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This is Seminars in Theater, a series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession who comment on the problems and pleasures of life in the theater. Here now is the host of Seminars in Theater, Richard Piot. Good evening and welcome once again to Seminars in Theater and tonight it's the concluding discussion of three we've had with Ted Mann, artistic director and producer of Circle in the Square Theatre and tonight we talk about the series of staged readings on Monday night and we have as our guest Gladys Vaughn who directed the circle's successful productions of Ball and O'Fellow last season and has been the director of the New York Shakespeare Festival directing a number of their Shakespearean productions and is currently heading this particular project.
We also welcome one of the actors with the Monday night project Ed Satrachian who has been in Ball O'Fellow and has appeared in a play called Night Agra who will still be in it we trust when this particular program goes on the air and we welcome all of the new and old faces. The starting thought here regards the Monday night project and I remember in seeing it when it had its first rust or rough I guess you might call it that. Bivwak, you call. Miss Vaughn said that this was a before it started said that it was a work in progress and what does that really mean Gladys? Well I've often felt that a play like this particular play we were working on drums in the night by Brett needs exploration and an opportunity to get a sense of the play
and it's difficult sometimes to do that in three or four weeks of a formal rehearsal actually breached himself I'm told work sometimes seven or eight months rehearsing his own productions so that I think it's a little pre-numptious of us occasionally I think we can move in in three or four weeks and do what he himself took seven or eight months to do. How long does a play usually rehearse? How long do you rehearse one of your say Shakespearean productions? Well the formal rehearsal period is four weeks and of course you know Shakespearean production has a lot of usually group scenes and it's complicated but I have tried and usually been successful in doing this and interesting the actors who were playing the major roles before and we've met and discussed the concept and the ideas and actually did some initial work on the production before we went into the formal rehearsal period although Coriolanus which was one of the last ones that I did in the park we only had the four week rehearsal
period. Is this this was a public rehearsal is that what it was? Well yes when we started out with it we you know I wanted to get actors together who I thought would be interested in working on breakfast and we weren't absolutely sure just how we would arrive at that first Monday evening but the idea in back of it was that we would work on the play with the hopes of turning it into a production somewhere along the line and we could for a while we were thinking of it as just being a reading the the translator actually preferred that we'd be able to put it on its feet because many things in the play are quite unclear as to who's related to whom and what the relationships are unless people are moving and you know around the stage so it helped clarify the play to put it on its feet then the actors began to be interested in getting away from the book because it was only then that they could feel a real relationship with the other actor
and get the scenes moving so we moved really with without an intention of doing an artistic unified whole for the Monday evening thing but rather to explore the play in the event that we someone you know that we could have the opportunity. Well I want to go back to that and ask you and bring up from the tale the questions and responses concerning the production itself before I do that I just want to ask who conceived this idea and what was its purpose and Ted did you conceive of it? Actually I was thinking about that this morning I remembered a car ride the Gladys and I took some place to see something two or three years ago and in it we were talking about I think at the time we were already involved in Othello involved and we were talking about the notion of extra additional activity for the creative community in the theatre and that there was a sort of need a very definite need for the actors to have an opportunity
to work on plays and naturally being the manager brought up the problem of the monetary problem of it and we conceived of this notion of a workshop thing which the actors really not committed to us and nor are we committed to them and that it is more on an educational level all the way around to delve into the play and it's a creative educational creative element I would say. Could this be similar to workshops such as the actress studio where you can get a chance to explore and see the development in front of you? Yes except the one distinction is from the very first car ride the Gladys and I took that we agreed that it should have a more realistic point of view that it should not be just
academically play that was of interest but that specifically it was a play that Gladys was interested in directing and that I specifically was interested in producing that if it that I had more than a vague interest in it and that if it came to kind of life that we both hope that then we would then go on and do it then that would be that distinct from the others which are the other workshops that you mentioned are generally specifically the studios. You know internal scene study to the studio itself now you're putting this on before the public admittedly in all manners and degrees yes it is free that's another point so that I guess you're not doing it from money but you're doing it for the ultimate end result which will be if these Monday night productions evolve into an interesting play then you would probably move it in as a real as a production as either into the circle or another off
Broadway theater. How will how will you determine this from these Monday night presentations? Well it will be strictly a personal point of view of my of my own I mean something that I feel that would have a wide enough interest and appeal and something that in my view watching it I was I am stimulated by I mean so it always comes out a very simple thing if I catch myself while I'm watching a play thinking of other things I'm not as generally not a play that I do I mean I would say positively that's not a good idea but if I sit there and I'm not aware of any idiosyncrasies of myself or the audience etc and completely absorbed in the play as the play that I do I felt that way when I saw Othello when it was being done in the park I can't even remember what it was that brought me to see the production
but watching it watching glasses production I was just completely taken with and completely absorbed and I mean it's producing and what one chooses to produce is very much a matter it to me is very much a matter of personal taste it's what I like therefore I put my will put my energy behind doing it if it's something that I do not you know I feel kind of ambipathy and wish you watch it about I don't working out of this way brings it into a dimension where you can see it and have a response for yourself so that if it appeals to whatever sensitive buds you have then you produce it yes but I mean it's sensitive is free to the public we encourage other theater people to come as well I mean there are plays other producers that may very well be interested in doing this play for some
peculiar quirk of mine I might not be interested so that we do encourage other theater people to come getting to the production itself drums in the night by break and translated by Frank Jones in working on it as an actor at Sotrakian do you feel that in working this way in this sort of a progressive way before a public audience is an inhibiting factor before you're able to develop the role the relationship the way you want do you mean working before my audience after we've rehearsed we don't rehearse before an audience well the first Monday evening was something of a it was it was in the way but there are no notes from the director to the actor during that it's a long busy yeah but the only thing is half the actors were carrying scripts and half weren't or half knew their lines and half didn't
I mean I consider no no no it wasn't inhibiting for me because I realized the progress we were the stage of progress we were in and the the audience was made aware of the fact that it was like a rehearsal process so knowing knowing that and I knowing that the audience knew that didn't make it inhibiting for me so I went with it it does have problems it could have problems like there were one or two actors who came in the last one actress was ill and so we brought another actress in a little troubled about it until you know and if they'd asked that I make an announcement about it but so many people are asking one frequently to be able to come into a rehearsal or address rehearsal or something where they see the work in progress they'd like to know a little bit more actively what is the work like that actors are doing
before it's totally finished you know even before even before there's it reaches the previous stage when you then you usually have sets and costumes and so on and it seemed as though for instance this was the first project that we had and to get something started like this when the actors are working without pay it's not an easy thing because they have to combine it with other jobs that they're doing to get their you know they're living so they're giving their time gratis and we had the choice for instance this first Monday of postponing it and waiting until it was a little more ready but we thought it was an interesting thing and I believe that people would get could get much more from seeing that than they could have from reading the play because the play is not it's with brass particularly it's very much a blueprint where he suggests and we spent you know good two weeks digging around and talking and discussing and trying to fit together all the jigsaw bits and pieces and puzzles and I saw a production actually of it in a college production that was uptown in which I realized that a lot of the things we had struggled to find they
had not noticed it were a problem as yet you know so that we were working on that it hadn't even been in their cognizance that the problem existed so I believe that the audience who came got more of a sense of the play than they would have a break is a kind of a player speaking as an actor that you really need time to work on and I must confess that in the two plays that I've done my break ball and this play drums in the night and it was a second I really was I've never was really I really didn't get where the scripts when I first read I just they really turned me off in a way I just didn't understand what was being done and he's a type of a playwright for me that once I get involved in the work I see all the tremendous values that come out in execution and it is so condensed and so compact and so full of potentialities that a modern play to many
of the modern plays or hack plays or easy plays you just need more time for a play by break it's just that way it couldn't be just a question just a question of time because well you have to know you have to have many things you can do with time yeah yeah but it's a question I think of how you're working and with whom you're working and I think this is where Gladys Vaughn certainly enters I would say this because by the time this program goes on the air drums in the night will have completed its run and you'll be involved in a four-night come probably so that in watching this even though it was distracting to me in spite of the courtesy announcement at the beginning that actors who had came into this very late and they'll be looking it was distracting to me be in one way but in another way it's a tremendously interesting
thing to watch because I would say I would go out on a limb and say in some respects this probably watching this way as it was and I got this from a number of people who were there well made it a dynamically interesting evening much I maybe even after you've arrived at the point where you wanted this that evening might have had the dynamics and the interest much more than the finished product would I it was just a that's right that's the thing about the break play is is that you you you really don't get the full power and the impact of the creative genius of this man until it is done until it is worked on it from now on you know when I I just automatically accept a break play it's a great play I don't say it's okay I'll do it originally had had been called a staged reading and I I was looking with this kind of concept
in my my mind of what a stage reading is I didn't see anybody sitting up on a stage reading and they were really moving through this did you change your mind or a little because you see if you had just a reading for instance I think we think of that tend to think of that where people sit on stools and stay in a stationary position and then read from the script and we as I said earlier felt that in order to get the relationships clear to even know what's going on you almost have to get it moving where you have people sitting at a table and and or moving around the room you know so that you can make more a focus to get it clear what's happening and in the process of that the actors had trouble because the with breath you need to give yourself so deeply you know you would need to make strong choices and it has to come way down from the best you know you have to be involved so that it was difficult to stay with the
book and play the scene and so that the actors who have been with it and had time more time to give just found themselves wanting to work without the text and so but not all of the actors had that much time who had been committed from the beginning because we started with the idea of a reading so we let the chips fall where they may and you know see there's a tremendous temptation in the theater for one to worry about the result and the result is the only important thing and we had some of that here were one or two actors felt oh we can't you know we can't just go in front of an audience or anybody even if there are ten people there if there's strangers unless we're fully prepared unless we know exactly what we're doing and we discussed this and said why do we have to you know in this circumstance there's nothing that we have to lose the opportunity is one that said is given us to work in this theater there where we can be free to explore why must we impose this obstacle on ourselves to be worrying about the result why not open it up where we're
willing a little to fall on our faces and as a result of that I think you had an interesting evening and those people agreed to do that and things happen to the actors then too they there's an excitement that comes to this. The reason I asked the question earlier about do you not from this particular experience isolated from all others but as an actor generally feel inhibited in working in working in progress before an audience this can where you don't by the way is what I saw that he knew about his lines I'm talking about where the actors were we're falling by the wayside where they were. Much better this week than he was last week. I think I called for a few lines. I don't know what to do but why are you completely concentrated. I saw actors becoming frustrated by their own emotional interruption because they had to to refer to lines and they were this was annoying but it's but it's interesting see actually the people that were in the most frustrated
with the people who had not see added worked in the group in the ball of fellow group and there are several who have taken an attitude toward the work where you're not worrying about the result but you're worrying you're caring about exploring the work like Ed found a very good solution when he when he was in trouble he called for a line and it didn't disturb you very much then you know you didn't you even thought that he didn't that he knew all his lines because that was not but he was accepting the fact that this was a work in progress and not upset or not disturbed. That's very true and you know that I find myself that for the actor who's working from the book see it takes a tremendous opening up of the actor to be willing to stop and take the time to look back at the book but that's the way I think that the actor works well when he stays involved in what he's doing and he's not thrown because he has to give a performance in this circumstance see one of the things a long ago when we first had the Shakespeare in the park and we were working before the amphitheater was built we used not to be able to have any kind of privacy at all and
when we would rehearse as many as a hundred two hundred people would line up would stand around the outside of our rehearsal circumstances we'd have to put ropes up you know to keep because we didn't feel it was you know we were maybe the second third rehearsal the first week and here we had 150 people standing there watching the rehearsal and after a little while the actors became accustomed to that and many people have said that to me what how they used to enjoy coming and watching the rehearsals well in the professional theater usually you you know because you have a theater that enclosed that's not available in any way to the audience you know this is understandable I mean you can draw curiosity seekers who expect nothing more than what they're seeing that is their eavesdropping on a rehearsal but where you are where you really inviting people that's not a problem isn't it doesn't an actor take a chance somewhat by that I mean take an actor of some name Martin Sheen I mean doesn't this actor take a chance presenting himself before the public and I'm by the public I mean anyone is apt to come in yes but weren't you delighted with Marty
I should put you on the spot but you see he's enjoying he was accepting and he was one of the most willing people of all he threw himself into it really enjoy the opportunity about people glass who who are aware I mean you talk about the actors and directors and producers and people who are aware of what is going on I'm not including these but I'm talking about the average person who hears about oh there's a production over there and Martin Sheen I saw him do a play and a water into this yeah but how else Dick how else can I an artist experiment and work I mean he needs the an audience is the vital part of the theater I mean why must we only have an audience an opening night I mean why not have the stimulation of an audience as they had that night on a Monday night where the actors learned a great deal from not only playing with you know doing the play as best they could as a works in progress but also from audience you know a that silent
breath of an audience an audience is certainly needed for another level another degree of refinement I'm not saying that it isn't needed at this stage I'm just put out the question doesn't I think one of the I think that actually the theater would be it would be and this is something that we should strive towards a much healthier place if audience was not made to feel so separate and not only audience but critics I think there's a great lack of knowledge generally by critics about what the theater is all about and I think that the critics should be encouraged to come near aerosols I don't think they should be kept out like some great doc secrets you know many critics don't know the elements of a production where they were beginning to write about it it's very easy to perceive that they merely know they have an opinion about a play but they do not understand what a contribution a scenic design or a director will bring to it or a or an actor maybe critics feel they will lose a great degree of their purported objectivity if they're involved
in the production watching it from it's what but I think that they should be encouraged there are some there are many plays that are complicated that do take and study and would benefit from continual observe and this is not an uncommon practice by the way in Europe especially in France where critics come in and they watch your rehearsal for a few years their shopper critics there anyway as well as actors well the critics always seem sharper in other gardens you know I'm sure the French feel I don't think they're sharper actors in Europe in certain segments I just that's a that's a good idea to have thrown out but I wanted to ask you a question regarding that isn't it also the point is that we don't want to be involved in the actors problems as an audience we're not we don't care about his problems what we want to see is what we pay our money to see a finished product but you yourself said that it was dynamic and who is interested and you were
paying you see this was a free right you know there's no it's he would be it would be a very easy thing in fact much easier and take much less work on the part of the actors to have done a reading the other night where we just stayed because the minute you start moving right you know it would be much easier for everybody to do that and we could you know if it really felt this for disturbing one could go back to that I just said it was in reference to your invitation to the critics and to people to watch rehearsals but I'm not in regarding the production on Monday night now I think it's a it's a fantastic thing to witness and the only reservation that creeps into my question is I wonder about certain actors who expose themselves to an unknowing public and by that I simply mean that the public at large is not particularly interested in the progressive stages of speaking up but many people are you know but I you see I don't know what the you say for an actor to expose himself to the public we expose ourselves every day
in life and he's an actor should want to expose himself in his art which is the most important element of his of his life so that if in the course of it he may get some negative reaction how else is he going to grow I mean he must expose himself we are not just thinking with the painter for instance you see the sketches on one of the most fascinating things in an integrate is to see the sketches the drawings the works in progress that you know and that that term works in progress is becoming more and more common in American theater today I think the public is beginning to understand it more than the idea of that I mean let's let's take an actor let's say Martin Sheen yeah and somebody comes in Joe public and says oh this he's terrible in this so what I mean is that very good here's the answer that so what is that more of a disadvantage than the advantage that Martin Sheen is getting out of doing it I don't know he has to answer that
well obviously I mean that the Ed Ed speaking for the actors feels that the work in progress element bringing in some element of the audience as well as is extremely beneficial let me throw another question more better than the detriment you know honesty I would prefer actually that we had had more time and that it were a little further along than it were than it had been Monday evening and it was the it being the first one I felt that it was better to go on with it than than not to and had had we not had some problems with somewhat one person got a job so another individual who had wanted very badly to do it had was doing a film in Hollywood and the shooting time took longer than he thought so he didn't get back and we had to put another person in so there there were in a way I would have preferred to have had a little more time to get it a little bit more unified before we put it in front of an audience there's no question about but you lose you know you lose the impetus too if you if because there is something about
gives you a direction to have it go together what particularly when people are working yeah that's no question about the the acting quality and the interest and everything that was happening there my I just wondered allowed more or less about an actor being criticized at a certain stage you know in a in a work with elementary things that should not be criticized but he's exposed and and has to take this negative criticism where which doesn't even belong well the actor has to process that criticism take what's valuable in nature take what's not and you know it comes out of ignorance really you know well if you have a number of actors who are very strong they go I mean can can withstand that kind of criticism that's fine but actors being at least all all most of the actors that I know I will read about are very sensitive and yeah well there were there are workshops in town that you know don't allow you as a rule don't let people from out like like the actor studio which I think is a great mistake
I mean I as a professional in the theater I can't go to the actor studio and watch a you a works in progress that's I mean if it would seem to me that I might learn something yeah and that they also might learn from having people in the audience yeah it's a very difficult thing to get it for an actor to be willing to do this though so that it's marvelous to have a place I think like the studio where they are able to when they would would be afraid to put it in front of the public to have a place where they can go to do that work
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 13 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.: Ted Mann of Circle in the Square Theatre, with Gladys Vaughn, director, and Ed Setrokian, actor.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:45
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 13 of 31,” 1968-04-02, 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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