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The American Journal produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin radio station WAGA and Riverside radio WRVA are in New York. Yeah actors now are beginning to feel a terrible monotony a terrible boredom and there were a lack of excitement in the air. You know you just feel that and they stay away all day just stay away read or see a little bit because it is the scenery is exciting to Carol's for you to be that the actors in most of the actors are really just simply gentlemen. Exciting and interesting
they were called upon to play the same part over the years when they did come back to a particular familiar phrase is right how are you expected missed your audience came expecting. And that's what Bratton's welfare is missing. This is not going to rain it's like well it's a silly thing. It is like when you watch a football game you know there's things moving back and forth and you're not mesmerized in front of something that's right smack in front of you like a TV set but you have to move. You have to participate. Whereas if are seen him you don't as much. A very interesting thing was said to me once a man who was great deal about the fear being he said it was up to the audience. He always thought was wrong. What you must do is to get the audience up to the stage an intimate scene with you. American poetry. Whatever it is it must have a stomach. That can digest rubber. You are
a new mom. Call it like a shark. It contains a shoe. It's most from miles through the desert uttering cries that are almost human. For. The American Journal a look at the fine arts and the not so fine arts in America today. This series is not a history not a diary not a seminar not a critique. It's a few people in four hour long programs talking about the fine arts without being arty about it or precious or obscure oblique or far out or far in or anything but honest about the whole business. We could say this series is
dedicated to all of the fine arts theater literature painting music poetry that's pretty precious right there and it's only half the truth. The book this era is really dedicated to the proposition that the finest of all the arts is living how to live a fuller life without emptying out your neighbors. That's where the art comes in. The topic under discussion is theater particularly the American theater defenders of present day American theater say there's nothing wrong with it. Showbiz is the world's second oldest profession. Its objectives are to entertain and to make money. The critics of present day American theater point out today oldest profession has the very same objectives the great Russian director Constantine Stanislavski who almost got buried in a pile of sweatshirts a while
back stated the problem most succinctly over 50 years ago. There are actually two types of theater Stanislavski said. The first type is designed to entertain the eye and the ear therein lies its ultimate aim. The second type of theatre uses visual and auditory impressions only as a means of penetrating deep into the heart of the audience to which the Broadway producer is apt to reply that was 50 years ago Stan baby. Today it's theatre parties out of town expense accounts and a production not big enough to choke a horse before we get out of New Haven. I should put on a message play and all the time I'm fighting KC and the Mets Broadway today fit Stanislavski definition. It's the first type of theatre entertain that's the ultimate aim. And one of Stanislavski second type of theatre the one that penetrates the heart of the audience. Does it exist where Jerry how can a Broadway acting veteran believes he's found it in the drama department of Stanford
University. John Campbell is our man on the West Coast. Asked why he left Broadway. There were a lot of things in fact I was bored. I was working a lot but some of the people I worked with were exciting but the circumstances we worked in were difficult. And I thought if I could change that I would enjoy it. I like living in a place with a big backyard and I like being close to work. You know and people that I'm working with and knowing that each play is not the end of it there will be one after that. I like working with young people. The actress a terrific. I feel like I'm contributing something to the market to me where the theater now by training them in a way I think they should see a play and I should act in a play that I was doing in New York when I was just using a lot of people and enough money to see a play. Well the kinds of students you were at least some of the students you may be running into might suggest that you know they have a real kook on their hands
because they're doing OK. That was six years on the run away and this is where they at least in part would like to do and you turn your back on it and leave. To begin with almost a completely new idea when you talk about the marriage of the professional theatre and the academic world what kind of future do you see coming out of this. I don't know I know that it's going to be different from what we have but we have to be very polished and a little empty a little routine a little to be expected. I'm not talking about the best acting we have but the best acting we have is that in unexpected places. But I would say what we need is a generation at least of actors who have had some training. A lot of the actors in New York and had no training they had a goal merely by what was successful. It was good for them.
What was commercially usable. A lot of times they didn't devote themselves fully so that what we're looking for is a place for actors to develop. I think I would be amazed if they could see what actors could do given the chance and I don't mean just to give it to play a different part but to really work on themselves to present a whole different image to the audience so sometimes it's really when I talk to a well-known named Helen Hayes about this once we worked in a play and she said that there were times when the idea of presenting a different image to our audience terrified her that she didn't present one. If it wasn't successful she had to do all the things that they liked because she was afraid of them but she felt obligated to them they'd come to see her they wanted like friends to visit you and there are times even in your own home when you don't feel like being. Friendly or being the way to friends and expect to know what you put on a friendly face well in fact
that's deadly for some were friends of mine are in place in New York and they are. I try to stick actors I think particularly in a sense and Alan Alda and Alan Arkin young actors are great talent and excitement and yet I wonder what they're going to be like at the end of the year in the same play playing the same play and performances a week. I wonder how much they are going to grow personally. How much can you learn from the same text. There's a there's a limit and most people should be developing like my popcorn he should be exploiting young actors at this age are the most excited I've seen actors like that gradually acquire a public image and a surprise which they have to offer goes and they become familiar and no surprise and that's what the. It was right in the middle that gets lost when I knew what I was stepping into. That's really why I left. I think honestly
I could see a way of becoming familiar to the audience commercially much more valuable than I was and if the prospect was so boring I couldn't stand. I know there's somebody who's teaching a course in the no universities teaching reference acting What's that. The recruiter is crazy this teacher in a sense I think but you can take a renaissance play and say Now why are these people. How do you approach playing these people how do they speak out of the walk around on stage and that you can develop some style we need very badly use American style for playing the classics. What we have now is a watered down English style. And everybody's excited about English when they play well for England they don't play well for this country at least to my taste. I would like to see Americans play Shakespeare in such a way that Americans might say ah that's us yes. And it was much experience. Yeah you might be Yankee Sieber Shakespeare No.
Well no I think I think there are. There's a possibility for now. I think there is because a great playwright can take a lesser player right not there are some playwrights who are so specialized on a suit practically do them in an accent you don't understand what it's all about. But a great playwright has so many what we retired as universal qualities that unless you are able to find out you don't have to speak him with a fake English accent you know how to talk or to be or not to be. That's crazy. Listen before a lot of those abuse and sounds like it may have sounded like Welsh and Irish We don't know. It's up to us to find out what it sounds like to us. And there are some actors who are beginning to do it. I saw Katherine Hepburn play a portion that was exciting. Maestro no skeeters Shylock here these are things that are beginning to be with the great actors from the top actors well we need that although we don't think that the actors now are
beginning to feel a terrible math and terrible boredom in their work a lack of excitement and yet the audiences feel that and they stay away. They just stay away and never ever see a movie because at least the scenery is exciting the camera moves. Well it used to be that the actors moved the actors really did something tremendous and exciting adventures and they were called upon it. The same crowd over and over again so that when they come back to profit from it you think the greatest effectiveness and the audience came expecting. And that's what is missing. Perhaps the most effective alternative to Broadway is crap shooter philosophy of smash a rule or bust. Is the resurgence of the American Repertory Theatre as a concept older than Shakespeare warmed old Constantine's heart. A troupe of actors who can perform in any of a dozen or so plays during a season. A company that serves as a living library of great
plays and can afford to experiment if it so chooses. The record companies are springing up like mushrooms in the fertile soil of the hinterlands and the biggest mushroom of them all is the Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis last year its second year of operation. The Guthrie Theater sold twenty two thousand season tickets a national record and played to over 200 14000 people including about 37000 schoolchildren. The 28 week season this year includes Richard the Third. The Cherry Orchard and the Caucasian Chalk Circle. Even our Broadway producer must be impressed by the fact that many Apple has raised two and a quarter million dollars to build the Guthrie Theater from scratch. Granted Casey and the Mets aren't in Minneapolis but Harmon Killebrew and the twins are and the Guthrie does baffle business. The reasons are as plain as the envy on our Broadway friends face. Now if you will join me Meredith it's I should like to take you for a visit to the famous
Guthrie Theater. And while there you will meet two of the very prominent actors of the Minnesota Theater Company which is by the way the official title of the repertory company. As you enter this beautiful edifice is quite contemporary design with clear glass exposing the interior space just for you. You had the Guthrie theme music. A fan get up there and. This is the plane it was highly entertaining afternoon or evening at the theater. I am. In France and Flanders and Alan Gere are the two members of the company that I wanted you to meet. They are husband and wife and have been here well Ellen Gere has been here for two seasons. I joined her this last season at the gallery. Are you going to be here for the 65 season Ellen how do you yes. Yes and that is good news. Tell me how do you like playing in the Guthrie as opposed to the usual stage. Oh I think its Father Superior I think that the audience especially which is the
main thing theyre the people who pay the money coming to watch have a much finer experience. Because I think sitting in there I know when I go and watch a few plays a place that I've not been in. I find it so exciting to be so so much more involved than you can and you find that everybody sits on the edge of their seats much more than a persone and there's something removed about it and having to look at his direction. So you have to move right along with him I think but it's like it's like a rain it's like well it's a silly thing there but it's like when you watch a football game you know there's things moving back and forth and you're not mesmerized in front of something that's right smack in front of you like a TV set but you have to move you have to participate whereas in a proceeding you don't as much check to get a you know and you as an actress to enjoy it. Oh I think it's much more exciting the interaction with your audience. I think they see a much better thing. It's not so stilted. They had could you for a friend describe the theater and lay out briefly for those who haven't seen the pictures on the circle in the square Yeah. Well it's it's so brand new that I think they can get a good idea
if they look at the theater of dye and I say grace the thrust stage as it's called right out to where the orchestra seats would be you know theater and then the seats slope up I don't know what the degree of angle but it's you can again get an idea from the Old or the old pictures of the Grecian theaters but. There are fourteen hundred and thirty seven seats in there and no one is more than fifty two feet away from the stage. So I have a good deal. Oh yes yes which is the whole which is the whole idea and plus you get as Allen said can get completely involved in the action because the action no matter where you're sitting you're going to have to look after your right shoulder or your left shoulder. In other words if a speech is directed at a group of people or of a group of peoples
are directed at one actor for instance the focus can be can be just thrown across the stage whereas in a pursuit it's pretty frozen you know you're right there and you don't have to move your head at all it's like that. But this this this throws it back and forth much more. I was just thinking how it would drive a TV cameraman. Yes exactly. It's like watching for a camera I'm sure like a hockey game you know just you know just trying to fit in you get is remarkable though is that everyone has almost a front row center seat is Farsi right and hearing you're concerned and I think the audience around this the thrust stage and you play up behind the stage too don't you. All of your you know utilize the steps you know you actors even come in the aisle. Well there's one other thing I want to bring out that's the color the colorful arena that you know you'll see it's beautiful it's a. It's three dot what is a collector. It's a dark dark gray I think inside. But the seats are red orange
mustard kind of a violet violet color and so everything is very dramatic. Most of the ladies hope they get the right or the right hand clashes you see to jump right out as you say you know you don't have many and you know that's also I find so wonderful during the intermissions and things when people remain seated when they're just coming to see the place and we can see everybody else and get excited with everybody else. Pretty exciting but it's just a walking tour I think as an empty theater it's just beautiful to look at. The Guthrie involves people with each other. The audience is practically on stage and the actors are out in the aisle and preps as Broadway's biggest trouble. They count the house but not the people. They count the heads but not the hearts. Perhaps that's why they fear KC and the Mets. Perhaps it's easier to get involved with Casey. Not to mention Yogi Berra.
Some producers feel that an audience is close enough in the upper balcony and some performers feel that the audience is too far away even in the orchestra seats. It might be that the Stengel law is operative here before the audience can really believe in you. You have to really believe in the audience. Here's the late Ruth Draper actress a man of modest with our manager cargo Studs Terkel talking about the audience. So it's a very interesting demonstration of my work is I think of the need of an audience the audience must work as far as as well as I do without imagination must be found and then they supply all that's not there now. A very interesting thing was said to me once by a man who knew great deal about the theatre and acting he said the phrase You must get it over to the audience. He always thought was wrong. What you must do is to get the audience up
to the stage and into the scene with you. You see the audience must contribute exactly what the but for my competitors in proportion I mean they give us much they give their whole imagination their concentration their thought their creative ability. And consequently if something happens I mean it's a mixture of the tendency in the movie audience and the television audience is just to sit still and receive. They give nothing. But in the theater. The audience must give a great deal. And in the ancient theatre in the oriental theater in the Greek Theater and in the seventies censored bit and Shakespeare's time the audience supplied what was not there. And you know when Shakespeare speaks of how sweet the moonlight sleeps on the on the back. There's no moonlight and no stage
effect of moonlight. And they did it in daylight so it is obvious that the audience had supplied the most tremendous amount of working imagination TV would have a million dollar moon looking right at us you know. But all that trend in the theatre today in the cinema today of course is the dead people's imagination and I'm very much interested to find that young people the younger the present generation who have never many places in in the West and in all through the country who've never seen live acting. Terribly interested in what I do you know that in anything but the screams were when you found out they at last are sharing their last start finding in themselves the capacity to create. And that's what's fun. That's what people enjoy. I think in my work is feeling not just a feeling that they are clear about that they have anything they give me the credit for it but they're not right in giving me the credit it's really
something in them I mean everyone has the capacity to imagine but they don't know it. I mean they're all potential artists or really at heart children and it's what children do with a great facility. I always think that what I do is something that as a child I never lost just the child's capacity to throw themselves completely into what they pretend to be but they pretend they're doing children pretending fairies are pirates and Indians and they think you think so too when they perform for you there's no self-consciousness. They think that you think they look like a pirate. The less sounds ridiculous but there's something very profound in that thought. But if you're completely given over to what you're trying to portray. You will convince the other people too.
And that's what I do and the other evening we spoke with the phone you mentioned something about we talked about folk music and you mentioned something about some vignettes that you have beginning with that will you tell me that you're going to work to go deal and in that I'm a subject of folk songs and I once made a group of folk songs which are really just imitation folk songs because of the time I made them. I had never visited the countries of the people that I imitate and I just make up this language and I made up the millet is and. I as I find great difficulty in hearing the words. So any song well as they are sung. I didn't think it made many much difference whether anybody understood what I was saying or not so I made this group of songs. I don't pretend to sing. I have no voice. But. Unfortunately every audience very often thinks that I am trying just saying
and so they they don't realize that the thing is oh meant to be humorous and they think you seriously rich it rather spoils the effect that I want to create it. Would you care to take a whack at one and yes I would mind a troll like the name you read me very much and they always amused always amused musicians and singers themselves at this sector singing folk songs. I find that as in almost every country I have the same quality a thing to the baby and then they speak of the father perhaps off on the Hill minding the sheep when the baby is safe in the arms of the mother. There's always a real repetitious quality nearly in a little bit of the song. So I made a little you know about I call it a Slovak lullaby. Not knowing in the least what Slovak language sounded like but imagining that it might be a
mixture of Slavic sounds and Latin sounds so I call this a slow back.
We can believe in God. So sound like a Slovak mother and I was really proud go and she's been OK. Young dancing with her boyfriend in the village square. LEGEND I had never heard Swedish but I had heard of. Swedish people speak English and I got a little to their voices and then signed a delicatessen shops I noticed a great many years with little marks over them as to be as K. and curious or sounds that were marked so that I imagine the language was like because I'd heard it did them speak English. In subsequent years I went to Sweden and I think it does sound something like it. One used to have a look at this. I don't
kid just can't get that x. Then there's that little but that and then it just has a proven school motion. Please just a minute we just want to get this you know if I get it first but just because Duck school opens into had to walk in please stop and you can come right out of stock. And then I began to chant and I've never been to Arabia but our music was the basis of Spanish music with a curious rhythm. And I knew that they made use of quarter notes and eighth notes and the effects of sound that would speak this in a stew sometimes because they jump from one key to One Love. I thought it might sound like this
and when I went to Morocco later on I found that it did. I mean. How do you know. Oh yeah. That sounded just like a cough and then are right.
The American journal
Theatre and poetry, part 1
Producing Organization
WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, includes several interviews about acting.
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This is an informal, "magazine" style interview series on the fine arts.
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Fine Arts
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Composer: Voegeli, Don
Host: Schmidt, Karl
Interviewee: Hiken, Gerry
Interviewee: Flanders, Ed, 1934-1995
Interviewee: Geer, Ellen
Interviewee: Draper, Ruth, 1884-1956
Interviewer: Terkel, Studs, 1912-2008
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: cpb-aacip-55f12c3dc9c (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:43
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Chicago: “The American journal; Theatre and poetry, part 1,” 1965-03-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 11, 2022,
MLA: “The American journal; Theatre and poetry, part 1.” 1965-03-17. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 11, 2022. <>.
APA: The American journal; Theatre and poetry, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from