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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 Platt. Good evening welcome to seminars and theatre. This is Dick pie as your moderator and this is the second of a series of conversations with the powers to be for the powers that are behind circle in the square namely. Our guest this evening Theodore D-man artistic director of circle in the square. Julian Walker play and script advisor. And we have two new voices this evening. John W. then director of the circle in the Square theater school Mr. Penn is a graduate of Harvard University's served as production stage manager for 12 New York Shakespeare Festival Productions. And by our fellow and Trojan woman for circle in the square and in the musical field he
performed the same office with two years and temps and for dance companies such as the dollar and the Cale Dance Company the Robert Joffrey Ballet and the Rebekah Harkness or Rebecca Harkness dance festival. He's directed such plays as Uncle Vanya across the board tomorrow morning by surviving the purification by Williams and riders to the sea of seeing. And our fourth guest is Nicos up with us and he is the with the Circle Theatre School faculty. He conducts the acting and directing classes and Mr.. Background includes teaching directing at the Graduate School of Drama Gael University. He's taught at Columbia University Amherst and Williams College. He's directed on Broadway for the play of the week the New York City Center opera company and is the stage director for The New York prom was a good
production. The play of Daniel in the play of Herod was just like Robert was directing work has been seen at this political festival of two worlds and he did it in ARCEO festival of Paris. He also teaches three acting and directing courses in the New York circle and a square professional theater school. So with our introductions over we don't have to say tonight I guess as the end of the problem. Well it makes the only one that doesn't have any educational background interesting enough as Julian will know exactly how much you know about fear about an accent so I said well we ended up talking about Repertory Theatre and one of the clear premises that came through to me from that as we concluded it was your feeling that we don't need Repertory Theatre or if we do have Repertory Theatre it should be undertaken on a national governmental scale because of the vast amount of money and resources involved.
Is this correct I well know. I'm glad to see that we go now we have somewhere to go and I think that with the difficulty with repertory here as superimposing repertory I given situation superimposing it on a building that repertory can only come to exist because the people on both sides of the operation both the management and the actors want it and are prepared to make a commitment to that. It's one thing to say one wants something and it's still one thing this even signed a contract to that effect but it's quite another to be able to make a personally independent commitment to such a set up and aware and one can only come to realize that on the basis of experience with people after a certain period of time of working with people one.
He likes to continue to work with them or never want to see him again. At least in the theater these extremes seem to operate so that a repertory system has to develop their repertory company must develop over a long period of experience amongst people. And so that then it can be affirmative Otherwise I think that as I said before it's what they call edifice. That if as a repertory complex one must have a repertory repertory is good. We've been at it for over 15 or 20 years I mean various individuals and groups whose intent and primary purpose was to have a repertory company. You've been circulating with a circle in the square for expression 15 years. There is no repertory theatre except at this point it seems that the use of producing artists have come up with a repertory company of some note.
No I think what is it what is it you mean by superimposing repertory company on a building. Very well I mean one things mediately in terms of the Lincoln Center Vivian Belmont theater which was a theater built to house a repertory company that didn't exist. And then various people went about accumulating a company. This cannot happen overnight. It's a long laborious process I'm sure that the various companies that exist in other countries notably the company from say in Olivier's company are all people that that those companies came together because those people that work for long periods in different plays under different management under different affirmative or adverse conditions and decided that for better or for worse they wanted to be married together in repertory at least for a two or three year period. But isn't it also to have a live yank on the name and the Comedie Francaise much more flexible than the even something like the API and certainly the idea of the consent of
the rock I suppose and the national company I have a roster of guest artists which will be 50 or 60 actors and they come in for one production and I believe and though isn't this there are some actors who act most of the time but I think that they are the really best actors and also the comedy come in for want to put on missions do something else come back and so I think we've been much more rigid in our idea of repertory than any of the great European companies with the exception probably of the Moscow Art field and there's nowhere else for them to cover so I haven't got as many alternatives as our actors have this might be a more feasible kind of repertory company to pull out having your very own loose association of things that embalm a response to that would be that they have had various guest artists had to have the limited chorus they had to Anthony Quayle kind of thing well I think something that should be carved out about Lincoln Center to a small degree of is that they don't advertise themselves as having a repertory company simply have name
themselves a repertory theatre which seems to be some difference. I just want to bring it back to circle in the square. What if. Would you care to have a repertory theatre in circle in the square. Well possibly have. I think that the financial limitations of the size of the theater the number of dollars that it can take you know we couldn't possibly adequately pay an actor and then your salary sufficient to make for him to make a commitment I mean actors do have families homes some of them even have cars and they must be fed all of these things must be financed there so the circle facilities don't allow that it would need to have a subsidization in in some form if one could get over that hurdle then I would I think I could begin to consider it but at this point with a small seating capacity it's it's an impossibility. Mr
Sangma was one. Right now I think what you suggested is a wonderful idea because you you have a connection with some 50 or 60 people and you do not keep all these actors and designers on the payroll but you involve them only for the plays that are right. That presupposes that these people have worked together as you said in various productions so you don't start from an idea that we're going to do repertory because repertory is desperately needed repertory is not desperately needed and I think a deal of it is. The trouble starts from people taking the building and creating trying to create the demand rather than a step said growing together. Now I think a good Repertory Theatre presupposes that you are you know all people you have a pool of people and that you use them in various roles during the
year and that the commitment there for is a yearly or seasonal. Commitment and that the next year you introduce two or three new people and the year after that you go back to some of the people I think this is very very healthy. Like you said something about the mass choir theatre Well I think my main criticism of them when they came here is that they had played together so many times that they were really bored with each other and they knew what each other was going to do so well. Therefore you reached a point of boredom. Occasionally because of this fantastic awareness so being aware of each other for the actors and the directors and the designers is very important and this endgame is very important to to stimulate them now and then back on two or three completely new people every year by having people go away from your company. And I think that this is
my. Criticism or something like you know what I feel that really productive work that they have done has been very exciting. Been good to play together these things and it's wonderful to watch it. There's a sense of ease about playing but it is not a completely creative fulfillment. It seems to me that in answer to your question whether I would be interested in repertoire I would rather the circle know where I would be interested. I would be if I felt that by virtue of a collection of people maybe a very large group of people that one could do better things in a particular area than one has been doing then and they would therefore be a virtue but I mean just repertory for repertory sake is not sufficient I mean I do. I'm not dedicated to the notion that there must in order for there to be good theatre there must be
repertory. One of the prevailing thoughts. Follow the idea of Repertory Theatre seems here is that if we had a repertory theater we meaning American theatre had a very good Repertory Theatre we as a nation would be able to have representative actors developed in training by virtue of having worked together and on some of the do the classics. It seems that the classics are associated with a repertory theatre for some reason or rather only because they generally and the repertory How is it I don't really this is this is seems to be because it is their native their generally their native place I mean the Royal Shakespeare Company does Shakespeare very well and Conversely sometimes in Moscow at the end I haven't seen Leonardo camps in this country are basically classical companies any attempts at repertory that have been made.
They gravitate towards classical scrap because there seems to be the reason for representing then the moment that seems. That's why we seem to want repertory theatre here not to put on plays or not to really to put on contemporary plays so much as to develop what the. I do know is that we would by having repertory company pave the way and have the kind of seed bed for developing actors to the degree that they can perform the class it was this was why I brought it back to sort of the square and want to know whether you were interested in a repertory company for any of these reasons which I think you've answered. I like to do the I like to do great plays naturally but I like I feel I don't want to be limited in any way such as a company would limit me by providing room I would have to provide roles of rotating sort of system for some of the actors. There's so much talent in New York that it's a great would be it seems to me a great pity to restrict oneself the virtue of repertory because being supposedly that when a group plays together that
something great grand sad happens. I frankly have never I have never seen that I've seen even in the Royal Shakespeare Company some great individual performers. But the overall coordination that has made for great theater I have seen greater theater where has been done an individual produced play basis I think and I think also a great deal has to do that it is not just the repertory that creates the classic theatre. It is the training that creates the classics. When we say something that we have seen in England or in France or in any country or great theater that we have seen at the Lincoln Center we have to realize that these people are trained for a long long time before they appear not just by performing. By working in with good directors by working with good teachers
and unfortunately I think a great many of the younger people here are not willing to go through the rigid training training that a dancer goes through the training that violinist. I think they would be Mr. Sack Rob listen if there was such a program available to them and I'm glad you brought that up because I want to bring in what the circle in the Square theater school does and just why it's in existence but want to come a few weeks back the start of the great furor with his article entitled bring on the British beer and the joys of going to read took it up and a letter of this but it seems that the both of you are both of them both extremely confused you know world. But the world has been on here just for the last two or three weeks. All the people that certainly get their beginning their training
at the Internet know that if they sell it at the ready when they went there and that's where the commitment there is out most of the time mediocre so that I would say. That that when you say classic theater number one what do you mean by classic theater number two. Why should the classic theater of England or the classic theatre of France. Why do we have to repeat here this particular classic. I think if you do a Neil here you should consider him a classic writer. I mean why would everybody chase the phantom of doing restoration planning. Or the servant of two masters or things that are really as doodling exercises in a style which is foreign to not only to our two people here but also to to the viewer and I think I just think that everybody is just trying desperately to make this an
image taken theater rather than go back to the witch with the exception of this one a few times at their government a dead man that dead men trying to find what is classic for the for an American audience so I designed the arms which is a classic play like summoners mobs another example another example of a confused story that we seem to be an inferior because you brilliantly put forth ideas about what are the misconceptions of classics. And yet there are many people here involved in theater who do not want to imitate the classics of Europe or anyplace else but they want to develop what would be a standard of excellence for American actors in wanting to put on Shakespeare and wanting to put on a movie or any of these plays without imitating. Yet there is no there is no bad hero of instruction there is no place where an actor can get a totally involved training program that you mentioned earlier. But then even if he really is and there are places where not good actors can go
to various schools and anthologized and become excellent. But then the point is how many producers have had the carriage and how many directors to tackle material that it is controversial that people might not like them very very few people. So either they go completely wild and do things that nobody wants to see then they blame it on the audience. They are always underestimating the audience because I think there are just playing it safe and say well if only Mike Nichols would do this every night maybe this gives somebody says Well I think Ghost takes it over. We have a kid IMG-R champion takes it all the way here here or there for refer to material that needs help and needs help. But I guess bitterly but I think that is proven by doing things like the Georgian women would expect that the Georgian government would be a hit in this country and designed the OEM's and things like that and that people want to see these.
This isn't a mandate but I've got it I don't want to say it is more or seems to be more than a producer and I've said this to him on other occasions because I really believe that the more I hear about his activities and the more I hear about the expansion of them and one of them is the organist we're isn't interested in being a repertory company yet it has a theatre school and what as a producer why are you interested in having a school on your premises or. The one in one of the marvelous things about the theatre or any art medium is the fact that the people as they gain experience will want to pass that along to the young people I mean the only royalty that exists in the theater is the person with the talent that is well trained. And basically that's the way I feel of why a school I mean there are other more mundane and I consider financial considerations but basically I felt that it was important that the circle gather together a faculty that could pass along what we have.
And how do our experience along as your school than our school has been in existence I think seven or eight years and eight years young and John Fenton is the director of a school and I want to find out. John just what how did you organize the school. No no I've only been with the school for about a year now but we've extended it and developed some new areas you know in it. I think the problem part of the reason for the school also is to develop the kind of roots in terms of personnel that will ultimately feed our productions in our work in the theater. I think it's the same the same problem in establishing a repertory company. You can't do it out of the air. At least now if you can develop a school or a group of people working together in a theater plant
in a producing organization you get the seeds of what can be done later on. Do you draw on the students for productions that circle in the square or not. I can't say specifically right now. We we are building towards that well actually running out of the action and many students have been what they are doing in the companies already. I mean I don't think I think the question was do we take a total production from the schooling and do it. No not at all which I don't I don't I don't think I'm going to draw on some of the students out of whom seem to have so are a student body is actually made up of a great number of professional actors who are in fact in other shows and therefore cannot be hired by us. But we have I mean another aspect of the reason for the school is a readily available pool of talent on all levels on a technical level on an acting level and we have over the years used a great number of the people connected with the school and by virtue
of their coming in contact with the professional circumstance someone decided they'd like to stand the theatre and others have collapsed under the heat. It is the responsibility you have many students with a background of college where they majored in dramatic arts for example and now they are coming to another school. I think so. With the largest percentage of our students are college graduates I would think and have had training in one area or another. But we have a rather wide spread we have a teenage program which introduces students to the theatre and then as Ted said some of our more advanced acting classes are largely made up of working professional actors who are appearing in shows. Your experience as a as the director of the school and from your as much as I grew up with us as teaching acting and directing what do you feel is
the. Great chasm great lack in these students that have been to college have majored in dramatic art in an accredited university or college. And now are coming to your school the man schools are who Square theater school. What do they hope to achieve now is it just a place where they can develop like the Actors Studio where they can have some kind of in rehearsal area. What is the major problem. Well the major problem is that I think most of the timings are they are schools colleges or universities they have learned to interpret the play they be given the description of the painting rather than technique to do a painting. Yes and I think that the work we are trying to do the circle by combining this by having directors work with actors by having the art actors really give a showcase performance for an audience and for their classmates is we're
trying to bridge the difference between interpretation and actual performance and I create limitation on and I think that most of the time they have taken all this secondhand information which has been repeated and drilled almost in their heads by their English or speech instructors rather than anything else. And the main thing they do need is they need the acquaintance with a professional. That which the circle is taken they can watch him play. See some of the record stores and they can work with people who were directly involved with the theater rather than people who come to your Thanksgiving to catch the hits and then go back and talk about them or want to cover has been actually misinterpreted I don't think what he really meant was that actors American actors must learn the best techniques for their craft by observation alone and I think those are going to read has taken his confusion up and that they do when he gave examples of it which were
erroneous but what we seem to have in the in this in the milieu of training for actors has a title called or has a quotation around it called the method and the method is. We are identified with the method. There's no getting away from it. What are the various interpretations of the method. System R is something else but what would you say is the coloration of the training circle in the Square Theater. Is it so called method does it incorporate what we associate with method or is there a song. We define America. Yeah I'm with you I remember when I meant method has nothing to do unfortunately. Again it has been misinterpreted and let John talk about what is the overall philosophy of this school. But I think before that somebody had to clarify the word method because method is a way for the actor to
approach the material it has nothing to do with the capability or the range of the act or to perform the material. It just makes it when what is unfortunately a method now has become a ward for all the mannerisms from pseudo method people really rather than saying a way of examining the material and that if it is Shakespeare you end up with Shakespeare if it is a Greek tragedy you end up with a Greek tragedy it is a restoration play you end up with a restoration play for some strange reason everybody things that method means the realistic school of drama that we all have been exposed to. But you can do anything. And and. Use the method I think every single good activity is a method actor I think find all the wonderful English actors and method actors.
The only thing they do is that they don't stop there. It's just like tuning an instrument you tune the instrument to play the melody. Unfortunately a great many of our people think that tuning an instrument is sufficient. Great many of the manhood people. And so you hear just two hours of tuning other than you know. Well then we'll take the method away from sort of a Square Theater and come closer to what goes on a circle square theater. Many of the acting schools here in New York City. Desire in the scene study classes seems to be to have an actor experience for himself an internal emotional feeling so sufficiently enough for him to identify and associate some emotional condition with some intellectual evaluation
or appraisal of it. And once this is achieved the actor is a stance ablate a successful whether the audience receives that imitation or not so bad and good. This is dwelled upon though in the act and this is this is hopefully it is told to the student that enough of this training a sufficient amount of this he will be able to tune his instrument to the degree that he can tune it up or himself and this and this will vibrate into the audience yet we know that this doesn't seem to be the case it doesn't seem to work. How do you approach it in your training class actors. The ability to communicate to an audience and what. What areas do your students find there.
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 12 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 John W. Finn and Julien Walker.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:58
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 12 of 31,” 1968-03-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 20, 2024,
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