Performance (Working In The Theatre #167)
I’m Isabelle Stevenson, President of the American Theatre
Wing. And I want to welcome you to the American Theatre
Wing Seminars on Working in the Theatre. These are coming
to you from the Graduate Center of the City University of
New York, which is located right in the heart of the City,
and right in the heart of the theatre. We have a very
distinguished guest with us this morning. And I would like
to introduce her to you and to the audience. She is a new
President of the City University Graduate School and
Univers ity Center. It is President Horowitz. And I would
very much like to bring her up here, so you could all meet
the new President here. (APPLAUSE) Thank you very much. Fall, 1991 marks the
fifteenth anniversary of the relationship between the
City University Graduate Center and the American Theatre Wing.
The American Theatre Wing Seminars, Working in the Theatre,
is the longest running series on CUNY TV, having
started with the station’s inception. It is my pleasure to
welcome you here and to gra … congratulate the American Theatre
Wing for this long running, popular and very successful
series. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) The American Theatre Wing, as you know, has
an all year round program. We are perhaps best known
for the Tony Awards, but that’s the carrot. I am very proud
of it, and I am very proud of the people that have won
the Tonys. But behind the Tony Award stands a tradition … over
fifties years of service to the community, through
the theatre. And the many programs that we do throughout the
year do just that. They serve the community. We have a
hospital show program, which brings theatre to those that
can’t come out to it. It goes into hospitals and institutions
and AIDS Centers. We have the Saturday Theatre for Children
School. It brings live theatre on Saturday mornings to
children in public schools. The children line up to see a
live show. They’re in the elementary school age, and they
start at a very early age to appreciate what live theatre
is. And then there are these seminars, which bring the very
best, the most talented, the most knowledgeable people, to
talk about what it is to work in the theatre. We also have
a new program that I’m terribly excited about, and we tried
it in the Spring. And it’s called “Introduction to
Broadway”. And in cooperation with the producers, the Board
of Education of the high schools and junior high schools
and the American Theatre Wing, we have been able to give
over six thousand tickets to junior and high school
students to go to see a Broadway show, in an evening and a
matinee. They’ve gone to GRAND HOTEL and to CATS. It’s …
it’s exciting to see this, because no one has lined them up
and say, come to the theatre. They make their own
arrangements. They sign up. They pay for the ticket … a
very, very modest sum … but they do pay for it. The
producers give us the tickets as a ridiculously low right
… rate, so that we, in turn, can take up half of the cost
of it. But it means that these young people are forming the
habit of going to the theatre, not only enriching their
lives, but seeing what it is to be in the theatre and to
work in the theatre, and come to New York. They come from
Brooklyn and Queens and Far Rockaway. And then we have
arranged to meet with the casts after the shows, so they
can discuss what they have seen … also to be able to see
the role models that are there. And so, this I hope
Will continue. We’re able to do this by our contributions, by grants. And I’m very pleased
to announce that the Billy Rose Foundation was able to give us a grant so we can expand
this program even further in the new season. And now, the seminars. I’m going to go right
into them as soon as I can, because they are so important. We do one on the performers.
We do one on the playscript/director, and one on the production. And today’s seminar
is on the performance. And we have Jean Dalrymple, who is a member of the Board of Directors
of the American Theatre Wing. And I don’t know of anyone that has had more experience
in every form of the theatre than Jean. And Brendan Gill, who is a member of the Board
of Directors of … of the American Theatre Wing, and I guess has been on THE NEW YORKER
magazine for almost as long as the Wing is old. And he loves the theatre. And although
he is a critic, he is not here as a critic. He is here because he indeed does love the
theatre. And I will turn the seminar over to them, and they in turn will introduce the
panelists. Jean? Right next to the empty chair is Roy Dotrice,
one of the really great actors of the world. And I’m
sure you’ve all seen him many times in films and TV, and some
years ago in A LIFE, which was a great hit, and with which
I was associated. I was very honored to know you
then and it’s awfully nice to have you back. Roy Dotrice.
(APPLAUSE) Then we have another old friend of mine and of
her entire family, going way, way back. And that’s Zimbalist
… Stephanie Zimbalist. I was going to call her
something quite different. (LAUGHTER) I forgot I finally
got it out straight. She’s making her Broadway debut
now in a very fine play, down at Lucille Lortel’s theatre
… THE BABY DANCE. And I hope you’ll all go to see her, because she’s really terrific.
Stephanie Zimbalist. ( APPLAUSE) And right next to me is a young man who gave a fabulous
performance in PRELUDE TO A KISS, but I only met him a little while ago. But I like him
very much and he’s now in BABYLON GARDENS at Circle Repertory Theatre. Timothy Hutton.
APPLAUSE) And on my far left is Hinton Battle, who is
described … always having received rave reviews, but curious
adjective, which implies to critics even when they approve
of something in … something rather unhealthy
about them. Why should they be raving … (LAUGHTER) It’s
an ominous adjective. In any event, rave reviews as a
… both a dancer, a choreographer and an actor, and
is now playing in MISS SAIGON. And next is Mary Louise Parker,
who … (APPLAUSE) … who’s playing in … before
gained fame in PRELUDE TO A KISS and is now co starring at
the Circle Repertory Theatre production of BABYLON GARDENS.
(APPLAUSE) And on my nearest left, Theresa Wright, who
has been on Broadway in MORNINGS AT SEVEN, DEATH OF A
SALESMAN at Circle in the Square, I NEVER SANG FOR MY
FATHER, and is currently back at Circle in the Square in
ON BORROWED TIME. Theresa Wright. (APPLAUSE) Jean, do you want
to begin? I’d like to tell a little story about Mr.
Dotrice, if I could, because some wonderful things happened
while he was playing in A LIFE, which was a one man play.
And I had a friend who said she didn’t want to see it,
because she didn’t like one man plays. But she came, and
afterwards, she said it changed her life. She fell in
love with him. And it made her fall in love again with her
agent/husband. (LAUGHTER) So … and so I took her backstage
to meet him and … and she said, well … you know, he … it’s really true. He makes me
love my husband all over again. (LAUGHS) So I thank you very much.
A heavy responsibility to you. It is, isn’t it?
Yeah. It … it was a one man show called BRIEF
LIVES, actually, because … Yes.
… I never did a play called A LIFE. But this was a one man show called …
BRIEF LIVES. … called BRIEF LIVES, I remember, which
we did actually originate at the Golden Theatre in … in
19 … it had to 19, wouldn’t it, just about … 1967 I think.
Right. And … I … I remember … (HA) … we had
a party afterwards, because it was being presented
by David Susskind and Dan Melnick. And we had a party
at Richard Rogers’ apartment, because Dan Melnick was
married to his daughter. And someone came in with a dripping
piece of newsprint right about one o’clock in the morning,
and said … this is Clive Barnes’ notice. And it was
an absolute rave. And so they said, well … we’re … we’re
gonna take a full page in the New York Sunday Times and
print the whole of this review, which they did. And
they said, no one knows what Clive Barnes looks like. So they
printed this horrible photograph of Clive Barnes and underneath
it said, this man is Clive Barnes. He is the drama
critic of the New York Times. He saw BRIEF LIVES, and he said
… and they printed the whole of his review. And in very
small print, they mentioned a guy called Roy Dotrice. (LAUGHTER)
And the consequence of that was, we had a line at
the box office the following morning, asking for tickets
for the Clive Barnes show. (LAUGHTER) That was Mr. Barnes’
And that was … that was extraordinary, because at that
time, you were playing a very old man, John Aubrey, who had
written a famous collection of odds and ends, called BRIEF
LIVES. And it … I suppose it was the most cluttered stage
that there has ever been in history, a wonderful woman …
(VOICES OVERLAP) Yes, we had … we had over five thousand
antiquities … of a period, you know. And some of them were extremely old. We were very
lucky, because a friend of mine owned a house in England called “Canner’s Asbury”, where
John Aubrey had stayed. It had originally been the home of
the Dryden family. And John Dryden was a great friend of John Aubrey’s. So I was actually
using pewter “tadkits” and things like that on stage, which John Aubrey himself had used
in … I should think round about 1640. And we had a tremendous amount of props on stage.
It was a wonderful setting. We mentioned earlier, Brendan, Julia Travellian Omen.
Yeah. Wonderful set.
It still … (INAUDIBLE) … but you were hopping about
there, pretending to be very old … the most nimble old
man that ever was at that time. (LAUGHTER) It was an
extraordinary thing. Even taking advantage of the fireplace
on stage, that was … Yes, we had a real fire on the stage. In fact,
we used to do all sorts of nasty things on the stage.
I even used to use the chamber pot on stage.
Yes. Well … I mean, not discreetly, behind the
… (LAUGHTER) But then I did throw the contents out of the
modium windows … (INAUDIBLE) (LAUGHTER)
Well that was a big cultural breakthrough for its day.
(LAUGHTER) Remember when Fanula Flanagan didn’t use the
chamber pot discreetly?
I know. I saw that, yes. It was quite wonderful. Yes.
Now … now in your case it was … (LAUGHTER) … you used
that chamber pot like no one else I’ve ever seen.
Yeah, I … something. (LAUGHS) You know that wonderful setting got an awful
lot of notices also. Some of them started with it and ended
with that setting, a marvelous surprise.
That’s right. You remember?
That was the star of the show, really. The star of the show. Yeah.
I had … we had bad luck over that show. Because … we
… the … the … there was a man called Jules Irving,
who was running the Lincoln Center … Oh yes.
And he came in, I think, at the end of the second week and
asked us if we would like to transfer to the small theatre
under the Vivian Beaumont, where with his subscribers we
could probably play for about six months. And … so
Susskind decided this was the thing to do. it was a very
prestigious thing to do. And so we decided to … so we
closed at the Golden. And in those days, there was a … a
line of shows waiting to come in. The theatre was grabbed
immediately. And we moved up to Lincoln Center, where we
rehearsed for … I think five days, with all our bits and
pieces. And on the day we were due to open, the American
Actors Equity held a meeting and decided no alien, actor
was going to play in their national theatre. Oh.
And I never opened. So … for that reason, I did come back
for the show in … 1974 at the Booth Theatre …
Right. … where it did run for quite a long time.
Yes. And But so few … few kind memories of that.
(LAUGHTER) And Alan Brandt produced it.
Alan Brandt, that’s right. For Stephanie, it’s a very different kind
of setting that you have in your play now, because it’s a
… it’s a … it’s a mobile home … a trailer that … it
is not filled with antiquities of any kind.
Well it … this is .,.. (VOICES OVERLAP) this is our fourth incarnation … our fourth
juncture with the play. And every time we do it, we set it in Pasadena … Pasadena
Playhouse, February 9th, 1990. We did it in Pasadena, two productions in Williamstown,
Long Wharf and now New York. And every theatre is a different size, different shape. The
audience is different. The thrust is different. And it changes the play totally. So we finally
got back on our proscenium stage, which we love … all of us. It’s the same five cast
members from day one. And it just changes the play totally. It just makes it a completely
different play and you can … It’s a very constricted space you have to
work in, with … It is, except you know, you … you … you
get used to it. It seems very big. It’s that … that song,
“Tiny Room” … you know, it seems very large. (LAUGHS)
It also have a … a lavatory on stage, or a toilet on
stage. (LAUGHTER) Is this gonna be the pattern … (LAUGHTER
AND VOICES OVERLAP) It is amazing how much a space can change
a play. When we were doing PRELUDE last year, we were at the
… we were Off Broadway at the Circle Rep and then moved
to Helen Hayes. And the feeling just changed completely.
And all of a sudden, there wasn’t this intimate … participation,
really. Suddenly the … the … the play had to be
rethought, and nobody was anticipating that. And the audiences are always different as
a consequence of the different shape of things, which I would
think to be a great hardship, when you … when you move
from one … one to another. Are you happy with the stage that
you’re working on now?
I am. . . . in ON BORROWED TIME?
Yes I am. I think they’ve done a marvelous job with the set, of making it …
Yes, yes. … making it into sections and then two parts
of the room, instead of having that long space.
Yeah. It’s a very difficult space. It’s most difficult.
I think it’s beautifully done. And the lighting, I think,
makes it … further … divides it into sections, almost
like a movie, I would think. I’d love to see it, because I
think the lighting is marvelous … (LAUGHTER) That’s the thing …
You’d have to be in two places at once. Yeah.
I think of all the plays I’ve seen in that space, your play
that you’re in is the best staged play I’ve ever seen in
that space. And you’re wonderful in it. You’re just
magnificent. Thank you.
I was … I was just going to say that myself. (LAUGHTER)
Rave review. Rave review. Well done. Well done.
Particularly about the setting, which is extraordinary for
that theatre. Yeah.
In … in BABYLON GARDENS, I was puzzled about the title.
What does that mean? Well it’s … it’s a reference to a scene
in the play, where … Tim’s character is referring to this homeless person, on the
street. And we’re talking about her. And she’s sort of this mysterious person at that point.
And he says … should I give this away? This is like our best joke … (VOICES OVERLAP
AND LAUGHTER) It’s the only joke we have, so … anyway. And he says, she says she’s
from Jamaica. And he … this homeless person. And she’s from Jamaica. And finally we deduce
that what she means is Jamaica, Queens. (LAUGHTER) So I say to him… it … it’s much funnier
when you see it. (LAUGHTER) Yes, because the way I react.
Do it for us. (LAUGHTER) So and then I say to him … if
… if she told you she was from Babylon, you’d have asked
her about the hanging gardens. So it’s a very sort of …
Mmm hmm. Yeah. … topical, specific to New York …
Yeah. … this play is very much about New York.
And it’s a … it’s … what is called a “dark” play,
because it … and the … what that used …
It’s pretty dark, yeah. … simply it was … it was … it’s serious.
Mmm hmm. It’s facing something desperately and serious
… about New York and stuff. But nowadays, it takes
courage to do that. Well it’s … I can definitely sense at times
that people don’t … didn’t realize quite how bleak an evening they would be attending.
(LAUGHTER) They seem … Well it’s very much this problem of truth
… of truth telling. Isn’t that the same thing with … with
you? The audience is really … moved and … and
in a desperate plot itself, because … to tell the truth
in a play like yours, you can’t have a happy ending.
I’m always intrigued in stages of our play discovering that
an audience, as a group, has a morality that individuals
don’t have. An audience will demand … knots to be tied or
untied, loose ends to be tied up. They will demand … you
know, resolutions in a … in a play. Whereas if they get
home and get in the shower, they realize that they would do
exactly the same thing as the character … Hmm.
… once they get home. Mmm hmm.
Yeah. Do you feel that your audience leaves the
theatre puzzled, or troubled in that thing? A lot of times yeah. Yeah, I do I do feel.
. .I don’t know … puzzled in a good way.
Mmm hmm. It’s … I mean …
How do you know about that? Do they come backstage and tell you?
Well our … our … our play has a, you know, has … it ends in … (VOICES OVERLAP)
I know the play well. I like it a lot too. Anyway, there are times when people come … where
they’ll say well, why did your character do this?
Or why did Joel’s character do this? Or why did Linda’s character
do this? or Richard’s, or …
Really? Oh yeah. And our … our play, in a funny
sort of way, the … the … the couple that I play … it
challenges what you don’t like about yourself.
Really? Yeah. Yeah. It shoots an arrow at an… unattractive
part of each of us that we don’t want to admit
to. And so, as a … as a whole, the audience will say … oh,
no, no, no, no, no. But you get home and you have dinner
and have a drink or whatever. And you say, gee I might
… I might do the same thing myself.
Well you’re thinking very deeply, it seems to me, about the
character and about the reactions. In your … in your first reading of the play,
did you recognize that? Or did that come to you through
the evolution of rehearsals and … and working?
It’s … it’s a da … the … it’s called THE BABY DANCE,
because it is a dance. And the … and the board is … it
… it … it tended … it’s been through a few rewrites.
And so … it tended to be skewed a little bit toward …
toward the poor Louisiana couple, in terms of the rhyming.
So it … it came about through the playing and the writing
of at least making the dance floor even. So everybody had a
fighting chance of … (VOICES OVERLAP) I ought to mention the name of the … of
the authors … the authors.
Jane Anderson. She’s a wonderful playwright. (*ME?)
And … and your author? Timothy Mason.
Mmm hmm. Now are they both young? How old is …
He’s small. (LAUGHTER) He’s very young. He’s young … very young.
And what about your author? He … it’s really hard to tell. What do … what
do you think? Yeah, he’s young.
I mean, I know he’s young. But I don’t know HOW young. (LAUGHTER)
That’s not a bad … (VOICES OVERLAP) It depends on how old we are. It depends on
how young they are. (LAUGHTER) It’s not a bad thing to leave an audience
going out and asking themselves questions. That’s right.
You know? They don’t have answers in lights, certainly …
not everyday to every problem. Well.there are other …
It’s good … it’s good to think about it and … and say
… what would I do? And then maybe it might make you more
sympathetic to somebody else who has a like problem.
Well I think it’s also important in … in New York, these
days people are always saying, you can’t have serious
subjects in the theatre. You know, they’re … we’re so
corrupted by other media that … we all want happy endings
all the time. And here’s the two plays that are in deadly
… (INAUDIBLE) … in facing … confronting two of our
biggest problems we could have. And … and … they are
works of art … serious works … (INAUDIBLE) …
tremendous. I think … I think your play has a happy
ending. You’re not the only one that things so.
No, but … Yeah, yeah.
It just seemed to me that it meant in nine months, they’d
have another baby. That’s right. That’s right. But I’m one of
the people that thought TAXI DRIVER, the movie, was a hopeful
movie. So … (LAUGHTER) … I did. I thought it was about
a hero. I’m … (LAUGHTER)
Because he started growing his hair back? (LAUGHTER)
I think anyone that comes to see our play, THE HOMECOMING,
realizes it’s not written by Beatrix Potter. (LAUGHTER)
It’s a very tough play. It’s very hard … the … the …
the language is not particularly shocking as much as the
situation. In fact, Frank Rich quite rightly said, I think,
in his review that the language is very reminiscent of …
of Cockney sort of musical slang, which it is. And it’s not
the language that’s so shocking. It … it’s … it’s the
situation and the relationship of the characters. I
remember … because, when the play was first written, we
had an office in England called “The Lord Chamberlain” …
appointed by the Queen, who … he … this man decided …
he was a censor, for … for the … West End theatre. And
I remember Pinter telling me he had problems with the
play originally, because … there was one scene, the very line that the Lord Chamberlain
objected to. And Pinter went to see him. And it was sort of about … if they came out
to Savoy for a quiet poke. And the … he said, no I can’t
possibly have that. No, no, no I won’t accept poke. So Pinter said, well what you accept?
He said, well … he said, we will accept –”buncock”. (LAUGHTER) (INAUDIBLE)
… absolutely disgusting buncock. (LAUGHTER)
When we first read this play, we saw at least eighty five percent of it would have to be
cut. But after mature consideration … Pinter said, buncock’s fine. (LAUGHTER) I
… we had problems… I … (INAUDIBLE) … did the last show that
… that Lord Chamberlain ever … wiggled his blue pencil
over. It was a show which we did … with the Royal Shakespeare Company. And it was
written by Paddy Chayevski, called THE LATENT HETEROSEXUAL.
Oh yes. It’s a wonderful play, yes. It was never done
on Broadway. I know. I don’t know why.
It was done on … in America by Zero Mostel, and I was playing the same part in England.,
And the character was … a junkie homosexual poet. Apart from that, he was fairly normal.
And he … he writes this best selling novel. And
Warner Brothers … buy it for some fantastic amount of
money, and it all takes place in a tax consultant’s office.
And they try to work out how he’s going to get the maximum
tax deduction. And the idea that they suggest to this
very fay man is that he should get married and have a joint
declaration. Well the idea of marrying a woman appalled him. But then they have another idea.
They … they had this high priced whore on their books. And they produce her, and suggest
they should get married purely as a business arrangement. Well, she’s so beautiful he falls
in love with her. He has a speech which our Lord Chamberlain
objected to. And the … and the conditions on which … under which they were going to
live together. And one of the lines which the Lord Chamberlain objected to was … during
your menstrual period, Miss Van Dam, you’ll simply stay out of the house altogether. I
don’t want to find your half filled box of tampons behind the plumbing in the john.
So we went along to see him. Paddy Chayevski and … (LAUGHTER) … and Trevor Nunn and
… and myself, and Terry Hands. And … well again it turned out to be a bin. There was
two of them. Why they were always ex military types, I have no idea, who never went to the
theatre, and knew nothing about anything theatrical. But they always
were in charge of the theatre. And we went to see them. They were two’s … one the elderly
colonel type and a big young sort of, second lieutenant. And the
colonel piped up and said, you’re not having all this damn chat, he said, what menstrual
period. (LAUGHTER) He said, do you realize some little girl sitting there age fifteen,
you know, with her aunt, just starting? Damned embarrassing
to talk about ment… menstrual period. He said … Paddy Chayevski
said, he said … but we mean … that’s what we mean. We mean menstrual period. So he said,
I’m not having menstrual periods! (LAUGHTER) And then … Paddy Chayevski
had an inspiration. He said … he said, well would you accept … lunar weakness? (LAUGHTER)
He said, that’s better. Yes, we … we accept lunar weakness. So then he grabbed the second
half of the line, which was, half filled boxes of tampons. You’re not having all this little
chat about tampons and … and (INAUDIBLE) … girl aged fifteen still sitting there
with her aunt. Damned embarrassing. So we said, but we do mean … (MUMBLES) … we
had … don’t have any other suggestion. Then the young man piped up. He said, (INAUDIBLE)
I’ll tell you what. He said, we have noticed … (LAUGHTER) … I have noticed in ladies’
toilets — how he’d noticed that, I don’t know — (LAUGHTER) In … in ladies’ toilets,
they sometimes have this tampon, which says … place your 1″objet d’art” in here. (LAUGHTER)
(INAUDIBLE) He said, is that what you’re suggesting, objet d1art? (INAUDIBLE) objet d’art. And
so he said, yes, yes, absolutely splendid. Yes, we accept objet D’art. (LAUGHTER) So
now from an ordinary line, we have a lavish (INAUDIBLE) (LAUGHTER) … which sounded like
… during your lunar weakness was (LAUGHTER) … was simply stay out of the house altogether.
I don’t want to find your objet … (LAUGHTER) And this idiot was in charge of the West End
Theatre. (LAUGHTER) Stephanie, your worst fears are being confirmed.
I’d like to see this play. I would very much … (LAUGHTER)
Well, later on there was a situation where … actually
after Thanksgiving is … is what rapes him in his
(INAUDIBLE) Written by Pinter, actually. I was gonna save that for the next part. Because
Hinton is just sitting there … (VOICES OVERLAP AND
LAUGHTER) That’s not what you’re here for. (LAUGHTER)
You represent every (INAUDIBLE) I’m the musical, I guess, pop opera best for
MISS SAIGON. And it’s … ends on a sad note as well. So
I think that it’s time for sad notes to be in this year.
No, but … God, I love that story. (LAUGHTER) Well …
What kind of preparation did you have to do … (VOICES OVERLAP)
For this show? Boy … this is the first show I’ve done on
Broadway where I’m not dancing. I’m just acting and singing
… and also doing a pop opera, where there’s … there’s
nothing is spoken. It’s all sung and trying to convey it
… convey everything through the song, which is very
difficult. Because a lot of times where the notes go,
emotionally you don’t go. So it’s … it’s trying to match
… you’re trying to match yourself up to the music and
make it come alive. I have a acting coach who’s really
great, Alan Savage, who came in and worked with me, along
with the director, and … gave me the confidence to really
put these two together and … and make it come alive, for
myself. So … I … I had done … before the show, I did a little preparation to get
myself ready for it. I’d take like a … put on loud music and put on candles and turn
all the lights out … (LAUGHTER) … and don’t let anybody in. But … so I kind of
get myself geared up for it, you know. Yeah. What do you do? (LAUGHTER)
I … I slay myself. Yeah, pretty much. I really do. ‘Cause … my
big song in the second act is about children … the Vietnamese
children that have been left behind from the … the War.
And I’m pleading for the Americans that were back in
America to help and get these kids back with their father
or donate money, any way they can. So … a lot of times,
emotionally that … it’s very hard to do emotionally and
just sing it, and still walk off the stage with a … some
semblance of a voice. It’s very hard, so I usually take a
minute … more than a minute, before the show … before
that number and just kind of cool out with … our music,
actually, in my room. Anybody else have trouble with warming up
for their shows? I’d love to hear what they do.
Did you … did you study for the part? or other than …
than being helped by the director? Did you do any special
kind of studying? I did a little research. I talked with a lot
of guys that were there … that were actually in Viet
Nam … a lot of Marines that were there … a lot of Marines
that were doing the job that I am doing, which was at
the Embassy. Did you audition for it?
Yeah, I auditioned for it … and I didn’t want it at first. I didn’t… I wasn’t gonna
take it. (LAUGHS) That’s always the way to get the part. (LAUGHTER)
Right! I think it was my attitude. I don’t want it! Get
him, get him! (LAUGHTER) But … my first audition was
about two years ago now. And … then all the controversy.
I’ve been with the show and it’s not coming in., So it got
dropped. I moved out to L.A. (VOICES OVERLAP) You auditioned in New York.
In New York. And I was doing another show. I was doing STARDUST at the time. We were
in rehearsals. So, once that happened … the show wasn’t gonna happen, I moved out to L.A.
and I started doing … working on a series and … choreographing a series. Then I get
this call, a year later. Look, they’re having auditions. They want you to
come in. Do you still have the music? A year later, no I don’t have the music and I can’t
come, you know. So my agent was screaming at me. You gotta come! You gotta come! I said,
okay fine. I’ll come. I told him I will be there. It was on a … it was on a Saturday.
The auditions were on a Saturday and I was in L.A. So I said, I’ll fly out Friday. I’ll
miss the taping. I won’t choreograph that number. I’ll get on the plane and I’ll fly
out Friday and come to the audition. I’ll be there. So Saturday came, I’m still in L.A.(LAUGHS)
… working. I get an irate phone call Monday morning. WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU? WHERE WERE
YOU? I said, well what did you want me to do? So … I didn’t make it. And I figured,
great. The job is taken. I don’t have to worry about it. I get a … (LAUGHTER)
… I get a call two weeks later. Ah, they’re flying the casting director and the musical
director out to L.A. Learn the songs. (LAUGHTER) They’ll be there tomorrow. So I … (LAUGHS)
… had a day to get the songs together. And (INAUDIBLE) is a very hard song. And it’s
very rangy. And I get this music. And the notes on the music and the words … it looks
like somebody, you know, was in a dark corner and they … they wrote it all out. So we’re
in this room trying to figure this thing out. So I go in
and I … I sing this song. And I … they said it was good. They liked it. And they
said, well either we’re gonna fly you to L.A. I mean, to London … sorry, or we’re gonna
fly you to New York, because Cameron wants to see you. So I said, well you know, I really
get sick when I come to New York, so London’s probably the better place … (LAUGHTER) … for
you to fly me. It didn’t work … didn’t work. So they flew me into New York and I sang.
The first show I did when I did Broadway was THE WIZ, at the Majestic Theatre. And I had
auditioned on that stage so it was like, it was a really great feeling being back there.
So I go in and I sing this song. And it gets real quiet. And I’m on this stage and it’s
all pitch black out in the house … real quiet, don’t hear anything. And then all of
a sudden, I look in the wing. And they’re all standing in the wings. PSSST, PSST, come
over here. So I walk over. He said, do you want this job or don’t you? (LAUGHTER) And
that’s how it happened. (LAUGHTER) Obviously, you said you wanted it.
Yeah. And I … I … I was so shocked that they asked me like that. I said, well yeah,
yeah. You don’t sound like you’re sure. I said, no really. I’m real excited, except
(INAUDIBLE, LAUGHTER) now I’m really here. And that’s …
and I kind of floated home, floated back to the hotel after that. It was … and that’s
… that’s how it started. I’m glad that you wanted the job.
Thanks. Thanks. Did you have to fight your way for a job?
Yeah. I don’t know about fight. But I did PRELUDE in Berkeley, in California. And then
… they kept saying … you know, we’re gonna do it on Broadway. And
I … I was on the phone every day. I just wanted to do it again. I mean,
I would have done it in Hoboken, I mean, you know. (LAUGHTER) And … they … they kept
saying, you know, we really like you but you’re just not famous
enough and they’re interested in people, you know, like
… I don’t know who it was then. Somebody like Punky Brewster … (LAUGHS) … I don’t
know. And they said, you know, but just hang in there and maybe they’ll let you be an understudy
or something. I don’t want to be an understudy. And then it turns out, I guess about a year
later, Tonya Barezen decided to do it at the Circle … to do it Off Broadway first, and
then to do it … on Broadway. So I auditioned again … there, to make sure everybody was
okay with it. And then … I got it. And then, they didn’t make me re audition again for
… Broadway, probably because there wasn’t time to re rehearse somebody … (LAUGHTER)
I’m sure they would have if they could have. But …
How were the audiences? How did they differ? How did you
learn to adjust to the Broadway audience from the downtown
audience? Well it was sort of … it was kind of sad
in a way. Because on Broadway at first they felt so
far away. In Circle Rep, they’re just right there. And
on Broadway, suddenly they were … a thing. And they were
far away. But as, you know, as we adjusted to it … it
felt … it felt just as intimate, by the end. It was just
… initially it was kind of a … a shock.
Were the reactions from the audience the same … as
I…. I think they stayed pretty consistent, yeah, with that … with that show. I think
they stayed pretty much. Did you speak up, when you got on … the
Broadway theatre? (LAUGHTER)
I think … sometimes. Yeah, I did. Yeah. I mean, you have
to. But it wasn’t … it wasn’t a huge … you know, a huge
difference. Well it’s much bigger than Off Broadway.
Yeah, it is. And I very often go to a Broadway theatre
and the … the play has come from Off Broadway and I, sitting
in the eighth row, I can’t hear a word. They just
seem to be playing into a microphone or thinking they
are … (LAUGHTER) … or playing in a very small
space. So … (VOICES OVERLAP)
… you’ve played the Muni, haven’t you? Have you play …
ever played the muni? No, no I have never.
It’s eleven thousand seats or something? Yes.
I’ve played it twice, and it’s … (VOICES OVERLAP) …
yeah, in the summertime, you come out on stage and it …
it’s … it’s daylight, at eight o’clock. So unlike the
theatre, you come out on stage and you see eleven thousand
people, right there. (GASP, LAUGHTER) And I was doing what
I never belong … I was tap dancing, with Tommy Tune. I
had no business being up there. But I was having a lot …
(LAUGHTER) But it was … we had done it for two weeks in
Dallas in the lights, they said … What was the show?
MY ONE AND ONLY. Oh.
And they pushed me out on stage in front of eleven thousand
people. Ten … start tap dancing. (LAUGHTER) And you can
see everyone … you can see … this is the great … you
can sit … you see people fanning themselves. (LAUGHTER)
Oh my God. I’d much rather have a dark theatre. (LAUGHTER)
But could you project for eleven thousand …
Eleven thousand? Probably not without a microphone. It goes
all the way up the hill in Forest Park in Saint Louis. And
I don’t … I don’t know … but it’s … it’s …
Were you … were you miked? Oh yeah. Yeah.
Oh. Where did you train for the theatre?
Well, I trained in school in New York. I studied in New
York. And I studied in Los Angeles. And I … I like to
sing for my own pleasure. So I … I studied … I studied
classical voice, just because … just for fun, not for …
I don’t want to be an opera singer. But just something to
enrich everything. You know, just because I like to do it.
I like to go to the opera and stuff. But That’s how I met her. She … she studied
with my old friend, Natasha Bodanya …
That’s right. … who was a star at the Met when I did publicity
for the Met. Yup.
She’s a good’teacher. She’s a wonderful teacher.
Yeah. I should start studying with her soon … as
soon as I get my voice back. (LAUGHTER)
Timothy? Where did you study? I went to a school called “School of the Arts”
in Berkeley, in Northern California … originally to play
music and somehow … went down the wrong corridor.
(LAUGHTER) There were auditions for BACCHAI, Euripides. And
I was required to audition. So I did and I got the part of
Dyonisis … and panicked … (LAUGHTER) … because I
had never done it before. And then, from that day on I decided
to shift everything towards drama, in that school.
That was a good idea. (LAUGHTER) The reason I asked is because you were talking
about the difference in working in small theatres and
large theatres, that obviously a performer has to know what
they need to adjust to that, both in … in size of … of
… of their performance and … as well as their voice.
And you, in … in England, have much more of an opportunity
to do that, because there are so many theatres available
to you. Well also, the English actor … (VOICES OVERLAP)
… is very lucky I think because he … he has a
thing called “repertory”
Mmm hmm. … which every small town … and the larger
towns have two or three … they have repertory.companies,
where they do anything from weekly repertory, doing a
different play every week. Sometimes it’s fortnight in a
repertory, every two weeks, or what would be monthly repertory,
the … the rather better one. So an actor, when he leaves
his drama school and goes into repertory, he, during
the course of a year, if he goes into a small repertory company,
he can do fifty two plays. And he will do everything
ranging from, you know, the Greeks LYSISTRATA, right through
medieval mystery plays, Shakespeare, restoration comedy,
you know, Victorian melodrama, and … modern plays.
And so he has a tremendous chance to … to verse himself
in all kinds of styles. So that when he’s given a play, he
invariably knows what sort of style to play it in, you know.
And I think that helps, the English actors …
It saves a lot of time. Yes, it saves a lot of time, yeah. Right.
Is it still like that? (VOICES OVERLAP) I would start … oh, I’m sorry.
Is it still like that in England? Yes, I think so. I mean, the … the repertory
system still seems to hang on in England. And perhaps it’s
not quite as … not quite as … as … although the … during
the war, there was a tremendous surge of repertory,
because it was the only kind of entertainment they had.
Then after the war, it continued for about fifteen, twenty
years. But probably from the seventies onwards, there
hasn’t been quite as much repertory, although all the
big towns still have them.
I’d like to go there and … and be at the repertory
theatre and … and have them go, fifty two weeks, with a
different play every week. I think that would be wonderful.
That is great. (VOICES OVERLAP) We’ve never had anything like that.
Did you … did you start in a repertory theatre in a small town? Or where did you start?
Did I? No, I … I … I started in … I started acting in
a German prisoner of war camp …simply because I was … I
was a school boy, when the Germans invaded my home. And …
which was in Les Iles de la Marche, the Channel Islands, in
… in … near the coast of France. And when France and
Germany and so … and Belgium and Holland were overrun. We
knew it was our turn next. I managed to escape on the third
night of the occupation. I got across to England. And I was
only fourteen. And I stuck my age on, and eventually
managed … after a series of ventures … managed to get
into the Royal Air Force. And then after two years of
flying with them, I got shot down at the beginning of 1942.
And finding myself in a German prisoner of war camp, where
alas, we didn’t have real women. But we did try to
entertain ourselves with theatricals. And we had a … a
kind of professional repertory company, in the first camp I
was in. Because there were like, three thousand men and
about fifteen of those had been professional actors. So we
formed our own repertory company. I played female parts.
(LAUGHTER) Eventually I graduated to male parts, which my
wife has been eternally grateful. (LAUGHTER) And … yes, I
even played Portia in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE actually. But
… we … you know, so that’s how I started. And I …
then I … whilst I was there, I read a German publication,
which occasionally printed a … a piece of genuine news,
that said Alexander Corda, the film director, had granted
scholarships for ex service men and women to go to the
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after the war. And I applied
for one of these through the Red Cross. And I went back
after the war and auditioned and was awarded a scholarship.
And then I was on leave in Manchester from the RAF. And I
went to see the Manchester Repertory Company and the
proprietor there offered me a job. And so I decided to …
be a professional right away. I never went … I never had
any formal training, alas, which I have often regretted.
But then, I’ve had a lot of experience, you know, in …
inasmuch as I … I did … I did over five hundred
different plays in repertory. Hmm.
Geeze. And I directed over three hundred of them.
Oh my goodness. Did you know the American Theatre Wing had
a school for returning veterans as well. Oh really?
Yes, and … and the government … considered that
part. They sponsored it and considered it part of a credit
course. And it was for professionals only, that would come
back and retool their trade. And almost every big name in
the theatre contributed their talents to it, which actually
is … these seminars grow out of that. The school closed
at … at the end, when there was a decrease in students.
And I realized that there wasn’t an area in which people
could.discuss all phases of the theatre. And … a
crossover in the theatre as well. And so, this is the next
best thing. And I seem to think it’s even better.
But it seems as if your voice in our … and a classic
training and all that. You did all … all that just from
one play to the next. Well, I … I did nine years with the Royal
Shakespeare Company. So I suppose one gets a bit used
to classical work, doing that.
But you have the voice to begin with. Yeah., It’s very strange, actually. Because
I have had two throat operations. I’m not … nothing … when
I was playing KING LEAR in Chichestire. And our
dear director decided that in the storm scene, where I had
this very long soliloquy, he would have like six speakers
in the house, blazing out with … thunder and waves and
all the rest of it. And I lost my voice before the first night.
And I carried on through the whole season. And it
was dreadful and you … you know, I was croaking away.
And then the last night of the season, there was a … a
doctor there waiting for me. And they whipped me up to
the London clinic. I said, what’s all this about? He
said, well … your vocal chords are so swollen … you’ve
got so many callouses and things on them that they’re
actually touching. And so I went in and I had this
operation. And it’s been just as strong as ever, since. I’ve
had that done twice. So if ever you have these nodules on
your throat, as an actor, don’t worry about it. They … they
can chop them off very easily. (LAUGHTER)
Theresa, with all I know about you and everything you’ve
done, I don’t know what … where you started … where you
started from. Where I started from? I started in high school
… Mmm hmm.
… and a public speaking teacher there got me a working scholarship at something called
the Wharf Theatre in Provincetown. And … there, Edith Skinner, who taught at the Carnegie
Tech, ran a theatre school there. So … in the morning I’d play … I’d study at the
theatre school. And she had some marvelous teachers come and work with us there. And
then I got to play all the children’s parts in the … in plays, if there was a child’s
part with the professional actors. And while there, I met Dora Mirandi, a character actress
and she said, come see her in New York. She went back to New York and was … got a job
in OUR TOWN. I went to see her. And she was dressing with Martha Scott and they were looking
for an understudy … I mean, a replacement for Martha then. And … Martha said apparently
when I left … that girl is Emily and she … and Doris said, yes, but she’s still in
high school. So anyway, Dorothy McGuire got the job. And … a year later, when I got
out of … when I graduated from high school, I came into New York. And that time, they
were looking for a re … an understudy for Dorothy, ’cause Martha had gone to do the
play … I mean, the movie. And … that’s how I got started. And … then I guess I
was taught … Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.
So right across the river. Right across the river. It was a long way
away. (LAUGHTER) In those days, it was a long way away. I mean,
the car fare, which was not very much … it was too
much for me to get to New York. Anyway, that I Is how I started
and I guess, speaking of teachers, I think my next
teachers were Howard Lindsay and Pretain Windess and “Life
With Father”, Howard used to come in the dressing room and
give me little lectures about the theme and so on. You’re
wonderful, and great. He’s still a quick start. (LAUGHTER)
I was lucky. Yes, I was very lucky. And you? Do you have anything particular that
you’d like to talk about? (LAUGHTER) That’s a good start.
My dog. (LAUGHTER) Didn’t you have many replacements in the show?
We’ve had a couple of guys leave for other shows, actually.
One of the guys, Chris, left for NICK AND NORA, who’s now I
think they’re in previews now. Another one of Billy Porter’s leaving to go doFIVE GUYS
NAMED MOE. And I think that’s it so far. Two of the guys have left
to to do other things. And how do you keep the show up when that
happens? Do you do . . . are . . .you . . . (VOICES OVERLAP)
Well . . . well, the show. . .There’s so many things going on in this . . .everybody has
so many characters going on in the show, you know,’cause we’re all. . .I think the
opening scene we’re in a bar and everybody’s drunk and we’re being womanizers and throwing
these beautiful women all . . . and I love that part of the show.
(LAUGHTER) We just throw them all over the place.
You’re sexually harassing women? No, no, we don’t do that. (LAUGHTER) We don’t
say anything about sodas or anything in the … no … (LAUGHTER) No, but we’re very conscious
of women actually. (LAUGHTER) Where did you study dancing?
But … Where did you study dancing?
Where did I study dance? I studied … I started with the
School of American Ballet, and (INAUDIBLE) Haywood Ballet
in Washington. And I wanted to be in New York City Ballet
and Balanc hine thought I was a little too short. So I said
…'(GESTURES) … to you and I went … (LAUGHTER) No, but
I … I wanted to be in his company. I loved his work. But
… it didn’t work out. But it worked out in another way.
Balanchine himself being this tall. I know. (LAUGHTER) He’s great. I love his
… I love his work. What about singing?
Singing I studied with a woman named Barbara Christopher,
who is an opera singer, here in New York, who I think …
she may be singing now with the … with the Met. I’m not
sure. But at one time, she was there. I don’t know if she
was actually in the … Do you still take lessons?
Yeah. In fact, that’s why I was a little late today. I was
coming from acting class. (LAUGHS) From Alan … Alan
Savage. I was take … coming from class. I got caught in
traffic. I could get here. But yeah, all the time. Still
going. How much extra work do you … you’re all
working, which is so nice. Do you take classes in anything … as
… as well as what you’re doing?
I think that’s the wonderful thing about American actors,
that they do do that. I mean, we’re terribly lazy in
England. I mean, and it’s very strange, because they draw
… (VOICES OVERLAP) I think that about the English. I think differently.
I think … Oh really? Well … (LAUGHTER) … no. But
I mean, if you’re a musician … if you’re a dancer … if you’re a
singer, I mean, you practice all the time. Even musicians
who are giving concerts, I mean, practice daily. But the
actor doesn’t do that, not in England anyway. I don’t know
what they do here. (VOICES OVERLAP) But I mean, if they’re
… they’re … hopefully, they’re working. And when they’re not working, they’re … serving
in Woolworth’s or something.But I mean, most of the time, they don’t practice
their art apart from when they’re actually doing it.
But you have the repertory, which you … you get to do all
those … you know, you get to do all those …
Oh sure. (VOICES OVERLAP) That’s true, yeah. But I mean …
We don’t have that here. … the more successful actors that are playing
in the West End, or in you know, in … in … in number
one theatre. They … they’re … they’re … they will
do just that job. But they don’t practice during the daytime
or get warmed up for the show at night, as actor
… as singers and musicians do, and dancers.
That’s why the … (VOICES OVERLAP) Does … does everybody here, as … as actors,
warm up for the show at night?
(CLEARS THROAT LOUDLY) No. (LAUGHTER) That’s yours at night, eh? (LAUGHTER)
(INAUDIBLE) do you? I … I do some. It depends on how I feel.
I mean, if … if I … if I feel that … that my voice
is a little bit weak on that particular day, then I will.
I will do something to try to … to g et it back. And
I did some voice work bef … while we were in rehearsals.
So it depends. I mean, sometimes not at all. I mean,
I’ll be reading the paper, right up until “Places”.
And … And you can go on cold?
Pardon? And you go on cold?
Yes. A couple of the English companies here held
classes in discipline before the show. And it was so
popular that some of the Americans here, right next door, began
coming into it. And … it … it was really a wonderful
thing to see. And they held it two or three times a … a
week. What .. what … what English companies?
I’m … just … I’m trying to think of which one it was. It was the … the first one of
the Dickens shows. The big Dickens thing. Oh, well it must have been the Royal Shakespeare
Company then, yes. Yes. (VOICES OVERLAP)
, yes. That’s right. NICHOLAS NICKELBY. And … and
it was … (VOICES OVERLAP) What is the phrase? The ensemble piece? That’s
why … Yes.
… certainly need a certain amount of discipline for that.
Obviously. And … but no, it … that … that amazes me.
I always thought there was a tremendous lack of discipline
in the English theatre. (VOICES OVERLAP) It’s funny when you study … you study voice,
you know, in school or whatever and all speech. And you
lie there on the floor for hours on end, doing … (MUMBLES)
… and all these things. But you don’t know why you’re
doing it. And then you’ll have a moment in a play, where
you figure out … oh that’s why we did that. That’s what
they were talking about, about pushing the voice there
so that you don’t hurt … oh, I get it. (LAUGHTER) And
it’s take a job to get it. You know? It takes a job to …
Well I think that’s why there is … it is so important to
have the knowledge of what to do. You might not be using it
right away. But at some point, something clicks and you
remember what it is to overcome that. Oh so I suppose that’s the difference between
a … a professional and an amateur, isn’t it?
Mmm hmm. That … professional will maintain a certain
standard, so an amateur can be brilliant one night and
dreadful the next. But the … the professional, hopefully,
because of technique and so on. But it … it’s always
difficult, I think, to … to … in fact, it’s impossible
to reproduce the … the definitive performance. There’s
a story that Robert Lang, the actor, told me when he was
doing (INAUDIBLE) in … in Olivier’s OTHELLO. And
one night, Larry really took off, as Michel Sandenny,
the French director, would have said, “the bird had flown”.
(LAUGHTER) He was like, hobbling on the stage and giving
this fantastic performance of OTHELLO. And all
the company gathered in the wings. And at the curtain
call, when the curtain came down, and Robert Lang said to
Larry … well done, Larry. And Larry went, “What?” And went
into the dressing room and slammed the door. So Robert
said, what the heck’s the matter with him? So he banged
on the door and Larry said, COME IN! He said, what’s the
matter with you, Larry? He said, it was a wonderful performance
tonight. And Larry said, I know it was! But I don’t know
the bloody hell how I did it! (LAUGHTER) Or how to do it again. (VOICES OVERLAP)
… press for performance A. Roy and I worked together many years ago.
And when we worked together, you told me about this unique
economic arrangement that you and your family have,
which I have … I’ve never heard anywhere else. And I don’t’know
if you still do it.
No, we don’t now, because they’ve all flown the coop, you know.
Oh. They’re … they’re … they’re all … I
have three daughters. And they were all actresses and
my wife is an actress and … I wasn’t an actress. (LAUGHTER)
No I was an actor. And … we had a company and that’s
all. And we used to … any … anybody would add to anything,
put it in the company coffers and whatever we needed, we
took out. And that … it was that simple, actually. It
was … it was true communism, I suppose.(LAUGHTER) But in
fact, no. All the girls you see, I have my middle daughter,
Karen, she did a lot of films for Disney. She was the
little girl in Mary Poppins many,many moons ago. And so they
were all working and Michelle, my eldest daughter,
did a lot of television. But then my wife was working.
So yes, we used to pool the family coffers and then take out
whatever we wanted. (VOICES OVERLAP)
Newspaper interviews and actors who were always saying that they dread their children going
into such a terrible thing, the suffering, the anguish and all that. And then again and
again it turns out that acting in families goes on, generation after generation.
Yes. So there’s a long theatre right here, for
But but then are you also from a theatrical family?
Ah no. A lot of wishes(LAUGHTER) my mother. Yeah.
She wanted to be in theatre and became a mom and a housewife instead.
And what about the Parker family. No
Are you the only one? My sister. But my parents no. (LAUGHTER)
(INAUDIBLE) what was going on. All I know is that my father, when he lived
in New York . . . I’m about a fourth generation New Yorker really . . .and my father once
played little Eva. He had long golden curls, I’m told. (LAUGHTER) But outside of that,
I don’t know anybody who … who … from my family who ever acted.
What about you? We’re about to have to have to break. So we’re
going to leave this part of … of the … “how about
you” for when we come back. And there will be questions
from the audience, and … and I’m sure there’s gonna
be an awful lot of them. And so once more, you’re going
to be subject to all of the things we want to know about
what it’s like to work in the theatre. You’re all very good,
and thank you very much. And don’t go away. You can stand
up and stretch and we’ll come right back again and continue
this. (APPLAUSE) BREAK IN SEMINAR
(APPLAUSE) We’re continuing the American Theatre Wing
Seminars on Working in the Theatre, which are coming to
you from the Graduate Center of the City University of
New York, where this seminar is.on the performance. And we
have a wonderful group of performers here. We are discussing
what it is to work in the theatre. And I think we left off
with Timothy, did we? Timothy Hutton. Where did we … we
were … We were asking him about his family connections,
which are distinguished, with respect to acting.
Well my … yeah, my father was … was an actor. Jim
Hutton. James Hutton. And … as far as him having an
opinion about whether I should or should not be an actor,
he didn’t really have one. Once I started doing it, he
encouraged it. And he actually asked me to go on the road
with him … to play HARVEY. He was playing Elliot and I
was I … I forget the name of the character. But it’s the
cab driver that comes in at the very end … Yeah.
… that asks for the tip. And he used to play around with me and give me hundred dollar
bills on stage … which worked. (LAUGHTER) Because I would just be panicked and not
know what to do. And of course, he’s ask for it back.
(LAUGHTER) But that was … that was great, because he …
he … I remember he did this thing, where we would drive to the theatre. And he would
say … he said, ok … the first day we went to the theatre, he would
say … okay, from this moment on, we’re just two people working and I’m
gonna go where I have to go and you have to go where … you know, that … that … that’s
it. You have a job to do. I have a job to do. So don’t be offended if … if I’m,
not gonna talk to you. I have to do this. I have to do that. So he established right
away that … you know,,an actor can be… needs to be selfish sometimes and … and
can’t … always … anyways. So that … that was something I remember that he did.(LAUGHTER)
Cut me off, in other words. (LAUGHTER)
Famous case of Buster Keaton as a little clown, three and
four years old, in the old days on the stage, when his
father used him as a prop and used to hurl him out, up in
the air and knock him around and hit him with brooms and do
everything else. And at … in New Haven once, at Yale …
the Yale students were mocking the father. And the father
picked up little Buster at the age of three or four and
hurled him into the audience right into the face of the
Yale undergraduate and broke his … broke,his teeth all up
in front … Oh my goodness.
And Buster thought that was what life was supposed to be like.
Oh! Oh …
That’s how … that’s how … that’s how he grew up. He
forgave his father for everything. How awful.
A less pleasant story than yours. (LAUGHTER) Was your mother an actress?
No. No. She worked here for a while. She … she was an
apprentice or an intern to Theoni Aldridge … at some
point. And … and I think that’s how she met my father. I
should know this. (LAUGHTER) But she doesn’t talk about it,
because I think she wanted to continue it. And she never
did. What was her name?
Ah, at the time, Marilyn … You should know this too. (LAUGHTER)
Yes, yes, very important. I believe it was Marilyn Pool, was her maiden
…(LAUGHTER) Stephanie, what about your family?
Oh gosh. My great grandfather, Alexander Zimbalist, was a
conductor in the town of Rostoff in Russia. And my
grandfather, Efrem Zimbalist, was a violinist. My
grandmother was Alma Gluck, a concert singer … opera
singer. My aunt is Marsha Davenport, a writer. My father is
Efrem Zimbalist. And my sister is Nancy, who … organizes
all the Virginia Slims tennis tournaments and stuff in Madi … Madison Square Garden.
A book. (LAUGHTER) And my brother, Efrem, is Chairman of the
Board of a company called Craya Art Glass. It’s a beautiful
art glass … wonderful things. And my sister in law
designs it. And I have a niece, Christie, who just graduated
Vassar. And … and there’s Efrem the Fourth and Alexis
and McNair. So there’s a bunch of US. (LAUGHTER) But we don’t
pool our resources. (]LAUGHTER)
What a wonderful resident company you do have. Yeah. And my pop … my grandpa used to smoke
cigars. And he always said that it … it didn’t matter
what you chose to do in life, as long as you did it to the
best of your ability. So he would have the same respect
for the man that did an excellent job fixing his shoes, making
his cigars, as a fine, fine violinist. So that was basically
the attitude we all have for each other, which
is … pick whatever you want to do, anything, as long
as you do it to the best of your ability. And it’s … it’s
sort of important. So, my pop said though, when I
was debating on whether to go to drama school or university,
and I was faced with the decision at seventeen. He said,
just no about acting that it’s ninety nine percent
rejection. And what that means is … it doesn’t literally
mean that you don’t get ninety nine jobs out of a hundred.
But the ones that you really want count for about eighty
of them. (LAUGHTER) So it is ninety nine percent. He’s
right. He’s absolutely right.
How do you deal with rejection? Oh gosh. I sing. (LAUGHTER) You sing. I hit them. (LAUGHTER)
What do you do? But you never had it, did you?
Oh, all the time. All the time. Oh, did you? Oh, I’d love to hear about it.
Oh gosh, well … (LAUGHTER) All the time, I … it’s …
the … there’s a … abbreviated version. But the reason
THE BABY DANCE came about was because I couldn’t get hired.
So I decided to have a play written for myself. And that’s
… that’s what THE BABY DANCE is. So Oh really?
Because I wanted to do a play and I went to a friend of
mine. And we pulled in Linda Purl and we threw ideas
around. I call it spaghetti on the ceiling. And I threw in
an idea about I wanted to see two women in disparate
circumstances, thrust into a crisis. And Linda was
interested in the idea of a woman who wanted to have a
child and couldn’t. And Jane Anderson, who was in the room,
said … these ideas can be married. And she went off, and
a month later we had the play. So that’s how it came about.
But it was from not getting employed that it came about.
And then how did you get a producer? Well we produced it, in Los Angeles.
You did it yourselves. Yeah. Mmm hmm. And then it sort of … the
rest is history. We sort of just threw out the fishing lines.
And they’re still being thrown out. So … yeah, it’s
a … it’s a … it’s a game of … I’m sure we all know, it’s
a game of rejection though. It’s … it’s a joke. I
was … was fascinated about … you know, when I was
on the series, REMINGTON STEELE, I … I’d walk down the
street. And it was, oh my God, oh you’re … you’re my favorite actress. Oh, thank you very much.
It was wonderful. And then not ten months later, I’d be in a bank line. Could you spell
that, please? (LAUGHTER) Z as in zebra, I, M as in Mary … M as in Mary, B as in bo
… not ten months later. And we all know that. It’s just up … you know that. Up and
down. It happens to all of us. So, somewhere in the middle of that,
you have to find your identity and just have faith in it.
Theresa, how do you feel about that? And how do you handle it?
Well you … you do handle it. I mean, it goes on. I … what was it? About a year or
two ago, I was reading for a small part in a film that I just love. And I’m not going
to be able to remember the name of it, but you would … you’ll know what it is. I should
remember the name of the man who wrote the original book. But anyway,
it …. it starred … Robert DeNiro and … and Robin
Williams. AWAKENINGS. AWAKENINGS.
AWAKENINGS. And I had read the book and loved it and I
LOVED the script. And I read for that role five times,
always sort of at the last minute. And I mean, I … they
sent it to me originally for something else and I said …
no, I don’t want to do any of those. But I would love to
play the mother, if she could be an Irish mother. I … and
I did what I call my “New York Irish” accent for them. And
they said, great. And then, I got to read the first time.
And I thought it was … pretty awful. And I told my agent
to forget it. And then they called me up again and said,
and we want you to come in .,. again,, at the last.minute
… come in to read with Mr. DeNiro … DeNiro and work on
your Bronx accent. And I said, I don’t have a Bronx accent.
(LAUGHTER) And I wasn’t trying to … I’d talked to
somebody about getting some help on it, but there wasn’t
time. And I came in and did my New York Irish again. And
… and again, I told my agent just forget about it. That’s
it. I mean, it … it’s … and I shouldn’t ever have read
for it in the beginning. Anyway, this went on right up to
testing for it in Brooklyn. And my dear friend, Ruth
Nelson, got the role and was absolutely marvelous in it.
And … I knew, when … when I saw it that I would not
have been as right as Ruth. And … you just face that. But
it … sometimes, I usually know … I’ve … I’ve turned
down an awful lot of things, ’cause I say I … I know I’m
not right, and I can’t do it. It isn’t just that … you
have to … you have to feel a … a … an inner sympathy
with the … the character. And sometimes I don’t and …
and … know that I would be false in it. And … I knew I
could play … I knew I could play her from the inside, not
necessarily from the outside. It happened to me once a long
time ago, when I was too old for a part and they sent me
… THE MIRACLE WORKER. And they sent it to me for the
mother and I said, no, I played that nice southern woman so
many times. And I really don’t have any desire to play her
again. But I wish somebody give me a part like Annie ten
years ago. So .. it dissolved and they didn’t get the
person they wanted and they came back to me, and I played
it because I knew that I … had the insides of Annie, even
if I was too old for the outside. And it worked. Sure.
Well that’s wonderful. We’re about to go to questions. And
I would like to ask so many of them myself. And we have a
whole group of people here that want to ask you all
questions. So we’ll start right now. My name is Michael Shapiro and this is for
Roy Dotrice. In THE HOMECOMING now, what sort of experience
is it being redirected in a part that you’ve already played,
by a new director? And how are you playing it differently?
Ah well … well, I’ve never played the part before.
Oh. No, I wasn’t in the original production.
Okay. So I … you know, it’s … it’s totally fresh
for me. I think I know this character. I … I … I
… I hadn’t had wonderful reviews. In fact, some delightful
gentleman said I looked like Santa Claus in the part.. (LAUGHTER)
But I … I don’t think I … he must have been
a very peculiar … (LAUGHTER) … Santa Claus … (INAUDIBLE)
No, I I mean, I’ve … I’ve enjoyed it tremendously,
because I’ve drawn on … on a great deal of my own experiences from … from life.
I I was on the periphery of a … a film once, in which I met the Cray Brothers and all those
people. Max says, the character play … I which gives you some clue to his background
… he does say … they talk about him and his friend McGregor. He says, we were the
two of the worst hated men in the West End of London. He said, I’ll tell you
‘I’ve still got the scars. He said, we walk into a place, the whole room’d stand up and
make way for us to part. You never ‘erd such silence. This man was in the protection racket,
you know, in his youth. So I … I’ve … I’ve drawn on a great deal of … of that experience
because I … I was kind of, not actually in it, but on the periphery, but … at one
time, doing research for a film with Mick Jaggar, called PERFORMANCE. And I’ve enjoyed
doing it tremendously. And … perhaps “enjoy” is the wrong word. It’s … it’s a very draining
experience, to play this monster. And I do believe the man is a monster. But no, to get
back to your original question, I hadn’t played it before. But I’m enjoying … it’s an experience
this time. Okay.
Thank you, very much. Thank you.
Hi, my name is Dorothy Gannon. This question is for Miss
Wright. You had such a long and illustrious career in the
theatre. Can you tell us what the biggest change has been,
since the beginning of your career to how theatre is today?
Well … I think, to the great detriment of theatre,
theatres are getting bigger all the time. The little ones
are being knocked down and these big monsters come in. And
as you mentioned, there are certain theatres that the human
voice cannot be heard in. I mean, generally speaking, I
don’t think there’s a problem in … in projection, if
you’re talking to a person next to you. You speak one way.
If you’re talking to somebody at the back of the room, you
naturally have to reach them. But when you are in a theatre
of a monstrous size and no way to reach it except by the
mike … and if that’s going to be our future theatre …
it just seems to me that it’s the end of theatre as we’ve
known it. And I just hope to God that somebody goes on
building smaller theatres, and finding a way to finance
them. And God knows how that can be done, except by
corporate financing. If anybody has an ideas on that …
That’s a very good idea. Hi, my name is Dennis Feeley, and my question
is for Mr. Hutton. You’re very well known from your film
work, and I was wondering … does this interfere with
your ability to disappear into a part on stage, at least from
the audience point of view? Are you aware of that?
I don’t … I don’t know from the audience point of view.
But for myself, no. If … if … if I’ve come close to
doing my job, then absolutely not. Next.
Hi everybody. I’m Phoebe McBride. I am an actress. And I’d like to ask you … did you
make it in theatre by studying acting or by getting an agent? (LAUGHTER)
Oh, I don’t … I mean it in a kind way. I didn’t
mean it to … (LAUGHTER) Please! Some advice?(VOICES OVERLAP)
Well I think if you … … do you want to start?
I … it’s … it’s a bit of both. Getting an agent can be
just as hard. It’s harder than finding a good teacher to
study acting from. But I think they’re both important, a
good agent. I mean, you can be with a huge, great agency.
But if no one’s behind you, making sure that you’re getting
out for those jobs, you might as well not be there. So …
I mean, they’re both very important, ’cause you … you
definitely need … once you do get in the door, you need
… you need your craft to back you up, once you’re in
there so you know what you’re doing once you’re in there.
So they’re … they’re pretty both important. I think it’d be interesting. Would you take
it around the panel? What about you?
Well I … I got my first agent from the league auditions,
from the League of Professional Theatre Schools. I went to
one of the schools. It’s … it’s not … it doesn’t exist
anymore. But … the theatre schools would have … hold
auditions, and all the agents and casting directors in New
York and some from California would come and … and watch.
So that’s how I … I … I got my first agent, was from
having been to a conservatory. And … and I would … I
really would never have wanted to ever go on any sort of
theatre audition without having studied. I … I just
don’t. PM: Thank you. TERESA WRIGHT
Well I think it really has pretty much been answered, and
… and the only other thing is almost a … a little bit
like what you’ve done, as a producer. But young people now,
more and more, are getting together and forming their own
little companies. How they manage to do it, I mean, they
don’t make enough to … pay their car fare to where
they’re going. They have to have other jobs. But they are
so dedicated to this that they … they do meet and they
put on plays and they have readings … mostly readings,
because they can’t afford. And then people do get to see
them, and out of that sometimes they’ll get a job offer.
And it is almost today, since there is … there are some
… few plays being done that aren’t musicals … that’s
what actors have to do. (VOICES OVERLAP) And it would be
good to work with a group of friends that you know … get
together and just work, because at least you’re doing
something. And then if you get it on enough that you can
find a place. Manhattan … apartments … Plaza … what
is it? (VOICES OVERLAP) Manhattan Plaza. They have a free
space. I mean, people just have to sign up for it … and
go in there and you invite people to see it, which is very
… (VOICES OVERLAP) … keep working.
Yes. … working at your trade, no matter where
it is. My name is Susan Pingleton, and my question
is for the panel. I was listening to Mr. Battle say that
he had been pursued for a part that he was not particularly
interested in at the time. But I wanted to know, how
do you handle it, when you want a part very, very badly, and
you don’t get it? (LAUGHTER)
I cry. See these wrinkles here? (LAUGHTER)
I cry a lot. Well is there anything you can do in … in
… in the audition process? Do you mean to go back again
and say look, give me another chance?
Yes, basically. I mean … This, you know, you have to … I mean, there’s
a lot of times there’s been parts that I’ve really
wanted, and parts that I know I’m right for, and I know I could
do it and have a … be really great at it. And we’ll
go in and give a good audition and … I’m just not right
for it. Maybe I’m not … a lot of it is not always necessarily
your craft. A lot of it … you may not look the
right part. Physical … (VOICES OVERLAP)
… or you may not match up with this person, or they had
someone much younger in mind. That just came up. I wanted
to go in, convincing him … I can play that age. I can
play younger,you know. (LAUGHTER) And going in there and
you know, finally getting the audition and … someone had
an idea of me because I’ve done theatre for a long time.
And a lot of people think I’m much older than I am … that
I was way too old for this part. And I had to fight, just
to get an audition to get … get in. Didn’t get the part,
but I wanted the part, because it was a great role.
Have you ever had to fight your agent, to submit you for something …
Yeah,.that’s what I’m … … you knew you were right for?
… that’s what I’m talk … I’ve had to fight my agent. I
might leave him too. That’s what I had to do … (LAUGHTER)
… my agent to get them in to see me, although she didn’t
… the casting director didn’t … she thought I was too
old. But it was good that I went in, because when she did
meet me, she realized I wasn’t as old as I was. And I
wasn’t necessarily right for that part, because of the age,
but there was other things that, you know, that she wants
to see me for. but … so I mean, a lot of times it doesn’t
work out one way, it’ll work out another way. So it, you
know … Great. Thanks.
That was very good. Hi, I’m Jacqueline Ravell and my question
is for the panel at large. I’m curious how you make an adjustment
in preparation, when you’re preparing for a television
series character, as versus a theatrical character.
Well, you want to start, Roy, up with that, because you’ve done both.
Um yes, I’ve … (SIGHS) … oh dear, unfortunately, I think that the prob … the thing I enjoy
most about theatre is the rehearsal period, when one has an opportunity to create a character.
And hopefully, by the time the first night comes around, you
know, you’re … you’re rushing along the tunnel towards meeting a chap you’ve never
met before … hopefully. It doesn’t happen that way. You have to explore the character
and run it for several weeks, possibly months before you
can get everything you can out of the character and feel
that you’ve got a very full character there. Now that doesn’t happen too much in television
and in films, unfortunately. You know, you’re … you’re
suddenly introduced to someone at seven o’clock in
the morning. And they say, jump into bed, you’ve got this love
scene, you know. (LAUGHTER) Used to … used to happen
to me in me youth, doesn’t happen anymore. (1AUGHTER) But … you know what I mean. You
… you … you don’t rehearse things. Or well, maybe you rehearse it once or twice
with a camera and then do it. Occasionally . . .I did a film
last year with Buck Henry, which we did rehearse for three
weeks, before we did it. But then that was because it was an adaptation of a stage play.
The thing that … as for performance, on … on film compared … it’s … it’s just
a question of projection, really. You know, I mean … I’m talking to you and you’re ten
feet away and I’m talking this loud. But if I were whispering you were … or quite close
to you, I wouldn’t be projecting that much. It’s … it’s just … you know, the difference
between trying to get to the back of a dress circle, and projecting. Or
So your … your preparation, before, in building the
character, is the same basically, for … for theatre …
(VOICES OVERLAP) Well, as I say in television, there’s not
much … and film … there’s not too much preparation for … for
… for … for character, unless you’re in one of
those unique situations with a film, where they do rehearse
for a few weeks beforehand. But invariably, you don’t.,
You’re … I think Stephanie wants to get in on that.
Oh, I didn’t say … I enjoy his back very much.
I’m sorry. (LAUGHTER) The thing about doing a television series
is, if you’re a regular on it, is that it’s not unlike theatre,
because you’re playing the same character. The … the
scripts change, but you have the opportunity to … to
make it grow and grow and grow, and so … and I’ve always
felt about … I don’t know about you, Tim. But I’ve
always felt that … that in the theatre is where you … you
take several steps up in terms of what you know about acting.
And in film is where you go practice it. You take
a few steps up in the theatre. (UGH!) And then you go on
film and you go, oh I can do this and I can do this and I can
do that. And then you go back to the theatre and you go
several steps up again. It’s . . . and the best way for we
actors, us actors, is to go back and forth. It seems
to be the best way.
I think you were talking about developing the character,
though, it just happens before you get to other … the …
the camera or the audience. I think developing the character, for me is
the same. I mean, a lot of it you … you end up doing
on your own somewhat … as in … in doing film and television,
as on theatre you made it in the rehearsal with
everyone else. You may … you have the luxury of developing
it right there with everyone else.
I think that pretty much … (VOICES OVERLAP) … where, you know. Thank you.
Hello, my name is Christine Butler and I have a question
for Miss Zimbalist. You’ve been associated with THE BABY
DANCE for about two years now. Have you been working on
other projects along at the same time? And if so, is it
difficult to pick … pick up again, when you … when you
come back to THE BABY DANCE? It’s a curious thing. I … I’ve … I supplement
my … I … I keep myself in silk, I … I call it.
No, it’s just a joke … (LAUGHTER) doing television. So I
did a television movie with Jessica Tandy in … in June that
will be out in December. And another one with Gregory Harrison
and Kevin Conway. We go down … let’s say we won’t
… we won’t be at Long Wharf and then we’ll have four months
off or five months off. And every time we come back to
this play, all of us have grown several paces. We don’t know
why. It s a curious thing about this play, and it happens
every time we stop doing THE BABY DANCE. We all rush around
and do other things. We come back to it and it’s like … OH!
And it’s a different play every time. Every time it’s
a different play.
Thank you. Thank you.
My … I’m Roz Dunn and I’m a talk show host, and my
question is for Brendan Gill. What material do you feel is
the most lacking in theatre today? The material that these two plays that we’ve
been talking about today have, which is … which is a
serious confrontation with the realities of life and
finding the means of turning those tragic events that
we are all familiar with into works of art. And in … and
in both of these cases, this.is what has taken place.
And it’s a … it’s a thrilling thing that the opportunity
continues to exist, both for the playwright and the actors
to have. And we have more than enough of that … of … of
professional skills, and … and … and … but the willingness
to take a chance on confronting all that is … is
what I find the most necessary thing for all of us.
Do you ever think something like that could be worked into
a … miniature musical? (LAUGHTER) Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.
I’d like to see it too. Thank you. We have time for just one more question.
My name is Ernie Dickie. And my question is for Miss
Parker. And you made your film debut with LONG TIME
COMPANION, which was written by Craig Lucas, who also wrote
PRELUDE TO A KISS? Uh huh.
Which part came first? And which do you prefer, film or stage?
Actually, I did one film before that, called SIGNS OF LIFE.
I did the play of PRELUDE TO A KISS in Berkeley, and then
they asked me to be in the movie and I … I agreed to do
it without having even read the script, because I knew the
subject matter, and I knew that they would really deal with
it beautifully, which I think they did. And … so that
came first. And … as far as stage or film, I … I prefer
stage. Absolutely. No question. I’m sorry, but once more I find myself interrupting
and … and saying that we haven’t enough time. And
there really isn’t enough time. We … just about when
we’re ready to get into all the problems and all the rewards
as well of working in the theatre, I have to bring it
to a close. This is the American Theatre Wing Seminar on working
in the Theatre, and it’s coming to you from the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York. New York
City, where the heart of the theatre is and where everything
that’s good goes out, and where everything that’s good
out comes in. And I am delighted to say that we can call
on the kind of people that we do, because the American Theatre
Wing has the reputation that it has. And as President
of the American Theatre Wing, I hope that I can continue
doing the things that we do. It’s a year round program,
and we do these seminars on the performance, on the
playscript/ director and on the production. And sets of
the seminars are sent out to universities across the country
for use in their classrooms. So thank you very much for
coming. And thank you; the panel, for being so very constructive
and giving so much of your time, on what it is
to work in the theatre. Thank you, indeed. (APPLAUSE)