From the theatrical notebooks of YRONE UTHRIE
“Montreal in 1929 —it all seemed very foreign and congenial to me”
IN 1929 I received an offer from the Canadian National Railways. It may seem odd that a railway company should make offers of theatrical employment. However, in Canada at this period, radio was operated by the two great railroads — the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific.
The head man of the Canadian National Railways’ radio department, Austin Weir, had decided to produce a series of scripts dealing in dramatic form with Canadian history. Merrill Denison had been engaged as author. Since, to date, Canada had no indigenous radio drama, it was decided to import a director from Britain.
I never heard why the election lighted on me.
Denison and Weir met me at the dockside in New York. Prohibition still reigned. 1 remember knocks at sundry dark doorways, and faces peering through grills. 1 remember the squealing consternation when 1 started to undress in the Pullman without pulling the frowsy, sage-green curtain of my "lower” in the night train for Montreal.
Montreal—this was thirty years ago—seemed,
to my untraveled eyes, everything that was romantic. I loved the intense cold out of doors and the intense heat indoors. Most British people find this trying; in my thick suits 1 certainly sweated, but the extravagant temperatures were all part of the fun. It was Christmas time and the lit trees, the masses of Bermuda lilies, the snow, the policemen in fur hats, the incense-laden gaiety of a predominantly, very consciously Catholic city, were all very "foreign,” and congenial.
I used to wander about the streets staring at the fascinating "types," so very unlike the inhabitants of Glasgow or Belfast, Oxford, Cambridge or Kensington. 1 ate in a little Czech café
and, for the first time, encountered peanut butter.
I walked on the Mountain — a real mountain, quite high, which sprouts up in the very centre of the city and provides it with a glorious playground. I wandered through w'intry cemeteries and read the names on the tombs — so many, like myself, Irish and Scottish — and felt a strong pleasure that, like them, I was bringing something of the old country w'ith me and would, God willing, take something of the New World home.
I read Maria Chapdelaine. I visited kind, dull cousins in Westmount — stronghold of well-off, empire-minded bourgeoisie. In Westmount they regard—or did then, no doubt they have reformed all that — the French - Canadians as "Natives,” make a point of mispronouncing French names—“Noter Dayme,
Plass Darms, Saint Dennis” — and, in gen-
eral, acting as if Boncy and his Frog-eaters were expected any moment to assail the White Cliffs. The French-Canadians, on their part, much more French than the inhabitants of metropolitan France, much more Catholic than the Vatican, extravagantly exemplified the sort of ideas about "foreigners” which were current in Tunbridge Wells anti Leamington Spa during the Boer War; were, in short, charming, volatile, unpunctual, “artistic” and inclined to smell of garlic.
1 lived at the "Y.” It was very central, very cheap and very clean. Each Saturday there appeared in my room the weekly issue of the House Mag. Its tone was so extravagantly hearty and chummy, so muscularly Christian, that I could hardly credit it was not meant to be funny. It addressed its readers as though we were members of some surrealist English Public School of the eighteen fifties, furiously hearty, desperately sinconscious, but thoroughbred. Yet the Young Fellows whom l met in the showers, in the elevator or at breakfast in the canteen, did not seem unduly hearty, sin-conscious or thoroughbred. Who, 1 wondered, attends the Informal Mixed Socials, the Indian Pow-Wows, the Quiet Chats, which, with grisly relish, the House Mag reported.
The Romance of Canada, as we called our series, must have been one of the first radio serials. For about twenty weeks we churned out a new historical episode every Tuesday, often with large casts and complicated “effects.” The Romance of Canada fell sick of a disease to which all serial undertakings are liable; the gradual exhaustion of the author. At the end of my contract, and as a sort of tip in addition to my salary. Weir arranged that I should travel right across Canada as a guest of the Canadian National Railways. It was a wonderful present. 1 left Canada thrilled by what I had seen, eager to return and eager to be. somehow, at some time, and in some way, a participant in the adventure of developing this land.
66At public school, the margarine teas rancid again. We rebelled”
I was sent to an English public school, called Wellington, in honor of the Iron Duke. The food was not good but my schooldays coincided with wartime so 1 think the school authorities were not to blame. In 1917 toward the end of the war there was a rebellion. The margarine—we hadn’t tasted butter for weeks — w'as rancid again. Everyone left his pat of margarine untasted.
The meal ended. Grace was said; and then, instead of filing out as usual, dormitory by dormitory, in alphabetical order, we stood; just stood, five hundred of us, each with his pat of margarine poised on his knife's end.
“What is the matter?” asked the master in charge.
It was our cue. In silence each of us flipped his margarine as high into the air as he could; many pats struck the ceiling with a soft, soul-satisfying, greasy thud. Then followed something which I shall never forget. The steward, the stern and dignified individual who was responsible for the catering, and upon whom we now all fixed our silent, censuring gaze, suddenly hid his face in his hands and fled from the hall in tears. Our rebellion was a fizzle. We had, like all mobs, found a scapegoat for our wrath; our reward for the Ritual Slaughter was only to be shocked witnesses of the victim's anguish. The margarine continued to be rancid.
“JSioel Coward has an overpublicized but underestimated talent”
Noel Coward's, I think, is an overpublicized but underestimated talent. Not only has he been a leading entertainer in the popular field for a great many years. He is the author of Bitter Sweet, the
The brilliant Irish director who helped set Canada’s Shakespearean Festival firmly on its feet looks hack with wry amusement, pungent wit and a photographic memory on a lively lifetime in the Theatre
best musical of the 1920’s, and its composer and director as well. He is also the author of Hay Fever, an artificial comedy which, in my view, has as good a chance of immortality as any work of an author now living. It is ‘‘minor” work; its pretensions are small; but as well as its authors typical glitter and sharp satiric sting, (here is an "over and above” of wholesome plain horse sense.
“When I first joined the Old Vic, I tried, mistakenly, to star a woman”
When I joined the Old Vic it was my duty to propose a program and cast for the 1933-34 season.
My first move was to approach Flora Robson. This shows my inexperience. Now 1 realize that a Shakespeare company cannot be centred upon a woman. All the great parts demand men. I have also learned that, in forming a company, the initial approach should be to the person who is going to play the most responsible parts. It is, for instance, unwise to engage a man w'ho will be ideally cast for Malcolm, if his presence in the cast, as for some reason it perfectly well may, precludes the engagement of the best available for Macbeth.
How'ever, in this case luck was with us. Miss Robson mentioned the fact that she had been invited to play at the Old Vic to Charles Laughton. Laughton, who admired her acting as much as I did, was much interested in the possibility of being associated with the season. Though still only in his early thirties, he was at this time the most talkcd-of actor in London. He had had sensational success in three or four plays and now a film called The Private Life of Henry VIII had just been issued and his performance, as Henry Tudor, was being acclaimed all over the world.
“Many artists are frustrated and miserable, finding no joy in art”
It is sometimes supposed that self-expression is a privilege reserved for a race apart, beings called Artists. This is not my experience. 1 have know-n carpenters, cooks, gardeners, engine-drivers — workers of many kinds, who have been able to use their work as a soul-satisfying means of expression. Perhaps, it may be argued, that in so doing they raise cooking or engine-driving to the level of art. I think they do. And, conversely, many artists, persons who profess that painting is their work, or music or literature, are frustrated miserable creatures, who can find in their art no joy, no release of pent-up energies. If so. they are in the wrong job; or maybe, their state is such that no w'ork can medicine their disease. These are unhappy people.
“Only the classics can measure the relative statures of actors, not a couple of ephemeral comedies
The classics are the only measuring rod by which the stature of an actor, or a director, can be measured. It is not possible to compare Mr. A s performance in one ephemeral comedy with that of Mr. B. in another. Such comparisons are made; but with rare exceptions it is the personalities rather than the art and skill of the artists which
are the point of comparison. Criticism degenerates into gossip. But it is possible, and it is a matter of great interest and of serious critical value, to compare the Hamlets, let us say. ot Barrymore, Gielgud, Olivier. Maurice Evans. Christopher Plummer, and the host of others, who trom time to time attempt the part and risk the comparison.
Occasionally a performer will be so outstanding in a certain role as to make it his own tor at least a generation. In London. Edith Evans has done so as Millamant, Sybil Thorndike as Medea. Laurette Taylor did it in The Glass Menagerie; other instances come to mind: Tallulah Bankhead in I he Little Foxes, Ruth Gordon in The Matchmaker. Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina. But in each ot these instances the actress was supported by a play of sufficient weight to be at least a runner-up for classical status.
“You must spend money like water — not wastefully but handsomely"
After many years in theatrical affairs, during most of which I have had some responsibility tor other people's money, I have learnt, often painfully. that cheeseparing just is no good. If you want to make money, you must be ready to spend it — like water. This does not mean wastetully; it must be spent with care and discrimination, but handsomely. I have come to recognize, though reluctantly, that one of the chief pleasures of the theatre for the audience is to participate in lavish and luxurious goings-on.
This may not be the noblest, highest aspect of theatre-going, but it is very human, especially in the case of people who
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From the notebooks of Tyrone Guthrie Continued from page 21
normally have to be very frugal. For the price of their ticket they want not only the pleasure of the play, they want to feel that for a brief and glittering three hours they have bought, and therefore own, something largely, loudly, unashamedly luxurious.
“77ie gravediggers in Hamlet aren't only comedians”
The contribution of the smaller parts is an important ingredient to the dish. But it is largely determined by the casting. For instance, in Hamlet it is possible to use the gravediggers as comic relief. It is also possible, and in my opinion more interesting, to have them make a simple but serious comment on the transitory nature of human existence—“passing through nature to eternity.” It is possible to make this comment and still be amusing. The casting of the gravediggers largely determines the comment which their scene makes, the style in which it is made, and the weight which it carries in the evening.
“A proportion of the audience has come to he seen”
The technique of the film demands of an actor no sustained flight of imagination and makes only small demands upon his technical equipment. In the film studio it is possible to create an environ-
ment favorable for the inspiration which will carry an actor through the two or three minutes of a critical “take.” Absolute silence, the concentrated will-to-win of a whole staff, a feeling of Occasion the more intense because it does not have to be sustained.
In the theatre inevitably there is more distraction. In a large audience there are always some stupids incapable of concentration; on a first night, and especially a fashionable first night, a proportion of the audience has come to be seen, rather than to see the play, there is a high proportion of inattention, the mere presence of the professional critics can be a stimulus, but also a distraction, and an intelligent actor is aware that most of them are there not to write a serious and informed critique, so much as a gossipy and readable “report.” Also in the theatre there is no second chance. The least slip of memory, a single clumsy or mistimed movement can throw the whole machine out of gear. In the film studio, if a mistake is made, the shot is retaken.
It is not perhaps generally realized what a great physical, as well as intellectual and imaginative, effort is involved in the performance of a great role like Macbeth, Lear or Othello. A series of great “arias” have to be performed which, if they are to be adequate, make elaborate demands on the breathing apparatus, upon the full resources of the voice from top to bottom; at some stage of the evening, athletic demands will be made—Lear must carry Cordelia, Ham-
let must carry the body of Polonius, there are duels, battles. Othello must, after a violent struggle with lago, feign epilepsy; stairs must be gone up and down. In mere casual movement hither and yon upon the stage an actor will walk several miles in the performance of a big part, often in armor or dragging a great cloak; there will be several changes of costume all of which have to be accomplished under the strain of very limited time. One of ihe important things which have to be learnt in the course of rehearsal is where and how to rest, how to eke out limited resources of energy so that there will still be enough in reserve for the critical last lap. All these are problems which do not arise in the film studio.
“ƒ would rather write on water”
It fills me with dread to think that the theatre of our day may “survive” in tangible form, recorded upon film or tape or wire. That posterity may remember not the legend of Helen Hayes, but will see her image, with period hairdo, long outmoded shape and gait, ranting and carrying on in the theatrical conventions of our own bygone epoch; that posterity may in Sir Laurence Olivier hear nothing but the laughably quaint accents of a long defunct British upper class; or in Marlon Brando the humphs and grunts and inarticulate croaks, which experts in the period may identify as "method acting.”
For my part I would rather write on water; be remembered by a few and for a while with warmth and joy, or else be totally forgotten; than survive in crude mechanical reproduction to be analyzed, laughed at, misunderstood, or worst of all falsely reverenced by a posterity which through no fault of its own, or of ours, can never bridge the unbridgeable, because indefinable, gap between one historical context and another.
“ƒ dread the word ‘educational" when it is used in conjunction with the theatre
The serious theatre is in grave danger of being divorced from any pleasurable or amusing connotation. It is becoming something which we must take, like pills, because it is “good” for us.
I dread the word "educational” when it is used in connection with the theatre and the great masterpieces of the stage. I see reluctant school children herded into performances of As You Like It, Twelfth Night or The Merchant of Venice, because these are supposed to be simultaneously masterpieces and "nice”
plays, containing little to corrupt youthful innocence (a total misconception of the plays, of corruption, and of youthful innocence) and thereby being taught to loathe and shun as long as they live three potential sources of great wisdom and great joy.
The serious theatre at this moment stands in danger of succumbing to the temptation of playing up its “educational" value and eschewing its duty to "entertain.”
It is at this time possible to get money from “authorities” — educational, civic, and philanthropic — if wc subscribe to the popular misconception that education and entertainment are mutually exclusive: if we go cap in hand and beg to be allowed to Educate and Uplift our fellow citizens.
I suppose beggars must always go cap in hand. But it seems to be dishonest to go in cap and gown, rather than in the traditional cap and bells.
To the official, fund-bestowing mind I have found the following is fairly typical rating: Shakespeare, yes. Greek tragedy and the great classics of the French and German theatre, less definitely, but still yes. Restoration Comedy, very definitely, no. Sheridan and Goldsmith are near the borderline. Ibsen, Shaw. Tchekov, Bridie and O'Neill are even nearer the borderline. A “modern” play, or a new play, no. A modern, foreign play, quite definitely No.
Even Shakespeare is not entirely reliable. Most of his plays are concerned with quite uneducational ideas, like adultery and murder; even the "nice" plays are full of uneducational words like "whoremaster” or "belly."
Ideas as to what constitutes education are. most rightly, inextricably intertwined with ideas about morality. Consequently theatrical people, who hope to get money out of Educational Authorities, have no alternatives but to pretend that their job is to Do Good to their fellow men, rather than to amuse them.
1 am an unashamed advocate of what dry-as-dust pedagogues derisively term the play-way, for education, and all other activities. I contend that you really only apprehend what you want to apprehend and that the best form of education is to find means of inducing a student to want to teach himself.
It has not been my experience that any of us really wants anything because someone else says, “This is good for you.” By bitter experience we have all learnt that, if people say a thing is good for you, it is merely a ruse to induce you to undergo a thoroughly unpleasant experience. And so conditioned are we to this proposition that, conversely and perversely, we are all disinclined to accept a thing as good for us unless it is also thoroughly unpleasant. No one thinks well of a medicine which tastes nice: to he good for you it must taste filthy and if possible smell filthy, and look filthy too; disinfectants must sting; a Good Book must be a penance to read—one of the reasons why the Bible is printed as it is. If by any chance you enjoy a piece of music or a play, you have to laugh off your enjoyment by some derogatory phrase, “purely frivolous, of course, nothing much to it,” in order to pretend that you only get Real Pleasure out of far sterner stuff.
But isn't it the case that we really only learn from experiences which touch us emotionally — either with pleasure or pain and that the more intense the emotion the more powerfully the experience is etched on the plate of memory? That is why most of us have long forgotten the greater part of the knowledge which
was painfully stuffed into us at school. Important, interesting things are clean forgotten because they were never emotionally etched upon the mind; whereas we remember absurd scraps—the population of Cork in 1910; the specific gravity of cotton—because for some, usually irrelevant reason such scraps are associated with an emotional experience.
For this reason the Theatre should assert its claim to be educational, not because it is a short cut to examination answers, nor because it is morally uplifting, but because it widens the imaginative horizon by presenting ideas in the most memorable way. The ideas evoked by the theatre are, if the actors are doing their work adequately, primarily emotional. They drive consciously at the sources of pleasure and pain; and by that means produce impressions, not only far more vivid but far more lasting, than experiences which are more purely intellectual.
Therefore those who are concerned with education do well to be wary of the influence of the arts; and particularly the arts of the theatre. That must be admitted. The mistake, however, which they commonly make — 1 suggest this in all humility—is to apply the customary Puritan formula: What is good for you must be unpleasant; and its converse: What is pleasant cannot be good for you. What is pleasant can be, and usually is, good for you. Nature sees to that. What is bad for you is boredom, being made to undergo experiences which have for you no meaning.
"Audiences can be made too comf(triable"
Audiences can rather easily be made too comfortable. I do not expect this opinion to be widely shared, especially on the American continent, where there is a tendency to confuse physical comfort with civilization. Nevertheless it is my conviction that audiences ought not to be coddled. They must be warm: no one can concentrate if his feet are cold; in summer they must be cool; no one can concentrate if the sweat is running down his spectacles. But the idea of ever larger and plushier seats is deadly. They induce not concentration but somnolence; and the larger the seats the fewer of them can be got into any given space. Also the mere fact of everyone being jammed together helps to create in an audience a feeling of unanimity. One of the reliable measures of how well a play is going, is the degree of unanimity which the audience achieves. Ideally, it should be one single, massive, composite beast, not a number of isolated individuals. Further, people value more dearly what is dearly bought. Pleasure is the keener for being purchased at the cost of moderate physical discomfort.
"lor a film star. talent is almost completely irrelevant"
Again and again it has been demonstrated that to be a movie star acting talent, or accomplishment, is almost completely irrelevant. Beautiful dimwits, of assorted size, shape and sex, command tremendous salaries, are extravagantly publicized, accorded the rather perfunctory and ambivalent worship, half admiration, half envious contempt, which "fans ' offer to "stars." But they are readily expendable. After a year or two. head office will decide that they have had their day. They are heard of no more. Another assortment of beautiful dimwits reigns in their stead.
Olivier teas not notably handsome”
Laurence Olivier joined us at the Old Vic in the season of 1936-37. Not yet quite thirty he had already had considerable success both in New York and London and was. as it were, on the threshold of fame. Off-stage he was not notably handsome or striking, but with make-up he could achieve a Hashing Italianate, rather saturnine but fascinating appearance. The voice already had a marvelous ringing baritone brilliance at the top: he spoke with a beautiful and aristocratic accent, with keen intelligence and a strong sense of rhythm. He moved w'ith catlike agility and grace. He had, if anything, too strong an instinct for the sort of theatrical effect which is striking and memorable. From the first moment of the first rehearsal it was evident that here was no ordinary actor, not everyone's cup of tea—no very strong personality can be that: not necessarily well cast for Hamlet, but inevitably destined for the very top of the tree.
“In the theatre you don’t need intelligence but an element of luck is essential”
In a desperately competitive profession, where there are always more aspirants than jobs, it is inevitable that an inflated value should be attached to success. In the theatre you cannot succeed unless you have exceptional energy, and either exceptional looks, charm or talent. You do not require intelligence; but an element of luck is essential.
This competitive aspect of theatre life has a good side. It is wonderful for discipline. A bad aspect, if not the worst, is the enormous and symbolic emphasis which attaches itself to success. You see the same thing in commercial business. Success becomes a symbol of manly courage and. at the same time, of prudence, strength and cunning, of all which raises great Men of Business to eminence, including luck. Success, on the stage no less than in business, is a matter primarily of prestige, self-justification. It is symbolized by celebrity rather than money.
I recall an occasion when a young actor’s name was, entirely by mistake, omitted from a poster advertising a performance in which he was appearing. He burst into a paroxysm of tears like a child of eight. It was because his father was coming to see the performance, traveling by train from Bolton or Sunderland. There would have been posters at the railway station; and the young man was dying for his father to see his name, right there staring him in the face, when he got out of the train.
“Even the nutst realistic plays are not realistic at all”
Realistic acting can only be realistic within limits: even secrets must be
spoken loud enough to be heard by all those people out there in the dark; every significant action must be broad enough for them all to see. Even a quick glance must "register.’’ Even the script of a realistic play is only comparatively realistic, insofar as it must in the sho’-*. course of one evening convey not necessarily a complete story, or a conclusive argument, but at least a coherent impression, and in so doing must eliminate most of the dull and irrelevant remarks of which all real human converse largely consists.
In brief, even the most realistic productions of the most realistic plays— Chekhov interpreted by Stanislavsky or Odets by disciples of the method—are not realistic at all; they are an elaborate exercise in style, in the selection and emphasis of some elements of Real Life, the elimination of others and the precisely realistic representation of only a very few.
"Actors flaunt oddities that clergymen try tit conceal
It is the strange paradox of acting that the more a person disguises himself in another character, the more, to a discerning eye. does he reveal his own. Actors know this about one another. It makes them tolerant of much that, especially in sexual matters, society at large regards with a very Puritan eye: and, in consequence, society is apt to think of actors as “odd" even “loose.” Perhaps
I have lived too much in their company to be very detached, but it is not my experience that actors are odder or looser than any other group of people, plumbers, say, or clergymen. They are. perhaps, a little inclined to admit to kinds of looseness which plumbers endeavor to deny, to flaunt oddities which clergymen, not always successfully, conceal.
“Irish Protestants hate a cross"
In Belfast 1 saw the road company of Saint Joan, with Dorothy Holmes-Gore magnificent in the lead. On the night when I was there, a small riot occurred. Some rabid Protestants made a demonstration when, in the cathedral scene, Miss Holmes-Gore entered, carrying on the author's instruction, a cross. There was a Catholic counter-demonstration, beer glasses flew about the auditorium, ladies ducked and squealed, and, for a time, the performance was suspended. Flowever it all blew over and the play ended with no more fuss. It always seems odd that for Irish Protestants the cross is not a Christian symbol, nor a symbol of love; it is a detested and specifically Roman Catholic sign. If you want to be nicely received in Belfast or Portadown, carry a crescent, carry a hammer and sickle, wear, if you will, a scarlet letter or a green carnation. People will still be their wonted, wholesome, civil selves. If, however, you want to be beaten, reviled and very possibly stoned to death, display prominently that emblem which proclaims that the Son of Man died to save sinners.
“Stage stars are rarely less than forty"
Nothing has done greater harm to Shakespeare than the presentation of his young parts by ladies and gentlemen twenty or thirty years older than they are pretending to be. It is easy to see why this sort of casting occurs. Managers feel that they dare not offer a Shakespeare play without the insurance of a star or two in the leading parts. Stars, except in the cinema, where appearance counts for so much much more than skill, are rarely less than forty years of age.
“Let actors ran public affairs"
1 sometimes wonder whether actors and actresses ought not to manage our public affairs instead of politicians. It would seem so much more sensible to Entrust Things to people who are steady and realistic underneath the meringue of a Huffy and flossy exterior, rather than to people who are fluffy and flossy behind a steady and realistic stone façade.
“The compliment of theft"
No art is completely original; there are always influences. The artist is rarely conscious of the most important and significant influences. But in matters of style, in the externals, artists, especially young artists, invariably imitate what they admire. We all learn from, borrow from, steal if you like, from one another. But if this is theft, then all are thieves who have the wit to profit from other people's experience. I look upon this kind of theft as a compliment to the person whose ideas are used: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I have been sincerely flattered more than once by other and younger directors, and I am only grateful to them.
“Peter Pan bores children at matinees: in the evening the adults are
dissolved in a hath of tears"
Why is Peter Pan always offered as a children's play? I have seen it several times in recent years. At matinées it always plays to hordes of rather listless youngsters. It is the evening performance which comes to life. Then an adult audience hangs on the actors’ lips; the poisoning of Tinker Bell produces a hush like death; when Peter comes forward and, with outstretched arms, pleads with the people for the life of Tinker Bell—"If you believe in fairies clap your hands"— then hard-bitten Hunting-Women from the shires. Usurers from the city. FieldMarshals in a bath of tears, rise in their seats and clap and cheer, and clap again, until the twinkling of her light proclaims that Tinker Bell's herself again.
Make no mistake: this is a work of extraordinary theatrical power.
“It's unwise to buy
your actresses by the pound"
In casting, managers are often too much influenced by the appearance of actors and actresses w-hen they come to be interviewed. The face, figure and clothes simply cannot be judged out of the context of performance. It is my experience that all you can get from an interview is a very rough and ready first impression. You can tell if you are attracted, or not, by a particular personality; but not if it is, or is not, in general, attractive. You can get a. fairly accurate idea of stature; but that is not of prime importance. True, if your leading gentleman is a fascinating five feet, eight inches, you will be wise to seek a short, rather than statuesque, lady to play love scenes with him. But, in general, it is not a good idea to buy actresses and actors by the yard or by the pound.
Yet this is the principle which inexperienced managements, especially in America, constantly adopt. A part is to be cast; agents are called: a stage is hired: and on to it, merely to be looked at, troops a host of men and women. However courteously the manager and his assistants conduct this ceremony, it is still humiliating for the actors. They are being looked over like cattle and they know it. To counter the embarrassment, many of them develop a brassy, vulgarly
confident manner, which is either pathetic or else alienating, and makes it extremely hard to know what sort of a person it conceals.
“I believe live theatre will survive all threats from industries that pump prefabricated drama out of cans and blowers"
I believe that a theatre, where live actors perform to an audience, which is there in the flesh before them, will survive all threats from powerfully organized industries, which pump prefabricated drama out of cans and blowers and contraptions of one kind or another. The struggle for survival may often be hard and will batter the old theatre about severely: indeed from time to time it will hardly be recognizable; but it will survive. It will survive as long as mankind demands to be amused, terrified, instructed, shocked, corrupted and delighted by tales told in the manner which w'ill always remain mankind's most vivid and powerful manner of telling a story.
I believe that the purpose of the theatre is to show mankind to himself; and thereby to show to man God's image.
I believe that this purpose is ill-served by consciously using the theatre as a moral, social or political platform: It cannot avoid being all three.
The theatre is the direct descendant of fertility rites, war dances and all the corporate ritual expressions, by means of which our primitive ancestors, often wiser than their progeny, sought to relate themselves to God, or the gods, the great abstract forces, which cannot be apprehended by reason, but in whose existence reason compels us to have faith.
Reason alone is not enough. Faith alone is not enough, though it can move a mountain. Faith allied to reason can move a mountain for a reasonable purpose. ★
This is an excerpt from A Life in the Theatre, copyright € 1959 by Tyrone Guthrie, to he published soon by McGraw Hill.