Perry. In her honor, the Tony Award was created,
but also she had the thought that people had to give back, and there is, nothing like the
theatre for giving back. We have a program, our hospital program. It goes into hospitals and nursing homes and
AIDS centers. And we bring professional theatre, professional
entertainment into these institutions. The performers have one thing to say when
we thank them, and I’m constantly thanking people. It is always, well we get more out of it than
they get from it. And it’s a wonderful thing to hear. The seminars come out of our program for returning
veterans in which the Wing had a school. And in that school, returning veterans would
come and cross over from what it is to work in the theatre. From the producer’s standpoint, from the production,
and from the dance, all of these were open to them. And what they had, what they learned was then
brought out into the community. All of the Wing’s programs are based on that. We give education, we give enrichment, and
we give entertainment. And I am very proud to say that the American
Theatre Wing is able to call on almost anybody to help us in our programs. Today’s program, which is based on the performance,
is one of a series of seminars. And it is geared to give you an inside view
of what it is to work in the theatre. Of what it is to work in the theatre from
the aspect of the performer all the way through to the producer. With the playwright, the union, the set designer
in between, all telling the importance of how you must learn the craft of being in the
theatre. And today’s seminar on the performance is
being chaired by George White, who is President of the O’Neill Center of New London, Connecticut,
and is a director at Yale. He’s a very good friend of the Wing, and a
very staunch believer in training for the theatre. Jean Dalrymple, who is wearing her white hat
today, and Jean is a member of the Board and is an author, has been a director, and knows
every aspect of the theatre. I’m now going to turn these seminars over
to George and Jean who will introduce this very talented panel of performers to you. Thank you all for being here. Thank you, Isabelle. Just a little parentheses I’ve always thought
of Jean as always having a white hat, and being a white hat. So there we are. And I’ve asked her to marry me many times
and she won’t do it. On my far right, which is not a political
comment, is John Schneider, who is fresh from a tour of Brigadoon but was seen on Broadway
last in Grand Hotel. On his left is Tonya Pinkins, who is currently
in Jelly’s Last Jam. And on my immediate right is Lucie Arnaz,
who is in Lost in Yonkers. Well, way down there is Jay Binder of Binder
Casting, and he’s responsible for all the wonderful people in Lost in Yonkers. And he’s been making many changes, and doing
them all very brilliantly, as you know. And then a darling girl, Hallie Foote, is
next. She’s in The Roads to Rome playing at the
Lambs Club, and it’s a darling show and I hope you’ll all see it. And right next to me is one of my favorites,
my darling man, Gregory Hines. And of course you know he’s made the success
of his life in Jelly’s Last Jam. And make sure you don’t miss it; it’s just
wonderful. Great. I thought we might start, if we could, with
Mr. Binder since, appropriately, this is a casting director. And not that necessarily you all got here
by way of him, but you may have by some of his counterparts. And I’d like to ask you, if I may, Mr. Binder
a question that I’m sure is on everybody’s lips or certainly in their hearts is what
do you look for, how do you get a job what do you look for when you decide, Ah hah, here’s
somebody that, you know, I can take on or I will cast? Because we all hear about cattle calls and
all of that. What stands out, what triggers something for
you when you see a performer? It seems easy, what I want to say, but it’s
very true. When an actor auditions for a play or a musical,
we don’t choose the actor. The actor chooses us. When somebody comes in to audition for something,
and they grab that part and they make it theirs, then it’s an easy decision. Because they’ve decided. They walk in the room, they open their mouth. They’re that part, and they own it. And that’s what you look for. Because when someone walks in the room or
walks on the stage and they read a part, and there can be no argument amongst the creative
staff, because they own it, that’s what we look for. Now, that’s, you know, the ultimate thing,
and it does happen a lot. And then there are various degrees of ownership. But that’s what you look for, you look for
somebody who really understands it and hands it to you because it’s theirs. How many people do you invite to take that
chance? It all depends. It depends a lot on there are some plays and
some musicals that when you start to cast them, one person jumps to your mind. And if the director and the producer and the
writers agree with you, then that’s that one person. And if you’re fortunate enough the one person
wants to do it, is not donig a movie or is not doing a television show, who wants to
commit the time to the theatre, which is really what it’s all about, and what we’re against. Because we fight against television, we fight
against film in this country. And actors decide and commit to give their
time and their gifts to the theatre. Now, for a major musical you can see hundreds
of people. When we were doing Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,
which is an ensemble musical, and directed and conceived by a very, very discerning man,
we saw hundreds of thousands of people. But that’s the nature of the play, you know. In a play like Lost in Yonkers, for the two
kids, we have two young children in the show, we saw a tremendous amount of kids. For the adults it was very easy and it always
has been. Since the play opened, I mean, we’ve been
very fortunate that the people that we feel that have been right for the parts have wanted
to join us. In Lucie’s case, it was very clear the moment
that you stepped on the stage, it was yours. Let me pick up on that a little bit because
Lucie, you came into the show after, and had to, if you will, recreate a role by an already
Tony award winning actress. Yeah. Right. How did you make that role What did you do? First of all,. obviously you grabbed ahold of it and did
what we’re talking about but, you know, I would think that whether you have to Put out
of your mind the person previously, or… Well, you just can’t even think about it,
I mean, if you dare think about it then you’ve started off on the wrong foot already. It never even occurs to me what she did or
didn’t do. And I remember that the first time I saw Lost
in Yonkers, Mercedes Reuhl was playing that part, and I was devastated by the part. I couldn’t have been any more emotionally
moved than I was. But several months later when I was approached
I was approached actually one time earlier than that, but I was in Los Angeles with my
family at the time, and I couldn’t make that commitment to change, at that time. And so I thought, Well, see, timing timing
is everything. There goes that chance. And as it turned out, I moved back to New
York permanently and I had a whole other plan for my life. I had nightclub engagements at Rainbow and
Stars, I was going another direction altogether, you know. And I got that call, and I thought, Oh my
God, third replacement. I haven’t been on Broadway since They’re Playing
Our Song. This is not a career move. And then I remembered the part, and I said
I want to do that part. I want that part on my resume and I want people
to know that I can do that part. And I went and I looked at the part. And I had to audition overnight, I had no
time to prepare. I didn’t even get the proper script. I only just remembered how it affected me
emotionally, who I thought that girl was, how it connected to me or I wouldn’t have
been emotionally dissolved like that. And I literally cold read for it, but something
in it must have been me that was true. And of course I went and worked on it after
that, but I worked on it my way, through my experiences and not trying to redo something
somebody else did. And I guess it works better that way. And nobody wanted I mean, the one thing that
we’ve always tried to do in that play is not try and recreate what was, and not expect
any actor who goes into the play to give the performance that has been given previously. Because it will never live that way. It’s a breathing thing. Performing doesn’t work that way, anyway. You only go from what’s inside of you, and
if it’s similar to someone else, it will only be that. Similar, it will never be the same. See, because we talk a lot about the part
“falling out” of somebody. You know, and so, yeah, you do need to prepare
for an audition, and anyone that says you don’t is wrong. But, there are points and there are times
like, in Lucie’s case, where she didn’t have a lot of prep time. And her agents, although she’s got fabulous
agents, happened to get her the movie script instead of the play. But it was close enough and she came in. And what Lucie did, which is something that
all actors should learn in the audition process, is she said to Gene Saks and to Manny Azenburg,
Listen, guys, I’m not going to run around the stage. I’m not going to just give this performance
at this moment, because I can’t. I’m going to sit down on the sofa In fact,
we were on the set of Jake’s Women, which was so ridiculous. And so Lucie sat on the sofa and said, I’m
going to sit and read it. But you can just tell. The next day she came back and she went out
overnight and then began to show us the results of what she’d thought about. Can I ask you what on earth made you want
to play that character? She was such a disagreeable old woman and
you’re such a lovely person Wait, I’m playing the younger woman. I’m playing Bella. Oh, Bella, that’s the best part …. Someday I’m going to play the older woman. Not yet. Not yet. I want to go to Hallie. Okay. Yeah, we’ll get back to that in a minute,
Jean. Hallie, you have the – ¬I know from a personal
point of view that when you’re dealing in the family, and certainly Roads is a family
affair I would, I don’t know as I myself would want to work and be directed by my father,
who also wrote a piece. What is that like? You tell me, disagree with me. It’s not bad. It’s not bad? No, he’s a wonderful director. And actually I think he understands his work
better than anybody in some ways. So, it’s been a real joy working with him. I often joke with him and say sometimes we
get along better when we’re working together than in our personal lives. Because we kind of leave everything outside
the door. You don’t bring that baggage with you? No, that part of it’s been I’ve heard people
do have problems and some people don’t, but we don’t. Did you have to audition for the role? For this part, no, I didn’t. I have auditioned for other things for him,
but not this one. There’s a moral there, isn’t there? If you are out of work, just have your father
write a play. I guess. No, but that’s unfair because you’re wonderful
in it. But that is an interesting thing that you,
sometimes people bring, you know, in a family they sometimes know too much. And therefore Well, I think I certainly have an understanding
of what he’s written about. mean, because he does write about people that
I know. I wasn’t raised in the part of Texas that
he writes about, but I’ve been around those people. And I think I understand them. Speaking of a family affair, that brings me
to Mr. Hines, who started, I mean, I guess next to Mozart, who was half a year older
than you when he started performing at three, I guess you started at two and a half with
the family. Which I guess is a pretty good way to enter
the business perhaps. But tell me about how you parlayed that into,
I guess your Broadway debut was Eubie, as I remember. Isn’t that right? Actually, the first time I was on Broadway
was in 1953 in a show called A Girl in Pink Tights. My brother and I. But Eubie in ’78 was the first time as a solo
artist, yeah. And did you find that when you That long experience
must have paid off for you just in terms of, I would think, a certain kind of confidence
with auditions and things like that, isn’t that so, or not? Not so much auditions as much onstage. Just over the years, I think that a degree
of self confidence I began to feel more self confident, but auditions have always been
I’ve always felt insecure going into auditions. I have tremendous respect for the casting
process and I know that what you said is true, that most of the time casting people are not
really sure what they’re looking for, but when they see it, they can recognize it. It’s just that for me, I think in my heart
of hearts I always resented the fact that I couldn’t just walk in and they would say,
You’re the man we want. And there would be 15 or 20 other men there
who some of them, I would be aware of their talent. And that would also make me feel insecure. And even though it’s not 300 like a cattle
call, the fact that there are some other people there trying to get the parts, it’s hard to
be relaxed and go in and do one’s best work. But after auditioning for a few things, and
maybe staying in the running for a couple of callbacks and maybe not getting it, or
then maybe getting a couple, I began to get a bit more secure at auditioning. But even now it’s still, when I was just listening
to what you went through auditioning on another stage, not even a stage, another play It’s
really tough to feel confident in those situations. Tell me, why do they audition stars? Well, they don’t always audition stars. But he was absolutely perfect for the part. There are some people that don’t audition. But I must tell you if an actor, no matter
how big a star they are, an actor is an actor. And if you hand them a script and in their
heart they have to do this play, they have to do this movie they’re going to audition. I meai~, if the producer and the director
say, We think you’d be terrific in it, but you have to come in and read, you have to
read it. If an actor really wants to do something,
you will know that they’re going to come in and read for you in a shot. If they’re waffling around, the agent doesn’t
. . . but I mean if somebody If Gregory were in a situation by which if Jelly’s Last Jam
were in a situation where someone had handed it to you in another situation, and you had
read this. And if you had really wanted to do it, you
would have auditioned for it. Yes, definitely. If you had waffled, said, Well, I don’t know,
then maybe you wouldn’t have. You would have said, Make me an offer. I was just going to say that I love to audition. It is my most favorite thing in the world. It is the only time when it is absolutely
yours. I’m a control person. When I audition, I get to direct it, I get
to make that character whoever I want it to be, and so it’s wonderful. I set my beginnings and endings of it, and
I make it my own little play. And it’s this wonderful thing for me that
I love to do, and whenever I can walk away from an audition knowing that I had an exciting
experience in that process, it doesn’t even matter to me whether I got the job. Because generally I know if they didn’t like
that, we weren’t going to have a good time working together because I shared with them
what I liked. It’s so healthy. I want to hold off with what you’re going
to say for a minute, because I want to hear about John. How did you feel about … ? I would have crawled over hot coals to audition
for Grand Hotel. And did, and had to come from the mountains,
I live in the mountains so I had to go quite a distance. I do, I live in the mountains …. We knew that. … and it was quite a thing, but when I heard
that as you say, when you ¬- I’d seen Grand Hotel, and I wanted it. You know, it wasn’t in the offing at the time,
I just wanted. You know, if it ever comes up, folks around
me, let me know. I really want to go try to get that. But by the same token, there are things, when
you’re in this business there’s opportunity to audition for a lot of things and it’s hard. You know, maybe two or three things come up
in your acting life that you just have to do. And I love what you just said, because there
are times that the question after an audition from your agent, from whoever, is always Well,
how did you do? And, you know, in any other business you’d
say, Well, I did great; and therefore, the job would follow. In this business, it’s so wonderful, you can
go in and do a terrific audition and not get the job. Absolutely. But isn’t it nice to know when you walk out
I did that a couple of weeks ago, a month ago, I auditioned for something and I walked
out and I thought, you know, that was really fun. If I never do anything else with this project,
I know that I’ve taken my shot, I’ve directed my little play, and it was a delight. Film, it’s a whole different story. Film, you audition for, you know you read
a page of dialogue, half a page of dialogue, you know it’s not the same as a play. It’s a frightening, frightening thing You’re auditioning for the camera, aren’t
you? Pardon me? You’re audition for the camera to see how
you…. You’re auditioning for the camera, yes, but
you’re also auditioning with someone who is not in the profession that you’re in. They don’t do what you do so, you know, you’re
there And I’m one of these people that likes to have the lights. You know, in Dukes of Hazzard if I had to
act like I was driving a car I would have been awful. I mean, thank God there was a car there for
me to drive. And the audition process is you sit down in
a chair, and they say, Okay now you’re in a ’48 Studebaker and somebody just threw a
bomb in the car, what do you do? I’m sitting in a chair. At least turn the lights off or something. It’s frightening. Television is the worst to audition for. Isabelle, can I just make a comment? That I am feeling very old today, because
you know I did 150 shows at City Center and I just said I want this one and I want that
one, and I want that star, and I want this one… And that wa s it. I never auditioned anybody. This is a whole new thing to me. Work was harder to get then, but in a sense
it was easier because everybody knew each other. Communities were small. And producers were in business as Jean was,
and year after year she was there, and she knew just who to call. And that made life a little bit simpler both
for the performer and the producer as well. It’s changed, as we all knew. Evidently. But you’ve all managed the change very well. I’d like to find out how you got to this,
where you came from. What’s your background? I’m very happy to hear it too. That’s our favorite’question, that’s our generation. I’d like to, if I may, start with Tanya about
this because you have moved also from the straight plays to musicals. Where did you start, how did you start and
how did you make the shift, and who did you tell about that so people wouldn’t say, Oh
you’re just a, you don’t do musicals … ? along with floors and windows or whatever…. Actually my story is the opposite story. I started out in Chicago when I was about
fifteen, starting at the St. Nicholas Theatre with Stephen Schachter and Greg Mosher and
David Mamet. And when I was seventeen Greg Mosher had taken
over the Goodman, and I got to do a play in my senior year in high school and went away
to the Kennedy Center and did that play. And then my first year in college, I was going
away for Christmas break and my teacher from grammar school called and said, They’re auditioning
for the new Hal Prince Steve Sondheim musical. Come home. I’m like, I’m going to Puerto Rico. You know, I.m not going to get a Broadway
show. And he said, No, you have to come and audition
for this. I said, Well, am I going to see Hal Prince? He says, No, you have to go through the casting
director first, and then you have to go to Hal Prince. And I said, Forget it, I’m not coming, I’m
going on my vacation. But he succeeded in convincing me to come
back. And I got through the first audition with
the casting director, got through an audition with Hal Prince and was brought to New York
and cast in Merrily We Roll Along like two months into college. And that show started a year later. So I came to New York in a musical. And then spent about the next four years not
being able to get auditions for straight plays because everybody said, You’re a singer, you’re
a musical actress. You were pegged. So I then did a soap opera and did musicals
at the same time, and left the business. Got married, had children and went back to
acting school with a man named William Esper, and decided that when I came back I was only
going to do straight plays, and started off with Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Piano
Lesson. And when Jelly’s Last Jam came up, the only
reason that I was willing to do it is because I knew that if it was George Wolfe, it would
not be the kind of work that anybody would go, Oh that’s musical theatre acting. That I would get a chance to do work that
nobody would say, Oh you’re just a~musical theatre actress. And that’s why I took that chance. I hope that it pays off and that I don’t get
pegged again, but I did go that route. The other things I wanted to say is that I
did Jelly’s Last Jam in L.A. at the Mark Taper Forum, we did it there for about four months,
and when the show got to come to New York again, I had to audition again to do the show,
for the workshop. So I was hurt, but I love this part so much
that it was important to me to go in. As my girlfriend said, Make sure the story
should be not that you wouldn’t go in and audition for them, but that you went in and
you did a fabulous job and they didn’t give you the job. That’s the better story. May I ask why did you have to do that? What was the reason for having you audition
again? Having seen you do all these performances
…. I think that they were not What I had done
was not what they had wanted. And when they saw me audition again, what
was conveyed to me was that the whole time I had done it, they always felt they wanted
the role to be done differently. And when they saw it in an audition process
later and they saw it compared with what they thought they wanted, they realized that this
was the better way to go. Hallie, I wanted to ask you,what was your
beginnings as an actress? I began late. My father is a writer and I’ve sort of been
around the business all my life. He was always determined to sort of keep us
as far away from it as possible. So I grew up in New York until I was sixteen
and then they moved us to New Hampshire. And I went to college I got married, I didn’t
really I was sort of floundering. And one day I just decided I wanted to try
acting. So I was about twenty it was late, for most
people, I guess, I was like 23, 24. I remember saying to my father, I think I’d
like to try acting. And there was this pause. I think he thought, you know, he’d sort of
escaped having to deal with that, and he said, Well, if.you want to do this, you should study
with somebody. So I ended up going to Los Angeles and studying
with a woman named Peggy Fury and a man named William Traylor. And I studied for about three, four years,
and then I came to New York and started working. Right away? Mm hmm. Actually, I did a play of my dad’s, he brought
me here. At HB. And that was it. Gregory, you weren’t in the Los Angeles production
of Jelly’s Last Jam, were you? No. What happened? Well, after having been involved with the
development of this show from I guess 1985 up until ’90
it was in ’90 or ’91 that you did it in Los Angeles,
right? It was ’91. It had gone through a lot of different changes
and George Wolfe had come aboard, and I really had tremendous respect for George and what
he had done. But he had made some changes in it that I
didn’t like. And at that point George and I had a real
argument, and I felt that I didn’t want to go any further. As you know, my wife is one of the producers
so I felt very connected to the piece. But at that point I felt like that wasn’t
the piece that I wanted to do. And George wanted to do that and he wanted
to see it; he wanted to put it up in Los Angeles and see it. So at that point, for all intents and purposes,
I was out of it. And Pamela, my wife, she continued to encourage
me to come see it in Los Angeles and try to stay open to it. And that she still wanted for us to have this
experience together, her producing and me being in it. And then I went to see it in Los Angeles,
and when I saw it, I saw what George was trying to say. And I saw that he didn’t have it completely
together, but what he did have together I thought was great. And at that point I got back in touch with
George, and George was open to me. I was very grateful that he wasn’t, you know,
that he didn’t say look, you know…. We began to talk about it again and so I was
back on board, and very happy to be back on board. Then were you on the tour? No, at that point, the show had its run at
the Mark Taper and then the following November we organized a workshop, and did a workshop. Because even though the show was a tremendous
success at the Taper, it was still almost impossible for them to raise any money because
of the nature of the piece. It’s not, and was never under George Wolfe,
a musical for the stage that is typical of African American musicals. it’s an absolute breakthrough. Yeah, there were elements that were shocking,
very disturbing and very original. So original. So it was, you know, potential investors were
hesitant to invest in that because they thought, you know, it’s too dark. No pun intended. But at that point I was very happy to be back
involved and the process of working You know I feel the same way as Tanya about George
Wolfe now. You know, the process of working with George
has shown me that it is possible to perform in a musical under someone like George Wolfe
and not be typecast as someone who is just a musical performer, because it demands so
much more. Also shows that wives know best. No commercials, please. Lucie, we were talking about people who grew
up sort of in the business. And we have actually three people here for
sure who have done that. I hate nepotism, don’t you? I’m not sure about that. I’m just kidding. Me too. But again, sometimes that’s an advantage,
sometimes it’s a disadvantage. Tell us about your beginnings. Well, I mean I think it helps, it clearly
helps to be around people who love to do what you want to do and do it well. I mean, you watch a great shoemaker make a
good pair of shoes, you could learn from the best. If it bores you to make shoes, you won’t learn,
no matter what. It’s something I wanted to do from a very
early age, and I went about it backwards. Most people work doing a little play here
and there and whatnot, and try to get a television series one day. I started on a television series that was
in the top ten for six years, and I learned a lot of good things, because we worked with
a lot of famous people. Every week they had a guest star, I mean everyone
from Wally Cox to Carol Burnett to the Burtons. And you can certainly learn from watching
other people do what they do, right or wrong, you know. But you also pick up a lot of bad habits because
you’re on a weekly three camera, audience oriented, stand on your mark and speak up
And, you know, it’s very cut and dried. You develop a lot of bad habits. And Vivian Vance was a constant guest star
in the last years of Here’s Lucy. And one year, I guess it was about 1973, she
said to me, What do you do on your hiatus? Which is the time they give you off from making
the show. And I started to list all of the beautiful
vacation spots. And she said, Girl, you’re from the theatre
because I used to do plays in high school, and I had my own little theatre company in
the garage when I was about ten, and she remembered that and she said, Your first love is the
stage, don’t you get stuck in a situation comedy for your life. Now, coming from somebody who had probably
the best part in show business as Ethel Mertz, I listened and I thought My God, she’s right. She has. It’s been hard for her to get out of being
typecast as that. And I took her words to heart and I started
auditioning. And a season later I spent my hiatus doing
Cabaret and Once Upon a Mattress and the whole summer circuit, and the breaks of all that,
and learning from that. Which led to my auditioning for Michael Bennett
and did the national company of Seesaw. Which talking about directors who will not
set you off like a musical comedy performer, I mean, nobody could work with anyone better
than Michael. In that respect, he taught me so much about
being real and not going for the laughs. And that led to Annie Got Your Gun in Jones
Beach for a summer, and things like that, and Neil Simon and They’re Playing Our Song. I don’t know where I’d be today if she hadn’t
said that to me. What was the first to Broadway? The first Broadway show was They’re Playing
Our gong. Interestingly enough, talk about auditioning
and not knowing whether you did a good job, I was the second person I think that Neil
and Manny saw. I auditioned here in New York while I was
in Annie Got Your Gun, and I sang two songs that I wrote. I’m sort of a closet lyricist myself and I
thought, Well that’s good, she’s a lyricist, I’ll sing something I wrote. And I forgot my lyrics. I was so nervous. And when it was over Neil came up and, I’ll
never forget it, because he came up on the stage and he took my hands, and he kissed
my hands,and he said, You’re such a breath of fresh air. And I didn’t hear from him for six months. Three months, whatever… They saw everyone in show business after me,
and I thought, Well, I was terrible. I must have been the worst thing they They
had like appointments. You do that. Appointments to see people here in and California,
and I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because that part was
my part. I knew that was my part and I would just go,
Oh God, I have to play that part. And sure enough, it came back around. I mean I read that everyone from Cher to Bette
Midler to everyone had that part. Everybody’s PR agent was working overtime. Next thing I knew they said come back, Marvin
wants to hear you sing, and you’ll go to the theatre and you’ll sing for Marvin. And I got it, I couldn’t believe it, I thought
I’d lost it months ago. So, you never know. John, where did you come down to the hills
from? Where did I come down from the hills? I’m from New York, from a little town called
Mount Kisco, New York, which is not far. And my father was in automobile upholstery
and general aviation, and my mother worked for IBM, so naturally I wanted to be in the
theatre. Makes sense to me. It was as unusual as sitting one Fourth of
July, watching a movie called Yankee Doodle Dandy, I was eight years old. And there was Jimmy Cagney singing and dancing
and acting and doing the most wonderful job, but having the most wonderful time. And as I said, I was eight years old, I weighed
close to 200 pounds at the time. I was pretty heavy, I can’t say I was ever
a little boy, I was a heavy big boy. And decided that that’s what I wanted to do. Grew up watching lots of television, grew
up going to the movies. Saturday was always matinees and double features. And I thank God that it was that movie, because
there was someone who could legitimately justify being on the stage, musicals, being a dramatic
actor as well. And also being in the movies. Jimmy Cagney in that movie was really all
things to all thespians. And the first play I did was The Mikado up
at Foxlane, they had a summer theatre company that they did there. Then I did Li’l Abner. Li’l Abner was 35 years old, which at the
time seemed ancient. I was playing one of his friends, I was almost
six feet tall and I was nine years old. Yeah, it was very strange. Jump to when you get older. Yeah, get older quick. There was a lot of things that happened, there
were a lot of plays and things between eight years old and Dukes of Hazzard. Dukes of Hazzard started when I was eighteen. Did you get some training in the interval? Not officially. It was more on the job training. I did about 15 musicals, a couple of plays. In the meantime, the Board of Education in
Atlanta, I went to high school in Atlanta, gave me credit somehow, I don’t know how It’s
like I’ve kind of been nurtured along by people all along the way. They gave me a language credit and an English
credit and a music credit for writing and being in and travelling with a children’s
theatre show in Atlanta. Dukes of Hazzard came from a cattle call audition
in Atlanta. I went in and I just More than just wanted,
I knew it and I don’t know how, but like you said, I thought, Someone has been following
me around and wrote this for me. Here I am from New York playing a southerner. But auditioned for that there, and then came
out for a similar audition process you’re talking about, was five and a half weeks in
Los Angeles with a screen test thing happening. But I would audition, I would rehearse with
people all week and then audition for the network. Whichis like sitting around in a roomful of
people in suits going like this. So I did that at eighteen years old for five
and a half weeks, and any given moment we’d either be sent home with a pat on the back
saying thank you, or sent home with a job. And finally by the time that they found Tom
Wopat Thank God they found Tom Wopat from an old audition. He auditioned months earlier here in New York,
he was doing I Love My Wife, and he went to some audition for some show called Dukes of
Hazzard, and six months later they called him and brought him out to pair him up with
me to see how the two of us looked. And the next day, I got the call, you know,
you and Tom Wopat are the Dukes of Hazzard. And we started a week later in 1978, we started
back in Georgia twenty miles from where I went to high school doing this show. But that was five and a half weeks of hell
because the carrot wasn’t in the next room, the carrot was right there. Could I say a word? Because really I feel so strange, I really
feel as though I’m on a different planet. It’s all completely changed, and it’s not
very long since I was producing, a couple of years. But it’s all different. There’s been extraordinary changes taking
place. And I have learned so much that I think now
I’ll go back into producing. We could use you. It sounds much easier, having these casting
directors and auditions and all of that. What happened on Broadway? I’m going to get back to you, John. What happened on Broadway? I saw Grand Hotel and some things were happening
behind with my agent, with managers, with folks that they knew that a part was going Have you been studying singing, have you been
studying… ? I started singing from another thing just
kind of pushing me along. I was an asthmatic little boy and one of the
things the doctors told me to do was blow up balloons to increase my lung capacity. And you can ask my brothers, ask my father,
my stepmother, I was always out in the backyard singing, making a loud noise. For whatever reason, I don’t know. And that turned into a very loud, very overweight,
very…. It’s amazing you got anywhere. It is, it is. When I got a call to come audition for Tommy
in Los Angeles, I came off the mountain, as it were Tommy Tune. Tommy Tune. And auditioned for the show down there and
sang this wonderful song called “Love Can’t Happen.” And, as I told you, it was something I really,
really wanted to do. My name is Schneider, and it was one of those
other things where I thought, This baron, this German baron, I mean won’t this be wonderful
if I can get to do this? So I went and auditioned and I learned much
later that what you said is absolutely true, it was true in The Dukes of Hazzard, they
just had to fight for it because there’s a lot of other people. other than the director or the producer that
they have to convince. And Tommy trying to convince Broadway that
this guy that they best remember for jumping in and out of a car, can play a German baron
circa 1928 He had some convincing to do. So I came back a month later, they had me
come back and audition for the money. And make no mistake, you audition for the
money. What does that mean? That means the producers, the people whose The backers. The backers, the people whose dollars and
cents are on the line. Sang for them in a great thing, you know,
the light is in your eye, you have no idea who’s out there, you don’t know if there’s
one person or 20 or who they are. You know, it’s this kind of thing and you
sing your song, you act your singing, and they say Thank you. And then you wonder. But I didn’t wonder long because the next
day, they made the call. And about a month later I was on the same
stage rehearsing for two weeks I don’t know if you know this or not, and apparently this
is pretty rare to even have this much time. Tom Wopat just went into Guys and Dolls with
a week’s rehearsal. Grand Hotel, everybody was already doing the
show, they had done it for quite some time. I was the new kid on the block and had two
weeks to learn all the blocking and learn the songs and learn everything. How many people were working with you in those
two weeks that were in the cast? No one. No one that’s in the cast. You work with the stage manager and the dance
captain. Does everybody come in at any point? Right before I opened on a Monday. Pardon me, Friday before the Monday I opened
is what they call a put in. And that’s where the cast comes in, drags
themselves in out of their regular lives and does an extra show that day for the new kid
on the block. And there were 33 people in Grand Hotel, 32
other than me. So it was quite an experience. What about you, Lucie, is it the same? Yes, it’s exactly the same, and I got two
weeks. But you don’t get a real two weeks if you
work on the set because you can’t rehearse on matinee days, and you know there are two
of those, three of those. Can’t use the props. No matinees. So basically it was about seven days all told. And yeah, you work with the understudies. I worked with the understudies and the stage
manager until the day before with the put in. And it was sufficient for what we did because
three of us went in at one time. We had Anne Jackson and Steve Inovich and
I all went in, which was wonderful. That really was a huge decisiorf on my part
as to whether I wanted to go in at that point. Because I thought, well, they’re really going
to change over a whole part of the company. We were lucky. Yeah, that was lucky, but we’ve put in four
people since then. New children, new fathers, new grandmothers,
and each time we have to go back and do the put¬in rehearsal, and I’m on the other side
now. I go, Do we have to go through this again? It’s fun. Isn’t it fun? With Grand Hotel, the people there were so
wonderful. Because the Baron wanders around a lot in
the hotel and if you don’t sit in the right place you’ll get run over, or you’ll get tripped
over and they don’t want either one of those things to happen. So I’d go to sit down and have my cigarette
case and things, and one of the bellhops Tommy Tune cast short and tall, there are very few
people in the middle and one of the bellhops would come and say, Excuse me, sir, you don’t
really want to sit there, do you? I had to go into My One and Only. They did the national, international company
of My One and only, and Sandy Duncan left and I replaced Sandy, and I was in it for
nine months but I replaced her. It’s just like being put in a Cuisinart. I mean you can’t believe it. When you would jump rope as a kid, you know,
you do the jump rope and you have to jump in without getting tripped. Going into a musical was like that – In front of a sold out house. But you just touched on that both of you. You said that the cooperation of the people
already in the show, despite the fact they do one more show, but they were cooperative
and they were good and they do help. Also, if a show’s been running a long time,
six months, any new blood is an infusion. It wakes you up while you’re out there, it’s
a new reading, a new, you know, thank God. Even no matter how good a performance is you
can use a little wake up. Wake up, hello. You really can’t work alone. Gregory, it’s been ten years since you’ve
been on a seminar, and that was Sophisticated Ladies, I guess. Yes. Can you remember how you wanted that part? You described it so graphically, I think. Well, I remember Rubio actually. It was the part in Rubio that I wanted because
I had been living in Los Angeles, and I’d come back to New York, and a couple of days
after I got back I got a part in this musical that was called The Last Minstrel Show. Which it actually turned out to be, the very
last minstrel show. It closed in Philadelphia, But as it was closing
in Philadelphia, they were having auditions for Rubio which was going to be a review of
the music of the late Eubie Blake who, at the time, was 94. And so we heard about it, and we were coming
back. We knew we were.closing for good in Philly,
and the members Of Our company were coming back and auditioning. And I came back and I auditioned. And I thought I gave a great audition. And I was very turned on at the time because
I had gotten The Last Minstrel Show, and I felt like I was going to get this one, too. And I auditioned and then a couple of days
later I found out I didn*t get it. And I was really shocked. So what I did was I called up the producer,
Ashton Springer. He didn’t know me, he wasn’t at the audition,
there was a director and a couple of people…. I said, Look, my name is Gregory Hines and
I auditioned for Eubie and I was told I didn’t get it. I said there must be some mistake. I said there must be some kind of mistake
in communication, I said, because I can’t figure this out. He said, Well, I don’t know what to do. I said, Well, I’d like another audition. I said, I just feel that I’m the man for this
thing. So I called him up like four or five times
every day for about three days. And finally my agent, who really wasn’t my
agent, he was an agent for my brother who was like helping me out. And he said, Well, they said they’re going
to give you another audition. He said, I can’t figure this out. I said, Well listen, just When is it? So I go in and I audition again for the director,
and this time I just pulled out all the stops, I mean I just… I came out of there and I felt really good. So the next day I found out I didn’t get it
again. So now I called up the producer, and he said,
Look, I can’t interfere with my creative staff. I said, You don’t know what you’re doing. I’m hounding this guy, I’m instituting a reign
of terror on him. Then I find out that they guy they want, who
is a guy named Larry Marshall, very talented guy He was in Paris doing Porgy and Bess. And so they wanted him, and they’re calling
him and calling him. So I thought to myself, well, I feel like
I gave the best I could give, you know, I’ve hounded him enough, that’s that. So now, two nights later, I’m over at my ex
wife’s house and I’m giving her a check for our daughter to go to camp. You know, I had like 350 bucks in the bank,
I’m giving her like a check for 250. And her phone rings, in her house. She picked up the phone, she says, It’s a
woman for you. So I think, Oh, this is exactly what I need
to complete my week. So I get on the phone, the woman says Is this
Gregory Hines? I says, Yes. She says, Well I calling for Ashton Springer,
and, you know, you’ve got the part in Eubie. And you know, I tell you, just talking about
it I feel that emotional feeling. First of all I’m trying to explain to my ex¬wife
that this is what happened. You know, she took the check and said, you
know, Get out of here. I actually went out of her house this was
in April I went out of her house and I was dancing down the street, I was like Gene Kelly. I was actually in the street clicking my heels
up in the air. And from that point on I realized that in
addition to those feelings of self confidence and how we have to prepare ourselves to audition,
we also have to have tremendous aggression. I think it takes tremendous aggression to
try to get work in this business. A lot of other talented people, not that many
opportunities, and it takes something more’ than just when somebody says Thank you. I think that’s also a classic example of the
tenacity that’s needed in the theatre. The confidence that you know that you’re good
and that you want the job, and keep going back for it. And I think it’s a wonderful story, I’ve never
forgotten, and I think it should be used by almost everyone that has to go through the
process of auditioning. I did absolutely the same thing with Seesaw. I mean, Seesaw was my biggest break, if I
could do the national company of some show and to audition for Michael Bennett and to
be in a show with Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, Tommy Tune. It was the beginning of all of these, you
know, certainly Tommy’s first big break. And I auditioned here in New York, and I did
what they told me to do, I sang a ballad and read a scene. Because that’s what they didn’t think I could
do. And I did it really w ell. I worked with David Craig for years and years
and years, I mean I knew what I was doing. And I was told it was a Thanksgiving holiday,
God forbid you ever audition on a Thanksgiving holiday because everybody leaves town right
after the audition on Thursday. And I went back to my hotel, I had flown in
from L.A., and I called and they said, Well, they’ve all gone away for the Thanksgiving
holidays so we won’t know until Monday. So I had to stay four extra, whatever, in
case they wanted me to come back. And Monday morning they called and they said,
No, you didn’t get the part. And I went No. Yes I did. No, I did. I said, Wait a minute, find out why. They were ready to just tell me no and go
on. And I found out by asking and asking and asking
that it was Cy Coleman who said, I don’.t think she can belt which means, belting singing,
you know, up very loud. I said, Well they didn’t ask me to belt, they
specifically said ballad I said, Well, where did he go? He was going to be in L.A. I went back to
L.A., found out where he was, forced him to sit down and listen to me sing again, and
I got the part. I sang every song Ethel Merman ever recorded. Hallie it doesn’t always turn out that way,
I know, but it shows that it can turn out that way. It can, absolutely, especially if you feel
it so strongly that you think there’s some terrible mistake. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful piece of advice
to have. It can happen in reverse, too. I wanted to ask Hallie before we have to change,
how do you feel about this? Did you ever have to I wish I was more aggressive. I’m going to try and be
more aggressive. We’ll support you. Would you go knocking back, would you go on
and on… ? I think maybe I’ll try that next time. I’ve got a sense sometimes. Sometimes you do know. one time I had a director follow me out of
an audition, and I thought, I’ve got this part. He followed It was the strangest thing, I’ve
never had that happen before or since. I was auditioning for Separate But Equal for
George Stevens, and he followed me out and asked me who I ended up playing Burt Lancaster’s
daughter, but he said, Who would you like to play your father if you played this part? And I thought he’s going to give me this part. And he did. That was very nice. Mr. Binder, you said it can happen in reverse. I was going to save him for when we come back,
because we’re going to have to take a break. So hold on to what you want to say. Tanya, what about you? I’ve never gone after a part like that. I really The’only time I’m insistent about
being seen again and I’ve gotten to the point where now if, in the middle of an audition
I don’t think I did it well, I’ll stop and say, Let me do it again so I can at least
leave with the sense of, You got what I do, and if that’s not it, fine. This is most unusual because almost on every
panel we’ve had, auditions bug performers. And here it’s been so enlightening to listen
to this. I think it’s also very enriching for people
to hear, that you can beat the system. You have to leave your ego in the trash can
on the way into the room. But you also have to have ego, too, to say
that I’m good and I know that I want it. Well, it’s a different kind of an ego thing,
it”s not a Why are they asking me to audition ego. You have to get rid of that guy and get the
other one that says, You’re doing this better than anybody else who can walk in this room
at this moment, and just show them how well you can do it. Yeah, you are right for it. We are going to have to break right now. And when we come back we’re going to have
questions both from the audience and from me, and from everybody on the panel. So just take a deep breath, and then come
right down. Everybody stand up and sit right down again. We’re continuing the American Theatre Wing
Seminars on Working in the Theatre. These are coming to you from the Graduate
Center of the City. University of New York. This panel is on the Performers. What it is to work in the theatre as a performer,
what it takes to get there, how you get there, how you hold on to it, and how you just have
to have guts, I guess is the word that we’ve been talking about, and talent as well. And today’s panel certainly has all of that. George White, who is co moderator with Jean
Dalrymple, is going to continue this discussion with these very fine and talented performers. Thanks, Isabelle. Before we were so courteously interrupted,
I wanted to I was about to ask Mr. Binder about, first of all, he had mentioned and
you had mentioned the business of, sometimes this aggression or chutzpah can work against
you. A little bit about that, and then because
we are going to go to questions, if you could begin sort of wrapping up by saying, telling
us a little bit about how you got your job and how you started, too. Which is a kind of a little take on these. We’ve all been talking about how badly, you
know, actors want a part. When we were doing Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,
it was a situation in which no one really knew what the show was going to be. And we knew from Jerry it was going to be,
you know, Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof and the Phil Silvers material from High Button
Shoes and Zero Mostel’s material from Forum. But we really didn’t know what the show was,
and we had a nebulous idea that there would be one person that would have to do all this
material, which I was going, Oh, God. You know, how can there be one person that
can really fill all these shoes? And we kept asking actors to come in to audition
for Jerry Robbins, and everyone kept saying, No, no, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be Zero Mostel, I don’t want
to be Phil Silvers. How can I, you know? And so we had a real problem. And I had decided that it should be somebody
young, that we should give new life to these shows. It’s the only way we were going to get around
it, you know, and make the shows fresh. And so I knew.that there was one actor that
I dreamt would play the part, because I wanted it to happen for Jason Alexander so badly
because, I mean, I’ve known Jason my whole life. And I knew he could do it all, and I knew
that Jerry Robbins would love Jason. And I kept calling Jason, he was in California. No, I don’t want to do it, no. Every day I would call him. No. His agents, Jason, his wife, everybody, you’d
get Stop calling. And finally, you know, because there was a
lot of material to learn before you audition for Jerry Robbins, like the whole show you
had to learn. Anyway, so finally I roped Jason into New
York, and I grabbed him, I said, You have to do this. We rehearsed the audition, and ten minutes
before he was supposed to come in for Jerry Robbins, he said I can’t do it, I don’t want
to do it, I don’t want to just be a narrator. I went Oh, God, what am I going to do? And Jerry Robbins, who is not a man of infinite
patience – I thought, this is it, I’m going to get fired, this is the end of it, he’s
just losing patience. And so I said, Just hang on. And so finally, and it was Memorial Day Weekend,
I’ll never forget it, at 890 Broadway, which is a large building of rehearsal studios that
Michael Bennett created for us in New York. We were sitting in a vast studio the size
of a football field and it was sunset. And it was just Jerry Robbins sitting at a
table at one end of this football field. We were all so nervous by that point, the
creative the rest of us, Paul Gemignani and all Jerry’s assistants, we’re all huddled
in a corner, and we’re all looking at each other going, This is it. And Jason finally came in, and to watch Jerry
Robbins weep when Jason Alexander did Tevye, was something that I will never, ever forget. And so finally Jason realized, I hope, that
this is what it could be. And so there are certain times when as wonderful
an actor without actors we’re nothing, there’s nothing for us to do except, you know, show
movies …. Let me get to that quickly because casting,
a casting agent, is a relatively newcomer in the theatre production. So how did you get to be a casting agent,
and where did you come from? I wanted to be an actor, and I was not very
good. And then I wanted to be a director, and in
those days, I couldn’t really get the kind of jobs I wanted. And so I knew a lot of actors, and I knew
that I liked actors and wanted to bring in that. And a very dear friend of mine who is responsible
really for my New York career named Leonard Solloway, who works for Manny Azenburg, called
me up and said, I’m doing a play called Lolita adapted by Edward Albee, directed by Frank
Dunlop, and we cannot cast the part. We cannot cast the girl. And he said, you know actors, why don’t you
come in? And so I came in and I met Edward and I met
Frank Dunlop, and the first thing that Edward said to me was, Now there’s a part in this
play of a one armed actor. And he said to me, Do you think that you can
find a one armed actor? I said, Left armed or right¬armed? And I got the job. Very good. Thank you very much. Hallie, what would be your advice and counsel
to people beginning in the theatre? You started, as you said, relatively late. Don’t do it if you don’t want it, because
it’s tough. But it’s very rewarding also, and I don’t
regreat ever making the decision to act. Are you staying in the theatre now, are you
going to go back and forth? I have to go back and forth, I think, just
economically. Why is that? Well, I think economically, you know, it’s
sometimes easier if you get a movie. But I love the theatre, I mean, I always want
to work in the theatre. And I miss it if I don’t work in it. Do you find What are the differences, do you
find this is not a simple question, but in scaling your performances, could you talk
a little bit about film, television, and theatre in terms of how you treat that as an actor? Well, I think each is a very different medium
and I think that when you’re acting onstage, it’s so immediate and the response is so different
every night. And you can hear people talking in the audience
and saying things, I mean, there’s just nothing like it. The energy. And I always miss it. It’s funny, the more I act onstage, the more
I realize it’s really where I feel the most comfortable in many ways. I love film for the results, and it’s sort
of a permanent record, you know, of your work, or a body of your work. But it’s not as immediate or as gratifying. It’s all kind of chopped up and it requires
a different kind of concentration, I think. So I think if I had my druthers, I shouldn’t
probably be saying this, but I think I would rather be able to do at least a play or two
a year, than anything else. Let’s hope you do. Right. Mr. Hines, what would you say about – Do
you have any advice, counsel? Well, I think that it’s very important to
be as well rounded or as versatile as one can be, to try to have a career in the theatre. I feel this way especially about African American
artists because there aren’t a lot of shows every season, maybe two or three at the most,
and maybe just one musical. Which means that there aren’t a lot of parts
available, and there is a very large African American community trying to get work in the
theatre. So I think it’s important to be able to, certainly,
act but also to be able to sing, move if not dance, and maybe even cultivate some kind
of individual skill, you know, acrobatics, juggling,
anything. There are some friends of mine who, they’ve
gone out for parts where they knew they could act
it and they could dance it, but there was a sixteen bar
song that they couldn’t sing, so they couldn’t get
the part. And I know so many people in the community,
they study every idiom,they work to try to be as well
rounded as they can. And I encourage that because I
think that ultimately there’s such a fine line between
what’s going to get you the part and what’s going to lose you the part. Just to add something on to what
Hallie said, I think also that it is a good thing to be
able to move back and forth between film and theatre. You know, there isn’t a lot of good feeling
between the people who are responsible for theatre and
the people who are responsible for film, because there’s
always, you know, What do you mean you want to go
do a play? I’m offering you a film here. And “What, a film? This is a great playwright, how could you?” But I think as an artist, it’s really good
to be able to move back and forth because the naturalistic aspect of acting on film
is helped by projecting on the stage, and vice versa. And I think that all these things make up
great artistry, the opportunity to move around. Was the Baryshnikov film the first movie that
you did? No, the first film I did was a movie called
Wolfen. And then came the Baryshnikov? No, then I did a film called History of the
World, Part 1. Was dancing involved in all of these? In the second film, a little bit of dancing. But the first dance film I did
was The Cotton Club. And I was very happy to be able to
get a chance to dance on screen. Advice, is that what you mean? Please, and counsel. I was sitting here trying to think what right
have I got to give advice? You know, we’re always still learning. But I guess the most recent thing that I learned
about myself really was my I think I had a wrong attitude about what to wait for to. come back to Broadway, for one thing. It’s a.terrible wait when you’ve never done
anything on a Broadway stage, and you get your first musical and it turns out to be
Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch and the biggest hit, you know, we were all here basically
around the same time. And it was overwhelming. It was just a huge, huge success. And a lot of things spun off from that and
Yes, I got married and I had three children, and I did a lot of tours and I could make
money. But I was waiting for that next part a little
bit better than Sonia Walls in They’re Playing Our Song. You know, the next step up, and it never came. Several parts came that I turned down wisely,
that were not good enough and did fail, and I thought, Well, at least I called that one
right. But I waited too long. And as I said,.when I came back We live here
now permanently in New York again, after four years in Los Angeles, trying to be all the
things that everybody else told me I was supposed to be, you know. You’re supposed to be in a television series,
don’t you know how much money you could make? Why aren’t you in feature films? And I just followed, everybody led me around
for four years like this. And I said, You know, I find it very phoney,
I don’t find it We’re not clicking out there. What I click with is the theatre and I always
have. And I came back and an opportunity presented
itself to me that was not what I thought I was going to wait for, you know, the lead
role Why aren’t I doing The Goodbye Girl? I mean, that’s all I wanted to know. And you know those two things came up at about
the same time, as a matter of fact. Getting ready to see people for The Goodbye
Girl and getting ready to put a brand new cast into a part I may never get again as
long as I live. And I took this part for various reasons,
and it wasn’t an easy decision at the time based on a lot of things. And it’s the smartest thing I ever did. I can’t tell you what it gives me every night,
what it’s given me professionally, the people that’ve seen me do this role who thought Lucie
was a musical comedy The last thing I needed was to get into The Goodbye Girl after doing
They’re Playing Our Song. Better I should be in Lost in Yonkers so that
now they have a balance of what those two things are. And I just kind of got out of my own way,
and let fate put me where I needed to be, and for once just let it happen, and it was
very wise. You don’t always know what’s best for you,
you know. Work begets work. Tanya? I have to say that my actor friends are the
brightest and most well read and, you know, wonderful people. So I just encourage people to constantly read
and to travel because every experience you have will inform the work. And I think that there’s a certain maturity
my teacher used to say it takes seven years to make an actor because, I think, in the
beginning we all think we can do everything, and we want to do everything. And maybe over a period of time we can get
to do that, but I think the gift that we all have is our excitement and our originality. Nobody can do any role like you can do it. And when you can come in and say, This is
what would be exciting and fun for me to do with this character, and do it that way, you
know that that’s special and nobody else can touch it, no matter how good they would be
in what they do. So I encourage people to trust their gut and
their instinct, and always go with what excites them. John, quickly. Quickly… uh Sorry. Love if you’re not in this profession or really
any profession for loving it, then get out of the way because there’s a lot of people
who would love to have your job. They really would, who would kill to have
your job. Having said that, what I do is really a hobby
that I enjoy, whether it’s the guitar or the theatre, whatever it is. For a long time I made the mistake of thinking
that what I did was what I was. And what we do is not what we are. There’s a long line of people wanting John
Schneider’s job, wanting Gregory Hines’ job, wanting Lucie’s job. There isn’t a long line behind I’m not a parent
but I want to be one day. That, you know, hearing you talk about your
kids, what a great thing The line behind Mommy and Daddy is nonexistent. So do that well; let that be your profession
and let this other stuff be a hobby. And if you love it, people will see that. You’ll walk into a room and they’ll all say,
Boy, this guy, this woman, really gives me something, and what that is is the delight
that you are able to participate in something that you love. And if it’s theatre, great; if it’s television,
great. Do it. But be a good parent. That’s well said. We now have questions from the audience, and
I’m sure that they’ve been very patient through all
of this, so get ready. Hi, my name is Tommy O’Donnell and I’m a freshman
theatre major at Wagner College, and my question is for John Schneider. Your roles in Brigadoon and Grand Hotel are
so different. As an actor, what kind of adjustments did
you have to make? As an actor, Brigadoon and Grand Hotel As
I said earlier, I’m one of these people that has to believe that I’m a Baron in the Grand
Hotel in Germany, so I try to surround myself with things. My dressing room at Grand Hotel was right
out of the hotel. People thought I was crazy, but it worked
for me. In the show, in Brigadoon, I wore the hats,
I kind of have a tendency to surround myself with props, with things that make it The last
thing I want to do and the last thing I want to be caught doing is “acting,” because I
don’t do it very well. I’d rather We could dispute that. So that’s what I do, I try to surround myself
with the roles,.very much like “Somewhere In Time,” if you surround yourself with that
room, perhaps you’ll go back to 1926. Hi, my name is Diane Akabachia, I’m also a
freshman theatre major at Wagner College, and my question is for Mr. Hines. Your character in Jelly’s Last Jam of Morton
can be classified, I guess, as a mean character. What do you do, I guess, inside you to get
sympathy from the audience? Well, I can’t say that my intent is to try
to get sympathy as much as my hope, from the beginning, was to somehow make him understandable. Sometimes we see characters onstage who are
mean, and whoare unhappy, and cause other people unhappiness. And if we can somehow understand how they
got that way and what scarred them at some point, I felt I’d be satisfied with that. Going in, I was concerned that I wouldn’t
be able to pull it off, but fortunately for me it’s not just my performance that enables
the audience to understand Jelly. It’s just the whole piece and the way we all
come together in his story, that has enabled us to be successful in giving audiences a
well rounded picture of his experience. Thank you. Hi, my name is Pat Barr, and I’ve just moved
here, and I’ve been toying with some booking and some managing, and I’m curious about the
casting director. What qualifications do you feel you need to
become a casting director? I think you have to have a real deep background
in every aspect of the theatre, I mean, you can’t. Just hang a shingle out and say, you know
You have to have had acting training, directing experience, and you have to really know the
territory. There’s a lot of actors, you have to see everything,
be it film, television or theatre. You really have to know beyond the audition
room what can that actor do, because the audition is not the whole story. I mean, you really have to understand how
an actor functions. You also have to understand how to work with
a creative staff, so that they see it too. Thank you. My name is Robert Troy, my question is for
Hallie Foote. How do you make the poetic language in The
Roads to Rome actable? That’s a hard one. Well, I think you don’t have to do very It’s
sort of all there for you, you know. Sort of takes care.of itself. I think part of it is trusting the language,
and not trying to interfere with it too much. And just sort of letting it assert itself
and come out of you. Hi, my name is Lawrence Applebaum, and my
question is for Tanya. How do you make the transition from television
to stage and in such a rigorous schedule, and what are some of the differences? I think soap opera is the absolute most difficult
medium there is. I’ve worked a little bit in every single one,
and in soap opera you have no time, you have no direction. You have sixty pages that you have to learn
in a day, and you shoot sixty to ninety pages in a day. So you are constantly going on instinct, and
you learn a lot of tricks. And the nice thing about getting to work in
the theatre is that I can go do the soap in the day, and get to do different material
every day, but at night I can go and have the experience of that interaction with the
audience. And for me, it lets me sort of sharpen different
ends of the tools at different times. I feel very fortunate. What are some of the tricks? Soap opera is about making little explosions
everywhere, you know, so that this kind of very flat little medium that when someone
tunes in you know, they just click the channel something so interesting just happened that
they want to pop in So you’re kind of overdoing things a lot just so that people’s attention
goes there. And that’s what it’s about, really getting
people’s attention because the information is very redundant. You literally play the exact same scene five
times a day, because someone may tune in at the beginning and then tune out. And then they may tune in at the end, and
tune out. What kind of a warm up do you do before you
go on? No warm up. I don’t want to know if I don’t have it I don’t want to know if I don’t have it! In terms of, I don’t want to know if I don’t
have it. I want to go out and trust that whatever is
going on with me is going to work that evening for the show. Gregory, what about you? What kind of warm up do you do? I’m beginning my warm up right now. You know, around five o’clock I start thinking
about it, then I might stop in at my chiropractor. You know, I have a pretty extensive warm up
thing, but I must say that Tanya, you know, I know that she doesn’t warm up. But she really.has incredible energy, she
comes out and You know, maybe a couple of shows, little pieces of dust came out … Other
than that Harve Presnell, you know Harve Presnell, who
has a gorgeous voice, from Unsinkable Molly Brown days and Annie. We were doing Annie Get Your Gun and I used
to be in the dressing room doing [vocalises]. I’m doing all this stuff, he’d go, What’re
you wasting it for? He really believed it was a total waste to
put anything out there before you had to. He never warmed up. So you never know. And he sang beautifully. It’s very interesting because you find so
many versions of what they do or don’t do. Here, you’re pretty much in agreement that
you don’t. I think it’s a muscle, you know, I mean singing,
certainly like dancing, is a muscle, and no ballerina would think about going out and
dancing a ballet without at least doing a few barre exercises, something so it doesn’t
pop in the middle. I think that would be your case. But the thing for me in Jolly is I have never
thought of it as singing. At the time that I came to do Jolly I was
very afraid of singing. And I have to say I’ve never sung that song
outside of an actual rehearsal. I always wanted it to be a monologue, and
I never wanted it to be about hitting a note. When we went into performance of that show
I had swollen vocal cords, and a doctor had said you have to take a week off. And I said, No, I’m going to have to create
this part with swollen vocal cords, and that’s who she’s going to be. We have another question. Yes, good afternoon, my name is Susan Glebo,
and this question is directed to Jay Binder. The question is which is better, to use stars
or to discover new talent? Well, from my point of view I would always
want to discover new talent. It all depends on the project. I mean, there are certain vehicles, because
of the economics of Broadway which it’s something to really be dealt with. I mean, there are many projects that have
to have a recognizable box office name to ensure its longevity. Then there are other things that don’t. I mean, the wonderful thing about Manhattan
Theatre Club or Playwrights Horizons or Lincoln Center Theatre, I mean these are theatres
that can have ensemble casts, you see. And a lot of plays on Broadway cannot afford,
there has to be a reason to come. Which is why I’m always like that. I’m a lot of the times like that. It makes me crazy. We’ve talked about a lot of things, we haven’t
mentioned anything about the audience, that very, very important part of your life. Do you have anything to say about the difference
between a matinee audience and an evening audience? Do you have to bring forth anything different
for the different kinds of audiences? What do you give of yourself if the audience
is really not with you? You have to give whether they’re with you
or not. You never know why they’re not with you, it’s
an odd thing. In Grand Hotel, if we had what we would call
crickets. I can’t do it but you can imagine that, if
that’s what you hear, if that’s the kind of response you have out there. You try and you try to get them, well, you
can’t get them back when you never had them to begin with. Invariably we’d go out afterwards and hear
German, Russian, Italian, French. A lot of times something I learned over the
thirteen months was that just because the people are not responding doesn’t mean they’re
not enjoying themselves. Because we’d get surprised at the end, there’d
be this tremendous response at the end of the show, and nothing throughout the show. And we’d go out and they would all be speaking
anything but English and would’ve had a wonderful time. They’d come up and say, Wonderful show, or
Thank you, or whatever. So it’s important from our side not to it’s
hard to do, but, not to judge the audience by their silence. Doesn’t that sometimes make you push too hard? Yeah, it can make you By trying to do a good
show and getting the audience’s attention, you can blow the good show you’re already
doing. I think it’s especially important in You know,
comedy is especially hard, I mean, when you’re used to hearing laughs a lot. And you’re not going for the laughs so much
but certain pauses have become built in almost because you know that’s where people And one
night somebody doesn’t respond that way, and you really don’t want to listen to the audience,
but you’re on this other rhythm, and it just shakes your rhythm and you have to keep readjusting. I love that, I really do. That’s technique. That’s what makes theatre theatre, and inevitably
the show is longer when that happens, when people
aren’t laughing. People think it stretches with the laughs
but it’s not true. our shows have always been longer when
there’s been a smaller crowd, so therefore they’re not
having as good a time or something.I don’t know what
the reasons, but they’re not laughing. Because when people are laughing, that’s when
I look and I say now what are we doing that’s helping this keep
going. And
usually it’s like a great tennis game, you know, when
you’re getting that ball this way and somebody hits it
back to you, the game goes faster. When you have to keep
going, I’ll get it and you go over and you pick up the
ball, it takes forever. I’m going to have to interrupt as I do almost
all the time. And I apologize. Oh, that’s all right. The time is up and there’s just never enough
time for all that we want to hear, and all that we want to know about what it is to work
in the theatre. And certainly this panel has been so giving
and so knowledgeable that I would like to be able to say, Please stay, don’t go to the
theatre. Just stay and keep talking to us. This is the American Theatre Wing Seminars
on Working in the Theatre. I’m Isabelle Stephenson, I’m President of
the American Theatre Wing, and this is just one of the seminars that we do. We have one on the playwright/director, and
one on the producers, and one on the unions and guilds, and one on set designs. And so we hope that we cover all of the aspects
of working in the theatre with all the wonderful people that are in it. It’s coming to you from the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York, and I thank you all for being here

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