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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 in theatre. Richard Platt the evening and welcome to another seminars and theatre. For this weekend a few weeks running we will be talking to. The. Leaders of Lincoln Center and for this evening we would like to introduce our guest the general manager of the repertory Lincoln Center Alan Mendell. And the subscription supervisor Robert Schlosser. Lincoln Center has been in the news in one way or another ever since its existence. All of the news has not been praised. I mean all of the news that we hear about Lincoln Center. Doesn't particularly go out of its way to praise it. On the other hand. We have seen
changes take place at Lincoln Center from its inception with one of the foremost directors and Man of the theater. Heading it too along with Robert WHITEHEAD One of the foremost producers and Robert Lewis another well-known director. And. Many changes have taken place since that time now it's headed under. Irving but I think we're a little more background now and I would like to come to you and get ourselves historically brought up to date after because Whitehead and Lewis left. What happened then. Well I'm sure it was. I'm really not that familiar with that familiar with the first administration. And you mention Bobby Lewis and I think he may have been involved but I'm not correct wasn't Clurman. I think rather than Lewis It may have been all along good with the
theater I know. Lewis was directly involved in a training program that I was involved in as many Thank you and instituting Lincoln centers and I never spoke to Clairmont. I said well I knew that when I arrived I'd heard that. That Clurman had worked I believe as a sort of draw on the tour of the theater. As I say I'm not entirely familiar with with the very first administration. Did you come in with the phalanx of Irving and Blau under my wing or as I remember it quite well when we were first invited. To come to New York and there was. A great deal of discussion that took place in San Francisco at that time and our first reaction was No not to come. As a matter of fact there was a rather agonizing two week period of of self-examination. Appraisal
reappraisal. About whether or not we should or should not come. What was to be accomplished by staying in San Francisco. And so forth and as I say it was not. Finally an easy decision because it affected the lives of so very very many people. We did decide to come. I believe when we arrived I remember they were still working in the the first company was working at the square last on Washington Square a theater there and I saw one of two of the productions of the Belmont theater itself had not been completed. But it was understood that we were to move into the Belmont and so the first few months that we were here really was given over. Not only to planning our first season but to completing that theater which turned out to be a mammoth job.
Alan Mandel You were with blown herb in San Francisco for a good while then. Yes about 13 years. Two teen years and by the way which loss or were you also in San Francisco. Yes I was. So you're both well familiar with the law in Irving and so he and I met recently. Well what does a general manager do at Lincoln Center here. If you can tell me in 55 minutes. Well it's it's really it's really difficult to pinpoint essentially a general manager does oversees the entire staff of the theater and the staffing of the theater. You're involved really in every aspect of the theater production administration. In a sense subscription anything that affects that theater really affects the general manager of the theatre and I think if I have say one major function it's really to see.
That the very finest staff available to any theatre is available to the theatre that I'm with to the repertory theater Lincoln Center generally and that's what it is specifically and it involves anything it may be a cold from the Lincoln Center tour office about where to reroute the tours because there's a rehearsal going on on the main stage. It involves heating ventilating and air conditioning budgeting. Only looking after the various engineering problems in the basement doesn't involve itself with aesthetic principles artistic concepts or any active work on stage. I feel that a General Manager at least the way it evolved in San Francisco it's certainly somewhat different in New York but I feel that a general manager should be available to do whatever is necessary to be
done at any given moment to see that that theater functions at its at its peak at its very very best. The earlier you mentioned that when the invitation to come to New York was offered there was great soul searching and hesitation why you would. Why was that after all. New York is still regardless of what goes on here in the way of theatre it's still considered the pinnacle the apex more or less of where the theatrical history is being made and where careers are made and where lives are made. Why did you I assume this was an ensemble hesitation. Yes because we were really a group and it wasn't the kind of thing that was going to affect just one person it affected everybody involved in the company. And it is a difficult decision. We started from absolutely
scratch in San Francisco. I was. Just a small group of people to begin with. About eight you work very hard building an organization over a period of 13 years and it just it isn't easy you have roots there and it's very difficult really for anyone I suppose to uproot themselves. How did you personally feel about it. Although I assume this is has aspects of personal feeling but oh yes yes as I'm sure it affected all of us personally it was very difficult in the first place. I happen to. Love San Francisco. I'm not from there originally. I'm from Toronto and I just love the physical. Set up of San Francisco I just think it's a very beautiful and exciting city. I felt that if I put it this way after it took 13 years there. To build a subscription audience of 5000 people. And working as I did
as a manager there I knew almost all of those 5000 subscribers and I could greet them and I knew them by name. And there was a wonderful kind of rapport with them. I had also worked as an actor as a director involved in productions in the main stage in our smaller theater down the street in our children's theatre. And you were really in a sense a part of the community. You had three separate theaters. There were two actual physical plants. Yes. And the divisions three divisions. Robert do you feel that way about your audience and you had a subscription supervisor new deal closely with subscriptions. Do you feel the absence of this close contact that Allan has just described or do you feel there's an excitement about the New York area of the New York audience are you from New York by the way. No.
What we try to establish in the subscription department that handles the volume of subscriptions that we handle it's thirty eight nearly 39000. Now for this coming season we try to establish a personal contact with our subscribers. Perhaps it's because of the training that the concept of subscription of theatre that we had in San Francisco and that we're striving towards this relationship with our audience with our subscription audience particularly so that it's interesting to discover that inroads have been made on this level that there is a relationship for me between our theater and our subscription audience. One of things in mind if I interrupt you I remember when we came the entire subscription audience was on a computerized system act it was that cold cut and dried. We finally changed that after much consultation to having the subscription
again operated by people rather than by machines. Well that's an interesting thing because in one way you slow up your activity but I guess in another way you make some kind of community contact you don't slow you know. However. We discovered that by having the subscription orders processed through a system of data processing that it would take literally months. Between the arrival of the order and the ticket would be sent. The assignment was made by this automatic automated system and then they returned cards to us we send the cards out to the subscriber advising with their seat assignment wise when this was all seen to be organized. Then we would at that point dispatch the ticket. You can imagine with the variables of request that we get with for a subscription for the theater feeling and I know how to house an auditorium that this is a
highly complicated process. Now under this hand system by hand with people with human beings we receive an order at the 10 o'clock mail delivery. The tickets for that are go out in the 6 o'clock mail. So it is decidedly swifter more efficient less impersonal. As you know this is a directed you know Robert that is in the. And San Francisco did you work as an actor. No no I was the box office manager. Francisca this is always been your area to find the scene again. I see. Although I'm convinced that you know one of the things that's happened because we've worked together for so many years I know that if I were not available to the theater for any period of time and we needed in a hurry a general manager. There's no question in my mind a lot Bob would be able to fill in and be general manager and handle all of the. Problems of the building and the company that I'm handling. Well you know the thing
I want to say on subscription before we leave it as I said it took 13 years to build an audience of 5000 subscribers. The difference and yes it's exciting here I didn't mean to imply that that audiences in New York weren't exciting they're very exciting and very critical. The thing is that you put an ad in the paper here as we did say in the New York Times and in one week you have 10000 subscribers not of whom you know that's in one week it was quite a spectacle. After 13 years of running out and literally dragging them and going to the theater. And incidentally on a subscription Are you over subscribe now or under subscribed or we're just where are you. Well that helps to analyze I think our goal was thirty five thousand subscriptions. We now have as I said we're on our way to 39. That's about what we can
handle we can handle up to 40 without making people unhappy with their seat assignments. The capacity for subscription performances is fifty three thousand. You don't want to subscribe to the entire house at least no tickets available for people who come in on vacation and to what city and by the way the subscribers are they all centrally located geographically are they mother met mostly metropolitan area. We get people from. We have a couple that are coming up from Washington which is I think some distance. Are out of towners usually Are you usually able to accommodate them. That's a two week notice or even a one week notice. Yes. In other words that there's no problem with visitors coming in getting tickets to meet me right at the box office no other there are tickets available and there are are there are always a certain number of seats set aside that are not on subscription. And there are non subscription weeks
as well. Well after 13 years in San Francisco from the Erato and you've lived in San Francisco all your life I presume or at least most of it Robert Schlosser. How do you find audiences here. Contrast it with audiences in San Francisco. Or do you find a great similarity. Oh I would say it's different and when I say there's no no really I think. I feel that they are they are different because. In New York for one thing it's a post ever to score Toronto there's just a great deal more theater available to people and so you have people who are much more selective about what they want to see. They've seen a great deal more theatre over the years I know one of several people I've run into going to the theater since they were children and I've seen just you know the widest range of theatre and so they're. Very particular about what they see and they're very very critical
about you know what they like and do not like. I noticed looking over the plan for upcoming season to Lincoln Center. You plan do the little foxes. Joan tiger at the gates and Cyrano de Bergerac. Which leads me to ask you a question about the overall artistic concept and destination Lincoln. And I find myself at times not able to get it out of a Lincoln repertory Lincoln said a repertory Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre and oftentimes we know that it is not a repertory theatre in the true sense of the word or what is generally accepted as true rep. You mean the rotating rep. That's one kind of repertory. What kind of Repertory Theatre is Lincoln Center. Well it's not that much different I think what we're engaged in is rather than starting off in a season of rotating wrap. What we are doing. Is presenting. We feel you know exciting
plays. That is the best theatre literature available. To the stage. From that you know those plays that are successful are kept in the repertoire. For instance Galileo which was extremely well received is a part of the record Repertory Theatre and will be brought back in a postseason repertory that we are offering at the end of our present season. Another play is chalk circle which also had a very very good reception that was in the first season. And if. Saint Joan or Cyrano or Tiger are as well received they will be added to the repertoire so that at the end of the season we will then be able to rotate two or three plays this year. The same thing will happen next year when you know where there will be hopefully another play or two
plays added. So in a sense we are building a repertoire of plays rather than than just taking four plays and rotating them right away. I see the repertory aspect is really the repertory of plays rather than a repertory company of actors. Well it's that again you know that it is it's both but it takes you know New York in a sense is still a rather new experience for us it takes a while to discover really where it is you are what's available to you who is available to you Are these the right people for the company. For instance someone like Anthony Quayle who was brought in for Galileo had a very pleasant experience with the company. I felt he was extremely good. And constructive for the company. He felt the same way. He will be back this year directing tiger at the gates next year I
assume he will also be doing something with it. So we have added in the stands a member of the company. This is true of the actors I think there are some who discover when they are with you that yes this is the kind of theatre they want to do the kind of company they want to be with. And I think just as one builds a repertoire of plays one builds a repertory company. It would have been very nice to have started immediately you know with a company already built in ready to go and so on. That was a sort of misconception that came with us that we had brought an entire company from San Francisco there were 10 actors who came you know that the question was. To ask you know how many actors are with the company or with Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre that were with you in San Francisco. Well I was at the day and as of today I would say there are about six six and they brought up several things I.
Wanted to stop and ask a question but I will now when you get an actor like Anthony Quayle and Margaret. Or do you run into difficulties. And with Actors Equity often in other words is there some is there some hesitation in importing actors. Because I guess one of the two you mentioned right is Quayle and Leighton. Quayle is not an American and our contract with equity States the Repertory Theatre will not hire alien actors. There's the kind of reciprocity with Canada so you can bring in a million actors Americans work there freely but you can't bring in British actors. And Margaret Leighton however is a resident alien who I gather is about to become an American citizen and. In the case of quail working in that particular show we have an American actor in the role originally who
withdrew because of illness. We contacted those actors that we felt could conceivably play the role of American actors we were turned down. And we finally contacted Anthony Quayle and by special permission of Actors Equity we were allowed to bring him here to do the role. We were however picketed as you know. Nice group that really is not officially recognized by equity I don't believe. American actors I don't root cause I know you were they were picketing but I think anyone could sympathize with the ultimate choice and why you had to make a choice but. Well I think that you know that's that's an interesting point of discussion. I don't think we're just you know an American theater I think a theater like a repertory theater at Lincoln Center is really an International Paper. And I think any major
theater has to be used to say. After having still a Canadian you know that. But finally I'm not interested really in a Canadian theater and I'm not interested in an American theater or in a French theatre or a British theatre I really and truly I'm interested in in a great theatre and when I listen to great music I don't say well that's great. German music I think that's great music you know and I don't feel that I want to be in a sense associated with something that's labeled that easily. I think that's a very universal approach to Alan but interspersed with the complexities of everyday mechanics and I think you know what happens if England doesn't hire or allow American actors to work there without really highly debatable thing I think you know well and if he if they'd assuming
that they don't and I don't think that's the case. I don't feel. Safe speaking only for myself because England doesn't hire. American actors and I believe they do that. We by the same token must therefore not hire English actors. And I would say you know what a shame it would be if we had the services of Laurence Olivier offered to us for a few seasons to say I'm sorry said Lawrence but we can't have you perform with us. That was either that or you go ahead on American I guess exactly. Well but I think there's a quota or some matter as a matter of fact Actors Equity is instituting a program a weekly program here. I see. And we'll be able to get all of the details and yes I'd be interested in hearing finally what they come up with I think it should be abolished I think. I think you're going. In an art form that really should have no restrictions anymore than painting or sculpture
or music. But the unionization of many aspects of theater is often labeled as destroying the theater. Do you think this is a case where it certainly helps to move it in that direction. Well I tell you one of the things you notice when you come from San Francisco is everything in New York in that sense is highly unionized highly specialized. That is to say here it's not just a question of my fate during a rehearsal walking into moving some props you must have. A union prop man who moves out there's a local one there's a local 31 there's a local 7 5 1 and it goes on and on and on and yes in a sense. At times it becomes sort of frustrating because you feel like you're sort of losing what it is you really started with that it is with all of this trying to find a way really of producing the very best
dramatic literature for your theater and for your audiences. Allen there's a feeling today that modern theatre with its great emphasis on realism has lost much of its power much of its power because too many of its workers and some of its audiences hold up to the great fear of non-real ism or a great fear in quotes theatricality. But I notice that the selection of plays I think in center is seen Joan talked to Gates you know to Bergerac and even the little foxes to some degree. Moves into a completely theatrical direction. Is this Would this be interpreted. As one of the concepts of Lincoln Center in the selection of its plays and what is the kind of repertory it's trying to build. Yes I would say that's true and also you know it's not even just a question of doing so. A play like Cyrano de Bergerac which is a classic I think you know
you can do. You can read the repertoires of many companies and you say what a fine list of plays. And yes that's all well and good but you know how Finally all those plays done and I think that's really what matters and I was certainly is in a new a new English version at this point which I think is not quite as romantic as the hooker version. Well I noticed in the casting he was exciting really interesting and exciting for Cyrano Richard bass heart is going to be and I think it's fine that. That a major American actor is finally coming back to the theatre after a number of years away. You know he's found something that really and I sent to appeals to him and I hope that it won't be just one play for heart I hope that he will be back. Season after season that in a sense he will regard the
Repertory Theatre as his home. I think this is true say the British National Theatre where you have a number of very fine actors who don't appear in every play every season. They work in television they work and in films and other productions but the National Theatre is their home and there's a project that comes along for them that particular interest to them and the theater and they're there available to do it in connection with the casting. I wanted to ask you about how Lincoln Center casts. But I will say that I'm anxious and looking forward to seeing. That is Cyrano de Bergerac because the last time I saw a bass hot on stage. I think was about six years or more ago when he played Richard the Third and this was at Stratford and I II he's a terribly underrated actor. I mean I don't think he has been on the stage that much for American audiences to really appreciate what he's capable
of doing. Oh I think he's a very fine actor who's magnificent in that. But how who arrives at the casting is this all done by Jules Irving the does he sit on a throne and as I want you in you know I think it's it's done with with the jewels Irving and the directors of each of the production and it's it's done with them and also with a view to getting say the best people of vailable. But people who we feel might be interested in continuing with the company as I say we don't ever lose track of the fact that you are building a company. So that when he works you know with a with a director it isn't a question of finding stars you know although there's nothing wrong with someone who's achieved that status providing he's he's a good actor and is right for that particular role or is interested in working with the company on a long range basis. Yes fine why shouldn't you use
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 7 of 31
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Other Description
For series info, see Item 3231. This prog.: Lincoln Center. Alan Mandell (or Mandel), general manager of Lincoln Center Repertory; Robert Schlosser, subscription supervisor.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:08
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 7 of 31,” 1968-03-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2022,
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