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Because a tourist later on when you are able to commission playwrights to write plays of the period tourist will be able to get a good part of history and entertainment at the same time sort of a painless way to live to get really associated with the period. Are you thinking in terms of having playwrights new playwrights given an opportunity at the Ford Theatre. Yes we've already commissioned. I can identify exactly what it is because it's just being worked on now but we've already commissioned one new play about Abraham Lincoln which a prominent young American playwright is now is now working on. And this would be a regular part of our program to try and do at least one new play every year with a national. You know I always have a tendency to say National Theater but it's national Repertory Theater. I don't know why I want to invert that. We'll that's right so do I. Fintan you travel or will this touring. No we will continue to tour we will not probably continue to tour in the way that we have before in
1961 when we started out there were only about six or seven regional theatres in America in the in most cities that we play. We were those cities. Our only chance to see the great place to see the classics now there are 60 just since 1961 it's been so staggering. So that San Francisco now has a C.T. the theatre group is fully ensconced in life and as we like to think that we have played a role in conditioning in preparing audiences for these theaters so we probably won't do the kind of really kind of back breaking national tour that we've had to do. Up to now we will still tour under such special circumstances we will still go for instance to our in residence. Universities The Ohio State University of Columbus and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro we will still do major city tours from time to time. We are exploring with Vice President Humphrey's office the need in the cities of America for plays performed free for inner city
audiences during the hot weather. This is a great hope of mind that we will be able to get this program under underway if not this coming summer the summer after that. We are exploring with various The State Arts Councils that very exciting new development in America. The thought of developing highly mobile junior companies which would tour within each state on a one night stand basis going into towns that the smaller towns that have no theatre at all and we are always thinking very seriously about the various opportunities weve been offered to represent this country. Abroad we have not done that because we felt we must put America first. Now the chance will come I think for us to do some foreign touring. The company at Ford's Theater which is called an RTA for its will be an entity of its own will be a permanent resident theater.
But we will also be forming other companies to perform all the specialized Lydon to enlarge your company your budget. Your base of operations. You have two companies in effect or three. Well it's quite conceivable that at certain times we could have many companies or several in touring the states and one in the universities and one during a major city tour and one a broad. One thing is for sure the audiences are there for this kind of theatre all over America. Subsidy tends to be the problem because as the cost of subsidizing the arts in America gets higher and higher and repertory takes a lot of subsidy and an awful lot we have to develop in this country better and bigger ways of getting up pumping money into the arts I think all all the current experience in the arts indicates that we have to get much more than a mere token support that the federal government is now giving the arts and we also have to really tap the American corporation the
super citizen who is given super privileges also should have it. Super obligations I mean I've got obligations itis as as a citizen to do certain things and you do too. A corporation has special privileges. We have to ask more of American corporations there's a great controversy about this particular philosophy that government should subsidize art or any other individual or any corporation. The reason some opponents of this feel that once the government or corporations begin to subsidize those in the form of the arts they begin to control it and dictate to it and shape it to its own Ronan's. How do you feel about that. I think that our experience so far in this very short experience with federal subsidy underwriter Stevens influence has shown that that those were bogeyman that help that has been given Mr. Stevens has had ridiculous he limited funds to work with. But the thought and the care that that seed money has been spread around
especially in theater has been so creative and so helpful. He's getting really. His mileage for every for every dollar that's spent. And I do think that the that the central thing about federal subsidy in this country is that we have been always a country that for darn good reasons had to worry about quantitative things we had to push a frontier west we had to get people fed. We have made education into an enormously important American goal because we needed to educate our people. Now we have the quantitative things that we are a almost grossly affluent society but we are the society that has as it has said has private opulence and public squalor. We see that every day in New York. It is now time for the government and the corporations to pay attention to the qualitative aspects of American life. And certainly the arts. That is what the ideas are all about.
No one could dispute the promises you just so forth Michel however great disputation looms on the horizon in terms of who is responsible for making our qualitative and the artist. Yes. And the government has very little to do except provide him with some means and yet many many theories about artist include of course the one that if an artist is given a comfortable nest egg then he is no longer able to really be the creative artist that he might be if he had to struggle harder I won't go into that about it don't we. One thing about all the things that have been written on the Guggenheim Foundation grant years one we can make of all of the things have been constructed which have failed notably a number of institutions in New York. They had the money and still do not have the talent. Power denied has seemed to have the ability to raise. Acting or to raise
music should be for the opulence of this country. The NRA certainly has had. I know I should dispute a list Michael but the NRA has had no trouble raising money it's all have we had trouble. Well I never in any single year raise the amount we needed. I am I am I am I am constantly. And so I do seven days a week begging Foundation which as well as the money not not in fundraising we've been successful where it counts we've been successful in building allotting tis because they care about our work but we've never raised the amount we need we have a deficit which our which our board and me and everybody and I'm not a person of means is doing everything to keep us going. I think the thing that hurts the work the most in this country certainly does with NRT is I'm out there counting the pennies all the time I'm out there begging for money. I don't have the time that I should to look for properties to look for talent. And we never have enough money to do the things that you must to grow and develop fully
as an as a as an artistic Association I think this is true in this country. Right across the spectrum of the performing arts with the possible exception of music which being abstract and non-verbal people think it's safe and so they put a lot of money into you know. But after all our performing arts audience in America is at something like 25 million admissions a year to professional performing arts. And over 14 million of those are for theater more than Opera Ballet symphonic music or music combined. Yet we pump whether it's the at the Boyd Foundation is just done with its matching grants or or are what the Vacca have to do with their gifts to the Metropolitan Opera. We pump money into music in the great just portion to the way we put it into into the other arts and I think this is why They've lagged behind in America we have never given proper proper place to modern dance we never really have to do subsidised theatre. No one's ever really had a chance to develop a major theatre
company in this country which takes decades of experience. The Philharmonic Symphony has had this incredible time. So I was the Cincinnati Symphony so I was the St. Louis Symphony to develop but NRT which is only seven years old is one of the very oldest. Regularly producing theatrical organisations in this country that's wrong. Regarding money for a longer. But what do you find objections to donating or subsidising funds when you make your rounds and your contacts or do you find that there are no objections. Well there there really aren't many in this case because there we really have three things going for us the fact that it's this is an historical monument the fact that it's in Washington the nation's capital and the fact that it is live theater versus a just a museum. But one of the objections that we get is the fact that while the government's restored the theatre. Why doesn't the government do it all.
Another thing that we get is of course complaints about what people want to say. There plays there or you know no one will agree on what are the best plays to perform at any one time. Those are really the two major objections. They're not the typical objections that I found in other cultural projects. As Michael points out about it. If this were strictly the theatre I think we would have a much more difficult time raising money because it just doesn't seem that the people are ready yet for it. But here we have the Ford's Theater which is of course a great help when you're trying to raise money for this project. Do you think you'll be somewhat of a closet operation in Washington with all of these old plays when the rest of the country is moving ahead with abstract and modern plays and no plays and all kinds of experiments and happenings.
Do you feel that you will be lost somewhere. Or remain in a kind of a closet setting. Well first I do think that we have we must automatically accept a restructuring and working out for its that is indisputable. And that is that the players must in some way have to do with that with that building. They must be related and appropriate for that building but I think that we can interpret what is related and appropriate in a way at least as broad and generous to say the well Shakespeare Company interprets their charter their charter reads that they are to do plays by William Shakespeare and plays that shed light on the work of William Shakespeare and ended that charted they produced I don't know what light that sheds on Shakespeare but I guess it has. Jack have you had a chance to talk to the little boy. Then why. Have you had a chance to get the feeling of the actors appearing in this reconstructed theater. How do they feel about it and excitement or will for the most
part they're all a tingle. The theater looking at the theater from the stage has a marvelous quality and some of them have gone down and seen the theater and have stood on the stage and looked out into the auditorium and all of those who have done that have been very excited by the theater and by the feeling that they get from the theater and the feeling of contact they will have with the audience. And so they're all looking forward to it very much in the way you are directing the first been John Brown's Body. Will you be connected with any of the plays there for the season. No I won't have anything to do with the crime to her she's to the same actors will be used in the comedy as the same actors and in all three all three. Do you have any major difficulty. Jack that I you can talk about in connection with actors that you work with with the company I know you've been with the company since its inception and most of the actors
I don't know how long they've been away but do you feel that they're not what deficiency would you say is outstanding. I don't think I can make a generalization because the actors that are in our company are drawn from somebody different backgrounds that every one of them has to be treated specifically and individually there is no there's no broad general thing that you can say with most of the American actors. There tends to be a speech problem. They don't have the standard stage diction we're fortunate in the company and having people who speak very well but in trying to assemble assemble a company it's often difficult to find the proper speech for the kind of material that we want to do. It's very difficult to say to make a generalization about you know what's the what's the single most of what will the single most difficult problem in working I think in any theatre is keeping the work spontaneous and that's the problem that the actors have They're helped in playing
two or three plays that they get constantly refresh to. But even then the work can tend to become when they're terribly familiar with it it can tend to lose its lose its spontaneity. And this is this is a general problem that occurs even more when you play the same production. Eight times a week but it still does occur even in repertory. I was going to enlarge the question and ask you to make a broader generalization about American actors which you already did and you said speech was the primary fault with American actors. I'd like to ask you another question on this and just simply why what what is it what's so difficult about. Well the plays that most Americans have an opportunity to act and when they're getting their training do not require great demands from speech. And we have nothing in the United States. Well we're beginning to have something that compares with the repertory theaters in England where the actors go out and do great numbers of classic some classic roles and they play a lot of
Shakespeare. And over a period of time three or four years in the training period they develop themselves the opportunities here are not similar at all. Well what kind of speech would you like American actors to hand about the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Something that is called Standard stage speech and it's. It's the speech that Galleon has and the speech that John Good will use that he uses in ages of man. And it's it's not terribly British and it's not American but it's it's about the middle of the land and they shouldn't be restricted to it you know. And if you're working with an English actor in England and you say what county the character is from that actor is expected to be able to give you the speech of that county. Very few American actors will know the difference between a North Carolina speech and Louisiana speech. Well if they if we were to arrive at Jack's mid-Atlantic speech dance
Michel then and Jack and Jay as a as a member of the audience and as a member of the working team trying to get theater moving. Would that be the answer would we have inspired acting and would we have oh no no no it's well it's just my that's one of the major problems in terms of acting. There are so many different schools of acting taught in the United States in terms of the emotional approach to the materials that it's difficult to to mold a company because they all all have different attacks because they've all studied different places. Some of them come from universities. Some of them have studied at studios like the HP studio in New York and they all come from. They've all been exposed to different kinds of techniques so you constantly have to adjust them to make to meld them into a whole. The speech is an obvious major thing that there is a problem with not that that speech should be used all the time and it must be changed but you have to have a standard to begin from. You have to have a starting
point. And we don't have that yet we don't have really any. This is where we are very different from countries with developed daters. We don't have any fully professional training academy for actors in the entire country because the training academy of professional school is quite different and then what happens at a university although that is a good thing too. Now that the new school that John Houseman is working on it will hopefully be that this is but this is the first time when the junior high when the drama division of the Julliard School at Lincoln Center opens this will be the first fully professional top academy that we that we've had in this country. We're the closest thing exists is the American Academy but that's up to your school. And it's not it's not fully professional. And also it seems that if we do not have a fully devoted academy or a fully devoted professional school whereby an actor can receive his training in all facets of his craft and that we find individual teachers who have
individual capabilities and they teach that but they actress wants right now we desperately need an academy definitely we need an equivalent of the five greats golds in London lammed and the Royal Academy. But the big squads. Doesn't Artie have a training program or doesn't. Stay away from that. So far we have stayed away from it simply because we haven't had the time the energy and most importantly the money. I would would love to see this country get a national federally subsidized academy and in all the farming arts and I don't see why it isn't possible that within the next decade or so that that could not happen. I would like to see it happen in Washington as perhaps part of the Kennedy Center for the for the Performing Arts. Then you could have two perfectly swell things happen which is that you could have the fine professionals who are now mostly teaching on their own the way or in small studios
like Hawking teaches here. They could come to Washington to teach because it's only 50 minutes on the shuttle but that students would be removed from that dreadful temptation to go and sell yourself to television commercials and it is essential in professional training that students not work that they devote all their energies to the demands of discipline and craft that they are being given at the Royal Academy for instance in London you're kicked out of the school if you take one job. This is a great dedication on the part of the student it really isn't understood what it is what he's doing and it so often it cannot. Be allowed to comprehend because he needs money and that is where the subsidy really should come in. I would think that such an academy could be started in Washington it would be near enough New York which is our real cultural center in this country for students to see the things that they should see in New York but it would be far enough away from New York that the temptations
of the commercial world would not be constantly under their noses. Michael the Connecticut Shakespeare company advertises in New York so that many New Yorkers just run up to Connecticut and see their productions will for data be notifying New Yorkers of what's going on and how they can get there and what play will be there that said What will you bring forward to New York. We'll be notifying New York in the way that we're doing on this program by talking about it. We do not plan basically to advertise with this particular theater it will be so institutional I don't think we'll need to advertise any more than the Metropolitan Museum here in New York advertises. But there will be constant news releases and various affairs are the greatest I guess public relations in a way thing that is going to happen for us is that on January 30th the inaugural evening of the theater which is the first presidents we put it together for the president's cabinet. It's the first president's cabinet evening that has ever been televised. The
president's cabinet is like a command performance in America. It would be the first time at the theater that actresses that vote in that state since the night of the assassination and you were talking earlier you were asking earlier about how do the actors feel what this will indicate. These people are coming to open for ads and donating their their services there are none of them are being paid. I'm not a good member all of them but I give you Harry Belafonte Julie Harris. Robert Reich Robert Ryan Fredric March Henry fund. The United States Marine Band Patricia Brooks the marvelous soprano from the New York City Opera Odetta Carmen de la Ballade and does more than I can more than I can even think of the rave singers dancers actors and this will be televised. This is going to be covered by CBS on Tuesday night January 30th as part of CBS reports. Will New Yorkers and the nation's can get a glimpse of what's going on in
Washington. Well we've just about run out of our time and we want to thank you. Michael you are you by the way you all are housed in Washington right now. We have I commute kind of rushing about half the time and here about half the time. Well I hope you don't have to come to Washington on this particular occasion and you're right. However we want to thank Michael Jewell producer and founder of the National Repertory Theatre. Who is about to undertake this new venture and the reconstructed theatre. Ford's Theater. And Jack studio the director with the company who has devised and directed the first production. Which opens February 12. John Brown's Body by Steven Vincent Benet and we want to thank Jay Longacre for taking time out of a very what I'm sure amounts to a busy fund raising schedule to come and talk to us about Ford's Theater. 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 24 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.: The reconstruction and reopening of the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Michael Dewell (or Duell); Jack Sidoe (or Siddough); Jay Longacre.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:20
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 24 of 31,” 1968-06-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 24 of 31.” 1968-06-18. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Seminars in theatre; Episode 24 of 31. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from