World Theatre (Working In The Theatre #309)


City University Television presents The American Theatre Wing Seminars: “Working In The Theatre.” This seminar: Production. (APPLAUSE) Welcome to The American Theatre
Wing’s “Working In The Theatre” seminars coming to you from the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York. Created by Isabelle Stevenson, these seminars
are now in their 31st year, giving us an opportunity to learn from the professionals as they share
their experiences in working in the theatre. Today’s seminar is on World Theatre. Our panelists are artists who provide the
creative heart in the theatre, and we’ll learn just what they do and discover how the magic
of theatre is created worldwide. I’m Roy Somlyo, President of The American
Theatre Wing. Now, I’d like to introduce our moderator for
the seminar, founder of The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, executive director of The
Johnny Mercy Foundation and long time friend of The American Theatre Wing, George C. White. (APPLAUSE)
Thank you, Roy. Great pleasure to be surrounded by this global
luminaries, as I may say. (LAUGHTER) And I would like to start by introducing
our panel today. On my right, far right, which is not a political
statement, I must say, representing I guess Ireland, wouldn’t you say would be the best–
Maybe the Islands. The Islands, okay. (LAUGHTER) The Islands, the Northern Islands. Fiona Shaw who is currently represented on
Broadway by Medea. And next to her is a gentleman from the People’s
Republic of China, Mr. Shu Xiao. And on my immediate right is Marita Lindholm
(PH) Gotchman who is Swedish, but also let us say represents Nordic theatre. So, she covers a large part of the Northern
Hemisphere. Just five. Five, just five. Okay. There we are. My immediate left is Elise Thoron who is from
this country, but is a citizen of the world and has worked in theatre in Russia, in Ireland
and spent a great deal of time in Holland and Amsterdam. And on her immediate left is Valery Fokin
who is from the Meyerhold Center in Moscow representing Russia, if you will. And on his immediate left is Anatoly Smelianksy
from the Russian Federation, although that’ll sound like two different places. So, that is our distinguished panel today. I must say that our two friends from Russia
are appearing here, thanks to the generosity and courtesy of Fordham University, The Trust
For Mutual Understanding and the New York State Council On The Arts for which we’re
very grateful for their help and support. I think I’d like to start, if I may, Fiona,
starting with you, there’s much we will and should talk about, but perhaps we should begin
by pointing out, since you have worked in the Islands including Australia which is a
very large island, the similarities and differences. And perhaps we could begin by talking about
training a little bit, because I know that, although in many, many cases here, and we
have the leading perhaps authority on Stanislavsky and the world, Mr. Smeliansky, but not all
of us are children of Stanislavsky or trained that way, and perhaps you could begin this
way. We’ll go from there. Well, the training is probably connected to
what you began with, which is what are the differences or similarities between world
theatre and I suppose all theatre. [It] is the live display of the preoccupations
of the psyche of that country. That’s its aspiration. It very rarely is that, of course, because
it immediately gets hijacked either by politics or by training or commerce. And so you might say in America the preoccupations
of the theatre are about financial and critical success versus the nature of emotional failure
in the family. So, you produce the most extraordinary family
dramas where everybody is becoming President, but somehow there’s a catastrophe in the middle. And Russia, of course, has given us this remarkable
investigation into the universality of the way in which somebody moves a coffee cup and
how in a gesture the entire world changes depending on the intention. I have no idea what China gives us. But in terms of training, I just know that
the great schools of training that have survived into the 21st century, and very little has
survived, the theatre is in a very difficult place, is when it is underpinned by the will
of the government. And for that, you do need time. You need terribly good teachers, and you need
a notion of scholarships or endowment. And if training is purely financially based,
then you only have the children of often the privileged, upper classes being trained, and
so the theatre has only those preoccupations. The best training is when everybody in the
community has an opportunity to be trained, if they wish to be. Well, since you brought up China, Mr. Xiao,
if I may, tell us what you feel is, for instance, the role of the theatre now in China as it
is evolving so quickly. I know a few years ago one of the most controversial
dramas was Red Skirts Are Popular In The Streets. And that was quite some time ago. But now, what is the role? Is the theatre growing China? I know you’re doing musicals now that were
not done before. But tell us a little bit about how that’s
working. Okay. Chinese people take the theatre in a much
broader sense. It encompasses everything together. For instance, the musicals, the drama. They have local kind of operas which are called
(CHINESE) and also (CHINESE). (CHINESE) means – it’s hard to translate – something
like operas, grand operas or local operas. It depends on the dialects. We have different kinds of dialects, quite
varied. And also they have (CHINESE) which is more
like storytelling with a little bit of singing, talking, that kind of thing. So, it [encompasses] a broad sense, and it
dates back a long history, say, 900 years ago. So, it has developed kind of more entertaining
as well as [an] educating tool, also a kind of art form. So, the people nowadays even enjoy [a] wider
scope of theatres nowadays. The imported kind of art forms from outside
like the drama, the play which is quite modern to the Chinese, because when the ancient (SIC)
theatre form is singing, dancing and storytelling put together. So, purely just speaking, telling a play is
something new for the Chinese, although it is probably 80 years old. Well, that was in the 20s where it was really
just beginning. Yeah, 1920s. Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So, you really have the tradition opera and
the traditional kind of entertainment and also – well, I don’t know if you wanna say
Western drama – but spoken drama that has evolved since the 20s. Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. And also, like the musicals, American musicals,
many Chinese love that, that kind of thing, and also some other theatre forms. So, now we have a mixture of both modern and
ancient (SIC), both traditional and the new creations, both in form and in contents which
for the Chinese people, they think they need that kind of many. Marita, in terms of Nordic theatre–
Yes. But I mean there’s, of course, a great, long
tradition there. What would you say, take any country of the
five you’re talking about and, of course, I know you’ve been working a great deal with
Lars Nurian who is probably, I would think, the greatest living Swedish playwright–
That’s right. — today and a powerhouse over there, virtually
unknown in this country– Exactly. What would you say the role of the theatre,
starting in Sweden and then also in the Nordic countries, would be, other than obviously
beyond entertainment? Well, I wanted to pick up on training. I mean I think we have to train audiences,
and I think that was understood in the Nordic countries early. We started early in the school system to bring
good theatre to the kids. We have good playwrights, writing for children
from three years and then going up. I think that is where– Where do you draw
the audiences otherwise? So, training for audiences is one thing. How do you do that? Jump in here for a moment. How do you do it? How do you train kids? You bring them in to see wonderful things. You bring them in to see the great actors
and actresses doing good plays about important issues, but on their level. And they get hooked. You know, they want to go back. Training in the theatre is very serious in
all the Nordic countries, and that is a whole other issue. But thousands of people try to get into the
Royal schools, for instance, and two or three are accepted every year. So, they’re all private schools, and there
are coaches, but very, very different from the American system in theatre training. And getting into a theatre school is not dependent
on the amount of money you or your parents have, is that correct? Oh, no, no, no. If you are in, it’s paid for. That education is paid for. You do not pay for that. And it’s a three to five year education. And when you end up, you usually have a job. That’s the idea. That’s something very different from [here.] Yeah. That’s the whole idea. Which is why it’s so selective and there are
so few. Right, right, exactly. They don’t want to have too many highly trained
actors, because they want them to work. Waiting on tables–
That’s right. Or driving cabs. (LAUGHTER)
If anyone wants to add to this, leap in. But I wanted to ask, Elise, since you are
American, but you’ve worked in so many different cultures and you’ve been in China and you’ve
been in Russia and Ireland and Amsterdam and England, from an American perspective, would
you like to give us your feeling about how you’ve been affected and how you’ve seen,
from your point of view, these different kinds of theatre cultures, if you will. In one sense, they’re radically different
in their means of training and means of working and what an actor will bring with them as
a way of working on a role. I think the most startling experience I had
was in Dublin working with an Irish actress named Olan Fueres (PH) and a Noh master, Akirasan
(PH). And my stereotypical conception was that the
Noh master was going to be very abstract in his approach. This was all about playing the role of Georgia
O’Keefe, and that the Irish actress was going to be much more coming from the tradition
of Stanislavsky or something that I was familiar with. And it turned out to be completely the opposite,
in that the Noh master was much more interested in biographical specificities, in actually
taking on the challenge of playing this character of O’Keefe, and he was doing it in mask and
he was doing it in Noh form. And that Olan said to me, “I will never play
O’Keefe. We’re going to have to come up with a completely
abstract approach for my playing another person.” And so that one’s kind of pre-conceptions
are also toppled in the most delicious in working in a cross-cultural setting which
is why I think I keep doing it again and again. You realize that it is very much about individuals
and that you cannot kind of walk into a room and have any assumptions whatsoever. So, I offer that. Anatoly and Valery will go together here. He’s first. Yes, together. He’s Meyerhold. He’s (UNINTEL). I am Stanislavsky. That’s right. All three of you are two people. Okay. (LAUGHTER)
I have seen, and you know ‘cuz you’ve lived through it, the change, large change in the
role perhaps of theatre in Russia since 1991, ’92. Well, we can talk about a couple of things. First of all, the training has remained pretty
much the same, and you’ve had a great deal, I know, to do with training, both of you. Perhaps you could talk about that, and how
the roles of theatre in the last, let’s say, 12 years have changed in Russia. Either of you can talk about that. Stanislavsky (UNINTEL). Stanislavsky, the first–
Stanislavsky is the first. Stanislavsky (SIC) first, yes. I will answer the first half of the question,
not about training, because probably Valery will answer about the training and what happened
with the training. Nothing happened with the training (SIC). But with the place of the theatre in the country,
of course, a lot of things happened, because there is no country called Soviet Union. There is no theatre called Soviet theatre. There is no many, many things which we grow
up there. So, what’s the place? To make the story short, that guy in ’87,
he was artistic director of (RUSSIAN) Theatre just across the (RUSSIAN) Street, former Gorky
Street, also great change in Russian life, and (UNINTEL) across the street is the (RUSSIAN)
Theatre and Valery was one of the first who did a show, very famous that time in ’87,
called Speak Up. And then in the same building where Valery
was working that time, on the first floor, it was the first cooperative restaurant in
Moscow. After that famous show, they also called them
Speak Up. It was a time of “Speak Up.” In that way, we started. Now, if you see the same building, Ymarlov’s
Theatre, on the same floor, in the same place is a restaurant called Mexican Food. (LAUGHTER)
La Catina. La Catina. And if you would like to ask me what’s the
historical distance between what was in Soviet Union and what we have now is the distance
between Speak Up and La Catina. (LAUGHTER) You understand? Yes. Then Valery will talk about the professional
things which are really what happened with the training, with the theatre, with the understanding
of theatre which is the most important thing. Valery, yeah. Uh-huh (AFF). (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
The question of training is a very complex question. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
There are many followers in all countries, in Russia as well, of Meyerhold and Stanislavsky
people who are trying to train like Meyerhold, train like Stanislavsky. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And on the whole, it has no relationship to what the reality of Meyerhold and Stanislavsky
are. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And how can you decide whether this has any relationship to the original source or not? (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
You can’t call on an internal telephone and ask. Very long distance. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Meyerhold is a very fashionable name right now. I go to Spain, to Seville–
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) “Come to our studio! We’re working with biomechanics. Please!” And I come and see–
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) And I see 15 Spanish actors running in a circle
for three hours. (LAUGHTER)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) And they say, “Look! You see! This is biomechanics.” And I say, “Yes. Yeah. It’s good to warm up.” (LAUGHTER)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) That’s a very vulgar example. But it’s true. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, I think that training, training should be very diverse. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And each training should relate to the production
or the work that you’re doing in that moment. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, that the production gives birth to the need of training, so you can’t open each play
with Stanislavsky. That’s absurd. Don’t touch Stanislavsky. (LAUGHTER)
(UNINTEL) Stanislavsky. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Well, we can say the same thing about Meyerhold. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
What’s wonderful about theatre is that there are many doors and many roads. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, what’s interesting is when these roads cross. So to say this training is better, is best
in the world, I can’t do that. Can I add something to what Valery said about
training. Please. Probably it would be good for other people
to pick it up. A couple of days ago, I had an experience
back in Cambridge where I’m teaching at ART with the students. And I was honored to be a part of the rehearsal
of Anne Bogart. She is doing there now La Dispute, Marivaux,
in A.R.T. And the students of the institute are there
in the show, and every rehearsal she starts with the warming up stuff. And she is using as you probably know Tadashi
Suzuki technique, because he is a co-founder of their theatre with Anne, and she uses also
the Viewpoint technique. And the students then had a class after the
rehearsal. And I did ask the students, “Guys, how do
you understand why and what are you doing when you are stamping in a manner of Tadashi
Suzuki like that?” You didn’t ask me to do it. About the microphone, sorry (SIC). (LAUGHTER) So, I will not do it (SIC) you
know on my breast. And why did I ask them? Because Stanislavsky had a very strange meaning
about the physical training of an actor which is everybody knows that physical training
is so important, so important. But that guy who was very religious, by the
way, and this is the ground of the whole stuff, of the ideal theatre, of the ideal school,
of the ideal actor and prepare, everything, the ground is the religion for him. And he converted the religious ideas into
something, Moscow Art Ideal Theatre, you know. And he had a very strange meaning about the
physical exercises and so on. And once he said, “All of the physical exercises
and development of the physical body of an actor, harmful, if it has not a spiritual
task. Don’t do it. It will ruin you. Any kind of physical training without spiritual
task.” It was a creation about how to use– You know,
now we have a global stuff. We can go to Japan. We can go to Ireland. We can go everywhere to learn, to study and
to use it. We can combine Viewpoints, Suzuki, Valery
Fokin together with Stanislavsky. But the point is, he’s absolutely right, what’s
the ideal? What’s the spiritual goal of any kind of training? And do you ask it (SIC)? Because Stanislavsky was afraid of that. When he started so-called (American word)
“method.” He never used the method system. You converted it into method. And when he started The Method in 1906, he
had a nightmare about the future of The Method which actually happened here and in Russia,
of course. The nightmare was about he saw in his dream
a class of students sitting there, and very well shaved teacher – it’s a metaphor of mediocre
(LAUGHTER) — very shaved– For Stanislavsky, not for me. I’m very well shaved. A very well shaved teacher is asking one of
the students, “Mr. Ivanov?” Ivanov is the most popular Russian last name. “Ivanov, tell me about The Method and organic
you know elements of acting.” Ivanov stand up and started, you know, something,
you know, saying about Method and acting and so on. And that’s the nightmare. He waked up and started screaming and crying,
“Stop it! Throw out all of my books which I wrote! Don’t allow– I punished (SIC) enough!” It’s in a night dream. “Don’t allow mediocre teachers to take advantage
of my mistake! I punished (SIC) enough! Throw out all of my books!” It’s a night dream, but it’s came true. He wrote (SIC) in the States– I talk to Anne
Bogart. In her book, Director Prepares, she is talking
a lot about what happened with Stanislavsky here. How did he affect American theatre in the
wrong way? How did they use Stanislavsky in the Soviet
Union to kill the new art and so on and so on? We have to understand it. We have to admit it to get the real Stanislavsky,
what Valery says about – the same thing – with Meyerhold now. We killed Meyerhold first, then we canonized
him now. And you know what’s the best way of killing
the artist, to canonize him. (LAUGHTER)
That’s right. That ought to start some talk. (LAUGHTER)
You know, today, George, and you should know, most actors do not say, “I am a Method actor”
anymore in this country, whether they’re part of this nightmare or otherwise. They’ll say, “That’s part of a total approach
to acting, The Method.” But we don’t call ourselves Method actors,
and we’ve done many panels here with performers and they deny what 20 years was– I think
when Marlon Brando was the personification of the American Method, that’s totally faded
now. And people never say that they are Method
actors in this country. How about in Ireland? In Ireland I wouldn’t have thought they’d
say they’re Method actors. No, actually I was thinking about the turn
of the century being the most important sort of residual power that still dominates our
us. I mean the turn of the 19th century. And Ellen Terry saying, “There are only three
i’s in acting which is imagination, imagination, imagination.” And actually probably the same thing is true
now. That any dominant philosophy, being it Meyerhold
or Stanislavsky, becomes corrupt in a minute, because the moment changes. But very basic things do remain the same:
imagination. Because in the imagination there is no politic. In the imagination, everything is possible. The unacceptable is acceptable. You explore the world in the imagination. And really training could also hijack us into
this notion that training must be this or it must be that. What is interesting about training is that
the preoccupations again of each country come out in the training, and I think just from
what you’ve said, that the interesting thing about Stanislavsky being entirely hijacked
by, and misplacedly (SIC) hijacked in America, was the notion in America that you could do
something exactly right, if you could do the training exactly right. So, if you could say, “My conscious thought
is this and my unconscious thought is that,” when actually none of us know our unconscious
thought. That is the point of it. You can only explode the moment and try and
release meanings for others, not tell the meanings in advance. Yeah, that’s true. Marita, you also mentioned something that
went by very quickly, but I wanted to bring it up when you say “important issues.” Oh. You know? As Fiona was saying and both of our Russian
friends mentioned too, obviously, the issues inform the training and perhaps vice versa. Tell us a little bit about that in Nordic
theatre, because I’ve known for years it’s had a– Well, you tell us. Oh, that’s a big one. That’s why I asked. Oy. Yeah. I think I have to go a little narrower here
and go into the playwright I know best. Who is this? We call him now our new Strindberg, Lars Nurian. He’s been the most prolific and also probably
the most important playwright in the Nordic countries for the last 30 years. But I know that we have a director that we
both know, Bjorn Milander (PH), who had to in a way come up with a new way of working
on Nurian’s plays. I mean to help the actors. So here we come in with how do you approach
something that is written by a true original. And where really it’s the tip of the iceberg
that’s the line, and everything else is somewhere else and you have to find it. Well, I don’t think I’m giving anything away
by saying that for Bjorn, in the beginning, he had to write out the other thought. I’m not calling it a– But it is the unfinished
thought that goes underneath the line that is being said. That helped the actors. They could use that if they wanted to, but
they could also say, “That’s not what I want to work on here.” But it was a way of helping to find, to go
deeper, to come up with the unique moment. I think this comes to then the director and
the relationship between director and playwright. And I am not sure that one can even call it
a technique. It’s a love affair in a way. It is bringing a group of people together
to start to believe and think in the same way, and then explore. Now, we come to the other thing, and maybe,
Fiona, you know more about this. But it’s a length of time to prepare. Swedish actors demand, I mean, if they have
like your big role now, they would ask to know that they are doing it at least six months
in advance just to sit with it, to think about it, to let it sink down. The idea of getting a script and then rehearsing
for three weeks, and then… I mean it’s unheard of. You’re raising a very interesting thing, I
think. That goes beyond training, but what’s exciting
about your writer is that when a writer comes and just puts something there and nobody knows
how to go near it, it’s a very, very challenging and exciting moment, because too much of the
theatre is about the history of the theatre. And a new thing needs a new method. And I, when I worked doing this Medea, that
I’ve been involved with here, in Ireland was that the Irish theatre had a group of actors
entirely trained for Irish plays. They were not, Olan being the exception actually,
but that their imaginations were not geared towards an international imagination. And that must be doubly interesting when,
in fact, it’s a local imagination that’s just challenging the local performers. I think that must be terribly exciting, trying
to find the way in, you know. Yes. And you’re right about time. I mean time is here. Time is money. Yes. I was at a conference in London recently where
American actors were talking about the Shakespearean excitement of playing Shakespeare after just
three weeks of responding to the text. Impossible to us (LAUGHTER) in England. Indeed. Right. I can’t read it in three weeks, you know. (LAUGHTER)
Right. Exactly. But, George, doesn’t it open a discussion
of what is the purpose of theatre? I think if the purpose of theatre is commercial,
then you can understand why three to six weeks maybe of rehearsal. But don’t you think that there’s a difference
of purpose of the theatre in each of the countries? In China, what is the purpose of theatre? Beyond the entertainment which is the traditional. I know that in the plays of Xiao U (PH) which
go back to the 1920s, I think, he first wrote. Yeah. But things like Savage Land which is quite
an indictment then of the feudal system that existed in the 1920s, but now I know that
the so-called, whether it’s Western drama, since the 20s, I think China has the traditional
and the new. The more modern ones, yes
Yeah, let’s say modern. What would you say is the role, the purpose
of that modern theatre for your society today in China? Uh-huh (AFF). Okay. So, we have to see it according to the historical
background. In the 1920s and 30s, there was a revolution. So, traditional theatres at that time, although
they were educating and they were kind of recreational, but people found that they needed
a kind of something which like the gentleman director said, it was “speak out” and to shout
or to voice their opinions. So, they thought that they needed some kind
of new forms of are, and they used that. And I have to admit that we were strongly
influenced by Russia, by Europe and by America as well in forming those new kind of theatres. Sometimes we label it as important art forms,
but not necessarily so. Now, we take it for granted that we have a
mixture of those different art forms, very diversified. So, talking about nowadays, people think that
still tradition is very strong, still there. Say, for instance, we have like the (CHINESE). It’s a more traditional theatre form which
still has 365 or something kinds of those theatres. And they have 1500 professional groups which
can serve both as presenters, producers, or like the educators. They train trainers (SIC). They train their own students or actors or
directors themselves. Each group can train those things. So, they stick to their very traditional way
of doing things. And also they have a traditional repertoire. This is very strong. Probably still the strongest part of the theatre. And what role, do you think, because there’s
a great tradition of film in China as well going way back to the silent days, but what
would you say, if you were to sort of sum up the role beyond entertainment that the
theatre plays in China today for the Chinese society? Yeah, so, I wish to go on to say, even for
the very traditional form, they had a very, very important role to play, was to educate
the people. I mean the education is that [at that] time
still many, many people were illiterate, and they wish to know their (SIC) history. So, say, for instance, for the Peking Opera
which is very well known outside China, it has got a repertoire of 1800 programs. Most of them were historical stories, telling
a particular period of time, of the history. So that’s to tell the younger generations
what has happened in the past. So, it was very strong education at that time
(SIC) and also recreational. But now, I think more recreational than educational
nowadays. But still, the education is there, not only
for the traditional ones, as you mentioned, and also the modern ones. There was (SIC) an education in terms of issues
too, as I’ve seen in China. You mean the social issues? Yeah, social issues. Either the social issues or some other issues
as well. Say, for instance, like once we put on this
show, the Death Of A Salesman? It’s an American play? Yes, yes. For the Chinese audience, they wish to know
what is happening in U.S. and what people are thinking about, you know. We want to know what is happening outside,
and what these people outside China they think and they live. You know, how they do that. So, it’s a kind of very interesting thing
for them. And they have practiced the opening policy
for 20 years now, and they are still going to do that. I’d like to pick up on that, because I think
that what I have sensed here in America is that the curiosity about the rest of the world
may not be as great. Coming from small countries, now, of course,
we have to look outside. You come from a very big country. But there has to be a curiosity why to go
and see a foreign play. And well, if we are here, we have to be honest,
there are very few foreign plays being produced in America. We know that, especially foreign plays from
countries where they are written in a different language. They may come from Ireland or Australia or
places where they write in English. But it’s very hard to get something going
from a foreign country. So, my thought was I’m happy to hear that
there is curiosity about the rest of the world in China. Well, I think that’s true. The curiosity factor, and I think, Elise,
you can speak to that, the way you have been accepted in other countries, as opposed to
you being an American, what we do here, ‘cuz I know you’ve been literary manager at The
American Place and because you’ve been in that position, but the attitudes in American
theatre has been very different, I would think. Well, I actually think you can probably talk
about that very, very well. And some of the work that I’ve done is with
George White and in bringing Americans to Russia and to work on all manner of exchanges. And it is usually such an eye-opening experience
for the American actors to go and be a part of another culture, to see plays in another
language, in Russian, in part because I think that there’s not that much, I would agree,
there’s not that much foreign material within American theatre. That said, one of the programs that I’ve worked
on, starting at American Place, is an educational program called Literature To Life that takes
works of literature on the high school reading list of New York City Public High Schools
and turns them into very simple adaptations, literary adaptations, but performed by wonderful
actors. And that is opening American high school students
up to see their curiosity for theatre and for different texts, I mean, ranging from
The House On Mango Street to Richard Wright’s Black Boy. I mean we have many different novels that
have become theatre and they are some of the most curious American audiences and discovering
through literature that is generated in the United States. So, there’s a kind of cross-cultural excitement,
I’d say, within the United States in certain sections of the theatre, but it doesn’t necessarily
involve bringing international work here. I think that’s typical of America throughout
all our areas. We impose our language, and have been reluctant
to learn other languages. I’m as guilty as anybody on that. And yet we expect others to accept our cultural
contribution. Look what’s happening in Russia where now
we’re exporting musicals to you. Maybe you could address that. The Broadway musical, for example. I have no chance to see your musical in Moscow. (LAUGHTER) But it’s Chicago there and 42nd
Street every day. But it’s not a real part of Russian culture,
believe me. It’s kind of business idea to get money which
is Russian now about like China (SIC). It’s very interesting that in China the educational
purpose which is part of any, I would say, strong, ideological system which we had and
you had and still probably have more than Russia – Russia is in pieces now – but what
comes after the great ideology? Because you know in the beginning of this
century, we had a book written by a great Russian philosopher, Vasily Rosenof (PH),
entitled When The Bosses Are Gone, something like that. So, the bosses are really gone and what comes
after their great ideology, great ideas, great utopias? You call it recreation theatre. You know what? In 1919, during the civil war, one of the
founders of the Moscow Art Theatre, (RUSSIAN), his name, very difficult last name, two last
names together (SIC), but very important man, believe me, unknown here, but he is equal
to Stanislavsky because they’re both founders of the theatre and 40 years “friendship” (LAUGHTER)
and love and everything. So, when they lost half of the company, because
10, 12 of best actors went to Europe and it became clear that Moscow Art Theatre cannot
exist anymore, they started discussing, Stanislavsky and (RUSSIAN) what should be staged now? What kind of repertoire? Stanislavsky has an idea to stage great things
immediately. Byron, you know; stuff and so on. Inyarovitch (PH) who was much more clever,
not much more talented, it’s different things, but real producer, he said, “No, we should
put on now an operetta.” In 1919, in the middle of the war, and he
said, “Look at the history of the world theatre. Look at the history of the French Revolution
and what they had after the revolution. What left after the Revolution in France? Operetta. Because of what? People need an art of consolation now. Not of propaganda, but of consolation.” This is the period which we experience now. It’s not about entertainment only. It’s a reaction to the great ideologies. It’s a reaction to the great ideological system. This is a reaction to the great utopia and
all of that stuff people think of. Entertainment, consolation in Chicago, 42nd
Street, whatever. Just get rid of ideology, get rid of the political
theatre by the way also. No credentials. If you would come with some great political
issues which you love here to Russia, nobody would come to see it. This is a paradox of freedom. But is any of this or isn’t all of it related
to commerce? No, no. In this country I think that our theatre is
directly related to commerce, and you don’t sense that. You’re a bit dismissive, and I don’t blame
you of bringing in 42nd Street or Chicago. But that’s commerce, is that not? You know, commerce, I saw a couple of days
ago with my daughter, Chicago, movie. Probably it’s commerce also. But it’s a beautiful, beautiful movie with
incredible acting, with incredible joy of life. Couple of days before Chicago, I saw Russian
movie in the Museum of Fine Arts with a very avant-garde Russian woman director, Kira Moratova
(PH), called The Chekovian Motifs. But if you want to be depressed, go to see
Russian movie. (LAUGHTER) If you have not enough here, go
to see Russian movie. And specially interesting when you see together,
The Chekovian Motifs of Kira Moratova and Chicago. Chicago is also not about the great life,
prison, killings, all of that stuff, but what comes out of it, a great song. Well, you know commerce doesn’t exclude art. I mean Medea which is a great success now,
how could you get anything more artistic than that and particularly in this presentation. It’s commercial, but it’s pure Greek theatre
performed by The Abbey Theatre. I think that’s wonderful when you can mix
art and commerce. Yes, I’m not sure you can actually. (LAUGHTER) We’ve been very supported by some
fantastic people. But I think there’s a very interesting point. What happens when somewhere, a country that
has an enormous ideology is then replaced by this entertainment for a moment? What happens [to] their artistic future? Because one might worry that actually in America
after 1929 or whenever you think this 42nd Street culture of musicals really took off,
the 40s and 50s and 60s, we’re still waiting for the big moment in American theatre. And I think actually we’ve been very lucky
that Medea is a moment of tragedy in a city that is in the moment of tragedy. So, actually you do need tragedy at the moment
of terror as well as comedy. If you’re able to do it. Yes. If you have enough courage to do it. Yes. And but the audience do seem to want it too. It answers something about compassion. Something about seeing suffering on a stage
can make you feel better about the suffering in your life. However, that absolutely goes against your
story which is what you were saying (SIC) about Chicago being at least a big blast. To continue, Fiona, from that too. [It] was interesting. And history, I think obviously again informs
our theatre. And let’s talk a little bit about The Abbey
and its history. I mean in a sense when you think of people
like Lady Gregory and Keats and all these people that were political animals, god knows. Maude Gunne (PH), all of those people. And The Abbey had a very strong, wouldn’t
you say, political bent then. Then what happened? And then what happens since, you know? Yes, I mean, The Abbey, very like the Moscow
Art Theatre and probably, I don’t know, but probably the Peking Opera, have been trading
on a kind of success of a moment that has long turned into another moment. And this is the dangerous thing. That actually all our cultures are retrospective. That we praise what we already know, not really
the new. It’s much harder to see the new, than to praise
something in the past. So, you’re right. In a way The Abbey dangerously became a conservative
symbol of Ireland, because it became institutionalized. It is always a problem for the theatre. It should always have an element of the renegade. It should always have an element of the person
off the edge. It should always have the writer who writes
the impossible play. As soon as things become institutionalized,
it becomes the establishment, and the establishment is not where the future lies. And I think The Abbey did go through kind
of a rough time as being literally sort of rather dusty. Yeah. And that’s changed. But what happened it? I think it’s just changing now. I was very interested that the Chinese audience
still go to be educated. I think what happened in Ireland is people
can see the movie of Chicago, and the theatre has to be terribly competitive now and has
to answer people’s lives which are much broader than they were. I think quite simply people are seeing things
beyond their country boundaries. And so they need a theatre to respond to that
kind of experience. Well, also in the last ten years Ireland has
changed a great deal too. Ireland has become you know America. (LAUGHTER) In ten years, everybody’s almost
got American accents. It’s incredible. And people are putting in cigars. But the very interesting point said earlier
about I wish we could all see more of other people’s theatre. I think I wish American plays would come to
Ireland more frequently, Swedish plays come to Ireland and vice versa, because who is
the great presenter in this country of that or in this land mass is Robert LePage who
now produces pieces of theatre that have both French sur-titles or sub-titles. And so you have a bit of Canada and often
a bit of Japanese and a bit of Chinese all thrown into the same evening. And you feel that you’re plugged into a much
more international culture. It’s very exciting. I want to ask something. Please. I think that we should not say that the Chinese
is kind of a one very simple idea, and the Chinese people need to be, say, kind of a
particular or educated, something like that. I don’t think that’s a correct vision. China’s so big with a population so large. Any kind of people can live there. And so some people would love to have very
traditional ones; some people love to be educated, and some people would love to have very open-minded. Some people love to go to travel a lot and
to have a kind of, as I mentioned, important art forms or whatever. They wish to do the exchanges. Some people rather you know stick to the traditional. So, it’s a kind of a very mixture, the picture. And we are very pleased to have this kind
of diverse. So we say we have a kind of what is label
or slogan. It’s called “Let a hundred flowers bloom.” It says whatever the flower, well, you bloomed
it (SIC). And so this is I think a more correct picture
of China now. It’s so big and diverse. For instance, is there as much diversity in
theatre that is, say, in the provinces like in Shian (PH) or out in Chungching (PH) or
places like that, as they are, let’s say, in Shanghai or Beijing or places like that? In the cities like Beijing, Shanghai, they
have more exposures to the outside, so they have much more diverse culture than, say,
in cities which still have something, but not as many as in the coastal areas. And also as you mentioned, since 1970s or
80s, there’s a big change, a shift, so further away to more diverse, more open culture. And we are proud of that. Yes, indeed. And so, say, for instance, not long ago, we
have many study groups coming to the United States to study the musicals, as Mr. (UNINTEL)
met them. It is not that they wish to use the musicals
to replace the traditional plays, but they just want to have more art forms to entertain
the audience. And also we have another problem which is
kind of related to market. Nowadays, because of the market economy, so
we have kind of difficulties to overcome. It’s not political problems or some this kind
of difficulty, but difficulty [of] how those artists, [the] performing arts themselves,
the theatres can survive in a market. Different kinds of things. They have the same problem. Plus also in China, your training, I mean
beyond the traditional, I guess up until 1949 many Chinese theatre actors and directors
came to the United States and learned at The Yale School of Drama, and between 1949 and,
let’s say, 1956, at The Stanislavsky Institute. Lots of them. And then subsequently, the theatre academy
in Beijing was training out of both those traditions in, if you will, the less traditional
dramas which is interesting that those kind of influences, the Western training have purveyed
in the standard drama in China today. And I think that continues. Is that true? Nowadays, we have more influences from different
directions. Right. Good. Early on, Marita mentioned something that
I’d love to hear everybody talk about. She spoke of the training of audiences, and
how you bring young people into the theatre. I’m assuming that’s commercial theatre? Well, I think we can go back to the late 50s
when Ingmar Bergman came and became the director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm
and said, “Where are we going to get our audiences from to see, well, call it the important drama?” Not to sort of have them just go to Chicago,
the movie. But that they would have this desire to go
and see live drama. And he started to work with the school systems
in Stockholm, and then I think it spread. Many, many of the major theatres around the
country, first of all, they invited the school children to come in there. But they invited the artists to write for
them, and that was so extraordinary. And this is not just Sweden. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland. We have a remarkable repertory of plays for
young children dealing with all [of] life. You know, the death of a parent, divorce,
all of the issues that they would be interested in. And there they are, and they are enjoying
it. And I think it’s important for many reasons. They get something from what they are seeing,
but they also get inspired to continue to come to the theatre. Do they do the same thing in Russia? We’re going to take a quick pause and come
back to that, because want to pick up on that in Russia. Elise, your experience in different cultures. That’s very important. But we’re gonna take a pause, come back, answer
some questions. And we’ll be back in a minute. (APPLAUSE)
Before we get back to The American Theatre Wing’s “Working In The Theatre” seminar on
World Theatre, I’d like to remind you that these seminars are only one of the many year
around programs that The American Theatre Wing undertakes. You’re probably familiar with The American
Theatre Wing’s TONY Award which are given out for excellence in the Broadway theatre. We also have an important grants program providing
aid to often Off Broadway theatres as well as a scholarship program that assist promising
students to pursue studies in the theatre arts. As a long-established charity dating back
to World War I and World War II and our famous Stage Door Canteen, all of our programs are
designed to reward and promote excellence in the theatre, to introduce young people
and their families to the theatre and the magic it unfolds. We take pride in the work we do and remain
grateful to all our members and everyone whose contributions help make possible the dynamic
programs of the American theatre. We’re pleased to be a part of this exciting
industry. And now let’s get back to that wonderful panel
on World Theatre. And now our moderator, George White. (APPLAUSE)
Thank you, Roy. I wanna pick up where we left off about training
audiences which of course is the future of all our theatres, obviously, the live theatre. And Marita, you talked about Sweden. Fiona, how is it done in Ireland and England,
Australia? Are you up on that? How do you bring young people into the theatre? It’s a very interesting phenomenon, because
people don’t want to feel that they’re being coerced into anything. But I do think that when you mentioned earlier
film – this great film, Chicago, that everybody’s excited about – or indeed the great musicals
that they are training audiences to enjoy watching a story that unfolds, that always
ends happily, and that always has certain emotional buttons that press the audience
and they react accordingly. Now, you could be training the audience to
go on going to musicals or you could be saying, “We need to train audiences to go to the theatre
with a much more morally fluid eye, so that they decide what they watch on the theatre.” They do not have their buttons pressed, but
they choose where the buttons are being pressed in their own lives. And so I do think there’s two different types
of audiences at the moment. And the movies have absolutely taken the audience,
because they’ve, with great aplomb, sledge-hammered our imaginations into watching these giant
dreamscapes. And musicals in part do the same. They use very powerful sound, music which
is so basic and attavistic in our systems. But the theatre I think we’re talking about
which is a theatre about this element of cultural preoccupation is a much more delicate animal
to train audiences towards in a time when we all work too hard, and so we want a bit
of leisure in our leisure time. We have to want to know more than we already
know. We have to want to ask questions about whether
we’re right to feel happy or unhappy or whether our unhappiness has any other reply in the
universe. And these are questions that we’re being,
by governments actually, orientated away from. We’re asking ourselves only, “Do you feel
okay? Have you got enough money in your pocket? Have a good time.” But in fact, of course, there are all sorts
of odd areas around the edges of our existence that need to be replied to, and the theatre
is a wonderful place for replying to them. But we have to want to go. So, I don’t know how we train, except to take
children and make children go and so they have a habit. We’re habit-forming. And I pick up on what Anatoly said too about
Stanislavsky and saying spiritual, because in many ways, and this may not be true or
it may, I don’t know, in China, but so much of our theatre over the years has grown out
of the church, going way back to medeival times fulfilling a particular kind of spiritual
function perhaps. Yes. Well, I mean, or the Greeks who went to the
theatre to find out what they really meant by anything. What do they mean by the gods? What do they mean by right and wrong? What do they mean by punishment? I’m sure they went and had a great time. But they went to see stories from which they
could conclude moral values. Well, Medea. Medea absolutely is about whether you can
judge people or whether in a pre-judging, pre-Christian world, you’re not really judging. You’re just accepting what the person does
and sees them take the consequence of action. And you know, we’ve been very much hijacked
by a leisure culture that really doesn’t ask us to do that in the theatre very much now,
or we find it gloomy when we are asked to do it. It needn’t be gloomy, of course. It could be terribly exciting. But we have to want to go there with a mental
muscle, and I’m sure that’s the same in China or Sweden or Russia. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Picking up on what you’re saying about connecting
to a young person’s life, I think there has to be ways in which the theatre speaks to
them. So I was interested in what you’re saying. That there is a literature developed for young
audiences. In this program, “Literature To Life” that
I’ve been working on, we are in a sense developing not through asking playwrights, but through
pulling from novels, but a literature that is speaking directly to an audience of young
people. And it’s amazing, because you would think
that – this is stripped down, very little set, minimal light – an audience of high school
students would not be silent and attentive to basically a monologue or a dialogue for
a period of over an hour. And they are rapped. They are still and rapped, if it’s coming
from a very truthful place in the actors. And it’s one of the most challenging audiences
to work for, because they will immediately sense the iota of falseness. And a walkman has gone back on, or there’s
distraction in the room. But if you are telling a story that is very
connected to life and you’re doing it in an honest way, it’s very, very powerful. So I have tremendous optimism about young
audiences, but one has to be dedicated. And there are lots of arts, various different
forms of arts in education programs in the United States which I think are probably some
of the most exciting theatre that’s happening. And but you have to be very, very dedicated
to bringing audiences or bringing these pieces out into schools. Great. That’s true. Valery. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
About the Meyerhold Center, what is your approach to younger audiences or training your young
people and in general? And Anatoly too. But particularly how your approach is, ‘cuz
you’re doing so much at the Meyerhold Center. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
We’re working in a new, wonderful building the past two years. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
In terms of its scenic possibilities, it’s one of the best stages in Moscow. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
It’s based on an idea of Meyerhold’s. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
It’s located on the sixth floor. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And the floor can sink down to the fifth floor, and you can create any theatrical space. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And part of the roof can open. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And you can start the production in daylight, and then go into electrical light following
that. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But it’s not a theatre. It’s a cultural center. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And so we’re working in many different directions simultaneously. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
First among those is our work with young directors. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
To study and then to sort of give birth within themselves to their directing visions. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, this year we took a graduate course in conjunction with the Moscow Art Theatre School. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, we’re uniting Stanislavsky and Meyerhold. (LAUGHTER)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) And so we also conduct tours and festivals,
lectures, also productions, master classes. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
So, we have a lot of young people. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And I’d say the bulk of our auditorium is young people. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
It’s not just that they wanna study and it’s interesting. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But you have to stand in opposition to commercial theatre and to pure entertainment. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And that’s hard. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But you have to do it. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And so you have to stand up with these boundaries. How do you do that? How do you do that? With all your strength. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) It’s very simple for me. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) In Russia, there is a love for musicals today
in a portion of the population. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But in Russia, there’s a very deep, strong theatre tradition. Very strong. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And all the same… and the theatres of full. Also bad. And that’s also bad. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
The criterias are unintelligible, because people will go to anything. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
The ideal is somewhere in the middle. I think that’s a wonderful problem to have,
isn’t it? (LAUGHTER)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) It seems that way. It seems that way. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
It’s a very complicated problem. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Everyone says, “Yes! Wonderful! It’s great!” (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Everything’s great! (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And you know that it’s awful. (LAUGHTER) You have to like close it and forget
it. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And the papers are saying it’s wonderful. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And everything is wonderful. But maybe it is wonderful. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Perhaps it is wonderful. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
No. How could everybody else be wrong? (LAUGHTER)
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED) Maybe for them, it’s good. But for me, it’s not. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
I think educating a young audience– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
— is to interest them. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Not sort of looking down to them or– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And not to entertain– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But to talk about serious things. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Because any person– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Young, old– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
If he’s not an idiot feels that he’s alone, he’s scared of
death– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
It’s normal. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
And through that, you have to go and– (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
But there are many different books on the bookshelf. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT TRANSCRIBED)
Chicago can be there too. (LAUGHTER)
(UNINTEL). To answer the same question, you know, I have
very probably strange experience of my life, because I spent eight years of my life in
the beginning of my theatrical life in the theatre for the youth, because as you know,
in the Soviet Union, we had a special system of defeat (SIC) like China. They imitated us. Every big city, Theatre For The Youth, because
strong propaganda, ideology. You have to teach people. You have to educate people. When I hear “to educate people,” I immediately
you know [go] like that, because I hate it. I hate it. I had experience with that, eight years, when
they brought to the Theatre Of The Youth. If they are kids like seven, eight years that
time, it’s okay, because they are ready for everything. You know, fairytale and so on. But when they’re teenagers which is the most
important time, because as a teenager I don’t believe, I don’t trust, I would like to touch
myself, I would like to know and so on. Try to convince that audience with the Communist
ideology, with the Capitalist [ideology]. They want to know. And in the Soviet time, what was it, you know,
they brought audience of homogenous strata each from 12 to 15. And they obliged us in the theatre to do a
special production for the young children, for the teenagers and so on. And we did it for many, many years, and I
hate it, because you know what? When you have audience from 12 to 15 and you
want to educate them, it’s hell. They hate you, and every performance was battle
between stage and audience. (LAUGHTER) And the same thing I have, I have
another horrible and beautiful experience. I was working five years for the theatre – the
biggest Russian, Soviet theatre, Theatre of the Soviet Army. Oh, god. (LAUGHTER)
Two thousand people, the biggest audience. It’s constructed under Stalin. The tanks and you know everything on stage. Battles of 400 people and so on and Soviet
Army. Great [utopia.] Very often they brought soldiers, 2000 soldiers,
try to educate them. Beautiful people. Peasants, you know, from… Now, soldiers. And what they did in the great educational
period, that’s my point, they brought 2000 soldiers to the Theatre of the Soviet Army
with 99 columns where you are immediately miserable and you have to feel miserable against
the 99, you know, ancient Greek columns– By the way, Greek also were wrong. (LAUGHTER) You know, Greek theatre, educational
stuff, moral? Yes, yes. They did not allow slaves to be there. They did not allow women to be there. So, it’s not you know just ideal theatre. Did not allow half of the nation to be there. Okay. I love Greek theatre, and I’m going to see
the Medea today with Valery. (LAUGHTER)
So, what happened? They brought 2000 soldiers, and they told
them, “Guys, behave well in the theatre. Don’t you know make noise. (CLAPPING) Don’t you know laugh. Don’t you know be angry.” In five minutes, 1800 of them were sleeping,
and the other 200 were coughing, because soldiers that day had a flu. (LAUGHTER) Every time have flu. And they are coughing. And the guys of the military rank, you know,
a little bit higher, they were walking into the audience, in the aisles, saying, “Stop
coughing!” That’s the education. You know? And after that, I hate even the word of education
in the theatre, because life is the great educator. They are coming to the theatre with on the
shoulder… You know, when Moscow Art Theatre started,
from what point? They did ask the actor, “From where you’re
coming on stage?” And they did say, “From the wings, from the
wings.” The answer was “No, you should come from life.” With the burden on your shoulders. That’s the real theatre stuff, and that’s
the whole education. If you bring real life, moments of it, you
know, here (SIC), stuff. Spontaneous, courage. And oh, that’s theatre. Because I gave you a quote of 1919, the same
quote from Stanislavsky, he was teaching at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1920 for the singers,
and one of them, she wrote down all of his stuff. And it was published. It’s a very strange question was among the
young singers of the Bolshoi Theatre to Stanislavsky. “If we would ask you to give just a few words
about what is the ideal theatre for you, just a few words, a sentence?” And after a pause, he says, “I will give you
four words what is the real theatre for me after half of a century of experience. Those four words: Simpler. Higher. Lighter. And more joyful.” You understand? It doesn’t look like Stanislavsky. But this is a combination of a great thing. Simpler. That’s the education. Lighter at the same time. And more joyful. That’s about Chicago. (LAUGHTER)
I didn’t really mean to get into such a esoteric discussion. What I was simply wondering is The American
Theatre Wing does a lot to educate and expand audiences, as best we can. But I was looking at it from a commercial
point of view. I’m wondering today our ticket prices are
as high as $100 in New York City and nearly that around the country. That by itself seems to exclude the young
people who don’t even pay that much for rock concerts and the elderly people or people
who are older, who are on fixed income. They’re excluded from being able to go to
the theatre regularly, as they used to do. And I’m wondering what’s that like around
the country. It costs us now, I think, the analogy is you
can see ten films for the cost of going to a Broadway show, and the ratio’s a little
less as you go out of the city or into Off Broadway or Off Off Broadway. Those same people wanna go to the theatre. They’ve been educated one way or the other. But they can’t afford to do it in this country. It’s a big problem for us. I’m wondering how that works around the world. Do we have the same problems elsewhere in
the commercial theatre? Yeah, that’s a good point. What is the cost in China, for instance, of
a ticket in Beijing (UNINTEL)? It depends on what kind of shows. Well, let’s say traditional drama. Traditional drama tend to be, say, 50 yen
(SIC). Which would be? Which is divided by eight, it would be $1
equals 8 Chinese yen. And the regular drama? Approximately the same price, from 50 to 200. That’s the normal price. But for good shows, they will be $2000 US
even. Like Three Tenors last year, like Turandot
(PH), 1999. How much is it in China for Turandot, to see
(UNINTEL)? For Turandot, the most expensive seat cost
$2000 U.S. What? (OVERTALK)
What? U.S.?
U.S. Yes. $2000? Where? And you get it? People buy that? However not many Chinese (UNINTEL). Businessmen from other places. $2000 for a ticket? Yes. $2000 U.S.
I mean that’s the extreme. The most expensive block of seats I mean. Unbelievable. Yeah, I just give you some idea of how varied
the tickets can be. Yeah, it can be just a few dollars. It can be just a few thousand dollars. So, it depends on what kind of show. The same problem existed in China as well,
like how to draw the audience back to the theatres. I agree with most of you. It’s a globalization problem, I think, with
the TV, with the movie, to compete the theatres. What about Sweden? Don’t you have a reasonable price? I mean like (UNINTEL). Yes, I would say that
much of the theatre is subsidized, so, therefore, the tickets are reasonably [priced.] But we can also go and see what we would call
Broadway theatre. Many of those exist as well. But I am sure that for young audiences, you
have group sales. They arrange for them to come into the theatre. The Municipal Theatre in Stockholm really
caters to groups of young people coming in there. What’s the equivalent cost, say, in dollars
roughly? I would say for $5 you would see each good
play. And a film? A serious play (SIC). How much would a film be? I think it’s about the same. It could be more. Films could be more expensive than to a play? Yes. Yes. In all the Nordic countries? I am more familiar now with Sweden than the
others. But I think so. Of course, everything is so different. The little Nordic countries, they have established
a whole other way I think of looking at theatre and film and so on. Let’s take Iceland. I don’t know how many amateur theatre companies
there are. It’s just part of being to be part of theatre,
to seek it out, and be on stage, but also to seek it out and go. Finland with all its music, with all its opera,
I mean, it just is part of the psyche in a way. And I would say Sweden, Norway, Denmark, people
go to the theatre. That’s part of their life. Well, in so many societies abroad, theatre
would be the equivalent in the United States of sports. Yes. Sporting events. People go. They don’t spend as much. But that’s just part of life and part of the
society, built into the fabric of the society. Not special. Is that what you’re saying? Yeah, exactly, that’s how I feel. At least that’s my experience. Now maybe I’m glamorizing a little bit, because
I’ve been away so long. But I hope I’m right here, and that it hasn’t
totally turned. Well, I think also, now in Russia, for instance,
although the Russian Chicago I know was up to with–
Why did you mention Chicago? (LAUGHTER)
No, but you know I know that was $200 U.S. to go to that show. But also you have two prices in Russia too. You have tourist prices for the Bolshoi. And I don’t know what it’s true for–
They eliminated it now. It’s one price for everyone, and they are
getting big income now. The Bolshoi Theatre, they are getting $75,000
for the ballet, the (RUSSIAN)– Swan Lake. Swan Lake. And because the prices are now the same for
(UNINTEL)– (OVERTALK)
It’s a state subsidized theatre by the way. But they’re getting $75 now. When did this go out of business? Just changed? Yes, they changed the management of Bolshoi
Theatre, and they started selling the box office real prices, because it was actually
black market. A lot of scalpers around Bolshoi selling $75,
$100, but real price was $5. So, and the profit went to the management
of Bolshoi Theatre mostly. What about Moscow Art? Moscow Art. They have two price structures there or just
one? No, no. You know now it’s also new policy, because
we have new artistic director. You know him very well, Olak Tabakov (PH). He’s a great comedian/actor, and he doesn’t
like any empty space in there. But he see one seat empty, he became angry,
because he’s comedian. You know, “What? There’s one seat is there you know empty?” And we have some shows which are very commercial,
and the admission is very high, $100, which is unbelievable in Russia. Even in Stanislavsky’s time, Moscow Art Theatre
was the most expensive theatre in the country. You should know. It was a private theatre without any state
subsidy. And it was very, very high admission. That’s why they changed the name of the theatre. As you know, probably they started as Moscow
Art Accessible (UNINTEL) Theatre, and then they cut Accessible. You have to understand that Moscow Art Theatre
is a logo, but it was Moscow Art Accessible Theatre. So, and I would say now it’s also not Moscow
Art Theatre “very accessible.” (LAUGHTER) But some of the things are very
cheap. The point is this is the politics. This is the things where the city and the
country should be involved really, not in education, but in the regulation of. Look, all of the theatre buildings in Moscow,
mostly, 99 percent, are state property. And that’s why the tickets could be cheap,
quite cheap, because they don’t pay rent. I’m sorry, but you know air time is also expensive. (LAUGHTER) I’m afraid we’re going to have
to bring this to a close. I really wanna thank George White for his
moderating this wonderful, wonderful, talented panel that we have here today. We appreciate you’re sharing your knowledge
with us and your experience. And just to let you know that we’d love to
have you back very soon. This has been an American Theatre Wing seminar
on “Working In The Theatre” coming to you from the Graduate Center of the City University
of New York. (APPLAUSE) (MUSIC)

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