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Then the magazines came out and we if if we add up the criticism unifor unit I think they've come out equal. What's very funny is no one has come out and said the two best plays in the world. They've said Indians the best play in the world sugar plums are right and the next critic comes along and says the Indians are right but sugar plums us playing the war. I think definitely it depends on on your interest in your ultimate reaction to the Indian wants the Bronx. The it curiously the two plays seem to have a ring of old world writing about it. In this day and age from a young playwright you expect something probably more in in the. I don't want to label anything. For example I think the two characters to show you how roughly naive I am about it are sort of offsprings of the dead in kids I mean I remember watching the dead in kids. Absolutely yeah. And but this is like this is not today I mean it is today and yet it is and the seem so much is because in a sense they are the last two of their kind around the holiday so
you as a playwright and I I think it would be shocking to to work from any other premises then contact will dictate the form. And I grant you that these plays fall into a more traditional form but in India and I was dealing with kids who were left in limbo they're not hippies they're not gangsters. They're sort of Drugstore cowboys if they hadn't met the FBI go past they're not that's why they are there are they then not. Indeed the behavior is certainly pathological I envied it becomes that and that's my point that this kind of that if you can accept the premise that they're nice kids and then you know it was a bad and it was a bad environment they grew up in. But had they not met the Indian that night they weren't going to they weren't going to hurt anyone. They would be bored and they'd be looking for pleasure in some form. And the play is very analogous to a couple of little children. Taking a third John tossing his hat up in the tree to see what how years and they're playing a game they're not
out they're not looking for someone to hurt at all. And because these kids are in limbo because these kids exist because they have very real I created a very naturalistic plot. It may seem stylized but by God it isn't. And in Sugar Plum I had exactly the same problem of content dictating form more the same result if you will. College kids don't change. Today they're protected. You know they're taking acid trips. When I was in college we were smug we were graduating too it was smoking marijuana we were protesting against something else it wasn't Viet Nam it was it was another war and another time but the same kind of self-centeredness and viciousness. An incredible incredible need for identity at that age. Existed then exists now and will exist 100 years from now. And because these characters to me was so real was so natural the
form became very naturalistic in line and another playing mind or in rat supply another play would be done this season I've taken two rats in the baby instead of playing the crib it's extremely symbolic. These are unreal people these characters in the inn and sugar home are so real that it would have been ludicrous it would have been a bad choice on my part to say I'm 28 years old this expected me to write a quote I haven't God play so I'm going to put them in a style I think it was more courageous of me to write a traditional play to sit back and say My God are the critics going to kill me for writing a traditional play. I got my sugar plum line and it healed it all and I think. For my money the pleasure for the audience and there is a great deal of pleasure every time I sit in the back row and it's a joy to me to see the joy from the audience comes from the fact that I haven't superimposed a phony form that I've taken real people and I've presented them in a real way that they can understand so that the Village Voice review was
a rave review on a very intellectual basis. The New York Post review which is a different point of view was a rave review went out on a completely different level I think it's safe to say there's something in this presentation for everyone. Some lady can come in from New Jersey on a matinee and see two situation comedies if you will go home and tell her neighbor to go in and see the show. And I hippie can come up from Fourth Street he doesn't have to come far to the Astor Place the attic and see something else entirely in the play and nobody walks are away saying my God we've just seen too old fashion place. They're just too well very real you know Israel. Will you be writing or will you be raising the subject of your theme. Let's let's for a minute take another negative point of view and say that. Who cares about two hoodlums type delinquents.
And their resulted in capacity to communicate on the primitive level that would ultimately be their communication if they were able to communicate. Would you raise the subject matter of any future place or would you adamantly stand by this and say that this is it to you the most important theme an interplay of characters. As far as you're concerned. Well you know I would ask you I would answer your question with a question and say who cares about a salesman who a family salesman death of a sad death of a Salesman certainly had to provide as the same question of them. I don't think playwrights deal. With people on and that kind of superficial level I think we deal we deal with our emotion and we start grabbing straws and say what kind of person best communicates this problem this social problem. Then we go another step and say do we want to communicate as writers through through drama through comedy what kind of style is then dictated. But on a very
first level ones motivated to write a play not because. And I could accuse some some playwrights of this fog of having the fog of I've got to have a plan this year. I don't write. From a point of view of gee I want to be a playwright when I grow up. I've tried every form this is the form that fits me best and I write a play because I see a problem. I see a problem in our lives and I society and it must be dealt with. And if the. There's a crying problem in the attitude that if it is aborted because no passion in the theater. Today it's all theater is a kind of. A. No no day we had to talk about Broadway theater and Broadway theaters most off-Broadway theater is well with where style is so much more important form is so much more important and content off Broadway who can be the most bizarre if you will. There's a play running with a naked girl on stage now. I
don't remember the name of it but the reviews were outrageous but yeah I know that people are lining up and I don't want to go you know on the topless chalice. The young woman who was was arrested for playing a cello naked from the waist up. I recall a newspaper article of the other saying you're all right you won't be arrested because in my court case they said as long as it's illegitimate I'd form you can show nudity. So there was some nice put together striptease. Well fine this is you know this theater will always exist but the theater that exists for me isn't Rosencrantz and Guildenstern which becomes a terrible bore after 15 minutes of where I can't take that other hour and forty five minutes drives me mad I had to get up and leave. And that's interesting. There the passion isn't there in these two plays you experience them. There's passion from the minute they start to like the ninth day and there's a peculiar feeling when they and there's an emotional letdown at the end of the evening because you've experienced
such passion. And this is what I write from if I don't experience the passion I don't write that week. I will not react Of course I've written six or seven have been produced. Yes I had and I've had to fill like place produced in England I find. I don't know about five full length plays produced in this country not in New York. And I'll have my first full length play in New York in September. Who can you in any way indicate what the what you're writing about all there is. There are two there are two players in question one is called brownstone and one is called Lauren and in either of the two or both of the two if I get lucky will be Broadway productions next year brownstone as you know in a way an extension of sugar plummets. Working with the same kind of character is Zuckerman now he's a married lawyer aged 35 living in New York. And takes place in three apartments in a brownstone in one apartment two Italian brothers
who have been divorced from their lives almost the odd couple if you will and the up stairs apartment an 80 year old mother and her virgin unmarried untouched unhappy 60 year old daughter. In the final apartment ZUCKERMAN The Bachelor and lawyer now finds a young girl in his closet with the with her son. If you will it's almost like a film the three the three little films that I just in to cut three vignettes and I had to cut to make a full length play three passionate problems that people experience in one building and yet these people in the building never talk to each other they pass each other in the hallway and something happens I want to give the play way to bring them together and once together they they realize my God we found communication. We're going to live together we're going to create a great colony and something happens to prove to them it's impossible and the other played a line which was a full length play and I brought it down
to one act for caffeine or Marmite. It's a totally different kind of play. The form was again dictated by the content is a very symbolic play the only scenery on stage is a line in the floor and it's a play about the various ways people get into line the reasons why they get into mine and the fact that people will get into a line even if they don't know where the line is going I don't leave out the element each has to be fair and they must be friendly. They solve it and interest on themes. Ruth Newton as a producer in this your first venture as a producer and obviously not know it I thought it was for some reason or other. Well obviously as the producer of this current production you are pleased and what you see. Did I think one of the great problems in the American thing today even before we when we were just sitting here talking to people around the aconite. You mentioned something about the lack of good actors in this country. I think one of our basic needs is good playwrights.
And I also happen to think that American audiences for Broadway shows are getting exactly what they're demanding. And this is one reason I think Broadway is so off Broadway is so viable and so exciting for me. Because the play that cannot survive and will not entertain. Businessman from Keokuk Iowa and the people he takes to. The theater on his expense account just don't work for me they're not interesting plays for me. Ruth has been a great deal of talk perennially. There's a great deal of talk and that usually ends there about the concept of Repertory Theatre. Are you interested in setting up a repertory theatre. Well we have two or three running. Strangely in New York I think Lincoln Center is trying to be a rep theatre. I think Phoenix is well on the way to becoming a true
rep company. And I have all kinds of faith in the lead and belief in them. And I think we have a city on the West Coast and we had to run Guthrie's between negroes and the Negro Ensemble Company downtown. I personally as a producer and not very much interested in it day it's a very expensive form of living. And to a degree I think inconvenient for your audience. I know I have a little resistance to it if I want to go see a play. I don't have to dig through all the dates and find out when it's applied. I think it's marvelous for actors. Because it's great to play this role tonight and something else tomorrow night I think is very expanding. Foreign actors this is considered one of the reasons why American actors don't grow or they don't have the opportunity to play varied parts. Believe that's true but I'm not sure that rap is the answer for that I think more theatre
and better theatre. And for example Matthew. Will you go on playing parts like these or like Joey in the Indian wants the Bronx which requires a kind of bad diction or expertly used by you. I mean but where do you go if you want to play something that has more reach. I mean can you will you and will the theater. What I'm getting at is the range becomes very narrow. If we stay with very very simplistic themes which have complex symbolic overtones but the doing of the play remains primitive level and not by primitive. It's not a negative term I simply mean that what happens when we do want to do a kind. Contemporary classic. I think that that actors are limited because they choose to be limited to a great degree. I
I personally in my private life I'm very unlike Joey. You know I never really had even a taste of this kind of life in my background. But to play the parts that I am and particularly like would be a limitation or to play the same kind of parts to allow myself to be to be taken and molded by. Somebody whose design would be ultimately my choice. Really people people become our type because they they choose to be. I guess this is true with all people who create anything at all. I think you're right I think American theater is where it is because it chooses to be where it is reality. Well I think the action of American society to a great degree and especially films. I think the playwright playwrights in this country really have to take responsibility for the theatre being where it is now. I think the American playwright is and then I want to be whipped right now. And I've come full swing around.
I've went through my period as it were and a period of hostility. And damn the theatre and then came full swing around to realizing that as a playwright I did start writing for actors for specific actors. And that's what I've been doing for two years now it's been paying off for me and that's what I'm continuing to do and I now have actors like John and I know his range it's incredible. And Matthew's range as well where as I said before John played really a burlesque baggy pants comedian came back two months later walked away with the rave reviews playing a 65 year old Indian with incredible dignity speak not speak a word of English speaking Hindi has a fantastic range ALPA Cino who couldn't make the show to The Who's playing Murph and the show. Is the most convincing. Frightening. The straw men tough 11 years and no I never want anyone to smile at me the way he smiled at me and I've seemed to Chino do really light footed comedy almost fake
comedy and it's incredible unbelievable and it's the same guy as a tribute to what you're saying and agree with Joey and both calls. But but you know you are so convincing in the way they act those roles that you do wonder do they have any further range that's how good they are because you think do we see we started you see the whole thing. We started from from a real relationship between opportunity and Matthew cause you think that's necessary or hard. Definitely necessary. Which brings me to another facet of the discussion when I have all of you trapped here for a time which is about five or seven minutes. Is there a place for an actor to learn and develop the technique of his craft in a total way. You speak of the relationship that you have developing a
relationship is it necessary. I mean do you have to know and establish a relationship in order to develop the same character that you had. Yeah I have every time you choose to act something you must try and find personal motivations which are too great to green in this play particular come from a relationship. My I need form Murphy. You know when we're up there and we're playing around we're really playing around you know we're not pretending to play around to the other question is there a place where an actor can learn how to act to the fullest degree of his of his art I think there is where I'm working now at the American Center. This is run by our Sonia Moore who was from the old Moscow Art Theater here and she's very up to date with. Why is it that I want to go to another question and maybe John might have something to add to this
some way. Why is it we don't have good collective group of American actors that can handle a very natural play like Israel Horovitz and a very natural play like Hamlet. We don't. We seem to fall of a very stylised. No that's what I don't mean. Very natural pleasures habit after all is a natural play I think the problem is you have shown that we've stylized it and we constantly never seem to get out of the vicious circle of becoming poetic when there's no need to be poetic. Very simple play. Wrap up tradition and being true to the tradition of performance of a given piece which has become a classic is that what you mean rather than looking at it as if it were a fresh play a new play. That is what I mean along with the idea that we recognize you would not get the full measure of Hamlet if you were to approach it. I don't think in the same way that you
approach or at least if the acting remained in the intense area that it is let's say in the Indian wants the Bronx there are certain demands that the play makes the same way the Indian makes certain demands on an actor I mean would be foolish to hear two actors in the Indian with excellent diction because that's not that's not what's required it would be equally foolish to hear that same diction. With an actor playing Hamlet layers or qualities or anyone else they would be equally foolish and ridiculous so I'm saying that where how does or do we have the facilities where an actor an American actor can increase his range of acting without imitating the British and without becoming affected the moment he steps into a play that deals with another era another century if you can't get away from the fact that this that the play place such as Hamlet is fought for to begin with a verse play. It was written in a tradition of theatre the Elizabethan tradition but the verse of the form the rhythm is no different from the rhythm that we use when we speak which is a big
pentameter. Well Dick I think you're you're getting on to something that has always intrigued me. I think it's well and good to be able to do American dialects and Argyll and what have you. Just as a British actor knows many many dialects from his country. But one thing that presses me about young actors today is that they don't study diction they don't study speech and I don't study the control and use and support of the voice. And I happen to have a real schtick about this because of it. Well I don't care how far from perfect speech you move if when it's required of you you can muster it up. I'm like a man and you know that happens eventually is done some magnificent Shakespeare in the park by American I think that their shrew was one of the best American productions of Shakespeare I've ever seen. Anyway I'm going to add to this a dilemma I come across and I must say that I keep a little book over with actors names and there are many about 20
actors who I choose to write for in this country and I have perhaps 60 and then what. Who I feel I can see I feel the diction and movement and that's like clay for a sculptor my God if he doesn't have clay then he's not a sculptor and I've always been a violin or elementary towards dialogue for a playwright to say well he has a good dialogue what's insane if he doesn't have good dialogue he's not even a playwright. But does he have an imagination working he take it. My dilemma with most American actors is that they don't really have experiences as human beings they go from the theater at night to Jim Downey to be with other actors and then they don't travel. They they just really don't experience a life they want to be actors and they want to hide in the womb of. The protection of being an actor and being in the theater and this is incestuous and ludicrous and the fine actors I know like John Kissel or Matthew cause
or Al Pacino. Have even at the end a young lives have lived. John is from Winchester. We were born three four miles apart and he's traveled in this country throughout the world he's seen and he studies he doesn't just study as an actor John Casals studies a life and it shows up on stage. There's a great deal of in what you say Israel I mean being a playwright I think if you're a playwright of any worth you would have to have this viewpoint and I think the range of living is psychic as well as it should be psychic as well as practical and I think this again an actor there's no limit to how he should develop mentally and physically. And this is this is another problem. And I also think it's terribly important to any actor to understand himself. Well that's important for anyone in life. I mean it's a major job yes but an actor on stage is is an expose all of us who are not on stage can get by without the I don't know whether we can or not run on
that note I hope you all look forward to your next producing adventure and you. We're going to ask you to tell me what it is or when it will be because maybe you don't know but if you do know will it be soon. Yes I hope. All right our thanks to the playwright of the Indian wants the Bronx. And it's called the Sugar Plum Israel all of it. The two actors in the Indian John Casal and. Matthew Coles there's what I think I'm right and the producer Ruth Newton. Thank you and join us again next week. This was seminars in theater. A recorded series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession join us again for our next program when host Richard Pyatt will lead another conversation about life in the theater seminars in theatre is produced by radio station WNYC in New York City and is distributed by the national educational radio network.
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 9 of 31
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3231. This prog.: One-act plays: It's Called the Sugarplum, and The Indian Wants the Bronx. Israel Horowitz, playwright; Ruth Newton, producer; Matthew Coles, actor.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:05
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