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Well how many of your associates were in this production of Hamlet and Washington so see it's our students. Well you see I must differentiate between the students. If the student is one thing he's a person who is a beginner who comes to us for two years a full time training. But I also have another classification of students and they are the professionals. Some of them are very very well known indeed who come to me for Shakespeare training and from those I took 9 down. R How long have they. How long do they usually study Shakespeare with a professional student. Not been for years. I now find it terribly difficult to give the time to it and there's a long waiting list. I had a preliminary course just last eight weeks but some of them had eight weeks eight weeks eight weeks eight weeks for a long time. Do they study directly under you. Oh yes. Now if the problem is there are good actors. True actors the usual you are your term.
All they need is speech. Oh no. Oh what else do you bring to them what else can you give them. Well first of all they have to understand what it's all about. I can help them in the interpretation and understanding of the plays to start with. And I talk about the characters. And in fact I don't teach them speech. I want to have them in my class unless their speech is already. A sufficient standard to be acceptable. Oh no that's not my problem at all you have I don't imagine in either I teach them Acting Shakespeare and you're maintaining that Acting Shakespeare is different from acting anything else because just a few material. Sure sure. Well there are those and whatever they use as a process of acting is the same. Absolutely the same and the criteria of the performance are exactly the same. The truth of human behavior. Absolutely but they only teach the fallenness of the material that they need to get some guidance in you mentioned their
first exercise I give them is to bring in a poem. Although anything they like you know I want to see what their instinctive control of poetry is where they have a feeling for it. You mentioned Joseph Papp. He maintains the Shakespeare in the park and he is contributing to this festival week. Oh yes. Do you find that the he came to the first series of lectures ever gave in this country are Shakespeare. Did he benefit from it when he became a Shakespeare hound. Well that to his to his great good I New York's Well I'd I have criticized the Shakespearean performances I find in the park not the intent or the whole wonderful drive that maintains as I think it's great. However I don't think it's Shakespeare for the most part I think that I don't see how you could say it is when you outlined to me what it is you're after.
I think the speech is atrocious for the most part and I don't take the generalizations I haven't found the speech atrocious for the most part to talk or write very specifically then. I was bothered by airplanes and microphones. Save that. Joseph Pappy said that what he tries to do with his Shakespeare group is to get it very very earthy and to have it as or to connect as well as he can have his actors connect as well as he can to the contemporary times to the situation here in order to do this he tries it is natural as he can and he tries to get as a rookie as he can how this earth Enos asked him about earthing is what does this mean. This means he said as I said just finished getting connecting with the audience now earthiness is connecting with the audience. Yes I don't think he could have meant that. What does earthiness mean other electing with an audience
there for any author to connect with an audience. He surely didn't mean that. Maybe he did maybe i'm sure you are. Well then we are what I'm what I'm confused about. Distressed about really. Is that you make it sound so easy and so simple and yet we have actors who go to major in drama in the major universities for four years and then go on to a professional drama school such as yours or any number of them here. Not meaning that they were the same but I mean there are a number of them and this is another seven. Well this is seven years old together. And still they could go on and on and would never begin to approach the stands use the word figuratively playing Shakespeare we still don't we still don't and I don't agree with you one little bit.
Where do you disagree. Everything you've said I have found good and medical actors who do Shakespeare. From my point of view very very well. What performance have any of you seen of Shakespeare that you liked recently within the past four years other than your Hamlet quality. Have you seen any Shakespeare by an American company here that you liked. So. Well. Yeah actually I've seen there were there was a good deal in Titus Andronicus I haven't seen much in the park and I haven't been destructing quite a time. A good deal in Titus Andronicus that I liked and I remember the production of measure for measure that Alan Schneider did in the park years ago which I thought was admirable except for the low comedy which he was rather out of AC with. But no I have seen performances that are please me very much. And after all what is the difference between.
I've seen superb Shakespeare for instance in the Canadian festival in Toronto and they are the same kind of American actors. Now why is the result different. Only because they've had a longer time and an opportunity to practice their craft in Shakespeare. You've just got to keep on doing it you can't. You see so many times a person comes on for his one Shakespeare never played Shakespeare before and he never plays it again and that's it you can't play anything like that. There has to be a continuing experience in the medium and this is the only thing that prevents American actors for being superior biting. There's not there not many places to play it. What do you think the growth of regional theatre an interest in region of credible allow more opportunities. Absolutely. That's that's what I see in ten years time there's going to be an enormous difference. Well that's a very optimistic and hopeful note in the what seems to always be a
moribund state. And we always hear that the theatre is dead. It's like a whole or other themes. The theatre is dead and we're waiting for a rebirth. The minute a rebirth is here I wonder just when you have well Hamlet by the way currently has been doing. Do you appreciate this kind of distortion of Shakespeare. Well I didn't see that particular one. Not a tour but. I can see the validity of the intention. I am a purist. I think that the first obligation of a director is to the best of his ability to find out the intention of the author reveal it that meant I have no. But America Joker happened by no means the only people who are friends my
purest being. Plenty of famous directors in England who do it too. But you let me explain this. I'm doing a production of Romeo and Juliet this summer down in Washington I'm going back and I want to explain that I'm not that much of a purist because I'm doing this in early 19th century Louisiana in which all the Capulets would be colored and all the Montagues white tires I don't think so because I think it gives a validity. To to an audience it makes the hostility between the two families is something that really mean I was watching West Side Story. In other words I thought West Side Story was a marvelous work. One of the great works of the 20th century and it's absurd to say that it was. A mangling of Shakespeare they both came from the same source which is not Shakespeare but a
play story which is lovely to many many westerns West Side Story I think is an entity in and of itself. But I mean when we take Shakespeare such as you're going to do you're going to take Romeo and Juliet and put it in a Louisiana cast and make the parties ethnically and racially different in order to as you say to bring about bring Shakespeare up to a contemporary meaningful experience I would take it. But isn't there. Is it necessary in this is another phase of questioning I want to go into Shakespeare so outdated that we have to result to the particular forms to bring him up to now hold it back out dated. You see and till this last part of the 19th century Julius Caesar was never dressed in a toga. Good point.
What is the correct dress for Shakespeare. The antiquarian interest in dress is a very very modern introduction at Shakespeare's David Garrett who was dressed in the 18th century gentleman's dress. That's not important. He was not approved by every faction for using a costume. I don't know that he wasn't according to the history books on the subject which history you kind of made up. I mean I will look it up and I am in a deal making because it not that he was being clever but it was the fashion of the day it was the fashion of the day he wasn't being clever. However you're dressed in a fashion just to Shakespeare's characters did it Julius Caesar was an Elizabeth and gentleman such as you found at the courts of Queen
Elizabeth. Dress is not that important provided it is estatic a less satisfying to me and is a part of a unified idea in the play which I think is probably makes your idea really more attractive and enticing. On second thought of Romeo and Juliet that you will. Will New York audiences ever get a chance to see some of your work. I don't why don't you bring it here. It's not up to me. A lot of producer. Business instincts. Well let me ask me a question. I'd like to say something a friend then about the pertinence of Shakespeare today. And this is also as as an actress or actor. I think Shakespeare is far more pertinent today than most of the comedies in most of them on implies it.
In what way. Phone. Well. In this way. There was a poet. You know him the English poet Louis nice McNeal met knew him actually who was. Live during the 20s or was a member of the young. He only died last I know but he was a young poet was what i'm the story I'm talking about during the 20s and he was writing very realistic poetry as a lot of the young poets were of that day and in England. And. The time of my story however it was at the outbreak of the Second World War and he had stopped writing this realistic portrait it turned to the more symbolic kind of portrayed such as yanks were was writing and he was doing as a matter of fact a. Biography on Yeats and I remember something he said he said that when the second world war broke out he was
in Galway and he was doing this book on Yeats and he realized that nothing that that Yeats wrote and none of these poems had any pertinence to what was happening on that day they seemed so far away. But he said the strange thing was that the realistic poems that he had written seem further away because at least what Yeats was trying to do had a had was more artful and had. OK no more art to it is all I can learn. Well I think that Shakespeare's follow up your theme I mean in a more cogent way or at least more just to sum it up very briefly I mean Shakespeare is universal. I think anything that Universal would be pertinent today and tomorrow. But I I'm trying to weed out of what you say. So to me in this example of making nice I didn't quite
gather what the well let me try that part I'm trying to make is that there. I'm not saying that the theatre is dead I simply don't believe that. But I'm saying that not very many of the problem that's why I did it one time very often in a time but in the last two years have not been very much why not by the way I don't know if I mean I don't mean to. Well let me finish let me raise my point. I'll tell you my. Plays such as. What. How does that apply. Neil Simon posits we thought it better not to have that in the press and he went to the well we'll take any of these plays any Wednesday these plays do not have any significance to me at all. There's nothing in these plays that is pertinent to my life.
But the what's going on now. Now I don't know whether other people feel they do. Obviously I suppose they do they go but I didn't. I think I see what you mean. You you feel there's more Purdon say in anything by Shakespeare really because they're absolutely being more substance in it. Yes. Well I guess we won't knock success continuously on this program. No I'm not. I know I love Baffert in the pot had a ball. I've seen a much more universal. No I'm. I'm talking about I'm not talking about whether it was funny or whether you had the time I did something I know certain. Well let me reach over to David. MARTIN You have you acted in Shakespearean where you were in Washington. I was met at that time. I hope I see. I want to get to a point of view here regarding the future and regarding the methods by which you think universities colleges around the
nation or professional acting schools should set up the curriculum so to speak. For example what do you do. Not you I mean what is the scale of operation. Damn do you want me to tell you what would you believe I probably know better than David that the three departments acting music in Dallas right right now in the acting department they first of all they get a basic training. The method they they love relaxation the whole method is improvisation. They action is reaction and so on the same time they are learning to speak. We teach standard speech standard stage speech. I make a great point that this you
know technique is of any use to an actor until he's unaware of it. If a singer is listening to the tones he is making is not acting. If an actor is listening to the sounds he is making is not acting. This is a long process same idea if a person is trying to concentrate on each movement as he is driving a car. He can't do it until it becomes a part of his instinctive equipment that's why the training is long and you think of equipment to bring suit or even to wrapping you because of some conscious equipment you have or of physical habit. In other words something beyond Yeah by being a physical habit. Right right about it no it isn't quite that it isn't quite that because you may for instance Your imagination may impose upon you in the certain characters or strange walk which is not a part of your habit but it is a part of your instinctive physical equipment but the use of your body to impose this strange war as a guise of physical.
Yeah I know but it's not a habit not a habit. But that's what I mean. But I'm talking about the control of the actors and I have absolutely it's got to be organic and quite intense. I use the word instinct right. Well come on to your dance. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. We started with acting. Speech OK. And then after they've been going some to oh by the way I give them a course in dramatic literature two very difficult plays they find difficult but it's Shakespeare. Then they go after they've had a year of that training then. Then I see it and I give them a course in what I call rhetoric and verse speaking so that gradually they learn to delight in woods. And this prepares them for the unit many American actors find short more difficult than Shakespeare might think years how well this new rhetoric prepares them for shorn of us speaking prepare for Shakespeare but they're given specific exercises all the way and I'm not going to go into that and on them they also have
go in the second semester. They have a thing called technique which is only to stop the bridge between Studio 1 theatre from the start and the bridge in the music department obviously learn to sing each each of them has an individual voice teacher. They learn to read music. Then they learned they get up every week for three hours. I mean the classes are there for three hours and they see numbers from shows and they learn the whole gamut from operetta to modern jazz. But there's always a conflict between the voice teacher and the styles and I say I don't care how are they saying in the styles class. Gradually their voice will improve but they have to act they have to communicate and experience then on the on the physical side where they talk to Doms they chiefly modern and jazz. But there also is an arts subject in Carson. You have to move it as
such. To learn to sit to learn to span to learn to bow to learn to walk. Is according to a period or according to the just used to the character and the character and the people. That roughly is it didn't your credit does and additionally though this is all being a little well let me ask you this question. Do you ever get students who've graduated from a university and have studied or have majored in drama. I'm mad you get a lot of students like that aside and apart from your professional students. They've received this training in college. Do you find there's a great differentiation or a great division between what you are setting out to teach them and what they've already learned in the area. Well this whole question of I travel about this country a great deal and go to lots of universities and I find. First of all
that that is an insoluble problem in University theatre and that is the claims the conflicting claims of the academic and the dramatic so that they're only playing around with theatre in most cases. In order for theatre in the universities to to have any important contribution to make I think it must become a graduate school. As it is in Yale for instance this with Bruce Dean having a snapshot of the day and you have also for the New York University or professional school which is why I think it's the same thing I mean this is where I think the university can make its contribution to the thing that depresses me most about University theatre as I've seen it is that there is but one of two very rare exceptions they are one or two exceptions that is no. What shall I say between the English department
and the drama department and they should feed each other. Should ordinary saffron that's a very good thing but there is no liaison between my English department because this is one of the crimes of I think training in theater and this peripheral Association of the speech or English teacher confusing this peripheral acquirement of skills and confusing it with real acting skills I think this is always been a can. This shows you the way that drama has always been held in colleges and universities are that where they did not have a drama department they simply said well the English department handles the free speech department. Yeah. Detrimental it always was when I had what I meant was the plays that they're going to do anyway should have direct relevance to the subject has been taught in English that's all I mean that would be excellent integration of subs. That's what I mean that's what I mean.
And that not doesn't happen. Well I want to ask you one question before we close and that is I would like to know did you like Richard Burton's Hamlet when he performed here in New York. Oh that's a loaded question. I preferred is the original Hamlet. He did a much more conventional Hamlet at the Old Vic which I like better but I will say this he took very seriously the question of it being a rehearsal. That is I saw it how many times at least 20 and it was never the same twice. In fact he did something on the last night that he hadn't done a tour. He really was experimenting and this was exciting it was not a set performance and he was doing the most outrageous things some night. Emphasize whatever the mood was. You seen how much is the most naked of all parts. And whatever he felt how much became
that night and it was astonishingly exciting though as a sort of interpretation of Hamlet. I much preferred his original old Ikhwan perhaps because it was mine. One other question to you. But Lawrence Olivier is the greatest actor of the 20th century. Oh now wait. Greatest actors of the 20th century I think he's a very very good actor but why do you we haven't reached the end. You know nobody apart from that if there are other people who are better the largest live in certain parts Laurence Olivier would never be greater than Rex Harrison or Rex Harrison. I don't you mean. Well just great all right. Let me very quickly the most heard Tyler Act yes. An actor with written in caps and an actor what I mean by actor is a man that has developed him self fully in the skills
of his craft and is intellectually mentally psychologically an actor. Oh I give you all that absolute ID by the way and he never stops working. He just never stops working because there are other you know if you bowed out that I hate this business of greatest actor which is a great performance I'm concerned. Well fortunately I didn't think I wouldn't have been as good as Lee Jay Cobb in Death of a so no he wouldn't have been what you meant but I would say this if we do say I say I agree with you about the unfortunate use of the greatest There must be some you know a lot of us about the most complete. Yeah all right let's say that makes him the greatest I would imagine. However I want to thank you for the BURTON The President Director David Martin an actor and step teacher and actress Susie me for joining WNYC in this Shakespeare festival week.
Thank you very much. Thank you know this was seminars in theater. A recorded series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession join us again for our next program when host Richard Pyatt will lead another conversation about life in the theater seminars in theatre is produced by radio station WNYC in New York City and is distributed by the national educational radio network.
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 27 of 31
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3231. This prog.: The problems in presenting Shakespeare today. David Martin, acting teacher; Susie Mee, actress; Philip Burton, president of AMDA, American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-27 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:15
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 27 of 31,” 1968-07-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
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APA: Seminars in theatre; Episode 27 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