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To that extent perhaps we can peripherally he act as if you just used the term therapy but I would not certainly involve any sort of propagandist that notion is not are we trying to make any brownie points. But there is the observation and undeniable of the assemblage of plays that are being used by various organizations and in the parks department the city of New York. All summer of through federal funds hired theatrical groups to put on plays and this was to ameliorate a social situation. The type is the use of psycho drama there's the use of social organizations using plays too. To do what some other agency or some other area. Perhaps I should be doing now to pollute to express that rather more Sangli that kind of Soma for the masses.
When are you know when you sort of analyze it what are they doing again or trying to entertain people make them forget about the problems. And I say that we're not trying to make them forget we're not trying to entertain and forget about the problems we're trying to entertain here. That comes back to a question that I wanted to ask you more directly and that is Beverly ridge and a cubical numbers since you're both co-founders of the beautiful garden. Why really do you do this. I mean I find it not because I'm cynical or unbelieving but I find it difficult to comprehend the motives of actors directors who would work number one gratis. I mean there is no pay number two in a confining audience situation where the merits of your work is the overall merit or are proscribed in the setting that you are you can never get recognition so to speak.
Why would why would you do something like this. Well. If this were a good top in society there'd be no reason for a policeman. No reason for starvation. No reason for an actor having to walk two hundred blocks a day to make contact with agents. But this is only if it were a utopian society. And it's so much more rewarding to us to be able to create something in an area where it is devoid of the actual understanding as such because none of the correction department people are professional theatre people. Therefore when you hit them with an idea of a play that when a minute no no it cannot happen but it does happen because after a while after the initial negative reaction they see the reason for it and they work with you and it is achieved. Therefore to me and I think perhaps I may also take the liberty of speaking for Beverly. It is a heck of a
challenge that you're creating something in an atmosphere where it has no right to exist of people think that have it has no right to exist and it's a great deal more rewarding to us to put on a production with the help of John as the advocate in a prison. It's a great deal more rewarding than to putting it on Broadway or to putting off Broadway in a church or in a loft or in a in a in a closet with a flashlight because you have the freedom to do that outside to do inside you decide inside is where you have a great deal of of yourself right. And I've come away with it as I told warden Thomas who gave us a magnificent help that sent Monday night when we open our play neither he nor I can ever go back to what we were simply because he extended himself in a way that he never extended himself before because he was not a man of the theater. But he found out something about himself. We all the actors and all the people who helped us with this reduction. We also found out something about ourselves that we can working
together achieve something that people say it has NO NO right to be and it happens and a lot of the public out there will say why why entertain prisoners and the way I feel is this that. The line between them and us out here is it is a win win because the reason some of the fellows are in and they told me is because they don't have the money to have a lawyer. Because of that if I had $5000 I'd be walking and that's their jam I'd walk that I'd work I'd walk a sentence. Well a curious thing involves talking to a number of people who have had experience working with inmates and this is demonstrated by all of you. There seems to be and I know there is a thin line between self righteousness and an evolved consciousness of what one is but. What happens in the what I've gathered from I mean just the characteristic conversation is that after working in prison or with inmates the individuals do
say they are no longer the same. They do have a different viewpoint and a different reaction and a different consciousness of their position their interpersonal relationships with individuals and their relationship with the craft of whatever they're involved and why is this so. I mean what happens. What do you see in prison. Or inmate that does this to you. Well last night I listened to a program that I had. Commissioner McGrath on it. Speaking of something that's happening in Danbury Connecticut where fellows are allowed to go outside and work in industry and then return there at night. Now he said that most of the people have the concept that a convict or an ex-convict or an inmate is something less than human. And we are products of our society and we all perhaps without knowing and grew up with that concept. When you go into an institution like Rikers Island
and you don't ask a man why he's in. You just see his overwhelming desire to work with you and to create something. You say wait a minute he is not behaving any different than any of the people that I know on the outside. I have and use with him or he has more enthusiasm. Yes no it's not I was like you know it's was it was rather obvious in their in their being able to mount this production with us. But it changes a lot of of of the thoughts that you had about people and life in general that's why I said I can never be the same. What is your next production. Who are writers on this by the way. Was performed October 9th through the 13th and what we do is really presented in the evening or in the afternoons or what but there is a time schedule that they allow us and it's usually right after the dinner at the ATM a tap which is on at 5:30 at their dinner so at 6:30 we perform from 6:30
until 8:30 and then they're packing and I say home around 6:30. Do you have. Do they have a theater as they have an auditorium which is used for chapel services it used for the movie that the show once a week it's used for any other musical artists that have gone and do go into it to entertain them. Therefore they are very funny the other day I have learned that they have just received some money to kind of refurbish the auditorium. And I I hope that some way show them the need for a place that can present them with creating a place that can present more things than just a movie. Because as of this moment they have they're having some trouble with the projectionist Union I think we're talking about money and they're not even they don't even have any movies. What by the way will you be directing the next production of the
times you are asked. Coming right back. Of course John knows that as as that of the billy A from the Rehabilitation Department said to Beverly and I way back last spring that as of this moment kids you are employed by the city of New York to start a drama program at Rikers Island for no money of course. And this is how we have realized what we what we did. I mean you're performing for an all male audience. I suppose that has a kind of built in. Unfair Advantage on your part so you would never get a real barometer of our state that's assuming that you were that I imagined out how you'd never be. Thank you John I worked with John several times and I think we have a unity. Speaking of Acton you said something earlier Beverly about you had a scene where you had to appeal to the governor or you were making an appeal to the governor to get an appeal and it would sometimes work up an
emotional state whereby tears would flow and this would be very effective to you as an actress. And then you said on other occasions it didn't work for you. This statement by the way seems to describe in a gross oversimplification the plight of American theater. It just doesn't work. And what I mean by that with so many actors depending upon something working for them rather than working and knowing what they're doing and being able to be consistent with the craft of acting. Why what is the why does let me ask you this. What do you mean when you say something doesn't work. Well I mean when I first have a part I have to find ways of doing it and making my choices and I may personalize it. I just may take it. Like I want to make him how would I make him happy by joking with him and make these particular choices.
And I have to find in the beginning a comfortable way of doing this and I don't like to let's say as we use it. I can't and John has had that problem with me. But once you found it then I allow it to work for me. And I have to discover that you have to find a new every every Capone's do I have to find something new. You know do you have to find it new every performance. I think so yes because I think that if you play by different people and what makes one character take does not necessarily make another character taken that in different situations. Of course you have the dramatics happens to guide you as to what the person is like and what the person is not like and that this is where the choices come in this is where too many people do the same part every time that their are doing a part. It takes a great deal of objective study on the part of the actor. Also it
takes a great deal of objective guidance on the part of the director. Let me suggest this because I'm going to. Ask naive questions as is my want and I always have a captured audience on what we're going to take five minutes myself to plague them with questions about actors of the past great actors. John Barrymore Bernhard. Do they show all of these people so they can act with a chair as their partner and still do and and evolve the convincing emotion that is needed and to convince themselves and an audience what has happened to this particular theory or was it never valid in the first place. John well course it was valid. One of the areas of disagreement that the Beverly keel and myself might have on a personal level not in a working situation is this whole business about the actor being truthful. My feeling is that acting is let's pretend time and if an actor needs a device to get his let's pretend
mechanism knowing then of course he must be free to use that the director must not inhibit him. But neither must the actor inhibit the director by you know becoming an obsessively concerned with reality as a right as an attack on itself and the logins I think it's one of the. And this I'm going to ask you about John in connection with your grad and studying theatre abroad but I think one of the basic distinctions between theater generally here and in most European capitals is that theater here for the actors primarily is an erotic involvement. Man he's rather strong word. It's a kind of master but Tory art here. Yeah and he has very little to do with the give and take between actor and audience. However in all fairness to American actors must also say that after having spent a considerable amount of time studying in some depth.
European theatre and that and I mean literally that it's all over Europe. I came back home convinced that in every way we are the best. Well how did you arrive at that conviction John. Because I think that although we do not have the barren hearts perhaps the doozies we do not have the Oliviers because I'm not. But our system does not allow us to produce them you see how Barrymore has been able to her not a Barrymore but an Olivier has worked all of his life time and he can work constantly and he is in an economic theatrical situation that affords him the opportunity to do a little character part and then he's going to do you know this part and he moves constantly along. There are more opportunities for him. Consequently at the end of a lifetime the man is the end of a theatrical life time. We would hope that given his amount of genius to start with that he would be the kind of superstar he is today. Nothing like that exists here. There is nobody that can
work constantly in our theater because. They're capped teeth you know are turning gray or something and we have proposed reasons why good actors don't work. The economic reason seems to be although you really can't say that I mean are some actors who had good demonstrated great promise and great ability and talent have not developed even though the money was not but they no longer needed because well it's not only an economic thing it's a whole cultural rhythm. Our theatre again with the Broadway hit miss the off-Broadway or whatever one wants to call the off-Broadway situation seems to be changing again it is a very dynamic why we all were saying it was dead two years ago now and obviously is not going to be off. Also they all fall. All right very exciting. However those people are not products of a long theatrical tradition. They are attempting to start one and there's a big difference I think that it's very
much like a grammar school education. You first learn your grammar and you learn how to diagram the sentence. Then you began to stylistically experiment. These people are stylistically experimenting with you know the ground rules. So that very likely out of that particular group of people were never going to get an Olivier we may get an Andy Warhol who is who has a kind I don't mean to use the word disparagingly but he had a kind of freak appeal here he's an anomaly. And I'm not qualified to speak on man's artistry but he certainly is not a deal good or anything. Well he may have given good ramifications. However the waterhole as you know I think he doesn't even enter into the discussion when you're talking about real artistic growth and real theater work he's been a successful people not necessarily He's a
phenomenon he's a phenomenon but he's not particularly a successful phenomenon he's just drawn attention to himself. All of his films recently have been panned something awful as one great epic bore after another. But we're talking basically about stage and Warhol uses canvas and so you Loyd as formal his medium so what you see something as mentioned earlier sort of this were an ideal or utopian society would have actors walking you know five hours and pounding on doors with a kind of humiliating request for work only to be rejected out of hand and never know whether what the rejection is for it's a very. Terrifying experience but it doesn't really take a utopian society now in Europe. Again I hate to hark back to Europe but you've been there on this sustained study period. This situation again I think it has to do with the
culture because in Europe generally theatre is attended to differently. It's thought of differently and the audience expects different things of its theatre in Europe but they don't have to. But an actor a person who wants to be an actor usually can if he has the talent work in the theatre I mean and expect to make or earn a reasonable salary so that if he says to himself I want to be an actor he can act and he may never become a rich person but he can expect employment. The 50 weeks out of the year I think this is something that we missed here that it is hit or miss. It's hit or miss whether an actor can be very successful last year and practically star of I mean next nominee if he doesn't have a name that well is attend the fault of the theater here. Or is it the fault of the structure of the society. I think that is the clue and that is the essence of what is wrong with the theatre because
it's what's wrong with so many. Because I remember one incident that I remember quite vividly was that a young man who was a very bad singer. I mean if I go to classify this young man I would say that there are some people who sing and occasionally or seldom if ever go off key. Well this man seldom or ever went on. Well this young man got five thousand dollars a week doing a summer stock play. He never acted before in his life but he was an image so they used him and and they use them for $5000 a week salary. Therefore what happens when that takes place is that the production cannot afford to have good supporting actors in the cast with him. Therefore the people and I've heard that from many agents who say we cannot get our featured people the people who get feature billing on Broadway. They cannot work from a stock because the people who have an image on television or in films see the opportunity to make
good money in the summer time where they're not doing a television series. They ask but that's an exorbitant amount of money. Therefore the only people that you can hire under them is people who have very little talent or very little wish to learn. If there was somebody in that group that they could learn from. Whereas in Europe perhaps. You can study and Olivier. You could study a Mr. Gill Good to see and learn something as a young actor here. The man who is getting top billing and all the money. You look at him and you know fully well that you are 15 or 20 times better than he is but he has got to know I've experienced this because I've done several star packages which go out during the summer anywhere from 10 to 17 weeks and you become just a piece of furniture for these people instead of a creative artist. Well of course we're talking about the victimization that occurs under the star system but there are groups here that do not have a star system and yet the caliber of their overall Productions
is with a want of another word mediocre. They never rise I mean I can make a number of groups. But the point is the critics and the reporters and the people who were on these scenes are giving the overall umbrella image that there is great theater going on here. Yet the critics themselves don't know when there isn't good they don't know what makes a good theater. And yet everyone reads the critics for guidance. You know that's true or not I'm hearing is that certainly what Colonel and knows what good theater is I think Mr. Curtis are desperately searching for good theater that he has to sometimes praise mediocre theater rather because he's made songs rhyme is no longer really working critically only guest writes for The Times every now and then but he's only won one person really oh my God you know I have to get past the New York Times who counts for nothing. Well there again we only have three newspapers. You know nobody really cares what the post I like to
go back to the times of the public you know the little notes about the title and sometimes that one man want to make right at the inception of the European Repertory Theatre. Could anyone tell me what some of the critics of that Iraq thought of this new. Creation this reportorial work because I don't know I think it would work the same way we do. Well yeah but at the other option if you read critics like William Winter or if you read early hunt if you read these kind of critic you will see that there is a far far cry from what a critic can talk about and what the critics are talking about in terms of reviewing plays today. A person reading with him went to an audience member of the audience could get practically an acting lesson on just how to play Shakespeare and what to expect from any number of things or even reading Shorter was a pretty good critic in his day also but I don't think we have think the closest thing we might have had to that was George Jean Nathan at one point but I don't think
we have any critics that are. And prior to his ascendancy to Yale boosting showed promise. But that seems to have gone. So I don't count as an actor I don't believe that there is any critical can give me a lesson in acting because the only time that he can really become an actor is if he's performing and I want to do well. This is my personal belief that a man is paid to criticize a play and to give his opinion of it. But nevertheless he can give me the rudiments of acting. Well that brings us to another. We have about three minutes for takes considerable longer but I do want to ask a few questions about it. What are the advantages or disadvantages of our universities and private acting schools I mean do we have in this country any representative or representative body of teachers who can exert an overall collective influence on a group of
persons studying who want to be actors or just what is the reason I ask this question we don't seem to have collective companies that can perform notably when it comes to things that are outside of their kin. I mean that is natural and natural place but where all the schools and what are they doing. I mean what about Yale John you've had your background has been you know what kind of a drama department do they have. While I was there under the old administration I while I was there I thought that it was a very feisty and group of academicians. However. And also I felt that they robbed me of my sense of enjoyment of the theater because when I left Yale I hated that they were however seven years later after having been around the city observed other professionals in operation and things I must say that belatedly I owe them a note of appreciation because at least they presented me with a point of view in depth which I could then use as a standard of reference. And surely that's all a school can ever
do for one must provide. It must explore your capacitance for creative expression. It cannot guide it was no money you know push a creativity button. So therefore I have. And later to he's become rather chauvinist about a school like Yale because I happen to know it rather better. And Mr Bean I have no idea it's a new school. And yet the schools exist in European cities that can turn out actors who are well versed in the crowd. They may not all be talented. I think no more so than the American Academy of the craft. I think you know after wherever it is that is the fact the craft of acting is. A universal craft. Perhaps some people in Europe go about it differently go about about it studying it differently but when you speak of the craft of going then acting is a craft as
is pretty much the same everywhere. Well I'd like to talk more about it before I sign off. What was Lee what did you decide yet what your next production will be at Rikers Island. You know we we have a number of ideas of what we want to do we are going to have to take some time to discuss it with the fellows out there who who is the resident company and out here and and John is the cynic who hopefully will be directing the next venture hopefully on our side of what we know that we're going to have more participation by the inmates so that we're going to sort of gear I've programmed where they will be acting more than the professional themselves. Well it's time for us to sign off and I want to thank members of the theater for the forgotten thats director Jon Stillings co-founders and actors and actresses with Beverly rich and to keep her clueless for joining us on seminars and dinner. And
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 10 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.: Theatre for the Forgotten, Inc. Theatre company involving prison inmates. Play: The Advocate of Robert Noah. John Sillings and Beverly Rich, Akila Columbas co-founders.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:24
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