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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 and theatre Richard Pyatt. Good evening and welcome to another of our seminars and theatre. These programs offer discussions of trends activities and theater practice across the country. Our guests are outstanding artists and craftsman in every facet of theater. Here now to open tonight's seminar is our moderator Richard Pyatt. This evening we have the pleasure of talking to you. An unusual group only unusual from the point of view that I think it's unusual to have a group of actors who are involved in the presentation of only Swedish plays. We're talking about the moment our guests Abby Lewis who's an actress and the wife of John D Seymour also an
actor and they both just closed in as City Center production of life with father. This is the fifth season for Abby Lewis with the project which is presented by the Scandinavian drama series. Bob Horan actor and director he has been seen The Fantastics on tour Hogans goat and he also is on the staff at Hunter College. Peter Haig our third guest has acted in classical musical and contemporary dramatic roles since coming to New York four years ago. And this is his first appearance with a Scandinavian drama series The Scandinavian drama series. This year it's presenting modern Swedish drama which is presented in cooperation with the Royal Swedish embassy and presented by the New York Public Library. First of all. I think I just like to ask you Do you have some overly fondness for Swedish
drama. Well it happens to be a hobby of mine and it's longstanding. But at the but we don't do Swedish plays in the American theatre and yet their theatre is perhaps one of the most active and vital ones in the world. And so when some of us five years ago were looking for workshop activity we decided to do a series of readings at the library from the drama of the Scandinavian countries. This year the series consists entirely of Swedish plays and of Swedish plays that were written within the last five years they're all very new very contemporary. If you've been that you say this is a hobby of yours long standing has it been exactly this kind of hobby and what do you mean by well I've been in the theater all of my working life but I grew up in Minnesota.
And that explains it doesn't and I took my undergraduate degree in Scandinavian literature simply because the department was very good in Minnesota and Dr Gustafson was the head of it and he's one of the world's authorities on Strandberg being interested in theatre I of course took all of his courses. You don't perform the isms we do you know anything. The Swedish the Scandinavian drama series as such doesn't involve itself in other Scandinavian countries. Oh yes we have we began presenting one play from each of the major Scandinavian countries each year. Now we've started a program where weare confining ourselves to each country in turn. And this season it's Sweden. That's right. What foreplay is. I think you're doing three or four plugs for the series three is that
yet for 4 Can you tell us what led the first play was a play by Bergman called the city the one coming up is Sunday promise not by Lars for Shell. That will be at the 19th and the twenty sixth of February. And that's to be followed by a play called Night Cafe by banked Brot. And finally the final play of the series will be oh by SANDRA Ok old bag. All of these three act plays. Yes they are. The play is. Very unusual it isn't formally constructed like anything that we do I don't know if you could describe it as a three act play or not on. One form to well go back as a poet and he's written an evening dialogues monologues quartets which are
performed in a vaudevillian style with editorial comment from the audience. And editorial comment from the audience at will or at some given I mean there are people in the audience who are saying all come please we don't want to listen to this guy you know you know this is supposed to be poetry. That sort of comes from the audience is that part of your cast. Well it was not just a general audience. Of the play's been done in Sweden and in England. There. They usually have some cast members in the audience making dodge remarks but oftentimes the problem here is that their audience does not ever throw the rhythm of the play on or does it add to it. I think they probably had. Well Peter Hey I just said you were here four years ago when I came to New York with you. Where did you come from I mean are you from Minnesota.
No I came from Pennsylvania I think we have a motley collection of British stock here performing the scandal. But but from from Pennsylvania Bucks County and then I studied at the American Academy before I went into the army and then for your scar got out of the Army and came here and. And I've done coursework with all kinds of groups and this time that this is the first time that I've I've worked I've encountered the modern Scandinavian drama and and I'm very grateful to Mr. Horn for it because it's it's very challenging and quite different. I find it this play that we're working on now reminds me quite a bit of O'Neill of a more stately mansions and in particular which one is that someday probably not going to go back to something you said challenging and interesting. Yes. First I mean Louis has been associated with for five years now right.
That is right as a matter of fact. I was doing an off-Broadway show for Bob Duran was one of the producers wanted a show called a fig leaf in her bonnet. And I directed was Basil Langton. And during the the engagement that was said. Every once in a while we would place at Darnell. So I went up and had a play with him. That's right. Yes. The world next door I think it was called and we had very good reaction and lots of fun lots of fun from the actors standpoint because so many of us in New York City have worked on radio and we learn to read and read off the page which is denied us in the theater because the theater is rehearsal rehearsal rehearsal before you go in front of an audience. So those of us who loved radio and had mourned when radio began to disappear for the dramatic actor. Welcomed something like this. So we worked and Bob is a. A very alive person a person with a great deal of energy this is Bob
Moran. And when the show closed which it should not have incidentally Figley in our bonnet smashing beautiful play we came in with two little rehearsal and we came in at the wrong time of year which now that I've been in theater longer I realize it is very very important to pick the time that you come into New York City because there are moods. There is such a thing as timing. And I know that when she goes shopping. Well anyway so Bob was restless and I said Bob you know Don that was pretty wonderful. You have a hobby. You love your Scandinavian people. Why don't you go over and talk to the lady at the library and see if this starts a network of library see what it is so pretty soon Bob had done that. And about five years ago we started and we brought you know many many plays and many wonderful plays. I was fascinated by the last play that we did the city. By Berg mom because that had been written for radio you see the circle comes complete had been written for radio. And here we were doing a radio show in front of an audience
and I must say though it was a unique form mostly monologue which Bob Hartman carried. It still was a darn good little play. And incidentally to make the circle even more complete. Having worked in radio for years and years and years. The one thing the actor realizes is that radio is visual and the visual is in each person's imagination who hears the broadcast so that when we did the city at Don now just two weeks ago. It was the visual it's almost as though if a person closed his eyes he would see an a tremendously thrilling here. I've loved it I've loved going with Bob whenever he calls me to do these. And I must say that since most most of us are hard working actors that he allows if you get a job for money and must go and you're living he has enough of a backlog of talent to work with him that you are covered by multiple understudies. It's very exciting and very fulfilling.
The. You said some of it. Provocative missile was one of which is the visual aspect of radio. Because I don't think we usually associate the visual but more Leslie oral with a radio. How do you exactly mean the visual in terms of AOL. I started on the legit stage I started with the wonderful wonderful actor Walter Hamdan. And incidentally the play that I just did which was a return to the stage was done for the wonderful man Howard Lindsay whom we lost yesterday. Yes as a matter of fact that's how I happened to be in it because I know Howard and Dorothy and they're wonderful people anyway. The visual in radio drama I can blast best explained by a show I once did I played many many old ladies and I can't recall right now the author of this sketch. But the announcer said And now Mrs. Smith's
basement is dimly lit and Mrs. Smith walks into the room and she said oh my god. Those cobwebs must set a mouse. He's not a mouse. I'm always terrified every time I come into this basement I must have it cleaned and aired and a few windows. That's all. That's enough. You saw me go. They're usually one in the same with a lot of people. I mention Walter Hamdan and that throws me off on another track in our freewheeling discussion here because I want to pin Bob Horan down in some fashion I don't know yet which way. But we associate it with Walter Hamdan. Or any number of the people that you mentioned. I would imagine every verse is an enriching experience because I don't think you can find
actors not necessarily without the talent of water Hamdan but with the overall objectives of the Walter Hamdan or the overall objectives for the theater. Oh Dick I know one and I'd love to give him a plug for it. Because I have worked in television when the Golden Age as they call it when we did studio ones and things like this and I remember this particular performance this unknown leading man who steered the other actors to their marks their foot marks so that the poor camera man could get some camera shots and I'll never forget here he was trying to give a performance and steering people to their marks and I thought my this man is comprehensive and very wonderful friend of ours named how James and a man named Albert Seldon brought in a show called man from Lancia. And Dick Kiley they gave him the lead which is quite incredible because here is a man who's been doing musical comedy on Broadway and been playing nice young men and here all of a sudden my
husband and I were there opening night and Johnny said Dick makes me think of Walter Hamed and he's he's come he's got the stature of this man and here this this dick Kiley tall dark slightly stooped in the shoulders what I call the students slouch his hair balling very very thin. Definitely an actor that nobody nobody would flip over No and none of the young people that everybody seems to be reaching out for would flip over this man here Richard Kiley gave a performance and we sat there with tears streaming down our eyes and we thought. Here's a father of what how many children 6 7 8 9 10 he's got a multiple family he's got one wife and he works like the devil and he loves to excuse me and he loves to sing and he loves to act and he loves to work. And yes we have an actor one actor the statue of a hand. Well I forgive me. And no I don't I find it very interesting because I think we need more enthusiasm like that even if it isn't
altogether well placed. But I think I saw a man from La Manche I had misgivings about the production about the performance when on this program we often talk about our misgivings feel free to but the misgivings I have none about the Scandinavian drama series because I haven't seen anything that you've done. But to be sure and well I'm going to I'm going to do my best. Thank you. You mentioned radio and the other thought that occurred to me was to try to get you to do a complete one of these for WNYC on tape and have a complete presentation that is when you do your series closes and so on our Web site. But the the idea behind this this Scandinavian drama series is it. When I sort of pinpoint it. Is it because you're interested personally in Scandinavian drama or is it that
you think Americans should be exposed to more Scandinavian drama or do you think that we simply have a new plea worth putting on here by American Muslims adults but then we're putting on plays by American dramatist and there are many reading groups that read plays by American dramatists. But here is a vast body of dramatic literature that is constantly being created that is never exposed in this country. But actually you see most of us who are busy actors in New York either face unemployment or if we're lucky a long run in some show where we're doing the same hard eight times a week. And so that almost all of the New York actors have some activity that they know gaijin to keep themselves fresh and to keep themselves Barsa tile. And as some sort of a workshop group or classes or a reading series. So we have adopted this as our reading series it enables
us we can do a first class professional reading performance with a minimum of rehearsal and work with exciting material and at the same time present the public with this this giant theater that they have no opportunity to see anywhere else. And then also this serves the cause of international relations if you were well I think that perhaps one of the most stimulating things about it has been the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the official representatives and the nationals of the countries whose plays we read in the course of reading and this is led to some very warm personal relations and I think that international relations are really when you come down to it on a personal level the. You play that you're involved in no mood is somebody prominent. What basically is the doing of the putting.
Well let me say something about the author is Lars for sale. He's one of Sweden's most prominent present day writers he writes in a number of different John reserve literature as most of the Scandinavian writers do. He's highly thought of as a poet but he's been their most successful playwright in the last few years in has written some five or six plays that have enjoyed great success. Sunday probably not has probably been his most successful it was done by the Royal Theatre in 1963 has since been performed in all the Scandinavian countries in much of central Europe it's in the repertory of the of the Munich camera should be ill. It's been extremely popular in Poland and in Czechoslovakia. It won a contest the translation want to contest I believe contest. I believe it was the Northwest theater conference but I'm not sure as the best foreign play of the year. It's had some popularity among our
colleges and universities. Which is kind of unusual that we have to pay to get these plays do you have to pay a royalty in order to perform here and not usually for the. These arrangements are handled by the Swedish embassy for the for the Swedish plays and whether they have made financial arrangements but the authors I don't know will usually this is not the case the authors are very happy to have their works introduced here without Yes. Don't you find this a bit strange. Not at all. Because I know you think it goes against the grain of human nature. No this is it this is a cultural activity that this service at the library. There is no charge to the public. Yes but I want to talk about a playwright who has his work performed here for nothing and it's available for the public the general public to watch and to see it. Doesn't this diminish the opportunity to have a producer too.
On the contrary the playwright was not be known by anyone. If it weren't introduced here and. Frequently the plays that we've read we have requests from amateur groups and from colleges and sell and is there a little play a reciprocal arrangement whereby American playwrights can have their blood is read in Sweden for nothing I don't think that would be necessary the Swedish theatre does the American place of interest. I say everything that has any kind of success in New York either Off Broadway is performed commercially an awful performance in Stockholm and the authors receive royalties and I used to be restricted to this Julian occasionally the father right that's right with the all of these playwrights are contemporary active playwrights the ones that you are the ones that were doing this have done classic seasons but this season is all contemporary Swedish drama and the last few years.
Do you read do you memorize these plays or you just read them. No we read them these are reading performances their concert performances. There is a visual element. That in that. Well if you've ever done any radio dramatic shows it would be probably quite an experience for the audience if they could watch the actors read them because actors whether they're only using their voice or whether they're using their whole body do use their hold. There are physical things that we do the performance does have a visual aspect but the audience is still left more free than they would be in a completely staged thing to have a imaginary show going on as well. But Peter you are an actor and you trained. Do you find acting this way is basically frustrating to your instrument. Frustrating to you psychologically Wardwell I imagine it can be because it's very difficult. But that's the point of doing it because it's very challenging and to work with someone like me who I only met yesterday at our first
rehearsal. But but it was a revelation to me because I didn't know how how this peculiar play to me. In a style quite original. How how how to approach it really. And so that I'm leaning on the. On the roads are horrible things you're different about the style. I mean look at what's going on as I mentioned the similarity to two O'Neill before the extremes in character and Bob has told us something about the Swedish character that is brought out in these plays of the. From from a resume a very reserved nature. My particular character he said is a young Marxist and and despises the society he lives in. And yet the other side of the coin is that he wants very much to be part of it. And at times he does abandon himself too. And when he is able to sneak into the family group he enjoys himself very much. But the
transitions are so sudden from hating his father for instance to embracing him and dancing with him. This is not realistic. It's made especially difficult if you rely on the verbal exclusively to express this don't you agree Miss Williams. She can handle it you see. That's. What I mean when I limit the opportunity that you mean to be totally expressive in rehearsal yesterday. We had about four speeches cut out and null which was perfectly right to cut out had we been on a stage. Because then you would see the costumes the action of the person what she was doing whether she was knitting or playing cards or what you would see this would catch. So I said to Bob can we put back in the four lines originally because it paints a a verbal picture that the visual would paint for you if you were in
an auditorium with props. And Bob immediately saw the point and we put it back in. Bob's an excellent director. He does what are the Hopkins used to do he turned you loose. Ad lets you plunge in and do with the part and if you go wrong he stops you if you go right he says good go on. This is to me this is very very important in any work. Because if you don't do that you have nothing but blueprints of the director. Also many mines make a much better project than just a single mind that's dictating to get back to your verbal. The beginning scenes Incidentally this Sunday Sunday promenade is a fascinating play and Bobby in his little speech before we started working said that in the Scandinavian countries that they are often in a tragedy have very high comedy. They mix there are whatever you would call whatever the word is they mix the two styles. Which of course is pretty wonderful because this is true in
life. You go to something that's very very tragic and all of a sudden you see somebody has had on and it becomes very very funny. And if you're shooting with the camera on you point up that the hat's on crooked. It's funny in the midst of something very very serious. In the beginning of our scene just to show you what Bob and I stopped at the start the play rolling and by picking up tempo very quick so that we jumping on each other's lines. You know it made for a cat and dog fight right in the middle. Only on temple. So when you go with the visual visual is a very small part of life the very important part. You can do it temple you can do it with pauses. You can do. Stopped. Yeah when are you speaking from the from the audience standpoint from the actors standpoint what you do is that if you're in the concert situation where you're reading from a reading stand of course you can't do all of the movements you do if you were acting to play out. So you substitute something that you can do it doesn't mean that you
that you eliminate the physical from your performance but that you find something physical to do that can be done in that particular situation and of course all the acting you're acting with in a particular situation and within certain restrictions whether regardless of the kind of performance it is so that in your anger instead of pounding the table as the stage as the author may have put in the stage directions you may grip your reading stand firmly or so. Well this kind of thing you get by this kind of correspondence Incidentally did you work with author Howard Tims. No I didn't I knew him. I wasn't fortunate enough to have one apart one of his plays. But I knew him because he is a you're a you're a wonderful treasure house of interesting anyway experiences so I tell you I'm almost 60 which means that I began as a schoolteacher and then I shifted my profession you know on purpose I only know you actually have anybody and I think you
have to tell somebody you've got to fix it. So I spend one of the most fascinating eras I sed I went professional about 1934 and whoever is good at math will put you tell me how many years that is. But I span the. Well I started with Walter Hamdan which gave me that wonderful old classics we toured Canada we toured the United States touring was done in those days and then I went with the George Kaufman and the most hearts and all the time when I was in New York as young people do today and I wish we still had. You just showed your equity card and you went in and I saw all the places and I saw that Susan and God I saw 34 times. And incidentally I was over seeing a play the other day and the manager said Addie speak to me on the way out. So I went out he said any more your family want to come tonight he said The house isn't selling out do. And it was Mr Nicol who used to be Nicole who used to be at the Plymouth and he's the man who let me in 34 times to Susan and I. But anyway there's beaking now discerning what is first name. However I think it is anyway
and I C O L L I think his name was anyway. Yes I do span the wonderful time as I said to George Kaufman the most heart and Andy George Abbot's when he first began. Yeah a little actress named Joyce arning and I was very much like her so I always got in on the audition. I never placed but you mention something I just want to point you said that you could go into any show with a credit card free. IS THAT WAS THAT WOULD I understand you correctly that is right you asked for the company manager and you said and I had to and I think I should do that. Well they have tried to work out things like this dick. As a matter of fact you can usually used to be able to I handed over a couple of years go by equity which is our union and say Are there any seats in any house you know are they giving any seats. But unfortunately some of our young people you see the theater attracts a great many creative people. But only the discipline discipline people stay so that the UN disciplined had the same privilege and they used to arrive at the theater in not properly dressed which is very important that they had to be an
advantage and they were told their opinion is good or bad. Very loudly in the back row at intermission. In other words they destroyed the audience that the producer had been able to bring in. So naturally he withdrew the privilege. Now it could be that if they tried it again it would work.
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 6 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.: Scandinavian Drama Series. Swedish plays. Abby Lewis (or Louis), actress, wife of actor John D. Seymour; Bob Horen, actor, director from Hunter College; Peter Haig, actor.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:47
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 6 of 31,” 1968-02-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
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APA: Seminars in theatre; Episode 6 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