Seminars in theatre; Song of the Lusitanian Bogey cast, part one
This is seminars in theatre. A series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession who comment on the problems and pleasures of life in the theatre. Here now is the host of seminars and theatre Richard Paey at. Their evening and welcome once again to seminars and theatre. The Negro Ensemble Company founded by Douglas turned award. Robert hooks and Darryl Crone and backed by a Ford Foundation grant announced its first four play season to begin on January 2nd of this year as its permanent home. The St. Mark's Playhouse on Second Avenue three new plays. Peter wise so young and Richard Wright and one revival by Ray Lawler. Were scheduled to comprise the season and each play will run five weeks after a week of previews. The American premiere of Peter Weiss To The Song of the Lusitania bogey. One of the companies opening
play on January 2nd and we have members and the director of the cast and like to introduce now the directors Michael a Schildt and the story goes that he walked on announced into the office of the Negro Ensemble Company and presented his directorial resume to Douglas turned award. Mr. Ward was so impressed that he decided to make a trip to Yellow Springs Ohio to see Mr. Shields production of Amphitryon 38 at the Antioch area theatre. And as a result selected this young director for the inaugural presentation of the song was to anybody because we want to get the truth about that and maybe that is the truth. But our second guest is Rosalind cash. She joined the Negro Ensemble Company after a season with Washington DC's well-known Arena Stage repertory company which played a variety of starring in feature roles and in New York she is remembered last season for her off-Broadway performances in to bury a cousin the Bari theatre in Junebug graduates at the
Chelsea Theatre Center and she's also been in the theatre in one form or another are another for quite a while and that includes singing which she does very well in the current production and David downing who's a native New Yorker and a graduate of the high school warming Aarti made his professional acting debut on Broadway as a cherub in green pastures starring William Marshall and by the age of eight. Still a cherub. He had already logged an impressive list of performing credits including a television special which here is fate with Frederic O'Neal Dane Clark and Marsha Hunt and he's also been very active. In the performing aspect of theatre including films as a matter fact I think he was seen in the film Up the Down Staircase recently released. Well we have all of the performers and behind the scenes individuals that we can talk to and first of
all the Director Michael Shields. Is that true you just walked into Douglas Ward's office and and did all this. Well Derek It is true to a certain extent. I was announced by a previous telephone call five minutes before I came down. Well there's the missing bit of truth for me. Are you from Ohio. No I'm not I'm originally from Waukee Wisconsin which is probably further in the sticks than Antioch in Yellow Springs Ohio. But I've been in New York for four years now. And and you might say I'm a pledging director. You're also an actor which I failed to mention at the beginning and I think it's important because you know we're at a very important play at the American Place Theater.
We talked to last week when Hamm and what they're doing for playwrights and that you were one of their more successful productions Benito Cereno rain. I was in with the American Place Theater at the very inception. When they opened with Robert Lowell's play the old glory I started out as a stage manager and wound up being an actor but had always wanted to be a director. And that's the fortune in the Times of theater. Where this is most unusual isn't it. I think Doug Ward did he go to Ohio did he see your production of Amphitryon 38. Yes he did. I had started in the office about three days before I had to go down. And I told him I'd be interested in working with the group. And he looked at my resume and I had credits from Princeton University McCarter Theater
and he seemed to be somewhat impressed the reviews were quite good. And I think he wanted to get away for a couple of days. Relaxed from his pressing duties of trying to really get the Negro Ensemble. Together. And. He had gone to college about three miles away from Antioch and he came down and brought a few scripts and we had Peter Weiss's play the song the Lusitania bogey roughly translated by one of the one of my neighbors there. And what do you think of the play. I think that it's a brilliantly written piece of theatre. A lot of the critical review that we've gotten from the New York press or the Daily News in particular
have all raved about the performances and the production and the direction etc. etc. and they've all said that. However the play is not very good. Or it's not a play. I don't think Peter Weiss ever pretended that it was a play. It's. A new form of theatre documentary style short scenes follow upon short scenes of the characters the actors in the cast do not play specific characters they play a multitude of nameless people but very human people. They function in a way that many actors have never functioned in this country as total instruments of voice and body control and
for instance they become furniture at time. They become the sounds of fire and burning forests and bombs dropping etc.. And it's a it's a tract by denouncing Portuguese colonialism in goal in Mozambique and a lot of our criticism was that Peter did not show the the good side of Portuguese colonialism what they were doing for the natives and. Because it was so one sided that it was on their propaganda etc.. But the fact of the matter is that. He really did show all of this. Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique in one of the
specific criticism vibe about various good and bad sides was that the reason the content of the play was not and the dispute to this theory but I'll probably get it anyway at the moment that the content of the play was not effective as. Or certainly not as affective as the acting and not as effective as the as the form that took place under your direction and the actors involving themselves totally because you didn't have the balance of actually showing the Portuguese villains I mean in there. In other words some of the criticism said that it would be would have been more effective if you had had white actors in the roles of that. You were trying to use the ensemble actors with and the money aiding the evils. What is your feeling on that. Well it's really it's a rather.
Unintelligent. Criticism statement. Peter Weiss wrote the play and specifically designated in the script that the actor involved should not attempt to indicate by a mask so a white face or a black face or whatever a racial designation. And in Stockholm when the play was first done it was done by a troupe of all white actors. And in Germany it was done by a troupe of all white actors it's a kind of play where the changes happened so quickly that you could not line up white actors on one side representing the colonial powers and line up black actors on the other side representing the oppressed. Put it
and go home and African is. Part of the power in the play comes from the fact that the margin is group of back to put Trey. Both the oppressor and the oppressed. Also another person by our own criticisms which made fit into the same category as you characterize the last one was that it the effect of the play. Content again was diluted by using a machine some abstract machine to be the culprit or which I thought was very effective but again it was called that human. Human body or human being should have or should have been that overseer. I guess your response would be the same as what you just said regarding the other lack of white actors to be
representative of the villains. Well actually I think most of the criticism on no scores really stems from not are not a true understanding of the style that Peter Weiss chose to write this play. If he chose to remove some of the emotional content of the play. Actually the situation of the oppression in Angola is so. So horrible and the acts perpetrated on the people there are really something that you you could not put on the stage in a real. Sense in the kind of theater that that you get on Broadway where you have three walls and the actors pretend there's a fourth wall and the audience is just peeking in.
Peter Weiss chose to write this play and abstract a lot of the emotional content from it so that the audience could look at it from an intellectual calculating. Viewpoint that does not mean however that there are not as sections in the piece that really catch the audience emotionally. Because of the very nature of the subject matter. Even when he's abstracted the emotion or tried to with music movement the content is so strong that. The audience gets caught up anyway. You spoke of the actors working in a way that actors usually do not work and that is involving the total instrument and we have actors and actresses here. I will say they were quite active and seemed to really enjoy doing the performance I mean this least this is my interpretation as I
watch. I thought they were group of actors really enjoy their jobs for these performances. Rosalyn David Downing. How do you feel about acting in this play. I mean it doesn't give actors a chance to necessarily be spotlighted in as belonging to a particular character or particular and everyone seems to be there. And do you find a different Dave other feeling than any other place you've been in. Well I feel personally that I might never have the opportunity to do another play like this because of the nature of the play the ensemble effect and the quality of it live. I feel that when I'm on the stage. Because how how would I put it. I guess it's like there are nine of us
on the stage and yet we are working as one. We're spotlighting each other at the same time we're spotlighting I selves because we all have a job to do. However large however small in that particular segment. And if everyone does the job and everyone who spotlight can do one of the things that you have as one of the things that you have to do in the plate in terms of activity is very physical and energizing use of your body. You find that smoking helps it or don't you. Right that you have to prepare yourself by the fighting weight or doings that got back to you that is a very physically tiring activity. And what I'm speaking about specifically is where this NG where you have to constantly revolve around on the floor.
Well I found that getting up early in the morning running around the block a couple times getting some of that healthy air that helps but no I think it's a mental thing really. And since I am aware of the fact that I have to do it every night there's no getting around it I can't fake it. I just have to mentally prepare myself for that those moments. Another thing about the plays regarding the actors and the actors is in it they do get an opportunity to use their respective singing voices somewhat. And some of them have excellent singing voices that probably could make a career and I would sell for on that. And of course Roslyn you do sing in this and I was to feel to be singing which is one of your avocation is that any regret. I don't think of it as singing. I never I haven't thought of doing.
What I do in the play as singing as I've been required to sing in clubs in Broadway and off-Broadway show reviews. I think of it as another projection of the storytelling and I happen to do it through song. But I never think of it as I singing. Because if I did I would call upon something else to put it across that I'm used to doing. You know in clubs and in reviews and on Broadway commercial stage and that is all the things that tend to singing a song but. I don't even have to see the text. I can talk it. I chose to sing it because the music is there. I would let me ask you a question collectively because Michael Short said something that I can't quite
do within my compass of reasoning. I understand how the actors of the Negro Ensemble Company in the current production of the day book how the actors are engaged in a way that no actor has ever used himself before. That actors do not generally give themselves that is the total way. What is the distinction you're making Michel between the use of the actor's body speech and song in the current production or production let's say on Broadway that a musical that or involves music and song or a Brecht play which involves a kind of song and body movement. Well I was speaking distinctly of the way in which the act is. Used
as instruments of the play rather than body movements or voice. It's true in a musical on Broadway. Some musicals let's say or in the the new movement that's being brought about by people like Joe Chai can in the open theatre. Actors are becoming more. Let's say less. Realistically oriented you know and representing a character that you have to walk and talk. With the definition of someone you might find out on the street and the theater stops at that that's that form of theatre is going out and what is coming in is the actor using his body as a total expressive organism.
Incorporating what we think of what we tend to think of as dance or pan to mimic movement. For instance in the open theatre they use a lot of exercises that are now incorporated into some of the plays that are off-Broadway of actors becoming parts of machines with their body and interacting as parts of the of a machine rather than as a human character. This play is the first play that I have read or seen in this country that utilizes the act. Or a group of actors as it as one single individual and as an entity so that in many scenes in the play would what you get rather than one character going through a specific emotion. You get a group of
characters. A group of actors and station sing characters who are representing several facets of one individual and the total effect is greater than if you had one actor and stings more through the emotional task. Yeah I think I see what you mean. They also should say something about the music which contributes a great deal I believe. Me personally to the success of this play because it has a live combo which is an excellent musical performance there I mean they're just fabulous really and they really seem to carry the thread of the feeling I mean it's a beautiful job and really too bad we weren't able to talk to Coleridge Taylor Perkins and he's the one that composed music for the play I believe you're right that is a that is a good use of music.
One of the best uses of music I mean in a non. Music I mean and a play that is not a musical that I've seen. Let me ask you this. You spoke of using actors as and some movements of the foot that the theatre of the future will use actors more and more in terms of interlocking machines or in terms of of facets of mechanical structures and less as human beings less of themselves. I didn't say human beings. Are the theatre exists because it tells us about human beings or we deal with human beings but. What I what I meant to say if I didn't say it was. The act at least there's a movement afoot to break the actor out of the bounds of restrictive
naturalistic kind of acting that you see in the movies all the time and to allow the actor and the playwright to use. Himself as the actor to express all of the things that are happening in us as human beings in a more effective way. But you need plays that will be able to utilize the actor in that way so that you could say they saw this day but we are many plays being written along these lines. Not enough. Then go going to the other extreme. What about acting that allows an actor to use the full range of his psychic energies the full range of his intellectual abilities in a pool range of his emotional and physical capabilities but elevates the audience that goes to see it and elevates the evolution of the actor as
an individual as a human being as well as an artist. Could you achieve the same purpose with that type of material. For example let's say with the Negro Ensemble Company they perform and we go to that old hack Shakespeare. I mean would they be able to utilize a performance of Hamlet in the without computerizing the actor or let me not say that because that's not what you said. But developing the tools and the skills that are required to perform and elevating performance of Shakespeare or any other classic or any classic that has not been written yet. We had a it is a Negro Ensemble. And I know you can't all speak for the Negro Ensemble Company but as individual members of the company and as actors and directors. What is your feeling about moving in that direction. I think you can do anything. Well I think we can as human beings if we allow the other side of a company and as
actors speaking as an actress Well the fact there are no limitations to what we can do in theater with any piece of work. The fact that's true. Rosen. I think America can do anything. I think Rizana could do anything. I think Lincoln Center could do anything. But it's a question of selection takes and direction not not individual direction any direction of a movement. And I'm really asking does the Negro Ensemble Company or do you as an actor do you as an actor David Michael Shields have any inclination to move in these directions. I think that that question is almost answered by taking a look at the proposed season and what will be our season. We started off with the song the Lusitania which is very different in style. American theatre goers are used to and
American actors are used to performing in. But the next play is the most realistic naturalistic kind of clay that you could pick it is totally a vehicle for the actors to explore explore and broaden himself in achieving a very definite characterisation which plays the way some of the 17 which was done not long ago here on Broadway in the summer of the seventeenth adult who will. Who's that in rehearsal now. Yeah. Who's directing that one that we can arms and claims that Cambridge will happens to be our production stage manager. Well this is truly I think one of the outstanding characteristics and observational factors about the new grounds of the company is that it seems to be.
A real ensemble company. And of course we have a number of companies called the repertory company of this and that but they never they never begin to be repertory companies and whatever definition they're using for repertory the Negro Ensemble Company seems to be really a repertory company. From the way it functions you know with someone playing a part. Less than starring one week and perhaps starting the next week or shifting around I mean even the fact that the director as you just indicated has a different function. Is this the aim of the company as you see it. Dave Well I think the name of the company. Is to it to me it's almost a showcase at this point for each individual member of the company regardless of his role. Presently in the company.
- Seminars in theatre
- Producing Organization
- WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the first of two parts, focuses on the Negro Ensemble Company's inaugural production, "Song of the Lusitanian Bogey." Guests are Michael A. Schultz, director; Rosalind Cash, actress; and David Downing, actor.
- Other Description
- A weekly panel discussion series on the theatre scene in New York City, moderated by Richard Pyatt.
- Media type
Host: Pyatt, Richard I., 1935-
Panelist: Downing, David
Panelist: Schultz, Michael A., 1938-
Panelist: Cash, Rosalind
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Song of the Lusitanian Bogey cast, part one,” 1968-01-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-125qcr7q.
- MLA: “Seminars in theatre; Song of the Lusitanian Bogey cast, part one.” 1968-01-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-125qcr7q>.
- APA: Seminars in theatre; Song of the Lusitanian Bogey cast, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-125qcr7q