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I don't think that this bothers me that much I don't think it bothers anyone in the company. But right now we feel that by making the compromise and becoming purely a financial organization which we would have to be at this jointer of going out into the off Broadway area and that we would have to sacrifice and compromise our artistic principles and what we're trying to do and what we're trying to build because it because and because of the need for survival financially which we don't have this pressure is not upon us at the moment. Of course we don't intend to stay inside a church working for nothing for the rest of our lives celebrities or not for the next year that we will be able to to pay the actors and we're planning now another summer season at the church where the actors will get paid. That brings me to a quick question I would like to throw at all of you. Do you feel you've had the opportunity and the chance to assess your real value your real worth of working in situations such as you do where there is no paid admission and where if you had to compete with all of the Broadway admission prices for a
theater seat do you think you would come off as you have. Do you think you would survive do you think you would be able to compete with this existing theater climate bill. Gee I think let me say that there are as many different personal reasons for working in. Fields such as this as there are people probably. I've have known. Many writers many painters many musicians people in the arts over the years and I find that there are a very large number of them who are far more concerned with developing their art than they are with. The financial problems of living we live in a time Dick when it is not difficult to come by enough money to live on it. We have such a tightening as much of the Washington of experts and we
have 10 million starving individuals on trial that I was and I'm not I'm not referring to the people in Appalachia are the people in Harlem or any of the other underprivileged areas where there are very severe problems but. For most of us who did not grow up in that kind of an environment it is not really terribly difficult to make a living. I'm not saying that everybody is going to go out and make twenty five thousand or forty thousand a year or 50000 or any specific amount but the amount of money that is needed in order to live reasonably comfortably is not all that difficult to obtain for most people. I have known so many artists who have worked on their own supporting themselves not through grants not through the donations not through patronage of any kind but they work six months a year and then they write or paint or compose six months a year. I feel that there are a number of people in that category connected with Classic Stage Company they are
concerned more with the development of their art at those moment than they are with. Their development as members of the acquisitive middle class. Of course my question. More immediately concerned what you thought of your possibilities of existence in terms of the competition of the theatrical enterprises that are going on off Broadway where you have to contend yourself with finances where it's a realistic aspect of the theatrical existence not your social existence. But I mean you must pay press. You must pay for a theatre you must pay a rental you must charge an admission fee. And this was really my question based on the assessment of what you had seen the Classic Stage Company move from to its present moment. What is your at this point. What is your assessment of it. Do you feel that it already exists. I think that we are definitely moving toward a point when we can subsist financially on our own and I'm still ugly. And when I say subsist financially I mean that we
will be able to pay their people in the company. We will be able to eventually operate a theater where we pay rent on the theater and so forth. This takes time and we're trying to build up an interest in the public in New York in this kind of theater and specifically in us. While we build if we were now contending with the financial problems of paying a price stagehands rent on a theater we that would be our primary function would be trying to raise money for that and we would have to sacrifice the artistic principles that we're trying to fight for right now. Get off Broadway and more recently off Broadway has been considered by a large majority to be the lifeblood of the vitalism theater in this country. Where experimental ideas have been tried in some successful some not so successful among all of
these theaters. There are a number of viewpoints regarding actors and the need for training that actors should have and they range from the viewpoint that actors need no training at all or actors need a modicum of training or actors should have the Zen of training. Now you mentioned earlier that you would require to be a bachelor of arts degree. I take it in theatre. Why do you feel that. First of all the history of theatre is important for all first of all in the kind of place it would do and I don't want to announce to the company that our next selection is hard to find have them all look at me who wrote that. I think that they have to have a feeling and a knowledge of the kind of work that we're going to be doing right from the start and know that this is what they want to do most of the people have come to us because this is the kind of theater that they have
read about it they have. To some extent performed in this area in college and they know that this is the kind of thing that they want to do as opposed to the barefoot in the park on Broadway. And I'm not condemning that kind of drama or musical comedy or any of the other forms are just that this is an area of theater that we have all chosen and made a decision ourselves of what we want to do. And we only know this that this is what we want to do because we know about it something that comes off the top of our head. What other requisites would you require from an actor who wanted to belong to the Classic Stage one of them. Well at the moment he must not belong to equity that you guys have. Because of the problems we would have and we do. Unfortunately there is a showcase and workshop code in equity which covers most of the off off Broadway ventures where we've been really does not cover us. You could argue it was a build up mainly to protect the actors who are
working on new and experimental plays. Where as where if the production was successful the playwright or the director would benefit from it here that the actors in our company the ones who are benefiting from it most since the playwrights who already established what other training attributes personal attributes would you require of an actor I. You may not you may know what you're talking about if you can't use an Equity actor. Even if you wanted to. That's right but what do you require of your actors other than a bachelor. While I would like to see that they have done in the past in a resume that they have done some work in the area. Classic theater in the kinds of plays it were doing. I mean whether it was in university or regional theater or summer theater doesn't make much difference to me but they've had some background experience in this area and this way they will know that this is what they want to do. You said earlier that there is no place where an actor can receive training. I'm not home while training is another thing now.
They may have received a great deal of training in college or drama school or company somewhere else but it does not coincide with what I'm looking for. Therefore the kind of a retraining period into the concepts and techniques that we use at the Classic Stage Company and if we can say that there is that kind of concept in technique which can be definitely defined. I think that we ourselves where each production and put into each production with the kind of training and direction that is needed for that particular play lands as an actor or an assistant director with the governor. And you're still involved in your education. Have you been able to determine what it is that you would need to complete. To some degree your professional capacity in terms of your craft or acting. Well. I find that a lot a lot of the training I've
received at college works theoretically but is not very useful at all. Practically you know producing a play. In other words you can write all sorts of philosophies down on paper but when you try to put them on the stage and join audience this one idea or another idea just doesn't work. And I feel the greatest thing that I can do as an actor to complete my proficiency is to be in front of an audience first of all and develop a feeling for using an audience in the best way to show them what I'm trying to do. Well when you say theoretical ecology full of theory and no practice how does this spill over into what you're trying to do in other words what. Is the theory that you can't put into practice on the stage that you're receiving in college. Well largely where you for exist example in our
acting class where St. Stanislaus and his principles work very well in an acting class. But when you get on the stage you know they don't work very well in the aspect that he relies on spectacle and using your body to show an audience by doing things. And I believe that that him often delves into being phony on the stage and I have a suspicion that the audience can detect that to a certain degree. They may not be able to say oh I didn't see that but I think they can feel it and I think the greatest duty of the actor is to be sincere on the stage. Do you feel that you can. You can't be some serious utilizing Stanislavski technique regarding the doing rather than the thinking of an action. I well that's a tricky question.
Would you would you restate that. Well I gathered from what you said about Stanislavski that there was some one aspect of Stanislavski that you were being taught was to actually do the action rather than talk about or think the action and principally with your body. And I wondered whether And you said that seemed to be insincere and I wondered whether you were getting the correct Stanislavski training or whether I'm getting a mis interpretation from you or on what point you're trying to make so I ask you do why do you feel that's insincere. I feel it in here because I think that I have in fact heard in beauty that man is a person that you have to realize that emotions motivate the action and not the action motivate the emotions. This is no argument isn't it. I mean yes it is. It was a spring
from the lying theory. If you see a bear you. You are pregnant and you run. Or a bear that's coming at you you you you are frighten and then run but the other theory is that you see the bear you run and then become frightened. I love the feeling that you're frightened in round one oversimplification but. This is an interesting viewpoint from a young actor Lance and why I'm taking it up is because I see the dilemma that I talk about every week connected with American theater and the training of actors for it. There is so much confusion and it seems that it's unnecessary and you seem to be confused about. I say you seem to be about Stanislavski because I think most people agree that Stanislavski himself did nothing really more than to be the first one to codified. In print what an actor does automatically. And I think
possibly Stanislavski has been misinterpreted by American teachers. And I I just venture that as an addict I think what what's wrong with it has been factual. At any rate in the American training of actors is that they don't most of the drama schools are not connected with come with with working companies. The actors are given a tremendous amount of theory of thought. Move body movements start to some degree fencing or speech. But they have no place to put it into direct practice in front of an audience would be able to to experiment with it to feel the effects of what all of this training is being aimed at. What is your viewpoint and hope out of some of the new organizations that have formed such as The New York University professional training school Yale University is active drum and re whole reorganization I should say under Robert Bruce Dean. Do you see these as
the organizations implementing what would be or what is the ideal for theatre training in this country. Yes and no I think on paper Ideally this is what we've been looking for and I think that Bruce has been much more successful to this date than NYU has and I know more about NYU having been there but not connected with the professional school. It was a teaching fellow in the educational theater department. The climate that's created at NYU professional theater school is one of complete idealism. They are given the kind of confidence because they were accepted as students there that they were the best possible students that could ever be accepted at a school like this. They are the training is removed into if you are studying acting you major in acting you never touch a hammer. You never touch a lighting. You never touch a broom you never go near a needle and thread and you. Driven into an area of
just acting or just seen design there is no interlocking of interest. I think that a young person has to find his where he belongs in theater and he can only do this by being exposed a great deal to all of the elements of production because theater is not just acting it's not just scene design is too much in this country of separating all of the elements. Theatre is a combined effort of the of the box office staff of the backstage staff of the actors of the director of the costume designers. It's a unit that should produce the play for the production not the individuals. When I think that many of these schools specializing themselves too much to the point where the young actors are left that after four years. They get out of the school and they think you know because I went through four years at NYU professional school and I now got an A in all my courses that I am now the greatest actor that ever came down the pike and then where do you go for work unless they place you were just out on the town like everyone else I'm going to be hanging on the doors. Yes and you're left nowhere. Now if you go to a
company and say yes but we also need an assistant stage manager when I have no experience in stage managing. Well I'm sorry I will take the actor who's not quite as good because he has at least that experience and he can be of more use to us. Now for the past few minutes we've been talking about what is primarily an internal matter. In terms of actors and training but let's focus this to the guy who pays his 350 550 wherever your going goes as far as 10 15 under the table I guess it goes up to 20 dollars to go see a production. What is this to him or he to you that anyone should weep for any of this. In other words what I'm asking is what what does the man who goes to the who goes to the theater. What is he expected to feel and what is he expected to do. He doesn't concern himself with these problems. I mean these are problems that actors and ultimately indirectly society is faced with if
we want a viable art if we want some inspirational art performing arts that is and it could be a great force in the life experience of individuals who go to the theater rather than just a palliative for the moment of three hours. What is he to do and how is he to react. For example when it comes to see the cavern is his is he going to say to himself Well this company the Classic Stage Company is here trying to get its foot on the ground trying to perpetuate an idea and trying to present something that's meaningful and worthwhile. What do you think the average person thinks about when he goes to the theater. Well this is difficult to say especially in New York City where you have so many people go to the. Very many people there are that many reasons for their going to the theater. The person who pays $20 out of the table to get seats to Hello Dolly is not I don't think is the kind of person who is going to give
out a dollar to a Man and Superman I really don't but I bring it to another aspect of money lately. Has been great interest and concern about business and the arts and government in the arts and I think Bill SNOW You mentioned earlier subsidies and grants in such a way as to give me the impression that you would not be interested in grants or subsidies from foundations or the government or would you. However did I manage to mislead you that far. Well. I had the impression that you said the Classic Stage Company was operating without the benefit of grants and. Well let me ask you the question now all of you. Do you approve generally of subsidies grants donated to companies for their perpetuation. Well I don't well I don't it's not a question of approving or disapproving of grants. Unfortunately I'm in the financial straits of the theatre it's the only way to exist on a large scale
by having grants. This is true. JP age truly considers true of almost all the major Repertory Theatre. Well there's now something wrong with the ratio of interest and performance that I've put on I what I'm getting at. Should it be a buyer and sellers market. Why should it have to be supported. Oh I think we have a complex enough economy to have all sorts of experiences and data. I've read he has no right supports Broadway Broadway so what itself. Broadway supports itself and is always all bankrupt every week as well as certain cases. Let me say that as a result of the fact that it has to support itself there are many things which can be artistically valuable which you cannot offer the public for the simple reason that it must support itself it must always aim at the bankroll and this causes.
A great restriction on the kinds of things that can be done on Broadway that is one of the major reasons for all of the experimental activity off-Broadway off off Broadway today. Broadway cannot do that kind of experimenting. It's not really much a cab and was not produced on Broadway because of the type of play that it is and it would not be at this moment the the time is not right for that kind of a play and this is why they have it did not hold back to a Broadway production in and gave it to an off off Broadway group who would present an experimental production of it. Not that I'm shying trying to chase the Classic Stage Company out of town but what prompts this question is there's a great deal of interest and indeed a favorable climate in outside of the New York area and rebirth or I should say a rebirth of regional theatre. Why would you stay here in Manhattan in this crowded city where all of the attempts are made
and an easy question to answer. First of all let's to take Harvard for example. There is only one professional theater and Hartford once the Hartford Stage Company. If they produce the worst drama in the world of anyone in Hartford was interested in live theater that would be the only place nearby that they could go to see it. Doesn't really matter what the caliber of the work is. The theater can exist in outside of New York with it. There is no competition between companies. What about Michigan. Minneapolis Texas. All of these regional outposts where they are would be appreciated for what it is. Well I would say that it does not interest us so much to leave New York because we feel that there is a greater amount of interest in New York for the kind of food we want to do. At present the only company in New York and to some extent Lincoln Center because they don't operate on a repertory bases
is the only place where people can see this kind of theater. You can trace the theatrical and the historical elements of theater can see a play like the cherry orchard done in a good production. Do you think is a good repertory company. You're putting me on the spot. Well the theater is on the spot and that's why we're talking about it. However I will say this I disagree with their policy of bringing people in for production die. I'm one of those who agrees firmly in a permanent company which makes no alterations when they choose a new play. If they cannot do it with the people who are already in the company they should not do that play. And yet you do the same thing and without comparison it will be OK. Still building a company and I try to every time I get a new actor I'm trying to see if I can work him into everything else and new actor came in last week. He is now taking over for roles. Are you aiming for a repertory company again as we are already running in repertory with Man and Superman in the cavern and 903 open with part 2 for all three shows will be running simultaneously.
Well your next production after the cabin will be hard to see and how long do you run these players. What's the running. Well we'll go in the experimental bases when we did Hamlet we did six performances over two weekends and we did man in Superman originally we did nine performances over two weeks. The cavern was scheduled for nine over four weeks with insertions of two performances of Man and Superman in the middle. We found out that the interest is still there for Man and Superman and every time we stop performing it we get hoards of calls of people who still want to see it because they heard about it or they're anxious to see the play in its entirety. So at present we've been performing each show for nine performances. We schedule it for nine to see how well it will do if the reaction is good. We continue it as we have done with Man and Superman. Well I think at this point I'd like to make a little announcement we've been talking about Shakespeare a great deal and I for the benefit of our listeners and all of you here I hope you will
tune in on your dial during the birth week of Shakespeare which will start here at WNYC April 21st through the twenty seventh that which time will have the leading personalities figures drama schools university departments etc all. Talking about or acting scenes from Shakespeare throughout the whole week and perhaps we'll get an even larger viewpoint in the meantime I want to thank you Christopher Martin the artistic director of Classic Stage Company Bill snow the general manager and Lance brilliant team the assistant director an actor with the company for joining us on seminars and theater and giving us an idea of the growing pains of. A company devoted to idealism and art in the theater. 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 19 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 Classic Stage Company. Bill Snow, general manager; Christopher Martin, artistic director.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:13
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 19 of 31,” 1968-05-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
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