Wednesday, October 31, 2012



The techniques used in farce are applicable in modified form to all comedy.  It would be well for all who seek a career in professional theatre to master these techniques.  What Dave Roberts learned so well in “Paradiso” he will use over and over.  I have already referred to the perfection of his “bonus” line.  Without fail, it brought down the house, stopped the show, elicited -- not scattered laughter, but total audience response -- and no doubt motivated the many curtain calls.  The show should have had similar responses throughout.  It was not characterization that brought the laugh.  The character created could easily have been obnoxious, distasteful.  It was Dave’s comedy technique that successfully landed every line he had night after night, and the play is so constructed that if the actor has registered each speech, he has logically built to the “bonus” climax and he has only to plant it securely.

Note the steps in the delivery.  First, Dave got focus by a slight movement, (only the head as I remember it), he intensified that focus by an arrest of the slight movement, a slight hold, (as if a catch of the breath, then playing direct opposite to every voice on stage and to the volume which preceded it, in a flat, direct tone, without inflection of any sort; he said, “Give you a bonus,” and stopped dead and held.  No mugging, no strain, no obvious trick.  I strongly advise all of you to work on it.

Lawrence wrecked almost every line Saturday because he did not use it, could not hang onto it once he had achieved it in earlier performances.  The one line he brought off Saturday was the first, “The dicks are here -- “ and every sequence he was in depended upon efficiency in this technique.  It is not difficult to master.  It is first purely a mechanical thing; then when used as Dave did, it is an art. 

Jenkins became skillful in its use. In the instances where it did not come off in his case, he had missed the first step: getting focus by that small -- or big -- movement that gets attention and can be arrested for intensification of focus.  Larry brought it off many times.  Could have done it regularly had he not been so concerned about carrying the play.  It was unfortunate that the play went through bad dress rehearsals to a weak opening night.  The invariable result of such procedure is tht someone -- in this case, Larry -- begins to feel he has to “carry” the show.  Add to this our desperate effort to sweep everyone into the farcical spirit through sheer pace, and inevitably you have certain distortions.  The accelerated pace was successful in that it shocked people out of pure realism, out of solo acting, and involved everyone in the farce situation.  It improved the show tremendously, but we paid a price for it.  The audience was cheated out of maximum participation through laughter, and Larry feeling responsible for the momentum of the play, had to distort the Boniface character; lost the meek little man to some extent and became too much the aggressor.  Had the opposing forces (the opposites) , developed more positively before Thursday night, Larry could have heightened the meek, worm-like qualities in opposition to the aggressive, unromantic wife and best friend.  Farce has to be finely balanced always.  In our necessity we had to resort to speed for intensification, thus sacrificing other elements.

Larry has a fine comic art.  I have mentioned certain aspects of it before; there is one I have not pointed out, and it may help others.  One cannot say exactly what goes on in an actor’s mind, but I believe that, consciously or unconsciously, Larry at some stage in his work, has an image of himself as Boniface or Androcles, etc -- an image in which, objectively, from a distance, with detachment -- he sees the personal characteristics of his own that he can use, distort, and throw off balance, and so achieve comic incongruity -- he can see his bony angles, his red hair, his ears, his skinny hands; he sees the comic possibilities in throwing focus on these very items -- they become the instruments on which he plays -- and since he has a detached viewpoint he can use them to the fullest extent.  He has no fear, no inhibition about using them -- they become not his nose, his ears, his hair, his frame, but a unique nose, hair, ears, etc. for an artist to use.  I recommend that you all acquire such ability, (partly discussed under showmanship last week).  I had coped Jane would see from such a viewpoint.  She isn’t fat, as the wife should be but I hoped Jane would see her height as towering above her worm husband; I hoped she would see her long arms as sinewy and strong enough to pick up the little man, to jab a hatpin right through him.  If Jane can get this objective viewpoint , she will lose her fears of doing comedy.  Cerasani, too, needs to learn to get outside of himself and see the qualities he can use, distorted and off balance.  Cerasani improved greatly when the momentum of the production gave him no time to think of how he was playing and what to do next.  He still has far to go in quickness of response to the immediate situation, in playing with others, in playing straight.

Paula needs to achieve this detached viewpoint.  She should be able, for instance, to see her beautiful brown eyes, growing blank and more blank and still more blank until Paula needs to be no more than a pair of huge, blank eyes in a made up face.  Don’t worry about the motivation; turn the eyes blank and the empty soul follows.  Linn does this very well.  He was not always successful in getting focus; the night he did, his exit, “Oh, I say,” touched off a huge laugh.

Suzanne, night by night, grew increasingly adept at using her blonde beauty, reducing it to beauty alone, and throwing focus on it.  She still needs work on playing flat direct statement in opposition to everything else.  She brought it off regularly on “cerebral hemorrhage,” but her tendency is to lack projection of the flat opposite, to drop it too low in volume or to fail to get focus.  She needs only to work hard enough on techniques to be sure of them.

Pressman made tremendous progress in farce techniques.  The first duet sequence never did come off, because neither Tom or Dave were secure enough to play opposites, but all of Dave’s other sequences were well-handled.  His tones tend to a hollowness which is damaging to the directness needed, but he overcame the hollow quality very well indeed.

Linda needs to sharpen her sense of opposite, instantaneous response.  Her tendency -- Jane’s too -- is to pick up the pitch, volume, intensity of the preceding speaker.  This is devastating in comedy, particularly farce, and is unwise even in serious drama.  In the Maxime-Victoire sequences, Victoire has to be the aggressor, Maxime the victim.  Linda always started the scene well, but after the first exchanges, she picked up Maxime’s passive tones.  This means that the comic progression of the scene was halted, it came to an impasse.  In other scenes, in which she did not have to lead the action, she was a vital, pert figure.  Don’t wait until you are in another play to work on this habit of playing opposites.  Work on it as an exercise, and try it in conversations, until it becomes automatic -- an involuntary, natural response.  

The three children were well played.  Lisa still needs to curb her tendency to do too much; focus went toward Claris and Penny who were intensively doing nothing.  And please, before going onstage have someone check your clothing.  Lisa’s petticoat showed a good six inches Saturday night, and one night Linda’s skirt (pink) placket was badly put together.  And do study pictures, fashion plates.  Few of you wear clothes on stage in such a way that they hvae character meaning, or period meaning.  to put on a 1900 dress, a 1912 dress, as if you are wearing your own casual clothing is to fail in interpretation of character and period.  Every era has its particular silhouette.  Become familiar with it.  When you put on an authentic 1912 dress and discover that it hangs long in the back, you should know instantly that you are standing incorrectly for the period, your silhouette is wrong.  Find the right posture for the clothing of the period and you may -- no, you will -- find the attitude of the period.  Our modern, pelvis-leading silhouette belongs only in modern dress.  The clothing of another era will no more suit it, than will the attitudes of other eras suit us.  Wearing clothes correctly is part of the art of acting, of interpretation of character.   

Zegers is doing a good job in “Right You Are” in wearing, in using a suit to express facets of character.  He wears it as if it belonged to him, as if he were born to wear it: suit and official are one -- Zegers did a good job, too, as the Inspector.  Good, straight playing from the right attitude.  Along with others in the cast, he fell into the error of speaking lines too fast in the last scene.  All of you, remember no matter what your pace, the significant word in the line must be tossed up (as you toss up a ball and catch it deftly).  Many comedy lines did not come off because the word that carries the comic idea was lost in a maze of words.  Unless this word has had some kind of focus, the laugh will not come, no matter how hard you punch the line.  Do work with the ball.  You will need the technique in the next two shows -- and badly in “Wonderful Town.”

If techniques had been more secure, the performance would have been easier on all actors, just as a game is less of a strain for a trained athlete than for the untrained one.  You wore yourselves out because you had to compensate for your lack of skill.  Saturday night some squences were overplayed; Wednesday night too many were not played at all.  Farce must seem to be a constant surprise, but that surprise must be played with effortless technique.  “Wonderful Town” is not a farce, but it will require expert techniques.  Brush up on all your comic techniques, less we have to compensate desperately for our lack of proficiency.

Monday, October 29, 2012


One Sunday in E.M.

Dear Laird,

Being here is like going home again to find you no longer belong.  The theatre stands empty.  “They” said an Arts & Crafts group would occupy it this summer, but no sign of anyone as we drove past.  The Lodge stands empty, silent, crumbling.  We do not spend much time here although we have longed to escape flooded Bloomsburg.  Since it was -- is -- a small town, Bloomsburg did not make headlines, but the destruction was great.  High on our hill we were safe, but how agonizing to sit safe up there to visualize what was happening belong and wait for that flood to crest.  Over 30 feet here.  Out of our 15,000 population, 10,000 were homeless.  A month later the clean up continues.

The past three weeks I have been working with three young people from the Chicago area.  Two of them you know -- David Downs & Eugene O’Neill.  Their capacity to learn is terrific.  Now they break the news to me that they do not intend to leave.  They want to get jobs and work with me when it is possible.  What shall I do?  I am appalled that I can think of no place to send them.  David will be a fine teacher-director.  The other two could be fine actors.  They belong in a good repertory company or a training school for repertory.  Once more I am appalled to find myself training people for a theatre which does not exist.

What are you going to do after the summer season?  Is it a good season?  what will you be doing the first week in September?  We expect to be in Oregon then.  As usual I think of going to Ashland --

We had three great weeks in England.  Travelled by car all about Scotland and Northern England; saw some good theatre in London, but “Julius Caesar” in Stratford was outrageously bad!

Send your lines up & out -- Have fun!

A. K.

NOTE FROM DAVE DOWNS:  Gene and I had spent summer 1971 at Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts. I acted in Laird's production of Hotel Pardiso. Gene played Laertes in Hamlet.  This letter was sent in 1972.  Gene was really named Eugene O'Neill

Saturday, October 27, 2012


In his notes to Chapter One, Introduction to his thesis, David Press says:

13:  “Future students might be interested in the collection of promptbooks of past productions at Northwestern University, now stored at Deering Library.  They are catalogued under the names of individual plays.  The promptbooks were made by students in directing classes who were required to record blocking, business, etc.  Some directors worked closely with the students who made the promptbooks.  Krause said in an interview that she did not always consult with the students who made her promptbooks.”

I find that if one’s computer scouting skills aren’t up to the reference maze, the simplest thing to do is to call up the librarian at NU and ask for help.  The number I used was 847-491-7656.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


1.  The stretch and flop exercise of last quarter should be done first.

2.  Sit on the floor, back erect, soles of feet placed together, hands and arms relaxed.  In a series of small, rapid bounces try to get knees to touch the floor.  Continue this exercise until you no longer notice the pull on the leg muscles.

3.  Sit on the floor, knees straight, back erect, legs extended in front of body, heels together, toes pointed.  Keeping the knees straight, touch fingertips to toes.  Stretch as far as possible, then bounce forward so as to stretch as FAR AS POSSIBLE.  Continue pulling the back muscles until your chest can rest on the knees.

4.  Sit on the floor, back erect, knees straight, legs extended at a 45 degree angle.  (Try to increase the angle as far as possible.)  Keep toes pointed to the floor, heels forward.  (Do not allow the heels to twist so that they are on the outside of the leg.)  Bounce the upper torso over each leg, then to the middle, and then return to a sitting position.  Stretch the hands as far above the head as possible and repeat the exercise.  It is important to stretch the back and leg muscles as far as possible when doing this exercise.

5.  Assume the position for exercise 4 extending the legs as far as possible.  Lower the upper part of the body as far as possible over the leg.  When the body is in the lowest possible position, bounce to get one or two inches more.

6. Assume the same position as in 4 and 5.  Bend forward until the nose touches the floor between the legs and extend the arms forward on the floor.  Slowly raise the upper torso to a sitting position allowing the arms to come to the sides.  As soon as you reach an upright position start forward again, repeat the two processes until there is a continual folding and raising motion.

7.  Sit on floor, one foot in front of body, the other foot behind body, both legs are in a bent position, knees FIRMLY on the floor, weight is EVENLY distributed over hips.  Fold arms behind body.  Bend upper torso over front and back legs as far as possible.  Then switch leg positions and repeat the exercise.

8.  Repeat exercise 7.  This time, remain in the bent or folded position, then let the arms slowly unfold from the back of the body and extend them over the head, fingertips touching, and hold off of the floor.  Hold this position as long as possible and when the muscle pull is the strongest, bounce the torso to reach as far forward as possible.

9.  Lie on back, legs extended straight up into the air, hands holding the hips off the floor and bicycle in the air.  It is important that the toes and feet flex as in actual bicycle riding.

10.  Lie on back, extend legs towards the ceiling and point the toes as far as possible.  Keeping legs tightly together, let them drop very slowly to a count of thirty.  As soon as the legs touch the floor start to raise them to the original position on a count of thirty.  Never allow the legs to drop when they are six or seven inches from the floor.

11.  Repeat exercise ten keeping hands and arms off the floor.

12.  Lie on stomach, raise upper torso on hands, lift feet and touch toes to head by stretching as far as possible.  As this becomes easier to do, stretch the muscles even further by touching the heels to the forehead.  When you are able to pull the muscles this far, repeat the exercise, but this time keep the arms off the floor and extend them to the sides.  Try to pull the torso up with only the aid of the strengthened back muscles and try to touch the forehead, first with the toes and the with the heels.

13.  Sit on the floor with the legs folded, not crossed, in front of you.  Grab the right heel with the right hand from the inside of the leg and pull the leg up over the head, keeping the knee straight at its full extension.  In order to facilitate this exercise, practice standing and touching the toes without bending the knees.  This will loosen the muscles in the back of the legs.  Repeat the sitting exercise with the left leg.

14.  Repeat exercise 13.  As the muscles become more flexible, let your hand drop when the leg is fully extended.  Do not allow the leg to drop when the hand is removed.  As it becomes easier for you to held the leg in the air, try raising  the leg without using the hand for support.

15.  Repeat exercise 13.  When the leg is fully extended, grab the feet with the opposite arm and pull the foot towards the head as far as possible.

16.  Sit on floor.  One leg folded in front, the other leg with KNEE STRAIGHT, extended directly back.  Work, by lightly bouncing the upper torso, to place the HIP of the EXTENDED LEG ON THE FLOOR.  Change positions and work on the other hip.

17.  Sit on floor.  Bring knees up to chest, legs together, feet on floor.  Grasp legs with hands under the back of knees.  Extend both legs straight forward, TOES POINTED, KNEES STRAIGHT.  Do not allow the body to roll back during the extensions.  MAINTAIN AN ERECT BACK. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


"Theatre if it is real is big. In comprehension of humanity it stretches to the far horizon -- In understanding, deep as the human heart--”

Concern is my motivation, passionate concern for youth, for humanity --
Concern is the root of drama. Shaw, Shakespeare, Chekhov -- all the greats --
Concern must motivate the actor, the director, the dramatist.”

“The study of acting begins with life -- humanity.  Emphasize the need for study, for reading, for study of all the humanities courses.

Craft is important, but it is not studied for mastery of craft alone. Its purpose is to shape, form, communicate substance. The material of drama is the astonishment of living.”

All quotes by Alvina Krause

These quotes are from today’s post on where David Downs is posting AK’s correspondence with him after he began teaching acting at NU.  They are very typical of her and central to whatever you want to call her “method.”  It’s a great irony -- or maybe a symmetry -- that these idealistic notions were defeated for a while in the theatre department, but have circled around to be re-expressed in new ways in the Department of Performance Studies, which I take to be what the Interp dept. evolved into.  

This is their formal statement:

"The Department of Performance Studies lives at the sprawling intersection of personal narrative, literature, culture, technology, and performance theory. By thinking critically about cultural performance, students and faculty in the department bend—and sometimes break—long-standing concepts of what performance really is.

"We value the study of performance, documenting, analyzing and theorizing on cultural rituals, public identities and political positions. And we value the practice of performance, examining and enacting literary texts to create live interpretations of novels, poetry, and other written sources."
In fact, this is where my own work is now, but I’m not sticking to writing.  I want to know how to create that “space between,” that liminality that kindles new ideas and confirms old ideas through the senses.
We arrive someplace we’ve been searching for a long time and discover that we were there all along.  Yeah, I know.  Others have said the same.
Prairie Mary
(Mary Strachan Scriver, Speech '61)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Monday, January 18, 1982


Because the career of Northwestern University drama coach Alvina Krause was spangled by the galaxy of Broadway and Hollywood stars who were graduates of her classes, it is sometimes easy to forget that she shone brightly on her own, with no need for brilliance reflected from others.  She shed the light of her tremendous intellect, spirit and energy on the great and the small, diffusing it through others to millions, and it is for this that she was properly remembered Friday afternoon during a memorial tribute at the Northwestern campus in Evanston.

Krause, who died of a heart attack at 88 on the last day of 1981, was hailed as a gifted teacher, a genius and a friend.  During 34 years at Northwestern she nurtured the budding talents of Charlton Heston, Cloris Leachman, Paula Prentiss, Paul Lynde, Carol Lawrence, Patricia Neal, Edgar Bergen, drama critic Walter Kerr, and many others who have gone on to great success.  To scores of fair-to-middlers who went on to careers far removed from the bright lights, she taught something about living, learning and loving.  Stage pioneer Lee Strasberg hailed her as the finest teacher in America.

Due to her fierce dedication and broad range of ability, students and colleagues have said of the diminutive Krause that she was a university rolled into a person.  She taught aspiring talents not only about movement and speech, but about other human beings: what they are; how they think; how they feel; how to put yourself in their places.  Her technique and success was so legendary that, after she had to leave Northwestern in 1963, she became something of a guru for drama students, who sought her out at her home in Pennsylvania for private instruction and even coaxed her out of retirement to create a repertory company at age 83.

Krause was born in 1893 in New Lisbon, Wis.  She earned her bachelors degree in science and speech from Northwestern, and taught at a high school and a small college before returning to Northwestern to join the faculty in 1929.  Early in her career she was a somewhat shy, over-formal woman, but after about 10 years she seemed to gain confidence and, according to former student and colleague John VanMeter of Evanston, “a tremendous relaxation set in.

“I remember her as a very warm, outgoing, steadfast sort,” said VanMeter before Friday’s tribute.  “She loved to garden, and she loved music and good literature, but her whole life was dedicated to education.  Acting instruction she regarded as a preparation for life.”

Indeed, Krause was a determined, challenging instructor who forced her students to look beyond a particular role or part in a play.  She asked them to keep a personal journal in which they were to take note of situations and people that might one day contribute to their ability to interpret in a dramatic setting.  She often asked her pupils to confront their emotions directly in front of a roomful of people.  She once asked a young woman to ad lib a scene in which she finds out while sitting in an ice cream parlor that her father had died, knowing that this very thing had happened to the young woman only a month earlier.

Her gift, said Les Hinderyckx. theatre department chairman, was “the ability to point out what was wrong with what you were doing without making you afraid to try again.”

Hinderyckx was among five speakers at Friday’s tribute in Annie May Swift Hall auditorium, the site of many of Krause’s pedagogical triumphs.  She was, said another speaker, “an endless source of enlightenment.”

Called a starmaker, Krause said she never discovered talent, but encouraged young people to discover themselves.

Students loved and occasionally feared the legendary “A.K.”  They rallied to her support when she reached retirement age in 1961, but still had the energy and enthusiasm to continue.  The university allowed her to stay two years to teach part-time, then enforced the rules, and asked her to leave.  She was not pleased by this edict, and neither were many students and staff members who believed that Northwestern was turning its back on a woman who had made immeasurable contributions to the national reputation of its theatre department.

She “retired” to Pennsylvania but drama students nationwide would not let her stop teaching, and she continued work with her Bloomsburg [Pa] Ensemble until almost the time of her death.

Any bad feelings she may have had about Northwestern were erased in late 1980, when Krause, who had already been named professor emeritus and seen the dedication of the Alvina Krause Theatre in New York City [where another tribute took place Monday], was awarded the University’s medal for distinguished service.  It marked the first time that award had been presented on the basis of academic merit, according to Roy Wood, the dean of the School of Speech.

At Friday’s tribute, the audience saw a videotape of the presentation of the medal, beginning with the words of Academy Award - winning actor Charlton Heston:  “She marked every student who worked with her.  She did honor to her school and to her profession.”

Listening steadfastly, almost critically through her introductions, she then took the stage and delivered a powerfully simple acceptance speech in which she answered the question:  “Who am I?”

Addressing her audience -- now from beyond the grave -- Krause declared,  “I am a teacher!”  She affirmed her belief in the salvation of mankind through the arts and said,  “I believe the theater can illuminate the life in which we live; in the dark days that are today.”

She continues to shine, for Alvina Krause was not just a molder of stars, but  star in her own right.  Though she helped to create actors and actresses whose named will be remembered beyond hers and who will touch millions more poeple directly than she ever did, it is her light we see reflected in those stars; her wisdom, her patience and only a small part of her glory.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

LEAR Rehearsal Jan. 17

Avoid the note of resignation which tends to creep into your attitude.  Emotionally and vocally do not be resigned.  Imagine you have lived 100 years, your eyes have looked out at the world for 100 years -- at the folly of the world -- you the fool, have looked at the world’s folly for an eternity.  You see its reality.  You are not resigned to it, yet years have taught you the folly of protest -- and so your ancient eyes stare straight at the realities while your tongue talks in riddles asking who is really the fool.  “The world being what it is, do I insult a man by offering him my cockscomb?”  (Welsford: The Fool)

JAN. 17
The lack of imagination -- the actor’s creative faculty is frightening.  Particularly appalling in that respect was last night’s rehearsal.  The beginning of the working of the creative faculty is visualization, complete total visualization -- not only of the role you play but of the physical environment in which you play.  You stand rooted in a foot of space as if that were the only space you inhabit.  The women are particularly guilty of lack of visualization and Robin most particularly so.  Regan is in her own castle, she is mistress of that castle.  She runs that castle -- Lear has stormed into it, a tucket sounds, and Robin has to be forcibly pushed into another spot on stage.  She doesn’t hear the tucket, she does not know its meaning, she makes no physical response to it whatsoever, she waits for a director to put her in place.  Any sound of a trumpet has particular meaning in this dangerous age: an enemy army, friends, marauders, danger, festivity.  It was wise to be on the alert for trumpets to go into action immediately.  Goneril in her own castle did not know where her servants were stationed, where her attendants, guards, soldiers were, and so she stood in the middle of the room and shouted for Oswald.  Visualize your environment, then create your environment and behave in your environment as human beings behave, not as sticks, stones, puppets.

Have you studied your roles and the play so little that you do not realize that after the opening scene, Lear is a passive agent in the drama?  He is acted upon by the forces of Goneril, Regan, Edmund.  They instigate all action.  Everything after (1) originates in them.  Last night it was appalling that Goneril and Regan stood and waited for Lear to act.  Played this way, the burden on Lear is impossible for any actor to carry, for he has to create not only the emotion that he must have, his own inner forces, but he has to create the instigating stimuli.  Let’s have no more of this kind of acting.  Ask yourselves the questions which start your creative minds working, then get your bodies free to respond to:  Where are you?  Why are you there?  Why did you come?  From where?  What’s your objective?  Who are you going to achieve it with?  What is your plan?  What are the steps in your plans?  When you have achieved the aimed objective, what is your next goal?  Why?  What is happening in the kingdom?  What are going doing about it?

Friday, October 19, 2012



LEAR,  JAN. 30

Your scenes are noise and shouting because you are all actors from the neck up.  And that isn’t enough.  In fact, it isn’t acting.  Your bodies respond to no stimuli, transfer no stimuli, you feel nothing, because feeling is organic, is physical, and your bodies are clods of clay or stone -- emotion is physical.  It is the whole organism responding.  You are responding with nothing but memorized lines, and you transfer nothing but loud memorized lines.  Robin clasps her hands in a prayer position, rubs her palms together, because Robin isn’t responding with her body.  Regan would never clasp or rub her hand.  These people are in total action all the time -- much of the action may be covert, but it is still action and is still visible.  It is continuous, it flows through the whole body. 

You shoot an arm out like a traffic signal, no follow-through at all.  Respond while listening with movement that is interrupted by stimuli but is continuous,  Move after your own speeches until arrested.

Close all scenes with swift sure movement which carries you off to accomplish the objective which the scene has set up.  Enter into your next scene with the swift certain movement that indicates you have achieved an objective and are setting out on your next.

Shakespeare wrote for actors not for Hollywood directors who can create a drama by piecing together occasional bits: smiles, lips, eyes, etc.  What in the name of Jupiter did your mad tear from up left to down right -- the longest possible cross on stage -- what in the name of all the gods did your mad tear across say?  I expected to see a man with a whip appear since you seem to have been driven by one.  I have put Edmund where you have to meet him head on -- why did nothing happen?  I have told you the court is corrupt -- Lust prevails, false values fill the air and smell to high heaven.  I can tell you the nature of your thoughts, I cannot think them for you.  I cannot do Hollywood flashbacks and show you in bed, I cannot show you dressing, caressing your lustful bodies.  I cannot piece together such moments.  I can only give you a long, long cross to show your animality, your ruthlessness, your lust.  In Heaven’s name, Ann-Robin, show that you learned something in the moment by moment playing of fantasy.  Show that you know everything you do, every second, has to say something clearly to the captive audience.  You are the new order -- say it in every moment movement, every tone, every relationship.

I have put you in the spot from which Lear has descended -- where he committed his folly.  As the sisters ascend the stairs, Lear has descended in the dissolve.  Fill the world with your laughter, then open your arms wide and pray your profane prayer with unholy glee, then skip from level to level to your coming conspiratorial scenes -- Skip or leap or run -- but don’t just walk.  He is not a great villain, he is not a tragic villain -- as you tend to play him.  He is not capable of instigating.  Lear’s folly.  It is a jewel that has dropped into his opportunistic fingers and he plays an opportunist game with it, joyfully, unscrupulously, as he does to the lust of Goneril and Regan -- you seem to have forgotten the narrator quality the play must have, the parable, epic, the universal narration.  Perhaps before tonight you better spend some time with your Old Testament.  Read the Fall of Babylon.  Read of Sodom and Gomoroah.  Be prepared to narrate the epic of Lear in the same style.

Shakespeare writes with such wonderful clarity it is unbelievable that anyone can miss the subtexts which link the scenes.  At the end of scene 1, the sisters announce their intentions to the world, they begin their progress to dominion -- each successive act is their means of accomplishment -- Goneril tells Oswald what his duties are.  What more material than that she should call him at the end of a scene to check on the execution of his instructions?  The line is straight and direct -- how can you forget what you are doing next --  Again I can tell you the nature of your thoughts and their direction -- I cannot think them for you.

Let us see you survey the world over the audience with possessive eyes, your evil ones, as Lear comes to survey it tottering, crashing, catapulting, whirling to disaster.  First meeting you were told that the drama is a storm, a world of action,  Everything is in movement from the opening trumpet to the dead march at the end -- create this -- through your senses, your blind eyes, or your seeing eyes, your sense of smell, your lustful kinesthetic sense -- get your creative dramatic imagination working or we are lost.  The thunder, lightning, wind, clanging has to be louder, more vivid, more shaking, than the sound and prop crews can create -- and I don’t mean for Lear only.  The storm exists for all, but is experienced by different people from different attitudes.

If anyone (Oswald) or anyone else is too slow in response, strike, move, do something.  He has no patience. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012



FOOL:  Still too wistful, too pathetic, too plaintive. Your eyes wonder at what happens rather than stare at realities.  Make a mask out of white cloth -- just a covering to tie over your face, blotting out all the lines -- stare at yourself in a glass.  Bring the mask to rehearsals.  Let’s see if that will help you to achieve that ancient mask of clown tragedy which all laugh at.  Ask Jane to help you with body movement.

EDMUND:  You, too, ask Jane for help in follow-thru on totality of movement, on freedom.  Because your body does not express enuf, you are resorting to shouting lines to compensate for what your body does not say.

GONERIL:  Same prescrip as above.  See Jane -- you need follow thru, freedom to move.  You and Regan both get rooted, feet frozen to the ground -- you should go about the business of your world freely.  You will be wearing tight garments.  Learn to wear them as if animals rippling under the skin with sure, direct followthrough thru movement.

JAN 13


While the suggestions will be to individuals, it is understood that they will be read and applied by all for it is highly essential that we all play in the same spirit, the same style, working toward the same goal.  Within some groups of characters this ensemble has already begun to develop.  In others the beginning is slight.

PRESSMAN:  The Kent sequence last night (Thursday) revealed a straying from the theme.  Lear does not discover the values of love, loyally devoted service, he does not discover humility until after he has suffered.  He rewards service, loyalty and love with gifts of rings, money, land -- the reward is all -- his heart does not go with his hand towards another heart.  He’s different from Edmund and the other opportunists is that there is no evil in his mind -- he has a heart which he has never used, he has never recognized the value of love.  He believed, truly believed, it could be paid for.  No doubt Elizabeth occasionally tossed a purse to Shakespeare, no doubt he saw self-seeking opportunists receiving rewards.  Yet Elizabeth loved England, killed when her throne was threatened.  Did she know the true value of the love which wrote John of Gaunts’ England speech?  Or did she toss him a purse in full payment?  When Lear meets Kent in disguise, Kent is a man, a person.  Lear would not see him, perhaps, if Kent did not draw his attention in some way.  In the ensuing dialogue Lear does not realize Kent’s real worth, devotion.  He is blind to such realities.  He recognizes a man who will serve him, a man who recognizes authority, and when Kent does him service by tripping Oswald, Lear rewards the act with no realization at all of the devotion.  Note the contrast in the end when Lear, having suffered, recognizes the real Kent, his love and its true value and only says “I know you, Kent” and has no thought of reward.  he now gives love for love with no thought of return.  It is not Kent’s disguise in the early scene which prevents recognition of values, it is Lear’s blindness.  In your desire, Dave, to endow him with the innate capacity to see, do not jump the gun.  Sight comes slowly, painfully, tragically.  There is only one slight revealing moment.  Lear at a certain moment senses a lack, something missing.  It is, of course, Cordelia -- probably she stood in the gate to greet him when he returned from hunts.  he does not yet know it is love that is missing.  It is a vague lack -- but enough to make him call for the Fool.

NOTE TO ALL:  Don’t play the end or the middle before it comes.

KENT:  You were doing a bit of this, too.  For all his loyalty and nobility he is a realist.  He knows the corruption -- he meets it head on, like a dog.  When it comes, he does not anticipate it.  You seemed to be sadly anticipating Lear’s tragedy.  He is merely on the alert.  He knows Lear will need him and that is that.

EDMUND:  You have an excellent grasp of Edmund, of the play, too, I think.  so far it has been purely intellectual.  There were glimpses in the improv of Edmund’s alert mind -- but it vanished in the scenes which became manipulated words.  You have the physical appearance of Edmund, his vitality and colorfulness.  But your body is not flexible.  It moves in spurts, in uncoordinated spurts of activity.  You lurch into action.  Edmund’s body is as flexible, as fluid, as his mind, as his fluent tongue.  Work on body movement.  Fence while you speak your lines, for instance.  Then, too, you do not as yet play with people or situations.  You do not let things happen.  You do not play off emotions, responses, ideas from other people.  Perhaps you could get in some work with Russel and/or Vance who do pretty well with both the inner and outer technique of acting -- and remember all of you:  words, ideas, emotions must soar out into the world, over and above the audience, not into the floor.

RUSSEL:  Perhaps some improvs with France and Burg or even Alb and Corn would help you find the major dominant aspects of character.  Or play an MC for anybody to keep everyone happy, everything moving in the right directions.

FEB. 7

LEAR:  Certain episodes still become pathetic.  It begins with Regan.  Remember his mind is searching, seeking all the time -- his mind is working as it has never worked even when he turns to the fool, it’s not pathetically but boring into his brain.  When he gets no answer “Mad.”  the fool, as conscience, starts his mind.  Naked Edgar is his first answer.  He has not yet discovered the evil in himself -- that comes later -- a revelation, then “centaurs” realization in madness.  Keep that mind on a direct hunt.

EDMUND:  Except for a few conspiratorial moments, you are projecting sullenness, moody tragic sullenness.  You seem to pass sullen judgement on Regan & Goneril when he should respond to their lust as the opportunist who will gladly use it.  He should rejoice in the way everyone plays into his hands.  when you are standing silent observing the action, don’t pass tragic judgement on the particpants:  feel that you are manipulating the strings which move them to the action which delivers all into your hands.  His laughter must be ready for release before the end of each scene -- if it does not become vocal at scene endiings it should be physical in movement release.

We still have not clinched the first scene, opening encounter of Goneril, Regan & Edmund.  Robin has played her response well -- Goneril needs to play hers through more completely and she should catch Regan in the midst of hers.  There should be an indelible impression left in the mind of the audience of this single moment which they will recall later in the play.

EVERYONE:  images are not vivid enough.  Play on words is lacking.  Review your notes on image patterns.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Kent’s description fits:  mongrel, whoreson dog, cur, goose, rat, toad, spotted traitor.

He has a swagger and bows often, to the right people.  He is a new-fangled fellow, neither a gentleman nor a plain servant.  He mimics the manner of one (the gentleman), does the dirtiest work of servants.  Lear and Kent size him up accurately.  He carries a dishonorable sword -- a traitor’s sword to be used for pay or promotion.

He is overdressed, over aware of clothes.  In the Renaissance he would have been effete.  In Lear’s era he is too physically strong to achieve effeteness.  He epitomizes the well-heeled being who is naked morally.  He presents the problem: what kind of appearance or dress really saves the human being?  (See Goneril and Regan)   He is a coward, completely without moral conscience: rat, toad -- spotted traitor.

He is a powerful king; he must lodge in our minds; we must sense his presence, his valor, his integrity, devotion in the last act even though he is not present.  He has sent troops, not to conquer England but to save Lear.  he does not take part in the military action because such action might be interpreted as invasion of Britain; but he is actively supporting Cordelia in her loyalty, love and devotion to Lear.

Like Kent and Albany he represents the man who is capable of great leadership.  Mind and heart are in perfect balance.  Soldier, kind, devoted husband,  man of action.

Outwardly he is what France is: every inch a fit husband for Cordelia in appearance, in property, in power.  In inner qualities he is a contrast to France; lacks understanding of human values; judges by material values, makes decisions swiftly in terms of the best bargain.  He is the rational business man, the rational politician.  Love, sentiment, have no place in a worldly deal.  A kingdom is a kingdom, land is land with no human attachments or responsibilities.

He is nameless, but in his service we have a symbol of order at the cosmic level of the continued sustaining power of the old order which seems to be going to pieces.  He is an old man leading a blind man; he is natural devotion to age.  He is the courage of the man of integrity.  He is used only to present the clash between the two others; the new which respects age only if there is material advantage to be gained.  The old order which puts stress on age and its due as a way of reinforcing our sense of the nature of things -- the human values against the material values.

A man of reason whose emotions are fatally close to the surface; little control.  he gives a brilliant description of Kent (an intellectual one) but fails to understand his conduct, altruistic conduct, from the heart, is beyond his comprehension.

He falls in with the usurping sisters.  When pressure is applied he is all emotion full of vengeful fury.  His abuse of Gloucester is insane; he reaches a hyperbole of emotion which excites a servant to attack him as he would attack a wild animal.  His impulses equal sadism; a passion for the infliction of suffering.  He shows no awareness of god.  He symbolizes the appetite for Evil.  He has a mature, cynical humor;  he asserts himself against his wife as Albany does not.  He can speak up to Lear but is slow to do it; he keeps his head even in his vindictiveness.  He does his own dirty work; he enjoys blinding Gloucester.  Taste of blood lets loose the wild beast in him.  He has a certain physical attractiveness; strong, lithe, virile body, brilliant eyes; flashing, cynical, amused, bold, cruel.

Cornwall’s opposite.  He prefers a quiet life even at cost of self respect.  He loves Goneril until realization comes of what she is.  Wrath gathers slowly but deeply under his seeming placidity.  “Milky gentleness.”  “Harmful mildness”:  these are the labels Goneril places on his restrained behavior.  His first stern clash with Goneril gives him authority.  She is doomed from that moment.  He is directly pitted against Edmund as aristocrat against upstart.

Once in action he is as distinguished as anyone in the play; he is eminently fitted for the kingship.

He has a keen sense of irony.  He makes cool preparation for the stroke, once he has realized where the current is going.  When it is time to strike, his action is clear, incisive.  He is in command of the plays’ action to the end.  He has the capacity in the end to propose Kent and Edgar as rules of the kingdom and it is no mere courteous offer.  He epitomizes the man fit for leadership: reason, intellect, social conscience, heart, body, mind in balance.

Embodies the compassion theme.  Compassion has the value of a precious stone in this callow world.  Insight is the highest value: the gentleman has this insight into Lear’s behavior, into Cordelia’s.  The audience will see and understand with him and through him.