Performance (Working In The Theatre #318)


A warm welcome to the American Theatre Wing’s
“Working in the Theatre” seminars. They are now in their 30th year, and coming
to you from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Theatre professionals are brought together
by the American Theatre Wing for these seminars, to help provide an insight into what it’s
like to work in the theatre. Today’s seminar is with six leading performers. We hope to learn not only about their preparation
for a career in the theatre, but also about the drive, passion and temperament needed
to survive in the theatre. I’m Isabelle Stevenson, Chairman of the
Board of the American Theatre Wing. So now, let me introduce our moderator for
this seminar, distinguished television interviewer and critic and a member of the Wing’s Advisory
Committee, Pia Lindstrom. Pia? (APPLAUSE) Thank you, Isabelle, thank you. We have a wonderful panel today that will
tell us a lot about the passion of the theatre, what it’s like to work in the theatre. With me today, Tovah Feldshuh, who has played
so many women in the theatre, so many people. You are a woman of many faces! Thank you. And Marc Kudisch, leading man. (Marc LAUGHS) Musicals, I’m sure you — (LAUGHTER
FROM THE PANEL) Exactly. Rebecca Luker, one of our great leading ladies
of the musical theatre. There are very few, and you are treasured. Denis O’Hare, well, TAKE ME OUT, baseball
player! Do you feel like a baseball player? No, I feel like an accountant! (LAUGHTER) (LAUGHS) You feel like an accountant! We’ll get back to that. Swoosie Kurtz, two-time Tony Award winner,
one of our most accomplished actresses. And Lewis J. Stadlen, you’ve been in so
many Neil Simon plays! Five. Five! Wow. Now you are the consummate Neil Simon actor. Tell him that. (LAUGHTER) Well, I mean, is it that he calls you specifically
or writes for you? Every ten years. Like clockwork. (LAUGHTER) Well, that’s a – Whether it’s busy or not. But no, I know him, and I did THE SUNSHINE
BOYS in 1970, the female version of THE ODD COUPLE in 1980, LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR
in the nineties, and then a show called 45 SECONDS FROM BROADWAY, which didn’t [run]. I think that was the shortest of all the Neil
Simon plays. 45 seconds. 45 seconds! But is it knowing his kind of language? Is there something in knowing the author’s
language that is helpful? Yes, I’m very comfortable with his vernacular. It’s an urban Jewish vernacular. And yeah, he speaks to me, I don’t have
to – we have a kind of creative shorthand with one another, which is very nice. I want to get back to Tovah here, because
now you’re playing Golda Meir. Right. Which is a stretch, I have to say! Well, first of all, she was from (DOES THE
ACCENT) Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (LAUGHTER) That’s where she was from. Very interesting, her speech pattern. As we mentioned before we went on, your mom,
Ingrid Bergman, did a wonderful job playing Golda Meir and won the Emmy for it. The fact that Golda did sound like she was
from Scandinavia by the end of the movie (LAUGHTER) didn’t seem to be a problem (PH). It didn’t hurt the awards! She still got the award! (DOES THE SCANDINAVIAN ACCENT) “I want to
found a state called Israel,” you know, right? (LAUGHTER) Hey, now, leave my mom alone! (LAUGHS) Anyway, having seen your mother, who really
captured the soul of the prime minister, I went immediately to Milwaukee to get the speech
pattern. (LAUGHTER) But I thought it was very interesting
that though she was born in Kiev, because of her father’s permission to be a carpenter
in the city – Jews were not allowed to live within the city limits at that time. Oh! Oh, oh. Yes, welcome to the world, yeah. And this was in the 19th century, but she
was born in Kiev, ‘cause her father was a highly skilled carpenter, so he was invited
into the city. When he left, to make his way in America,
to bring the family out of Russia, they were relegated back to Pinsk. And from Pinsk and the small village around
it, they then went to America. When I asked my grandfather where he was from,
he never said he was from Minsk, he said he was from “Minskabernia (PH),” “in the
district of.” ‘Cause they were outside of the city limits. In all events, they went to (BACK INTO THE
ACCENT) Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (LAUGHTER) and that’s where her speech pattern developed. So you’ve got the speech down. But there’s something about playing people
who everybody knows, or a real living person – you’ve done it a couple of time, Katharine
Hepburn. And I think you’ve played Groucho Marx! I did, a long time ago, yes. You certainly did! So has anybody else played a living – Swoosie played Lillian Hellman. Oh, Lillian Hellman, that’s right, you played
Lillian Hellman. Swoosie, when you play somebody that people
already know and that you’ve seen photographs [of], do you try to imitate the walk or the
look? It’s daunting, you know, because people
do have a certain image of someone like – well, more than an image of Golda! But of Lillian, they have an image of her,
toward the end of her life, kind of (DOES IT) the gravelly voice and, you know. And I knew that there was really no way I
could actually imitate her. And Jack O’Brien, our director, said, “You
know, we haven’t hired you and Cherry Jones for your mimicry talents.” And we were kind of doing Nora Ephron’s
vision of Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. But I did, you know, watch a great many tapes
and listen to – just the essence, I like to just get the essence and not do an impersonation
so much. Well, when you say “the essence,” what
is the essence of a person? I mean, I don’t know what that means. The impression. It’s like a Monet thing. And it’s also from the inside. I mean, an actor – From the inside. Strasberg said, “You’re stuck with the
character and the character’s stuck with you.” So in that sense, it’s a seamless marriage
between our personage, our being-ness and the being-ness of another person. I mean, (DOES THE VOICE AND SITS UP STRAIGHT)
there’s a reason Kate Hepburn stood the way she stood. She was from a certain part of the country
and she believed in certain things and that’s (POINTS TO HER JAW) how it would manifest
itself! (BACK TO HER REAL VOICE) So you got into the
spine of her, from which came other manifestations. Yeah, exactly. (GENERAL AGREEMENT FROM THE PANEL) And the concentration, (DOES THE VOICE) when
I play Golda Meir, believe you me, I’m not thinking of the accent, I’m looking in your
eyes, and I’m talking to you the way she would do it. She was like the Rock of Gibraltar! (LAUGHTER) So that’s what you mean, you
stay in. In! When I played Groucho Marx, I was twenty-three
years old. I had no acting chops at all. And I was very excited to get the job. But I was petrified that I would give a superficial
rendering of Groucho Marx. I saw myself in the audience, going, “Why
this guy? I could go home and watch NIGHT OF THE OPERA!” (LAUGHTER)
So what I discovered, after attempting to mimic him, was that he had a philosophical
point of view. And the philosophical point of view was – for
me, this was my key – was that he was a man who was constantly looking up to God and
saying, “Why is everything so unfair? Why is everything so inequitable?” And it’s a complaint that made him a philosophical
comedian. And then all of a sudden, my body language
kicked in, so that I realized, it wasn’t about the back, it was the break in the man’s
body, because he was like this (TWISTS HIS BODY) all the time, you know? VARIOUS VOICES
Interesting. Yeah, that’s it! Have you had to do that? Well, I’ve had the lovely privilege of playing
serial killers, lots of them. (LAUGHTER) It’s your look! Yeah, you know what I mean? It’s a certain something about you. An attitude. Yeah, it’s an Irish look, what can I say? But you know, I played Nathan Leopold, LEOPOLD
AND LOEB. I played Richard Hauptmann, from the Lindbergh
kidnapping case. I played Richard Speck, who was a – Oh, God! Wow! (LAUGHTER) I don’t know why that is! Nurses! Yes! (LAUGHS) And the weird thing about playing serial killers
or any kind of murderer is that – (Marc LAUGHS) You’ve got to get into it. You know, you have to be in their mind. You have to figure out, you know, there’s
a logic there. There’s an internal logic. And I was playing Richard Speck, actually,
and there was all these nurses in the room I had taken, kidnapped. And at one point, I realized that they all
had brown eyes. And I as the actor saw that, and at the same
time, I kind of went, “Uhh! Oooh! That’s really weird, to have noticed that
on any level, and to have thought suddenly, that’s his internal logic.” Who knows why, but this man went around the
world, he went, “Brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown!” and
that’s who he collected. And then there was a story about Dennis Nilsen,
who’s a British serial killer, and about Jeffrey Daumer. And I refused to read anything in the paper,
so that I thought, “I don’t need to know anything more about these people. I don’t want to know any more about these
people. I don’t want to think like these people. I don’t want to try to put myself in their
shoes.” And I’ve turned down roles, because I don’t
want to go there. I don’t want to go into that person’s
mind, because my job as an actor is to be sympathetic. I must find a way to understand them. Yes. Not to approve, but to understand, and that
means sympathy or empathy. I have to feel like them, I have to think
like them, I have to use their logic, I have to feel their feelings. And that’s not a happy place to be, when
it’s someone who is a serial killer. But the great thing about playing any kind
of villain is that, you know, villains are the greatest characters (GENERAL AGREEMENT
FROM THE PANEL) because there’s always a dissonance. A villain doesn’t think he’s doing bad. No, right, he thinks he’s the good guy. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) He always thinks he’s doing good. He’s got steely logic, you know? “I must do this!” Yes. Yes, and you have to find the good in the
bad characters somewhere, don’t you? Absolutely! Absolutely, there’s always a moral struggle
in a villain. Right! I mean, Hitler was our greatest cleaning lady. He just wanted to clean up! (LAUGHTER) It happened to do with Jews, gypsies,
homosexuals, communists. And he painted! Yeah! You know, about fourteen million people, but
he just wanted to clean the planet. You know, get rid of the dust, you know? Rebecca, you always play, you know, the ingénue,
the leading lady, the good girl. Do you play bad girls? (ISABELLE LAUGHS) Well, speaking of your mother – I knew we
were going to get her back into the conversation – I recently joined the cast of NINE, and
I’m playing a woman who is modeled after Claudia Cardinale, the Italian actress. And like Swoosie said, I just wanted to get
the essence of the accent, because I didn’t want to, you know, really make it, you know,
really thick accent. Because no matter what you do, somebody’s
going to say the accent is bad or it’s not good enough, or whatever. But anyway, so I sort of got the essence of
the accent and (LAUGHS) I was reviewed the other day and he likened my accent to sounding
more like Ingrid Bergman than Claudia Cardinale! (LAUGHTER) Which I took as a great compliment! And I thought, “Oh, great! That’s wonderful. I like that one.” So anyway, we have a connection, I feel. Oh, that’s good. What was your first question? Oh, about playing a good girl. Well, it’s partially the way you look, so
I imagine when people are casting, this is – Well, or the way I sing, probably, you know,
also. Or maybe the way you sing, because it’s
so unusual these days. Thank you. I mean, really, we don’t have a lot of leading
actresses in the musical theatre. Not any more. So save that voice! Well, that’s very kind of you. At present, I am playing someone who’s a
little more, you know, she’s a little more sexy, you know, I get to have legs and I get
to, you know – And sunglasses! Well, it’s the Italians! Is that what that is? The sunglasses, I’ll wear the trench coat
and be mysterious and sexy and have a little temper every now and then. You know, it’s great, it’s fun. Marc, you’re usually the stalwart leading
man type who can sing. You see, I think that I’m not usually the
leading man. I’m usually the character actor. Oh, really? I see. That’s why when people call me a leading
man, I always laugh (SWOOSIE LAUGHS), because I don’t really play leading roles. And I think it’s the same thing with – I
don’t know how people perceive me physically, or at times, I do know how they perceive me
physically, which has nothing to do with the human being, you know? But then, that’s a part of, I think, what
we do. You know, it’s that thing of watching someone
move physically, and it’s the question of why they are physically the way that they
are. You know, I mean, it’s always to the core
of the logic. And you know, from that logic is the passion
for their logic. So there’s your heart and there’s your
head, and from there, I think everything else can follow suit. You know, you’re talking about – it’s
funny, those are the kind of characters that Denis was talking about that I like to go
to. I like playing characters that are on the
edge of being good or bad. And at any given moment, they could go either
way, do you know? Because that’s what I think makes us all
human. And most of the characters that I play, if
there’s one thing that I usually end up playing, it is a very heightened personality. Right, right. It is someone in a heightened state of emotion,
whether that be good or whether that be not so good. You know, I don’t find there is much difference
between the two, when you’re on that very fine line, you know. I mean, everybody has logic, and everybody
is a human being, and everybody has their reasons. Now, sometimes one person’s logic doesn’t
make sense to another, but if you could step into their shoes and see it through their
eyes, you might suddenly go, “Oh, wow!” you know? But it’s like an insane logic. I played a schizophrenic for a “Law & Order”
episode once, and I actually researched it pretty heavily. And my sister’s a nurse, and she was dealing
with schizophrenia at that time, and she sent me all the medications. And I just went to the medications and just
listed just what those side effects were, in terms of dry mouth, physical tics, everything
like that. How interesting! And you just kind of think, “God, what might
that be like, to try to minimize that as a human being and try not to show it?” And then, you know, schizophrenics have things
like they hear voices, but they really concretely hear them. It comes from (POINTS TO SPECIFIC PLACES)
there. It comes from there. It’s not like this weird thing, “I hear
voices.” No, “I hear a voice from there. Who is that speaking?” And you just approach it logically and say,
“Why is a voice coming from that camera?” That’s interesting. I worked with Dory Previn, who is a diagnosed
schizophrenic, and she wrote a piece called SCHIZOPHREN (PH). And she talked about how she missed her voices,
that the medicine, in making her well made her dull. Oh! Yeah. That she had the privilege and the gift of
hearing voices. Well, and where does art come from? I mean, you know, it’s never a comfortable
place. But you’ve just helped me very much, because
it’s a conundrum that I’ve been stuck in for a number of weeks now. Golda Meir had lymphoma throughout her prime
ministership and went for secret treatments. I – please God, I’m still well, to my
knowledge! – but I was very worried! I was starting to research the disease. So I said, “How am I going to do this, because
I don’t want to go there?” Right. I started to get knowledge of the disease. I keep checking my armpits! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) But what I will
do now is get the medications, and how to disappear the disease. Yeah! (GENERAL AGREEMENT FROM THE PANEL) Oh, what a great idea. I’ll put my mind there, instead of on – The disease. Right. And she died of lymphoma, which is a choice
I choose not to have. Right. But in gaining knowledge of it, I must tell
you, it frightens me. So that’s a very good thing. I’m going to do the medications now. Thank you very much! Get the good list! The medications. I’ll tell my sister! Tell your sister. Send her to the Helen Hayes! (LAUGHTER) Playing nightly! When you all started out, and were auditioning,
were you typecast? I read a very cute thing that Hume Cronyn
said. He said he went to do his audition, and the
casting agent said to him, “You don’t look like anyone!” (LAUGHTER AND AGREEMENT FROM PANEL) It’s
like, how do you, when you start out, look like someone they want? Lewis, did you have any comments? Well, I mean, the trick is that you have to
keep re-inventing yourself. You start off, and you’re a young actor,
and they want to categorize you as one thing. And then, all of a sudden, you’re in your
thirties, and you’re different. Now, I’m in my fifties. So the good thing about it is that a lot of
people quit! (LAUGHTER) I know where this is going! This is good for everybody! Wow! Chalk that up. That’s true! At first you’re competing against thousands
of people, everybody who wants to be an actor. This is great! I’m not quittin’, baby! (LAUGHTER) No, not you! Nobody here! I’m not talking about us! I’m right behind you! (LAUGHS) That’s great. That’s true, that’s so true. Yeah, so at this stage of the game, I’m
competing against five other people. At least, I tell myself that now. And you’re all friends. Right. You go to the audition and you go, “Oh,
hi! Hi!” We all lie to each other. We say, “You’re wonderful! You’re so wonderful! (LAUGHTER) You’ll get this. Go get it!” I absolutely agree with Lewis. And the other thing, besides the fact that
the playing field gets less, because people go into other places, that fortitude to stay
there. But the other thing that happens is patronage. Part of our survival is not the first invitation
to work with a director. It’s the second, it’s the third. (LEWIS NODS) You get patronage, you’re on
your way. When I teach, I always tell my students, “It’s
not the first invitation.” You only have one chance to make a first impression,
but you want to create a situation where you will be invited back to work. And then, you have a few of those, there you
go, you know? Whether it’s “Law & Order” or whatever
you’re doing, the Roundabout, you have your patrons. Did anybody discourage you, when you first
started, said, “I want to be an actress”? As a young person, did people say – Oh, definitely. I think they always do. First of all, they said, “That name. I mean, we have to change it! That’s gotta go!” (LAUGHTER) And suggestions to replace it were
astonishing. Swoosie, we were on a cover of a magazine. Oh, my God, yes, we were. “The Odd-Named Famous Four.” It was Swoosie Kurtz – except for Jill Eikenberry. Meryl Streep and Tuna Vulture (PH). I remember it well! (LAUGHTER) Tuna Vulture! That’s right! “Four young actresses to watch!” What were your name suggestions? Tiffany. (LAUGHTER) Oh, no! Good! Was that type-casting? They thought charming? You know, I’ve never understood this. I’m still, to this day, bewildered, as I’m
sure we all are, by this thing of how people think of you. I mean, I get cast very much sort of socialite,
upper-class, very intelligent, blah-blah-blah, money, whatever. And then, on the other hand, whenever they
want someone who lives in a trailer park and is on serious anti-depressants and has had
shock treatments, they call me! (LAUGHTER) So I go, “Well, where … ?” Which one are you? I don’t get this! You know, I don’t get any of it. Thank your lucky stars! That’s so great. But there can be a reverse to that. I mean, at the same time – Hume was a teacher
of mine, was a professor of mine in college. Oh, yes? Oh! And he told us all that story. It’s so cute! (LAUGHS) And then of course, he went on, you know,
to do a couple of different monologues. You know, he did Henry V, he did Richard III. I mean, he just went through the route. And every time, you bought everything that
he did. And you realized that the good fortune this
man had was, he was a palette for anything he wanted to be. Which is a gift, if you know that it’s a
gift. I think it’s important that we all know
what our strengths are, what we have to offer, as people. Because then there’s the other side of it,
if you are a – like, of course, I was typed, do you know? I mean, I am a – (BUMPS HIS MIKE) ooh, I’m
sorry about that! (LAUGHTER) Ah-ha, the breast-beating! No, I just put this out there, because I am
a Jew. I am Jewish. You are? (LAUGHTER) Yeah. See? Now, what’s funny is, I worked with Gene
Saks many years ago, and I had a great time working with Gene, ‘cause he just reminded
me of my grandfather. And there was a rhythm, there was something
that, you know, I grew up in a vernacular that was just a part of my being. And I used to say to Gene all the time, “Come
on, come on, talk to Neil. I want to do a Neil Simon play. Let me do a Neil Simon play!” And he would say to me, “Bubbe, look at
you!” (LAUGHTER) You know? And it was just so funny. I’ve played a priest three times! (LAUGHTER) Do you know? And I keep saying to them, I remember when
I first came to New York, and I’m serious, one of my first auditions was for FIDDLER
ON THE ROOF, the last revival that they did. I was brought in three times, and every time
I walked in the room, they looked at my – you know, ‘cause they saw my name. And then I walked in, there were like, “ … Oh. Um, Fyedka?” Every time! You know, for the Gentile, Fyedka, every time. And finally, I swear to you, I said, “This
is what we look like! From that part of the world? (POINTS TO PARTS OF HIS FACE) This! This! This! This is what we look like!” (LAUGHTER) Pia, I think we’re all typecast in the sense
that, other than your children, your parents, how important are we to other people? Yeah. I mean, we try to be civilized and love each
other, but it’s shorthand. Yeah, yeah. I was suggested – I used one name, Terry
Fairchild, for my first [job], Matunuck, Rhode Island, Theatre-by-the-Sea. And had I gone with Terry Fairchild, I might
have had a different career. But these roles that broke through for me,
whether it was YENTL, HOLOCAUST, KISSING JESSICA STEIN, now Golda Meir, they brought me luck. I mean, my birth name is Terry Sue Feldshuh. You know, it is. And always, whenever I play the Algonquin,
I say, “I would like to introduce you to the person responsible for my nose. My mother, Lillian!” And she stands up like this. (STICKS HER NOSE IN THE AIR; LAUGHTER) I love it! And occasionally, something can happen, out
of desperation. During one of the many lulls in my career,
in the nineteen-eighties, I took out a casting director. I realized that she was a big baseball fan. And I had arguably the best season tickets
at the Mets, at Shea Stadium. So I invited her to a game, and she owed me
one. So what she did is, she thought she’d play
a joke on me, and she asked me to audition for this female version of THE ODD COUPLE
in which they need two Hispanic brothers. And there were many, many jokes about baldness,
and I was not bald at the time. And I went in there, and I got there early,
and there I was sitting in a room with thirty middle-aged Hispanic men. And as I went in, not having any idea what
I was going to do, I said to them, “What am I doing here?” And they said, “I don’t know!” So I walked in there, and at the time, Raul
Julia, right? But he infuriated me, Raul Julia, because
they would cast him in anything and (DOES THE VOICE) he had an accent, you know? Even when he was playing Shakesbeare [SIC],
(LAUGHTER) he would talk like that, you see? (BACK TO HIS OWN VOICE) So I walked in there,
and I had to make a decision quickly, and I said, “If Raul Julia can play Noel Coward,
I can play Raul Julia!” And I went in there and got the gig! Yes! (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) Yay! That’s good. That’s great. It’s funny. One of the things I find difficult about – not
even typecasting, it’s like career-casting. I spent probably ten years playing serial
killers. I mean, I could not get out of them! Back to this! (LAUGHTER) And then I came to New York and started doing
comedy. Yes! I played sex! And now, I won’t get called in for serious
things, they kind of go – “Oh, you, you’re so funny!” Right, “You’re so funny, you can’t do
[that].” But the truth of the matter is, all of us
can do all of it. That’s what we’re trained for. Right. Any decent actor can do [anything]. That’s what’s so frustrating. You know, I sometimes want to shriek, “But
that’s what I DO!!” Right. Yes. I mean, I’m sure we’ve all felt this. You know, they say, “Oh, but you know, she’s
too this and she’s not enough this.” And you say, “Yes, but I can become. I become different people. That is what I do!” Well, it’s the difference between actors
and personalities. So often, they look for someone who they think
is very much like that character. Yes. Fantastic. Can that person consistently, with technique
and with discipline, do that eight shows a week? And be present to other people on the stage,
to the growth and the expansion of the communication of what’s going on? Because if you hire a personality that is
perfect for the role that can’t act, well, you’re lost! Right. Try doing that eight times a week. You know, and that’s what I mean. But so often, they’re waiting for that person
to just walk in and be that! But it’s so much more than that, right. Yeah, hello! Rebecca, you came from Alabama, right? How in the world did you get from Alabama
to Broadway? Can you tell me that? (LAUGHS) Thirty seconds? Did somebody say, “Don’t do it, it’s
dangerous”? No, my family had no idea what I was getting
into, and they’ve always encouraged me. And they don’t know enough about it to be
afraid of it, so it was always, “Oh, great! You’re going to New York, great! Have a good time!” (LAUGHTER) You know, whatever! OVERTALK What I don’t understand, my mother has no
idea! (LAUGHS) Actually, my mother’s never been
afraid of my being in New York. I don’t know why! She just had faith that I’d be all right. But, gosh, I was going to talk about something
else. How did I get to New York! Yes, yes. I just did a little community theatre. I majored in music at the local university
and met some people in the community theatre that lived in New York and got myself up to
audition for opera companies. And when you went on auditions, right away,
you started auditioning? And did they immediately type you? Yeah, I had an agent when I came here, and
yes, I’ve been typecast my entire life, and I’m still being typecast! You’ve got to get older! You’ve got to wait. (LAUGHS) No, I love the roles that I do, and I’m
slowly, slowly, slowly starting to do, finally, other things, in my forties. Honey, don’t admit to that! You look like you’re twenty-two! Oh, God, yes. You’re only twenty? (LAUGHS) It’s good to be in your forties! Forty-schmorty! Yes, it’s a great decade! (TO TOVAH) You’re sweet. ‘Cause other people quit! They quit! (LAUGHTER) If I hang around long enough, I’ll be working
leading ladies! But also, I was going to say I’ve been typecast
for so very long that I think that has worked to my advantage at times, because when you
do something remotely different in an audition, somebody will go, “She can do something
else! She can play another character, wow!” So the bar is so low, for me! I really feel that. Yeah, it’s always a surprise! Which brings us on to patronage, patronage. You have a sort of Jack O’Brien, somebody
who loves you, I did five plays for him, and you go, “Come on! At least give me a shot!” Right. Let me try it. He may not give you the part, but they’ll
give you the audition. Yeah. Right. And sometimes you can stop the conveyor belt. I did that with a play called PADDYWACK. It’s about an IRA guy in England, and I
played a British Cockney. And I was the first person, and Debbie Brown
brought me in as kind of, not a joke, but she kind of went, “Ah, we’ll throw Denis
O’Hare in there!” The character is Brian, six feet four inches,
two hundred and thirty-five pounds. You’re perfect! (LAUGHTER) Bruiser Cockney! I’m the first person that walks in and John
Tillinger goes, “What are you doing?” And I go, “I’m reading for Brian,” and
he went, “No, you’re reading for – ” And I said, “I’m reading for Brian.” He went, “All right, go ahead.” And I did what I wanted to do, and he hired
me. Right. Wow. Wow. And that whole day, everyone else who came
in, he kind of went, “What’s with all these big guys? (LAUGHTER) We need a little wiry Irish guy,
come on, come on!” Yes! That’s fantastic. I did a piece called THE WILD PARTY, which
was a twenties piece, very dark. And I was on the subway, and I happened to
bump into the composer on the subway, Michael John LaChiusa. And Michael John, you know, very sweet, just
kind of looked at me, and he was like, (DOES THE VOICE) “Listen, we’re doing this thing
for the Public, it’s called THE WILD PARTY. You know, it’s something I’ve wanted you
to do for a while, but you’ve kind of been kind of busy, but I want to know if you want
to come in and audition for this role?” Now, I had been asked to do the other WILD
PARTY, playing, of course, a pugilist, a boxer. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Wow, big stretch! Big vocabulary! Interesting, interesting! I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was a neat
character! But, you know, at this given time, it was
like, “How many of these guys can one person play?” and you want to say, “I’m more!” And he said, “Why don’t you, you know,
ask them to send you the stuff?” And the character was a Noel Coward-esque
bisexual drug-addicted hedonistic rapist. Yeah! (PIA LAUGHS) I mean, I’m not kidding you! You said, “Get Denis,” right? Yeah, exactly! Hey! (LAUGHTER) Denis was not available! I don’t do drugs! Because Lewis was using him to knock off all
the other guys! But it was wild, because I’m reading this
going, “No one would ever think of me for something like this.” And I went in. Now, thankfully, it was for George Wolfe,
who I had never auditioned for before, and I had only heard horror stories about auditioning
for him. And I’m sitting there, of course, and there
are all these tenors, you know – let’s just say, smallish men. And there’s me! (LAUGHTER) You know, I’m like, (DEEP VOICE)
“Hi, how’re you doin’?”, you know? (LAUGHTER)
But I had a very particular point of view about how I wanted to play it, and I had a
very particular logic that I had found for myself for it. And I walked in and I did it, and he gave
me some direction, but the whole time it was really positive. And he literally said to me as I was leaving,
“That was the best audition I’ve seen all day.” And I walked out, and I got the job like two
hours later! No one that I had worked for before – now,
this is the other end of it – no one that I had worked for before who thought they knew
me would have ever offered me a job like that. Right, exactly. Yeah. Right, right. Ever! Now, it’s not to put anyone down that way
– No, no, of course not. Because if we’re fortunate, we have a talent
where we have flexibility and we can be equally convincing in pretty much any direction we
want to go, because we are connected to whatever that truth is. You know, and I’m thankful for that, and
I’m thankful to George Wolfe, because I played that role. And it made me laugh, because people said
to me, “Oh, my God! Oh, you’re so thin!” No, I’m not. It’s how you carry yourself, do you know? There was nothing different between that and
the last show that I did. And that’s the first time that I saw you,
and I remember thinking, you know, not how right you were for the part, but I didn’t
question it at all. It was a great performance, extraordinary
performance. Thank you. And I kind of went something like – I mean,
in my mind, I assumed that’s the kind of parts you always played. (Marc GRINS PROUDLY) I mean, I really did. I kind of went, “Oh, it’s a good play.” (PH) I mean, seriously, that’s how I perceived
you. Well, that’s also the problem. When you are a good enough actor, and you
create the illusion of somebody, the casting director buys into it completely – Yeah, yeah. and thinks that that’s what you do! Especially TV and film. For years to come. They don’t look back on your entire career. They cast you in the last thing that you’ve
done. Yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Well, did you play baseball? I mean, as a kid? In TAKE ME OUT, you’re a baseball player. Well, no, I am an accountant in the play. You are an accountant! Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry. I actually play the gay accountant who inherits
a baseball player. “She didn’t see it!” (LAUGHTER) No, but I become a baseball fan. I’ve become a baseball fan, by the end of
the play. And it’s funny, because I did play baseball. I mean, I think it’s hard to be an American
male and not play baseball. You know, it’s kind of like kennel training
or something. (LAUGHTER) And I played baseball and was told
not to play, ‘cause I was too small. And they would say, “Don’t hit the ball! Whatever you do, crouch down, and they’ll
walk you,” you know what I mean? Aww! (LAUGHTER) “’Cause you’re really short!” And you know, I didn’t go to public school,
I went to Catholic school. So all the kids, I didn’t know any of the
kids. So I was always the odd guy out. You know, I was always, as they call us, the
guppy gobbler, fish-eaters. So I had enough of it one day, and I decided
to hit the ball and I got a double. And they yanked me out of the game for disobeying
the coach’s orders. (LAUGHTER) So that ended my baseball career
and I became an actor! You became an actor! I hope you can use that in your method acting. Can you use the pain of this? No, I wasn’t very talented. I would sit in the outfield and eat grass. You know, center field, and I’d sit there
and sit down and go (MIMES EATING GRASS). ‘Cause ten year olds can’t hit that far,
you know what I mean? So we’d have a little party out there. Let’s get to teaching, teachers, and how
you study to do what you do. David Mamet once said that he thought most
acting teachers were frauds. That’s why he’s a writer. (LAUGHTER) You ever done his plays? Do you agree that most acting teachers are
frauds? Well, I think that – I’ll just tell you
my experience. I went to the Neighborhood Playhouse. I was seventeen years old, and I didn’t
make the cut. Sanford Meisner was the acting teacher, and
he taught a thing that everything was behavioral – not behavioral, but that everything was
working off another person’s behavior. And I asked him a lot of questions in class,
and I was not worshipful enough. And he didn’t like me. And I remember, Winston Churchill had just
died, this great man, Winston Churchill. And somebody from the second year came over
to me and said, “What do you think of Sandy?” And I said, “I don’t know, all I’m doing
is improvising for a year and a half. I’m improvising, I want to act! I want to act!” And I said, “He’s witty enough, in a kind
of a sadistic sort of a way, but he’s a bit of a megalomaniac, from what I can see.” And she said to me, “Well, I think that
all great men are megalomaniacs. I think that Winston Churchill was a megalomaniac.” And I thought, “Winston Churchill and Sandy
Meisner?! (PIA AND TOVAH LAUGH) I mean, where do those
two meet? Were they at Yalta? I thought it was Roosevelt and Stalin,”
you know? (LAUGHTER)
At any rate, I was totally lost. And I met a friend who had also been kicked
out of the Neighborhood Playhouse, and he said, “I’m studying with a woman by the
name of Stella Adler.” (MURMURS FROM THE AUDIENCE) Yes, yes. And I met her, and she made me audition for
her, in her bedroom. (LAUGHS) Of course! And I thought, “This already is more interesting
than a year and a half at the Neighborhood Playhouse!” (LAUGHTER) This is why I got into theatre,
right? And this is what she said to me. I auditioned, I did “Blow out your candles,
Laura, and so, good night.” Tom in the last monologue of [THE GLASS MENAGERIE],
which I was as wrong for then as I am now, right? (LAUGHTER) I’d pay to see that. Wouldn’t you? Sure. And then Hamlet. I’ll do ‘em in repertory. (LAUGHTER) So at the end of it, Stella Adler,
who sat on this ridiculous papier-mâché throne said to me, she said, (DOES HER VOICE)
“You – you’re Jewish?” (LAUGHTER) I was supposed to be from the South,
you see? So I said, “Yes.” She said, “You’re from Brooklyn?” I said, “Yeah, I am!” She said, “You’re nice. You’re a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn,
but that’s not good enough!” And then she went into this thing about how
you represent the poetic sensibility of mankind, that you’re playing Tennessee Williams,
that there are people who only understand what is material or what is poetic. And she told me that I had a responsibility
to figure out what the play was about and what part of the puzzle my character was in
the play. And all of a sudden, the world opened up to
me, and I said, “This is more than just about being a success. This is about becoming an evolved human being.” And she gave me five craft elements that I
use the first day of rehearsal. And if you have five craft elements – What are the five craft elements? We want them! Quick! Oh, dear. Now, you’re gonna go and make me say it? And I can’t even remember one of them! (LAUGHTER) No. But you have to know what side of the political
argument you are on, that life is basically an argument, and that a play is a microcosm
of life, played out in two and a half hours. So what you have to do is you have to figure
out what side of the political equation you are. And “politics” is a misnomer, in a way. For instance, when I’m playing Max Bialystock,
I realized that the reason why Max Bialystock is ebullient and positive is because he’s
a man with no guilt. None! None! (LAUGHTER) He will do everything and it will
be a wonderful thing. He is moving towards what he needs. And when you are able to break down a play
and say that Mel Brooks, when he writes, it’s all about immediate need. You’re willing to say or do anything to
get what you need! That’s part of knowing what side of the
political equation you are on. So I don’t want to monopolize too much time,
but that’s one craft element, and that’s a good one to [do]. That helps me. Any other acting teachers that have helped? Uta Hagen was my first teacher. I went to her when I was seventeen and had
just entered Sarah Lawrence. She was a turning point, like Stella Adler
was a turning point for you. So I disagree with Mr. – Mamet. The very gifted Mr. Mamet. I think that a great teacher can be a turning
point in your life. She believed in me. I went to the Guthrie. Michael Langham did not believe in me. I kept her voice with me. I also had a great advantage. My beloved older brother David was an associate
director at the Guthrie, had just been promoted from actor to director, so at least he was
in the community while I was not being cast and was understudying all the size seven girls,
which was Dianne Weist, Roberta Maxwell. I carried spears for two years there. Well, Dianne Weist is not a small girl now! No, I’m not her understudy now. But she’s a great actress. But that’s a great teacher. Any other great teachers? Uta Hagen was a great teacher and a turning
point. Great teacher. And Stella Adler also came backstage to YENTL
and she said, (DOES THE REGAL VOICE) “Marvelous performance. Now learn to speak.” (LAUGHTER) She said, “Where are you from?” I said, “Scarsdale.” She said, “Bad enough.” (LAUGHTER) Oh, wow! “Come to my class.” And so, I may not have learned my diction
from her, though I did go to Edith Warman Skinner at Juilliard and hired her to become
my teacher at that point. Wow. I actually hired the Juilliard faculty, while
I was in YENTL, to study with them, and they would give me tutorials. But I did go to her classes, and she was quite
brilliant. And she was a geo-political actress. She saw the Weltenschtung (PH), the world
gesture for a play, and I think that is one of the most important lessons. I have to tell you, teaching plays, that’s
how I was taught. My teacher was a guy named David Downs. I went to Northwestern, Illinois. And the tradition at Northwestern is bizarre
enough. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Speech,
which is very useful. (LAUGHTER) But he comes from a woman named
Alvina Krause (MURMURS FROM THE PANEL), who is pretty much pure Stanislavski, or whatever
the American version of Stanislavski is. So I was taught through Chekhov. The way we learned to act was through Chekhov. You know, we studied the four great plays. We studied Ibsen. We studied for style. We studied plays. And via the play, you learn how to act. And we studied Neil Simon for comedy. And we studied Maggie Smith’s timing for
comedy, the old earring trick. (DOES HER VOICE AND DEMONSTRATES WITH IMAGINARY
EARRING) “As long as you’re doing something here, darling, you’ll be funny! (LAUGHTER) Fiddle with your earring!” That’s good. That’s my sixth craft element! Always do something! (IN GOLDA’S VOICE) That’s going in tonight
for the Prime Minister! (LAUGHTER) She doesn’t even have earrings,
she’ll play with her lobe! One of those crafts elements is, in comedy,
comedy is many times physical. But comedy is also mainly being involved in
something else in the world, while throwing away the line. Not worrying about the joke, worrying about
the cup, you know what I mean? Right, throw it away. Yeah, throw it away. But we taught, and David would always say,
“Who is the playwright? Where is the playwright sitting? What is the playwright’s point of view?” So for instance, he said, “Chekhov is sitting
outside the cabin, on a chair, looking in the window,” like that. He said, “Shaw is like the thing in [the
cover design of] MY FAIR LADY? He’s the marionette player. He’s up here with the strings, like this,
making his characters do the things he wants them to do.” You know, and by visualizing who the playwright
is and where he sits and how he sees the world, you understand how to act his plays. Then you understand how the characters exist
in those plays, as part of the puzzle. “What part of the puzzle is my character? Do no more, do no less.” You know, I remember the famous Greek messenger
speech. He said, “The Greek messenger is the hardest
thing in the world to do. You gotta come in as a Greek messenger, you
gotta come in in a hurry, you got seven pages to say. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) No one knows who
you are! Nobody cares who you are, because you’re
not the Queen, you’re not Creon, you’re not Antigone. But you’re the play, because you bring the
world from the outside in.” How much do you create as a messenger? Do you create your incestuous relationship
with your mother? You know, do you create the limp? For the most part, probably not. You know what I mean? You do your job, which is to paint that world
in front of the audience’s eyes, and that’s all you do. Stella used to give wonderful dinner parties,
and the waiters all had white gloves and really performed very well at the table. And one day, I said, “I think I’m going
to give a dinner party. Where do I get the waiters that you’ve had?” She said, “From my school. They are all students, and they have to know
that they have to wait on the table and do whatever else is needed to do, in order to
be a successful actor. They have to know how to wait on a table,
and so therefore, (LAUGHS) they wait on my table!” (LAUGHTER) That’s a good rationalization! Just in terms of the things that you learn,
we had a Christmas party. She had a studio that was above a French restaurant,
right opposite from the Lincoln Center. Now there’s a beautiful factory of her school,
but she’s no longer here. And we had a Christmas party, set for seven,
and we were all there, about a hundred of us. And seven, no Stella. Eight, no Stella. Nine, no Stella. Ten, no Stella. Finally, at ten o’clock, she came in, and
she went over to every single one of us and took – it was so pretentious. She would go like this (DEMONSTRATES), she
would kiss and she’d touch your hand. It was an entrance that took three and a half
hours. And then she sat down on this ridiculous throne
that she always would sit on, and she looked at all of us, and she said, “Let that be
a lesson to you! You can be a phony in life, but you can’t
be a phony on the stage!” Ooh, wonderful. Yeah, that’s good, you know? That was worth the three hours. That’s good, that’s good. I was fortunate that I had Hume Cronyn, I
had Zoe Caldwell. Ooh! Mmm. I had Joshua Logan. Wow. Where were you? (LAUGHTER) You had them all! I was lucky. I was at Florida Atlantic University and it
was run by, you know – my mentor’s name was J. Robert Dietz. Probably, nobody knows the name, but back
in the fifties and in the sixties, he worked at Stratford constantly. He was a co-worker of William Ball’s. When Bill Ball was at the A.C.T. for so many
years, they had worked together in New York City. And I was a political science major, so honestly,
I went to school, you know, focusing on political science. I took theatre as something to lighten the
load of the PolySci. And this man was the man that said to me,
“You could do this, if you really wanted to do this.” And what he gave me – I mean, a lot of people
gave me great things, there’s no question. And I was touched by people who were instrumental
in, you know, like digging the ground work, which I’m thankful for. But the thing that J. Robert gave me, I think,
was he gave me his heart. He had such a love for what he did, he had
such a passion – and he was the most renowned person on Williams, Tennessee Williams. He was his friend, and when Tennessee passed,
people would come into class asking for information from J. Robert. This tiny little man, who was a brilliant
actor, but he was an elf. I mean, literally. He was trouble. He would do the worst things on stage, that
you’re not supposed to do. I mean, like, we were doing NIGHT OF THE IGUANA,
he was playing Nonno, and he would stick cherries up his nose. (LAUGHTER) And he would stick them up his
nose to show you that he could upstage you at any time he wanted to. And he only did it out of sheer love, out
of sheer love of what he was doing. I mean, you know, don’t get me wrong, the
man was brilliant. But what he was was just brilliant. And he had this incredible heart. And I just honestly, from watching him around
the school, and watching him around his peers, and the way that he taught was what made me
go, “If he can be that happy and joyful in what he does, you know, I don’t want
to do political science, man. I don’t want to be a politician!” And there’s something to it! Rebecca, did you have a teacher? Yes. No one famous, so that’s why I’m not talking
about my teachers. But somebody mentioned you or noticed you
in singing? Or how did they find you? Well, yes. I mean, you know, I’ve had some wonderful
voice teachers my whole career. I’ve been studying with a woman named Joan
Leder (PH) for a long, long, long time. Some of you know her. And acting teachers just, you know, scene
study here and there, and some wonderful coaches. So you are an example of a person who just
comes with the equipment. You need a little fine-tuning, maybe, but
not – Well, I mean, I was born with the ability
to sing, certainly. Right. And you know, I’ve developed it over the
years. Because there are people who say you can’t
teach acting. You can’t really teach it. You can fix it up a little. Or singing? Or singing. I don’t know. Maybe some elements of singing. You know, this drives me crazy about the business,
people getting parts that they can’t sing. Yes, yes! (GROANS AND AGREEMENT FROM THE PANEL) But that’s a whole other two hours, we can
go into that! Do you have to do a lot of body work to keep
your voice, your throat and everything open? Yes. You know – And massage and exercise, is it a whole – Well, after you’ve done it for decades,
not so much from my part – I mean, I can sort of just do it. You have to warm up a little bit. But I mean, it’s a craft like anything else. It takes repetition. It takes practice. It takes great repetition, that’s all I
can say. Doing it and doing it and doing it. And to expect someone to come into a show
who can’t sing, to just carry a role, is beyond me. Or who can’t act! Or act! Right. Anybody who doesn’t have the skill, to think,
because they’re A Famous Person, they’re suddenly going to be able to – you know,
it’s a very difficult thing. And it demeans what we do, and it makes no
sense to me at all. But I’m getting off the subject. It’s a good subject. That’s all right. Do you all have enough rehearsal times these
days, when you go to put on a play? Because I’ve heard some actors say there’s
less and less and less, and there’s never enough time to rehearse. You know, in a way, there’s never enough
rehearsal time. I mean, for me. I love rehearsal! Rehearsal is my favorite! So what’s the ideal? A month? I want to just stay in the rehearsal hall
the whole time and never, never go into the other. Invite people in. Yeah. ‘Cause, you know, that’s the discovery. That’s the process part that’s our – fun. At least, speaking for myself, I don’t know
if anybody agrees with me. No, no. But just that once you’ve found – you
know, it’s the search that’s fun and challenging and terrifying. Once you’ve found the optimum choice and
stuff – and then you do it over and over again, eight times a week, and that’s wonderful,
too. But the gestation period, the building of
the house, the foundation, and then, you know, it’s just so thrilling to see it come to
life. And the previews are thrilling, too. But then, once you kind of [get going], okay,
you’re on the treadmill now. You’ve got to do it eight times a week! And that’s wonderful, too, but. What’s the ideal amount of time to rehearse? It depends on the play. Yeah. Six, eight weeks? Something normal. Six, eight weeks? Not too long, because then you go past a point,
you need an audience. Yeah, right. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) I mean, three and a half, four weeks in a
rehearsal hall. Beyond that, it’s a little too – you need
an audience. But see, that’s what I find – But in the old Russian theatre, didn’t they
do it for months and months? Five months! Ah! Yeah, but you’re talking about, again, the
play. You know, Chekhov. Doing Chekhov, don’t you need five months? If you’re doing Neil Simon, you need an
audience to figure out how the play interacts with the audience. The audience is the second part of that play,
that’s the other person. But with Chekhov, it may be closed off from
the audience, truly fourth wall theatre. Yes. In a strange way, not that you don’t care
about them, but you’re not performing for them as much as you’re interacting with
each other. Come in. Yeah, yeah. I think you always need an audience, though. Because after all, let’s face, that’s
what – That’s why we do it, right. We’re not it in the forest. We need that energy. I mean, it’s a transference. You need it. Even – I’m not just talking about laughs. There’s a certain – there’s all kinds
of other feedback. Well, yeah. But even when it’s still and quiet, like
you say, it’s energy. Yes, right. You need to know if it’s landing. You need to know if what you’re doing is
reading as what you meant it to read as. Do you notice it when it gets really silent? Yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Because sometimes I’m in the theatre, and
it gets so quiet! It’s great. That can be wonderful. And nobody coughs. Well, that’s when you know. I mean, it’s really quiet. Yeah. I think it’s not the rehearsal – personally,
I find, of late, it’s not the rehearsal, that we have plenty of rehearsal time, to
a certain degree. I think that we don’t – honestly, for
my taste – don’t have enough preview time. Because we get like three, three and a half
weeks. And then everybody’s down to the wire, there’s
nothing but tension, and everybody’s trying to fix it. Yeah, that’s not a lot of fun. Well, and the last week of previews, the last
week is critics. Yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And critics. And in the process, that’s when all the
other elements come in. And that’s when you feel time pressing on
you, and you feel other things pressing on you, and you feel producers pressing on you,
and you feel all of those outside forces going, “Okay, we gotta get it right now. We gotta get it right, because we’re going
to be put out there for the world to strip us down.” And there’s a part of, as we all know, once
you’re into a run, where you begin to really relax into a show, and you begin to just enjoy
yourself in a show, because the pressure is gone. Then you really begin to find that play! Yeah. You know, and I think if we had another month
of previews, it wouldn’t feel so claustrophobic. And you could have some time to live in it
more than two days after they’ve frozen it, do you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. Well, I guess they used to be out of town. Right, exactly. People were out of town. You went out of town and played in Philadelphia. But even the out-of-town process, though,
you still have three to four weeks of rehearsal. Then you’ve got maybe a week of preview,
do you know? Or two weeks of preview, and then you open. And then they leave it alone, until we go
to New York. I just wish it weren’t so rigid, in terms
of – Yes. Because I think every experience is different. Yeah. And they shoehorn all these plays into the
same schedule. For instance, you’ll be in a rehearsal hall,
and you’ve got the tape on the floor, you know, and you’re rehearsing away, and it’s
going marvelously. And then you move into the theatre, and it
all falls apart. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) For whatever reason, because
maybe the tech elements come in, or something happened in the transference. You’ve got to get it back! So in that instance, for that play, you may
need four days before you actually go to tech. Because tech, the work stops and the work
starts degrading. See, now, I don’t agree with you. My favorite part of the rehearsal is tech. I love tech. Really? I love tech. I love tech. And the reason why I love tech is because
the energy that one has to put out, to put on the continuation of a performance that
runs throughout an evening, there’s a tendency at a certain point, usually after three weeks,
to play the whole play in every scene. And when you have time for technical rehearsal,
they stop you, so that you can really think about it. It’s almost like slowing up into a slower
gear. And for some reason, my body and mind, my
heart and my head come together in a very productive way in tech. It’s your time, yes. Yes. You know why? Because they’re not watching us. Mmm-hmm. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) The eyes are not on us. They’re watching that light. Yeah, you have time to – “Can you move a little to the – ” Yeah. And it’s so – the pressure is off of us,
and that’s when you can do some real creative work. I love tech. It’s a very good thing. Also, in the old, old days, when I got my
first starring role a quarter of a century ago, you really had opening night. You had your parents and all the first night
critics there the first night. Right. And you had the outer critics the second night. That was your thing. And you want to talk about pressure? Yeah. It was hellacious! Oh, God. So this way, in a way, they may come during
previews, but you got a shot. They come over three, four days. Right, right. We just got a marvelous notice that was brought
to my attention by the critic himself, who will remain nameless, this wild situation. But of course, he came last Sunday. Yeah. Right. I didn’t know about it! Same thing you said, we’re two weeks after
opening. Yeah. That’s great. I’m in my soul. But thank God you didn’t know. Thank God! Andrew Lippa said to me – the writer of
the other WILD PARTY – if you bring your neshamah, which is the Hebrew word for soul
– “If you bring your neshamah on stage, the audience will forgive you everything. If you don’t, they will forgive you nothing.” And this is what you’re talking about, about
heart. And in a way, when they do TV casting for
us on Broadway, which is a heartbreak for us, it’s what Rebecca’s talking about,
where people without our particular skills, but another set of skills, are given all this
burden that they’re not trained for. What the, either producers or casting directors,
are buying is their sense of their neshamah, of their soul, that they understand it from
the small box. I mean, then you have a break-through. You have a Reba McIntyre that walks into ANNIE
GET YOUR GUN, and she’s God-sent! Yep, absolutely. Oh, was that wonderful? She was great. She’s like the best thing since French toast. It was like a glove. Yeah, wasn’t that wonderful? It sometimes works. See, I actually, you know, do a little mantra
when I go on. Because when you’re doing a long run, you
suffer from modified stage fright, to a certain degree. Yes, absolutely. (GENERAL AGREEMENT FROM THE PANEL) Because your routine becomes so set. And you’re following a performance, your
building that you’ve built, the construction of your performance in rehearsal, but you
have to be alive in the moment. So what I always do, is I always get in contact
with my heart. Because if I feel that it’s in my stomach,
then it’s just about me, it’s about my ego. I always have to see myself as part of something
larger than myself, the collective of the play. So I always do this mantra. I pray to actors who have come before me,
living and dead, and to honor the playwright. But also to try to center it in my heart. And you can feel it, when it’s in your heart! You certainly can. And you can feel it when it’s in your stomach,
and that’s bad. So the heart – and I didn’t know about
this until I was forty-five years old, about even having a heart! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Does some of that, that modified stage fright
that you talked about, does it come from fatigue partially and just tight (PH)? I think it comes from a lack of anger, for
me. (REBECCA LAUGHS) No, when you’re young,
a lot of your impetus is, “I’ll show you!” Yeah, boy! Oh, oh! That was your question, “Are there people
who said you’re not good enough to do this?” You go, “I’ll show you how good I am!” Then when you get a little older, you can,
you know, take your anger and you can place it perhaps in a more productive place. On the Internet. Yes. (LAUGHTER) Towards our leaders! And then, there’s a vacuum, that you can’t
ride the anger as effectively as when you’re a young actor. It’s funny. I find that – I’ve done this play now
about four hundred and seventy times. We started it in May of 2002. We’ve done it at the Donmar, we did it Off-Broadway,
and now we’ve been at the Walter Kerr – on 48th Street! (LAUGHTER) – since February 7th. And you know, the thing that I’ve always
done – I’ve played a lot of parts where you’re periodic. You have a scene, you leave for an hour! That’s hard. You come back, and – I did it in CABARET
when I was playing the Nazi. (LAUGHTER) And I remember very clearly, the
hardest thing about that scene was trying to go, “What is the story I’m telling? Where do I fit in the story? Who am I? And what did the audience last think when
they saw me? What do I need to catch up it with, since
they last saw me?” And for this part, Mason [in TAKE ME OUT],
I have an hour off. So when I come back on, I have to come back
into a train that’s been moving, and I have to hit the right level at the right speed. Yeah, that’s hard. And what’s the story? And what do I need to tell them about where
I’m at in the story? So before I go on, one of the things I always
do is – even the first entrance – “What’s the story? What’s the story? What’s the story? What are we telling them? What’s the story? What story am I telling them? What part of the story am I telling them?” Yeah. But it’s the same thing, it’s that world. But I have to know why I’m in the play,
and what I’m saying. I mean, Martha Graham said, “Going on stage
is like dancing with God,” which I always think – whether you believe, whatever you
believe in, but it is like a very sacred space. That’s right. And in terms of telling the story, it is a
metaphor, as Stella would say, for the story of mankind itself. Mmm-hmm. Yeah. Before I go on, I look at the pictures of
our boys, I read the obits of our boys who are being killed in Iraq. And I take those boys with me. I take souls living and dead, not past actors. We are sending our children to war to fight
for oil, and we’re killing them. And it’s happening, of course, in Israel,
too, and for the Palestinian people, too. So this play is so clearly dedicated toward
peace. I mean, it’s very clear. It’s not a small play. It’s a huge play about a woman who dedicates
herself to the birth of a state like it was the birth of her own flesh and blood. Can I ask you a question? I’m curious about this. Of course. My acting teacher always said, “Who do you
want to be in the audience when you perform?” He said, “Who is your ideal audience? If you’re doing ANTIGONE, who do you want
to be in the audience?” We did CABARET for Kofi Annan. (GASPS FROM THE PANEL) It was an extraordinary
evening. It made us all kind of go, “I’m just an
actor … (LAUGHTER) I mean, this guy actually has a job!” You know? So have you had people in the audience who
are extraordinary? Yes. And who do you want to be in your audience? That’s such a wonderful question. First of all, when I get frightened, I put
unconditional love into the audience. You do what? I put unconditional love into the audience. Like yourself, like other relatives – you
know, like people who I know love me and love me no matter what. When my blood sisters come from Quaker Ridge
School, those are hot nights on the stage! (PIA LAUGHS) They’ve known me for a long
time. They love me from Monroe Playschool. So I put that feeling in the black velvet
of the audience. I put that, and I try not to fault if people
cough, if they move, if they can’t hear. The hearing aids, oh, mamma mia! (LAUGHTER) My mother is hard of hearing, and
she goes, “Tovah, I rate your parts by how you look. Golda Meir is a zero!” (LAUGHTER) We’re going to have to take a little break
here. We’re just going to get back to this – Sorry. I’ll think of who I think is in the audience,
besides unconditional love. Politicos have come. I would love the Administration to come to
some of them. We’re going to take a little break right
now, and have a few words from Isabelle Stevenson. (APPLAUSE) I would now like to remind you that these
seminars are only one of the many year-round programs that the Wing undertakes. You are probably familiar with the American
Theatre Wing’s Tony Award, given for achievement of excellence in the craft of Broadway theatre. We also have an important grants program,
providing aid to Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres. We have expanded our scholarships, to promising
students to pursue studies in the theatre arts. And we offer a comprehensive guide to careers
in the theatre to those seriously interested in entering the profession. As a long-established charity, dating back
from World War One, and World War Two, and our famous Stage Door Canteen, all of our
programs are designed to reward and promote excellence in the theatre. We just love to introduce young people and
their families to theatre and the magic it unfolds. We take pride in the work we do, remain grateful
to our members and everyone else whose contributions help make possible the dynamic programs of
the American Theatre Wing. Our work is so important to the theatre and
the community and we are proud to be a part of this exciting industry. And so now, let’s return to our panel on
performance, and our moderator, Pia Lindstrom. Pia? Thank you, Isabelle. (APPLAUSE) We’re now going to hear from
some students from the Bronx Community College Theatre Workshop. They’re going to ask some questions of our
wonderful panel. Go ahead. KERVIL PERALZA
Hi. My name is Kervil (PH) Peralza (PH), and my
question is for the entire panel. Now, about typecasting, would you want to
elaborate a little more about how did you break that physical and cultural barrier that
you had to go through, [in your] career? Well, I had a strange thing happen with an
agent, a long time ago, which was, my agent brought me in, sat me down, she said, “Denis,
you have to grow into your face.” (LAUGHTER) And I said, “Okay.” She goes, “You’re an old man in a young
boy’s body, and you will never get work until you’re thirty-five.” That’s what she said to me. And I went, “Great!” So, you know, what I chose to do was not to
believe her, because it wasn’t a helpful thing. What can I do with that information? You know, she was talking about commercials,
literally, on-camera commercials. And I think she was right. I’ve auditioned for probably about five
hundred commercials in my life and I’ve gotten (MAKES A ZERO WITH HIS FINGERS) that
many. I’ve gotten a lot of voiceover work. Obviously, I’ve gotten a lot of TV, film
and theatre work, but for some reason, in on-camera commercials, this is not a face
that works. That’s fine! I accepted it, I moved on, I found my way
in, in a different area. But I think I’ve grown into my face, finally. (LAUGHTER) I would think so, too! Beautifully! Do you grow into your talent? Is it possible that your talent is ahead of
your age? I mean, Tovah, you’re playing – I was
wondering, if you could have played Golda Meir when you were younger? Probably not as well, because she didn’t
have anger, the anger. She actually was much more emotionally – the
word isn’t “controlled” – even, she’s more even-keeled. So how do you make the play interesting? You make all the characters that act upon
her – I play about thirty people – be very vivid. King Abdullah of Jordan, very vivid, and she
is the hub of the wheel. But to answer this gentleman’s question,
the way you break anything in life is through your will. Yeah. Ben-Gurion’s grandchildren were in my dressing
room last night. Their grandfather graduated from eighth grade,
and he willed a state. Golda Meir’s parents did not support her
past her thirteenth birthday. They asked her to go to work in the family
store. She ran away from home to live with her sister,
to put herself through high school. This is before World War One. So you must, you must will it. And you fall down seven times, you get up
eight. I fell off my horse when I was a child, and
my father yelled to me – my childhood name was Terry Sue – “Terry Sue, Terry Sue,
are you okay?” And I was lying in a white hacking jacket. I said, (SOBBING) “I’m okay, Daddy. I’m covered in horseshit!” He said, “Everybody is. Get back on your horse!” (LAUGHTER) So get back on your horse! Anybody else on this? Rebecca? I think typecasting, it’s like Marc said. You have to know what your strengths are,
certainly, and celebrate them and embrace them and love them. You know, we all do what we do. We all maybe have been cast in certain things. You know, me, the leading ladies in the musicals
and things of that nature, because I sing a certain way and I love to sing a certain
way and I love what I do! But along the way, you do maybe get tired
of doing the same thing over and over again. So that’s when, as Tovah said, you have
to say no to a lot of things. You have to accept a lot of things. You have to will your way into certain auditions. And just do it, you know? It’s like, you gotta have faith. Yeah. You gotta have faith in yourself. You gotta have faith in the ideas that you
set forth with, and that passion, and you just have to commit to it. I mean, when I was in college, I remember
I was told by one particular professor that I would have a great career in soap opera. That’s what I was told. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Oh, boy! And I was told that, you know, the character
roles that I was doing while I was in college, because I was an undergrad, and the graduates
got to do the leading roles. The undergrads – actually, I was the only
undergrad – I played all the character stuff. And I was told, “Now this is not what you’re
going to do in the real world, and we’re trying to prepare you for that!” Oh, brother! You know? So, of course, what have I done? Character roles, on the stage. Never done a soap opera. Not that there’s anything wrong with soap
opera. Just (DEEPENS HIS VOICE) I’m a stage actor. (LAUGHTER) But it’s not what you want to do. Let’s take another question. Hi, my name is Sakilas Conday, and I would
like to know, what’s the most valuable thing that you guys have learned while working in
the theatre? Ah! What’s the most valuable thing you’ve
learned? Lewis. Well, I think, when you start out and you’re
the best one in your class, that’s good for a few minutes. (LAUGHTER) But what you have to do is, you
have to work with people who are better than you are. And we were talking about teachers. Teachers give you a foundation, and it’s
invaluable, because they are the starting off point. But certainly, so much of what I’ve learned
has been working with people who are better than I am. And at this stage of my life, I only work
with people who are as good or better than I am. I want to work with artists, at this stage
of the game. The things that you learn – I’ll give
you an example. I was doing a production of THE TIME OF YOUR
LIFE, starring Henry Fonda. It was a great cast. Richard Dreyfuss was in it, as a young man. An actor named Victor French, Strata (PH)
Martin. And Victor French played the bartender, Nick. And there was a phone downstage right. And whenever the phone rang, part of the play
is, he had to go around the bar and pick up the phone, and he’d have to say something
like, “Is Dudley Bostwick (PH) here?” That’s all. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) And he would do
this continually throughout the play. And he got angrier and angrier. And he would throw the rag down, and he would
be vexed. I went up to him, I was young, I was like
twenty-five years old. I said, “Victor, it doesn’t say in the
script ‘angrily throws down the rag.’ Why are you so angry?” And he said, “Well, I call it stage territory. My conception of this play is that everything
that’s in the bar is safe. It was written in 1939. 1939, Adolf Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo,
the world was going mad. I didn’t want the phone in my bar. I didn’t want it! They told me that I was a technological idiot
if I didn’t have a phone in my bar. I hate that phone, and I hate everything that
comes in through that phone, because it’s danger and chaos.” He said, “Now, I do this in everything that
I do.” And I do this. When I’m on the stage now, I take characters
and I say, “I like that character. I want to move closer to her.” Or “I don’t like that character. I’m going to stay on the other side of the
stage.” It’s the same thing with furniture. They say that the definition of a great actress
is a woman who takes the upstage center couch and never allows anybody else to sit down
on it! (LAUGHTER) It’s David Lipsky’s (PH) line. So from Victor French, I’m a twenty-five
year old actor, he taught me this craft element. And when you work with people who are better
than you are, what it does is, the fabric of your life and the fabric of your profession
becomes thicker and thicker. And then, at a certain point, you tell other
people this. And I like to teach now. I like to tell, I like to pass on what I know,
because I don’t know anything about anything other than this profession, you know? So. Ah, Lewis, you make me cry. (LAUGHTER) Bernard Shaw said, “I am of the
opinion that our lives belong to the community, and as long as we shall live, it is our privilege
to do for it whatever we can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a splendid torch, which I’ve got hold
of for but one moment in time, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before
handing it on to future generations.” And I think that’s what you’re saying. That’s so beautiful. Yeah. The most valuable – one of the most valuable
things I’ve learned about acting, and life in general, is just to – I’m not saying
I can always do this, but is to put your attention on the other person. I mean, it works great for stage fright, for
“I don’t know what I’m doing right [now].” I mean, it’s about listening again, which
is acting, but always to, you know, focus. To somehow – and this is, we’re all still
trying to do this, to this day, I’m sure – get rid of self-consciousness, self-awareness. I mean, self-awareness, that’s good. Self-consciousness is not. But to put your attention on the other person. To change the expression in someone else’s
eyes. Yeah. That’s good. Hector Berlioz said, “All that matters is
love and work.” And as he got closer to this death – not
that old, just within the vicinity – he said, “All that matters is love, ‘cause
from love all else will follow.” And it sounds very corny, but it is true. It talks about you coming on with your heart,
and about you having a bigger context for the play than just your little life and the
little story, you know? (PIA LAUGHS) That that phone became the conduit
to the chaos of the planet. Yeah. And choices. I mean, that phone is a perfect example. It’s all about choices. Life is about choices. And acting is about choices. And you have that power to make a choice. But as Rebecca says, you get the ability to
sing. So then, the preparation for just the singing
becomes less. But the reservoir – what do you want to
do to prepare to be a great artist? Educate yourself, learn! Right. Yes, yes. I don’t go to the theatre – it’s no
big shakes, ‘cause I couldn’t do the play well if I didn’t – I can’t go to the
theatre without reading that day’s paper. I can’t! Because that has to inform that performance. Yeah. It’s the only thing that’s different,
they and the audience. Joe DiMaggio hit homer after homer. They said, “Joe, why do you keep hitting
homers?” He said, “Because somebody ain’t never
seen baseball.” You know? Wow. Oh, that’s great. Yes? Hi. My name is Alex Swayna (PH). I’m a Latino actor from Bronx Community
College. I’d like to say, all of you are great actors,
I love your work, you know. And I got a question for all of you. As an actor, what do you have to sacrifice
to be up here in theatre? (MURMURS FROM THE PANEL) Mmm, good question! My life! (LAUGHTER) Yes, my life. Except my life. (PH) Okay, what did you give up, Swoosie? What did you give you up? I think you know this. The cost is great. I think the cost is great of such prolonged
self-awareness. You are your own instrument, your voice, your
body, your psyche, your spirit. There’s a lot. I mean, physically, it’s like being an athlete. You are either in training or you’re not,
vocally, physically. You can not get sick. If you do, you have to find a way to play
the play or sing the musical, being sick. I mean, it’s really – at least, speaking
for myself, it’s been a great sacrifice, which I totally – again, about choices – I
wanted to make. But I think in terms of relationships, locations
where you are, geographically – it’s very much of, you decide to do one thing very well. And in my case, (LAUGHS) it’s been just
the exclusion of many other things! (LAUGHS) Sure. So that’s what I can do, and that’s about
it. What have you given up? Given up. Gosh, on one large sense, I feel like I’ve
not sacrificed anything. In fact, I feel like I’ve enriched my life,
wouldn’t want to be doing anything but what I’m doing. So in that way, I feel if I had stayed in
Alabama where I was born, for instance, who knows what my life would be. I might be living in a suburb with some kids,
and I don’t know, going to the Baptist church down the street. You know, it’s not me? And I knew it wasn’t me, way back then,
and that’s why I left Alabama and came to New York to do something else, have a new
life, meet other people, you know, enrich my life. But on another level, I agree with Swoosie. You do sacrifice your free time. You know, if you’re on Broadway and you’re
doing eight shows a week, it’s bone – you know – I don’t know what the word is – bone-crushingly
tiring, sometimes. You have no idea, until you do it, for years
and years and years, how hard it is. And yet, I take great pride in it and love
what we do, as well. And you know, while I call it Chinese water
torture sometimes (LAUGHS) to have to do the same thing over and over, you learn to also
learn from it and to love the repetition and to find something new in it every night and
to find the freshness in it every night, which is very hard to do and very wonderful when
it happens. So you give up a lot to get more is how I
look at it, you know. Did you give up something? I kind of identify with what Rebecca said,
in terms of, I feel like I’ve gotten so much. And you know, I tried to quit acting twice. I tried to quit when I was twenty-two. I was a poetry major for two years in college,
another useful area of study. (LAUGHTER) And I panicked at the last minute
and decided to get a theatre degree instead, because I could actually teach with that. I was wrong about that. I could have taught with a poetry degree! (LAUGHTER) So that’s gone. But you know, and I tried to quit when I was
twenty-seven, just because I got so frustrated with the politics of theatre. Because, like any endeavor, music, it doesn’t
matter what it is, there are politics in it. You know, who you know, how you relate to
them, how that person got that job, how you did on that job, whatever. And so, in a fit of pique, I quit. You know, no one knew I quit. (LAUGHTER) You know what I mean? And when they called and offered me the part
and I accepted it, you know, it was like – I’m back! I’m back! Ah! Denis O’Hare makes his comeback! After four months, ladies and gentleman! (LAUGHTER) So I’ll never forget this man,
Dan Mooney, in Chicago, Illinois. We were doing FUENTE OVEJUNA, that great Lope
de Vega play, which is a great play. And I was playing Mango, a huge, fat character,
which I of course wasn’t right for and they made me do, and I had the best time in my
life doing it. And I’m playing Mango, and Dan Mooney was
playing the evil sergeant who gets killed by the townspeople of Fuente Ovejuna. And he turned to me at rehearsal and he went,
“Can you believe we get paid for this?” He was a guy from Milwaukee who came down
and did plays in Chicago, and he was just so chuffed to be able to do this and get paid. And I’ve never forgotten that. I thought, “Right, right! Look at us!” I know! I know, it’s incredible. We’re in a rehearsal room. You’re falling down, you’re laughing,
we’re telling jokes and drinking coffee. It’s great. We’re telling stories, we’re doing a little
bit of work, you know. And when we’re doing a great play, and we’re
getting paid for it! It’s better than sex. (LAUGHTER) I mean, just, yeah. And when you do it onstage – (SWOOSIE CROWS) If it wasn’t for the theatre, I would never
have gotten a date. Truly! (LAUGHTER) All of a sudden, people said, “Oh,
look at him! He’s funny, he’s tall! He looks much taller on stage than he actually
is!” And now, I’m surrounded by beautiful women
all the time. And so, I’ve given up nothing. (LAUGHTER) And family life, children, the people, friendship? Can you support these things? Can you give enough time? My – do you want to talk? No, go ahead. My father said to me, (DEEP VOICE) “Tovah,
my girl –” I said, “Dad, is this the way you talked when you were a baby? Did your mother say, ‘Lullaby and good night’?” My father was a litigator. He was a “Please the court, Your Honor!” Anyway, so he said, “Tovah, my girl, you
want to live a long life? Dedicate yourself to a cause greater than
yourself!” So that’s really what we do. It’s what you do. It’s what we do. We’re storytellers, and we try to put it
in the largest context we can. And when you get done with approbation, with
the idea of whether you’re loved or not loved or whatever some such myth is about
actors, when you’re done with that, the whole game is transformation. The whole game is, when you don’t need (MIMES
APPLAUSE) duh-duh-duh-duh, you just back off, and as you say, get into the mind and the
neshamah and the soul of another person to bring them forth, to learn from them. And that’s what we do. So we have given up things the way you have
given up things, by not choosing other things. I mean, I’m not great in math, so God knows
I shouldn’t have been a banker. I couldn’t win piano concertos at national
music camp. I switched to plays with music, because I
didn’t want to be, you know, a second-runner. So I felt I had a shot here. What did we give up? Maybe having more children. But I’m in a marriage for a long time, I
have a life’s partner for twenty-six years, we have two beautiful children. Ha! I gave up Broadway for thirteen years. I did. My first child didn’t learn to read in first
grade, and I was working for Jerry, for Jerry Zaks in LEND ME A TENOR. He also got scarlet fever. Nothing much, I was about to kill myself! Anyway, so I said, “Oh, I get it. My Mother’s Day card says, ‘Dearest Mommy,
thank you for waking me up in the morning.’” And there was nothing about reading to him
at night or putting him to bed. And this child didn’t learn to read. So I said, that’s it, because if you can’t
bring up your kids, you’re nothing. And I stopped. (DOES THE JEWISH MAMA VOICE) Now he’s in
Harvard, I’m back on Broadway! (LAUGHTER) And that was it. I mean, I did give up the long run for a long
time. And you, Marc? I mean, is it relationships or continuing
presence in your parents’ or friends’ lives, if you’re always on the road, you’re
always auditioning, you’re always thinking about yourself and your instrument? (LAUGHS) That is a drag. I mean, what about the rest of us? I think that, you know, the whole idea of
sacrifice, the truth is, I’ll never know. Because I made the choice that I made. Like, everybody makes the choices that they
make every day in their lives to do things. And it’s a commitment to yourself and it’s
a commitment to what you believe in. I mean, would I like to see my family more? Yes, I would. Had I chosen another life, who knows the other
things that would have been in a different balance. Right. You’d be sick of ‘em. I’m kidding. Well, or you know, I guess all you can do
every day is wake up and try to do your best, honestly, you know? And maybe be aware of things that you have
not been doing as well as you could, or become more open to a communication that hasn’t
been there because you say you haven’t had time, but there’s always time, you know? Right. I think it also becomes, as you grow hopefully
more mature, you begin to learn how to temper everything you’re doing a little bit better,
a little more gracefully, with a little more compassion for things outside of yourself,
because this can be such a self-involved, you know, quest. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I was meant to do this, because I’m sitting
here, you know, with these wonderful people. You know, and (GESTURES TO THE AUDIENCE) these
wonderful people. So I don’t believe in the word sacrifice
as being a negative, let’s just put it that way. There are very positive compromises that come,
and great learning. Do the people around you have to sacrifice,
so that you all can do what you want to do? Well, it’s funny. I go to bed at three in the morning, or three-thirty
in the morning. That’s my schedule. I get up at ten or eleven, except for today. You know, because I get finished at eleven. I live in Brooklyn, by the time I get home
it’s eleven-thirty, quarter to twelve. I eat at twelve-thirty or one. And then I go on the Internet and I read all
that the world’s outrageous, and I get really, really angry and I write emails to all my
friends. “You should read this! You should read this! You should read this! You should read this!” You know? But you can’t see your friends, because
you’re at work. But that’s the weird thing. You do give up some sense of normalcy. I mean, it’s the weird idea about – you
know, I have friends – a friend of mine, Linda, is in L.A. doing a play. I haven’t seen her for four months. My other friend, Cali, moved to L.A. a year
and a half ago. I think she’s coming back? She has an apartment in New York still. I haven’t seen her for a year and a half. My other best friend is a director who living
in Mexico some of the times and other places. I haven’t seen him for a year. And so you kind of go – it’s weird, suddenly
your friends are gone for a year, five months, and you sort of email and you call, but it’s
not the same thing. And so, you kind of make new acquaintances
a little bit. It can be, not a lonely life, but you can
really lose your circle through attrition. There’s not a lot of continuity. No, exactly. And your friends just have to understand. If they’re really good friends, they will
understand, hopefully, that you know, you go into rehearsal, you drop out of sight. Right. Yeah. I mean, it’s just total immersion. So what happens if your friend is sick? What happens, the obligation – is that part
of the sacrifice that you say, “I’m in rehearsal, I can’t be there for my friend”? Well, you do what you can, of course, depending
on the seriousness of the situation. Is this not a sacrifice that you all have
to make, is not to be available sometimes because you’re in rehearsal? It depends. You’ve got to stay alert. There’s still a phone. Oh, sure. And there are extenuating circumstances, and
you can always get away for someone if you have to. It’s not easy. It is a challenge. I mean, being in a relationship, for example,
is definitely a challenge. These have been things that we, myself and
my relationship, we have been discussing! (LAUGHTER) Because both of us have been on
very – no, not in a bad way. But really, it’s just a matter of communication
and learning. To deal with it. And we’re on very different schedules right
now. Like, for instance, I have to go to a rehearsal
right after this, then go to the show, so thankfully, she’s going to walk my dog for
me. And that’s really cool, and we actually
help each other that way. (REBECCA LAUGHS) But we’ll leave each other
little notes and things like that. We make the very conscious attempt to communicate
in every form we can. I’m not a fan of the phone, because I just
don’t like being able to talk to somebody without really seeing them. So we’re like doing a lot of email now,
because you can put your idea clearly together and then she can read it when she has time. We don’t feel pressure to have to call,
even if we have nothing to necessarily say. And you know, I think that you just find those
lines of communication between each other. And like, with my family, you know, my mom
used to get really – she would leave me messages. My Jewish mother! She would call me and literally say, “Hello,
Marc, it’s your mother, reminding you you have one.” Click! (LAUGHTER) We should get the mothers on stage here! They would tell us what the sacrifice was! But it’s interesting. You know, it’s just the guilt thing, which
is fine. I would listen to it, it would make me laugh. But then you find a communication to where
now she doesn’t hear from me for, you know, even a week, she’s just, “I’m just calling
to say hi. I just want to hear your voice and I wanted
you to hear mine. Things are okay here. Give us a call when you have time.” And it’s cool. But, like you said – I mean, you’re on the road, too. Well, that’s it. I mean, you’re always on Broadway and I
wish you always were. But you probably are all over the country,
traveling, fancy hotels, oh! That’s one thing I love about this life. I mean, it’s a curse and a blessing both. But like Rebecca was staying, she could have
stayed home and been married to, whatever. In a trailer. (Marc LAUGHS) I feel like I could have, you know, been married
to a dentist in San Bernardino and have 2.5 children, and it probably would have been
fine. But I don’t think so! (LAUGHTER) It’s
just the variety of this life is so – I mean, we don’t have any continuity, but
on the other hand, every day is different! I mean, sometimes we’re, you know, staying
up until three in the morning and doing eight performances a week on Broadway and sleeping
until eleven. Sometimes we have to be up at four o’clock
in the morning, for film or television and we go to bed at nine o’clock. It’s just wild. I mean, I love that. I would hate having a job where I knew that
I had to go every day all day long and sit under a fluorescent light and know that I
had two weeks off at Christmas. I think I would be in a padded room by now. (REBECCA LAUGHS) I agree. I totally agree. What happens when you don’t get any jobs? Oh, well, that’s most of the time! Do you go into depression then? That’s the majority of the time. ‘Cause those of us who just went to the
job, we didn’t have the “Suddenly there is no job” and you’re alone and you’re
home. Right. No, you know, and suddenly you are – Alone, and you’re home. What do you all do? It’s such a feast or famine syndrome. That’s why they’ve invented alcohol. (LAUGHTER) For out-of-work actors. So one of the things you give up is a kind
of consistency, too, and stability of – Yeah, you have to be a gambler. You have to be a gambler, you know, so – A gambler, okay. There’s no net. No net? No, none. Ever. But there’s another side of it, too, where
you never give yourself a break, because there’s that desire to want to work, and there’s
the other side of it where you feel like you’ve got to get that next job, because when am
I going to work again? Oh, right, right. Of course. And then you find yourself, I mean, four years
later, going – I need a break! I need a day, I need a week! My favorite two actor jokes are, “You want
to hear an actor complain? Give him a job.” (LAUGHTER) And the other one is, “You want
a job? Buy a plane ticket.” It’s true. You know, the minute you buy a plane ticket
to go somewhere, you get a call. “Hey, starting January 12th, it’s two
weeks,” you go, “I just bought a plane ticket.” “Oh, well, TV, money!” Yeah, absolutely. I have a story, just in terms of how you don’t
know what’s going to happen to you the next day, and how you have to be your own best
friend in a way. I was sick with the politics of the business. And I went down to Florida, and I found three
local guys in Florida and I wanted to start a not-for-profit theatre. I figured, “I’m gonna be, you know, the
man who makes the decisions around here!” And I realized that things in Florida were
a little too horizontal for me, and I was very lost, and I came back to the city. And they were doing a production of GUYS AND
DOLLS, and my friend Nathan Lane was in it. And I wanted to play Nathan Detroit. It was a role I always wanted to play. Sam Levine, who originated the role was a
mentor. And I went in and I auditioned for it, and
I was feeling not good about myself, and I must have given a very lousy audition. And Jerry Zaks, who I had never worked with
up until that point, he didn’t want to hire me. So Nathan Lane said to Jerry, he said, “Hire
Lewis!” He said, “You know, I don’t think he feels
very good about himself at the time. Hire him!” At any rate, he said, “No, he wasn’t good. He wasn’t spontaneous. He wasn’t good.” So I was living with an actress by the name
of Vickie Lewis at the time, and she came to see the Broadway production of GUYS AND
DOLLS. This was for the national company. And she said, “You blew it! You blew it. They wanted you, there was no other actors,
because everybody quit. (LAUGHTER) You were the only one, and you
blew it.” So I felt terrible and I went into Riverside
Park, and I must have smoked about three packs of cigarettes in about ten minutes. And I thought, “Boy, if you can’t play
Nathan Detroit, you can’t do anything. What happened to you? You’re forty-five years old. You were a comer, you know? And now, look at you.” And I didn’t know what to do with the next
minute of my life. And it occurred to me that it was Saturday
and that I had time to go and take a shower and then try to get a ticket to see the Broadway
production of GUYS AND DOLLS. And I did that. And I sat in the fourth row, and I started
to weep, because I loved it so much. And all of a sudden, I saw what the style
of the piece is, how he had directed. This is another good lesson. Don’t worry about stealing from other actors! Steal, steal, steal from the best! (LAUGHTER) So, I sat there – oh, you – Can you wrap it up? They’re waving at me. Yes, wrapping it up. Just that I didn’t know what I was doing
to do with the next minute of my life. All of a sudden, I did something positive
for myself, I got cast as Nathan Detroit, and for the last ten years, I’ve been a
star! (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) And on that note, we bring this to an end,
the American Theatre Wing seminar of “Working in the Theatre,” brought to you from the
Graduate Center of City University. Thank you so much for being with us. And thank you, you were all great! Thank you! (GENERAL AGREEMENT; APPLAUSE)

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