thumbnail of Seminars in theatre; Episode 25 of 31
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
Knowledge is overall artistic purpose and goal. These overall objectives sometimes may find themselves defeated by the internal problems internal technical problems such as one might find in a situation that while in real life we would find real blood and we would find real tears and real everything and we would say the consequences such in life is very disgusting because we have to witness these things but on stage there is another problem and that is only an answer to what you raised. But AAP. Do you know the reason I smile this that I took my little boy who is 6 years old to see a man for all seasons. And I told him the story in advance. That said Thomas you know and ultimately the final thing that Thomas Moore is beheaded at which point his eyes lit up that there was going to be blood. And every every three minutes during this very much I thought was a very interesting fellow. He was saying when and when are we going to see the blood and finally when
it came the moment in the film which you don't actually see the blood he was he was satisfied because the emotional moment was true. You know the words you saw the blade you saw the man with a black hood. So Thomas Moore was head on the block and black and then the blade going up and then black out and then thump. Exactly. Well so you didn't have to see them as well that's I mean that's where the one calls that taste proper theatrically at work because it was more effective to my six year old mind and mind than if I had been presented with the blood seeing his head fall off the blood come out of the top of his neck etc. you know this conveyed it but it conveyed it in a subliminal way which left
it open for the audience to conjure up in their mind depending upon. Their interest in these kind of things the blood the nature of the blood how it spurted out of Sadr and so forth there you know now having this theatrical effectiveness I remind me of the opening of the Janata and I was I must say that is one of the most effective utilizations of the stage. The physical stage capacity that you have absolutely beautiful I can certainly be free enough to say that and yet you say it loud and clear. You know it really is hard. The embankment and the wedding of the actor in the lights coming up very very gradually had tremendous tremendous effect. What did it make you feel. I looked rather than it being visually very handsome.
I got I got a feeling of distance I got a feeling of perspective. And I but I did you get a feeling of stillness. I did get a feeling of so that's the most important one to have because that's what the whole play is and I mean that's the motivating force of the play. The fact that the army is sunk in the sand there and cannot sail for lack of wind. Well it is that stillness in speaking of stillness. This is something that was not predominant in the production and this leads me to a question to ask. Ask you a question about the difficulties of a three quarter round stage but we realize that the audience is all three sides which means that an actor cannot remain stationary for very long at any one point otherwise that $5 60 member will only see his back. This seems to have created and I may be wrong on this but as an audience member seems to have
created a great deal of unmotivated movement horizontally and vertically. I had the feeling that they actors had no place to go in their arguments except up and dial and sometimes diagonally around but of who or where else would you suggest it how to where to go so might as how they go there. Well yes and this was a big. To me this was a big flaw in the production. It caused a kind of mechanical movement to and fro and I felt that the movement was simply not borne out of the emotion or the anger but simply had to keep moving. Do you feel that a three quarter stage does present the complexities and difficulties of this kind. Well I mean. The question of the audience being able to see of course paramount question.
It's the way it can be solved. You know in various ways I think the best way obviously for it to be solved is that they when when the emotion requires them to move and then certain times that they simply have to move because they are in fact blocking somebody. We tried to accomplish those and I think that if you study the movement on the plane you'd find that it is in fact proper to the emotional the movement per se is proper to the emotional conflict that's happening at the moment for the individual actor or the actor playing a scene with the other person. If it appears to be arbitrary that I think is a problem that I believe is a problem of the actor not filling the movie
with the emotion and at the that's a I think that that's an act of yeah or a directorial while. I think it's an act of faith to do that I think is the actor's responsibility to fill what he does on a stage because of that. An actor is not a puppet noisy nor is he a dope. But if you have a name you know Arnold the director I mean the play is the play is the play is a complex play but it's a very direct play and the play says what it means. I mean the words say specifically what it means. It's just a matter of analyzing what you're saying. Understanding not even analyzing analyzing is too complex just to understand what you're saying and fill it. That brings us to speech and the ability to handle verbs.
They do go to the confrontation scene with you. They're the speech. Else just you mean the final scene with after John. Yes. The speech there was at its most eloquent and at its most natural who without being contemporary that I found the speech. And this is a problem in American theatre and people about it day in and day out and here in this in your production I don't think it was. I don't think it was as a problem just for the sake of a word it has badly handled badly handled. There was going to say. Because I might such a dangerous ground here I don't let it come out of my mouth. But I would say that it lacked variety and by Variety I mean the readings of the speech itself. Many of it seemed to have one big emotion rather than individual
moments and it all gets back to the same thing. Dick if the reprise wrote a marvelous play it is not all one of motion for any character. They go through innumerable emotional possibilities. It's wide open. Along the lines of the play for the actor to fill it if the if it's boring to you as an audience of particular segments of it. Because the emotion is all the same that's an act that is an act that isn't acting for you. And that is I mean that's the song The point is you have an audience. I mean you say that it's an acting failure is that it you just throw up your hands you let it drop there that's no we weren't on those problems you know those are continuous problems that where as I said earlier that actors you know are human and they get into.
Traps they forget to think when there becomes by rote in certain circumstances something comes out inexplicably and emotion is wrong. All of that has to be has to be continually guided and shaped and there's no actor's career guidance when they're playing because they themselves lose center. They themselves lose the ability to hold on to what they are about and they constantly need to be this to be pointed out. When we do that I do that. What would a Greek play be without a Greek chorus. And you have a chorus in well I missed lol. Robert Long has written adapted Greek plays without worry that was just a way of getting into the chorus to know that you have. There again this chorus. We always have to qualify I should qualify when I talk about the level that I'm talking
about it the chorus was it was good. The closeness again you know the chorus made some of their movements and some of their sound sounds a bit awkward a bit a bit contrived that you felt if if there was nothing to do to achieve variety in these movements then nothing should have been done. On the other hand it would have remained static not to have them move in some which way. But the chorus and I don't know about that I mean them interesting. That's an interesting point I don't know that anybody on stage a group or individual actors have to move just to make it interesting. I mean I think it always has to be related to the truthful emotion and if it is excessive. I mean if in your opinion it's excessive then it's then it's not will in effect what you're saying is it is not true.
Yes that's that's I mean that's a valid criticism for you to make I mean I don't think that I don't feel that everything is 100 percent in everything that I do. Well the only thing with a chorus is you have a collective conscious and as a collective consciousness you're bound to have it. Physical differentiations been working with a chorus so the chorus the movement of a chorus has to be delicately handled and wisely motivated Otherwise it looks like the fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream scampering around the ground my fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream Did you see I know I didn't know that Suarez was a really radical departure of what I know. Well whatever go ahead. Would you mind rephrasing. Yeah yeah the point I'm making is the chorus seem to be completely unmotivated except for a few moments here and there where they had some way to go. Well I'd had the chorus and this particular play is a very difficult I mean the function of the chorus and if a denial or if Again
your way which is French. Oh it is yes. There is a very difficult problem to solve in so far as there are a function the very a they're in and out I mean they are with they are against the horror that has to take place. Sacrifice I mean if again you they are with it. They comment on it they tell against it. It's the as I say it's very difficult to solve that problem and I don't I don't think that we have solved it 100 percent and I think that we have solved to a great extent. And these. These plays need doing. I mean they need they need more.
All of the Greek plays need to be done and the American society because they are great and they're some They're simple and they are great because they deal with basic human emotions that we are still confronted with basic human problems and the to find the perfect way to do any particular Palais is very much the question of each individual's interpretation and we will learn from doing. We don't know. To us that's to more than a body else has done because the good doesn't always have to be talked about. And that's one of the. Really good things about this conversation and they the frankness I mean the real candor in which you are holding a real conversation about the play I think is worth more than all the accolades that you deservedly could receive above about other factors
when I was the reason I talk about it with you in this way is that we critically read the papers you read the reviews and critics never bring up these matters they think you know that's not true dick actually. I mean we have had marvelous reviews and we've had some reviews that were not Miles I mean the theater should not be all just great. I mean that I mean you know the words that everybody if everybody likes something something's wrong probably agree with O'Neill 100 percent completely that he with his success he knew that he was beginning to become a failure. But that's very that's a very pessimistic outlook and it means that if you strive for the ideal and you somehow or other reach it it's failure. Well there should never be one should never reach the idea when one one and as Mr. O'Neill said when one reaches the ideal you're dead.
Yes I saw him that is the only piece is the constant striving which is what you're doing. You must always try it. You have have to always try to do something better. I mean you must always try to improve. I mean that's that is life and the human behavior trying to improve your relationship with trying to pull down your own restrictions your own inability to communicate. You should constantly be trying to expand yourself in your professional body. Going deeper into what you do and seeking perhaps new outlets within your profession or even a new profession but man cannot be static man as Mr. O'Neill has said must have a dream. He must drive for something even though as in The Iceman Cometh it was a pipe dream.
It still was that they needed that dream when that dream was taken away from them. They died. They ceased to exist. Moving into other areas in our final five minutes. What is your reaction to what I read just today regarding a proposed plan to subsidize shows that open long enough for them to get a job. Yeah you know this is and this was only for Broadway I think wasn't it not they didn't mention off pretty much. But what is your reaction to that you think. Lenny I mean I would make a broad comment that anything that is done to encourage the production of better quality plays is good but does that encourage the well whether that the mechanism of that and as they said in the statement in the papers that there. I mean I got the impression that they were open to what the mechanism would be. So I mean one can comment till one sees an effect and in reality
how they hope to accomplish that. I mean it's you know the Unfortunately the audience's eyes. It's true human behavior they want to go to successes so that there is a detriment. There is a negative aspect I mean Mr. Jones Mr. Mrs. Jones will be less anxious to go to a play that they if it's come to their consciousness that it is being discounted they say well that's not so much of a success. You know that's that is human. So somehow the mechanism has to be worked out that it is subtle. It helps the plays because that's a very important factor and does not deter Mr. or Mrs. Jones. What do we have to look forward to. And other than the beard seems to be in addition in the way of your next production I assume that always will be running for
a while. Are you in the birth pangs of a new production at the moment well actually I'm doing directing Hogans goat by William Alford and Boston on March 7. That I'm just being hired as a director of the show. And after that the next production circle in the square will be O'Neal's moon for the Misbegotten So that's an interesting production. I mean that's an interesting play and I don't think it I don't know it's been done here in New York in the past 20. No no it was done actually in the same year that we were doing a long day's journey. It was done with French town and Wendy Hiller at the theater. Well that's going to be quite something look forward to I think there was but that is now 10. It was 1958 so that's 10 years ago. But the night I saw it you know it was Jacqueline
Kennedy was in the audience and have to be sitting right next to me and it. Occurred to me that the only place that Jacqueline Kennedy could see a great classic was to come down into the throes of the village which is there's nothing wrong with the rules of the village but it said something about the theatre to me at that time that you are continually making available not only to personages of Jacqueline Kennedy's note but in the general public and also are you still maintaining this kind of close connection with students. You had a very interesting student. Yes I was progress to the very large student program and you know young we were still running the school. But not only your at your school there where you're training but are we sense good shows out knowledge as every year is there but isn't there
an availability that you are making to students to come to the theater to take a look at the stage and to talk about all of that we're always that we're always available to do as long as it's supervised by a teacher and they'll let us know in advance. We we do quite a bit of that and we try Also when there's a student group if they're interested we talk with them afterwards have a few actors and talk with them. You were once going to initiate a lecture series or a lecture type I think a kind of community connected lecture series with the environment in which is located in which the world concerns itself. Did you ever that ever put work out. No I don't. You were going to have electricity I don't mean that of this is it I thought oh a Ciro I know what you mean yes I was planning on a number of years ago we had done the
readings we had done very various things on Monday nights of for example Tennessee Williams read an unpublished play and author Miller delivered a speech and Lillian Hellman discussed one of her plays and Dylan Thomas read from his his own poems in Shakespeare. And we had an opera unproduced opera a workshop production of that opera done there and we were interested in doing that again. However it's it requires the energies of a particular individual. I myself don't I don't seem to have the time to do that and I need to have somebody who would go out and. Bring you know encourage people of interesting literary music ability to do this. If you were to talk to the heads of drama departments in colleges
what would be your brief advice in terms of what do you think should be the most important thing stressed in training actors in a university situation. Well I think it seems to me that the greater the higher the higher the material that you work on the higher the level of material that you work on. Name Veyron for that material the better the theatre is generally. In other words. The Royal Shakespeare in London does Shakespeare it does Ben Jonson etc. It also does new plays. The type of new play is very much influenced by the type of major productions that they do classic productions that they do. Similarly for a school
that from the point of view of training for students is much greater advantage to train them in Shakespeare or Greeks. Than it is to train them and hatful of rain. Although I mean had full of rain or Cactus Flower etc may lead to an employment of a particular sort. In television and cetera. It will not lead to art but the idea and the theory behind it being that if you can truly perform Shakespeare if you can truly play Mozart then you can truly do anything that is less than that. Well I actually want if you do that you won't want to do anything. Or at least do you if you do you will instill it with all the qualities that is usually not founded. Well one other question and this concerns your music endeavors. By the way may I ask you a question. We're talking about
the speech in classical plies in Maine and as you said quote mostly they were badly done. Yes in America has there have you ever seen outside of your own before. Have you ever seen or rather heard a performance of a classic done in a way in which you felt that it was in fact valid. Not told by an American comes not totally Only individual. For example in your company that is the young man that comes to save his speech is quite good and when he first walks on the stage you say to yourself Well here is someone who can handle this beat and here's one who's going to do something. But ultimately what happens he remains. And I should say this quickly at the end because there's no chance for you to really say anything but his speech was very good is just that he the speech handled
him and he didn't handle the speech. But. Well I mean I would say yes but what give me an example of another I mean if you can. Well I mean you just generally want to make the statement that yes you've seen some some I would rather have 10 seconds here. I think I was. But I can say generally no only individual not elected leader I'm totally Well you know the reason for that is that in the American theater we have had a paucity of exposure and work on classics. One cannot expect. And I certainly don't expect it. The familiarity and the ability to handle language when one doesn't work in it. You know so that there's a lot more there's a greater answer to what you're posing than we have time for and perhaps another time we can take a speech along with some speech experts. But thank you Ted for engaging in a very real conversation about it tonight.
In all this. Thank you. 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.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 25 of 31
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-zc7rsr8x).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3231. This prog.: Ted Mann, co-founder of Circle in the Square Theatre.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-25 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:37
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 25 of 31,” 1968-06-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 25 of 31.” 1968-06-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Seminars in theatre; Episode 25 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