Monday, August 11, 2014


Returning from a visit to the Berkshire Festival in Massachusetts, we happened to choose a new way south and west from Binghamton, NY. Because we actually live on US 220 in Maryland, we chose 220 rather than Interstates.  We passed the Eagles Mere sign, turned around and hoped to find the Playhouse.  We had the good fortune to stop an elderly woman who turns out to be the local historian. She is most interested in learning and preserving things about AK and the Playhouse.  Her family vacationed there when she was young and she married a guy she met there. Her husband's summer vacation job was bellhop at the hotel.  One of his responsibilities every Wednesday was to take the hotel guests to the Playhouse!!! He saw all the shows in those years he was a student at Amherst.

They drove us to a field where there is a bronze marker that commemorates AK's Playhouse, long gone.  Forest has covered the site.  The hotel was also torn down. The stables which were the scene shops evidently remain, but we couldn't see them through the trees. The actors' residence is now a well kept private home.  The Sweet Shop is well kept and prospering, and AK's and Lucy's nearby cottage is also well preserved.  The whole community looks like an enclave for the wealthy, and the lake was busy with tons of young kids who arrived by bicycle.

Barbie and Bush James were our guides. I have given Barbie information on your blogs and I am sure she will become an avid reader.  They told me that they have the silk screen posters of all of the shows.  They have been raising money for the local historical society by selling extra posters for $50 dollars each!

In the Berkshires we saw Penny Fuller in A Little Night Music.  She was excellent, as was the whole production. We didn't attempt to talk with her.

Friday, June 6, 2014

NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOKS - 1962 (As edited by Weldon Bleiler)

AK -- Bleiler's "Notes from the Blue Book" 1962

C49-1   NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOKS      October 2, 1962

Suppose you are attending a piano concert -- by Rubenstein, for instance.  He enters with his usual brisk attitude, proceeds with preparatory flourishes, then strikes the first note.  You feel vaguely “let down.”  It does not “lift” you as it has before.  The movement continues, but you remain passive.  “He is not in good form tonight,” you think.  Your mind wanders; or you listen passively.  He does not command your attention.  Later you learn that, by some accident, the piano had not been tuned to true concert pitch for that evening.  The master had played as usual with all his musicianship, but the instrument had not communicated his interpretation.

The actor’s body is his instrument.  It must be one that he can rely upon, one that he can be as objectively proud of as a violinist is proud of his Stradivarius.  Every time the actors comes on stage, his instrument must be tuned to “concert pitch.”  Even though he might be playing the role of a dying man, the audience must feel that the role is in the hands of a vital, competent player.  A violinist can draw the softest, most tender notes from his instrument.  Yet, those soft notesfill the auditorium with quiet, with silence, for they are being played by a master hand in full control of his instrument.

An audience must sense, unconsciously, through their muscles(empathic response) that the actor on stage is totally alive.  In attaining this vitality, do not, however, fall into false energizing habits: do not jump up and down, swinging your arms about and shouting, “I’m alive, I’m alive!”  The resultatnt effect will be the acquisition of a pseudo energy.  Empathic response by the audience will reject it for its falsity.

The source of vital power is the area of the solar plexis, the center of the body, the area of the vital organs.  We have been working (1) on rib support, not only for good vocal production, but for total well-being.  Acquire the habit of never going on stage for a performance, rehearsal, or class without taking a deep, deep breath that fills your whole torso, and then holding that breath as long as you comfortably can.  This is a simple and effective means of keying up the circulation in every fibre of your being.  We have been working on (2) strengthening the abdominal muscles: the strong pelvic girdle, and the pull upward toward the ceiling (the extension from navel to sternum).  Good posture, once achieved, projects confidence to an audience, at the same time filling you the actor with confidence.

We are total mechanisms, mind and body;  the one affects the other.  The Greek philosophy of a healthy mind in a healthy body should also be the actor’s philosophy.  If your muscles are completely in tune, you may be exhausted to the point of dropping; but you will radiate vitality, and you will feel alive.  We also have emphasized (3) walking with strong thighs and long free steps with a complete follow through.  First, the heel touches the ground, the weight then being transferred to the ball of the foot, and the toes pushing off the next step.  The movement is a flowing one.

Feel the top of your head touching the sky always.  Even when playing a death scene, feel that pull up which provides resistance to the downward pull.  Resist the pull of gravity; resist the forces pushing you down.  This is the core of dramatic action: resistance to forces.  Oppositions counter the backward pull with a strong forward pull -- head high, thighs strong.  Work in group of two as follows:  #1 should hold the shoulders of #2 to keep the latter from forward movement.  At the same time #2 opposes with an upward pull.  Carry all of this not only into your Greek drama, but into the acting of ALL drama.  Creon pushes Antigone down (actually do it); he pulls her back; she resists with all that is in her:  two opposing forces have met.  In your rehearsals, work first on this physical level; the mental and emotional levels will follow naturally of their own accord.

--Alvina E. Krause (wb)

(WB means that Weldon edited and -- my guess -- rephrased.  He was proud of his piano playing.  Once at a variety performance, he came out to the grand piano to play, tried to bring along the microphone for his Victor Borge type intro, discovered the cord on the mike wasn’t long enough, and asked the stage crew to give him more cord.  They didn’t seem to be there.  So he went around to the other side of the piano and pushed it over to the mike -- proceeded from there.  I think this is rather similar.  He’s pushing AK to where he wants her.  Luckily, a lot of valuable material is preserved.)


Levels of Concentration

Your minds have been occupied only with what your tongues have been saying.  Note this: only the dull-witted respond on a single level.  When a fool sees food, he says, thinks, and responds solely to “food,” until the next positive stimulus penetrates his consciousness.  Minds of people endowed with full capacities race ahead of words; thoughts other than those expressed vocally flow around and past words, reject or accept images which may or may not express themselves in words.  In brief: such minds operate on many levels.  There is the response to the immediate stimulus -- words heard which must be answered, a look in eyes (anger, love, hate, questions) which demands a reply; or a movement of the body -- overt or covert (threat, affection, approval, disapproval, rejection) which is a stimulus to a response, vocal or physical.  Such may be the upper level of response.

However, behind and along with that level is a level still existent from a response to the stimulus just past.  (While I write this in response to your need, part of my mind still is occupied with the thought that as I answered the telephone a few moments ago, someone at the other end of the line hung up.  That thought is flowing along with this thought which I am writing: a second, or middle level of consciousness.  A present moment always comes out of a past one, and moves into a future one, carrying with it a medley of levels.

Besides the two I have mentioned, there is always on the periphery, at least of attention, a multitude of sensory responses to the physical world which cannot be shut out except by sleep, drugs, or death.  As I write now, a sparrow is chirping . . .  I caught sign of an unopened New Yorker . . .  I heard a car pass by, yet I did not stop writing for an instant.  All such levels must be present in ALL acting, the nature depending upon the framework of the drama itself.

You will note that levels are the result of response to stimuli.  You have been having difficulty recently because you have not created stimuli; nor have you heard, seen, or perceived those created by your companion(s) in the scene.  In Greek drama there is a total lack of personal properties.  All the more important then is the vaster world of tragedy.  The sky, the horizon, are ever present in the consciousness of these people.  This unspoken level is imperative in the acting of Greek drama.  From the very beginning, Antigone is moving toward the grave alone.  In all the world -- far as the horizon, high as the sky -- there is no one to share her tragedy.  The final realization is a tremendous one, which is made inevitable because it is an adding-up, a summary of all the smaller realizations of this moment-by-moment drama.  

Create this physical world so vividly that you will respond to it as unconsciously as I now hear a plane far overhead, or sense the picture of King Lear over my fireplace.  As for the other levels, you must learn to hear not cues, but spoken words that strike as blows.  We are organic wholes -- the mind and body are one: first, the senses perceive the stimulus; second, the body reacts (runs, strikes, contracts, etc.); and third, the brain interprets the stimulus.  Change the order of these responses, and the result will be unreal, a faked response.  Never respond to words unless they have had an impact that demands a response.

To help you, use the physical aid of ball-throwing.  All drama is conflict; and all physical games are conflict.  Play ball as champions do; take aim carefully, deliver the ball exactly (on the final word), and follow through, being ready at the same time to receive the ball from anywhere and return it quickly and accurately to score.  Note the impact of a swiftly pitched ball as you catch it; note the second of arrest and the recovery before you can return it.  This is the kind of impact that lines must have.  To understand more fully the levels operating behind words, try the experiment Carlos used -- speaking in a foreign language.  It forced him to find the words necessary for communication.

--Alvina E. Krause (wb)


NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOKS    -- October 15, 1962

Assignment:  A Chorus (“Numberless are the world’s wonders . . .”) -- Theban elders, Antigone.  The group signed up for Friday of this week will begin this assignment.  Perform it singly or in groups, either spoken, chanted, or both.  If you use accompanying movement, make it say something; if you don’t, then readiness for movement must be visible in posture, stance and vitality.

Before beginning this assignment, review the functions of the chorus:  exposition, narration, presentation in a lyric and a dramatic mood, reflection.  The audience must see through and with the eyes of the chorus.

To ascertain the rhythms and cadences, distinguish between long and short sounds; use onomatopoeia.  The chorus is several persons’ thinking, speaking, and moving as one.  Learn to breathe together, to articulate together, to move together as in singing and dancing.

Read the article by H.D.F. Kitto entitled “The Greek Chorus” which can be found in the 
Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1956), pp. 1-8.  Apply what you read there to all your work in Greek drama.  Copies below are some of the more important statements made by Kitto in the article:

1.  The first point is that what the Greek audience heard and saw was something that we are not likely to see and hear today: a combination of lyric poetry, dancing and singing, integrated with drama.  I use the word “dance” in the Green sense, meaning any ordered physical movement.
2.  (These movements) covered a big emotional range, and they were not in the ordinary sense pictorially mimetic.
3.  The choral performance was indeed a combination of the three arts of poetry, dancing and singing.
4.  Of the three allied arts, the Greeks themselves put the poetry first; and next to the poetry, I suspect, they would put the dance.
5.  The metres used by the dramatic poets were not speech-rhythms at all, but music-rhythms.
6.  In certain of Euripides’ later and non-tragic plays, the choral style became distinctly operatic.  Roulades, the singing of one syllable to several successive notes, became common; so too did the repetition of words, which becomes so tiresome as a literary device, that ordinary politeness compels one to assume that Euripides was thinking of the musical effect first, and of the poetry second.
7.  It is quite plain that the Greek dramatists used ‘lyrical relief’ in much the way that Shakespeare used what is innocently called ‘comic relief.’
8.  About their dance nothing definite can be said; the rhythm is the very common glyconic, which was found suitable to many different moods.  But although we cannot form any precise idea of what the chorus did, at least we can appreciate, in a general way, the dramatic effect of music and movement at such a moment: a liberation rather than a relating of tension.
9.  If the modern producer relies throughout on speech, he is, so to speak, representing in three dimensions a drama that was conceived in four.

Try the “Antigone” chorus first; then use one of your own choice.  This assignment must be finished by October 26th.  Select immediately your characters for your final stage performance.  Class previews and discussion of them should begin no later than November 2nd.

PAPERS ARE DUE TODAY -- Monday, October 15th.

--Alvina E. Krause  (WB)

C-49-1  NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOK  -- October 16, 1962


“My partner is not here.  I can’t do anything.”  This is equivalent to saying, “I have no one to talk to, and so I am not me; I have no character when I am alone.  I am somebody only when I am with someone else.”  Hereafter you are to be ready to get on stage anyday or everyday, with or without a partner, whether or not you are signed up!  If you are working, you will ALWAYS be prepared!

Being a character is not speaking words.  We are not what we say; we are the sum total of our behaviour patterns, and speech is only one of those patterns.  All that we think and have thought, and all that we have experienced and are experiencing: all of this is expressed in behaviour patterns.  Our walk, stance, hand and arm movements, shoulders, and particularly the spine (AN ACTOR ACTS WITH AND FROM HIS SPINE!) form the various patterns of our behavior.  The eyes reflect or conceal thoughts.

Everyone wears on his body the marks of his era.  You areunmistakably today: marked by your curved spines, your weak and dangling arms, your uneasy hands (unless they are holding a cigarette!), your empty eyes lacking lustre, your sagging shoulders, etc. etc.  And it is with these contemporary behaviour patterns that you have spoken Antigone’s and Creon’s lines.  Ridiculous!

The Greeks wore clothing which did not restrict; they wore sandals which permitted their feet to grip the ground.  They could move as one unified whole, not in pieces as you have been doing.  Further: they were athletes, active athletes, not sitters-on-the-sidelines; and their living ideal was the perfect, healthy, strong, vital body housing an equally healthy and vital mind.  Until you have assimilated these characteristics, you cannot truthfully speak a line.  We have discussed this for four weeks; and you have been given the necessary exercises to work on in private.  LET’S SEE RESULTS!

For inner motivation for the particular situations of the drama, remember this: the characters reveal only the dominant traits, those traits which one shares with all men, the traits crucial to creating a pattern of life in which men could reach their highest stability.  Man, not an end in himself, is but a part of a whole scheme of life: all equal in a total universe.  “I am a man, and nothing in mankind is alien to me.”  Tragic suffering comes from a sense of the worth of life.  Electra goes to extremes to make men realize the enormity of the crime that has been committed.  Antigone dies for a crime against justice.  I have not yet seen this on stage.  Your poor weak bodies, shifting feet, weak thigh-gripping hands, little piping, rasping three-note voices make liesof the lines you speak and the dramatist’s themes.

Greek drama has revealed your own impotence.  Try to move on now to the correlative truth of your own potential greatness.  Greek drama does not make the individual helpless or irresponsible; it emphasizeshis responsibility, forcing him to face the consequences of his own acts.  The world is human and, like men, rational.  Use sane reason in connection with forces beyond reason.  The human being has the capacity to endure against the forces that destroy.  For this quarter, you must incorporate these thoughts, these principles into your thinking and behaviour.  You must believe with a passion.  When you do (IF you have acquired physical and vocal range and flexibility), your bodies will corroborate your thinking and the dramatist’s words as well.

What’s your goal?  Mediocrity?  If so, you hit it yesterday, and the theatre is no place for you.

-- Alvina E. Krause (WB)

FRIDAY, JUNE 06, 2014


C49-1  NOTES FROM THE BLUE BOOKS  (WB)    Oct.22, 1962

Assignment:  Messengers -- to be ready for class presentation on Monday, October 29
Choose for now from the following:
     “Friends of this house . . .”  -- Oedipus Rex
     “Jocasta, our Queen . . .” -- Oedipus Rex
     “Fly, Medea, fly . . .”  -- Medea
     “I will tell you plainly all that I have seen.” -- Antigone

The function of the Messenger in Greek drama is to bring news of the final catastrophe to those waiting who are deeply concerned.  The character who serves as the Messenger is usually a servant or one closely connected with the household.  He is not a principal character;  further, he is not involved in the tragic action.  He has been an immediate witness of the fatal act.  He is compelled to carry the newsimmediately to those who are concerned with the outcome.  He is a messenger only; he has no specific name, indicating that he is not to be individualized as a character.

The Messenger’s scene is a climactic one: it brings on stage the horrendous event which has taken place off stage.  His tale must be told, even though the details are too hideous to be spoken.  What pours out is the ultimate in horror, but back of it is a well of horror so great that it cannot be vocalized.

Images are so vivid that they cannot be erased: like a moving picture, present even when the eyes are closed.  Sights, sounds, kinesthetic responses are as vivid as if they were still occurring before him.  However, he must tell it to those listeners whose very silence demandsthe entire truth, who are almost overcome with horror.

Capture the immediacy of the action, the compulsion to tell, thevividness of the images.

Remember always that lines are memorized to be forgotten.  Each time we speak words, we must first find them, formulate them and articulate them.  If you have no second language at your command, think of the particular sounds of another language, and use these to convey your thoughts.  Alternatively, revert to the origins of speech -- grunts, noises, unarticulated sounds -- keeping in mind always that these must be conveyed to the listener in such a manner that he will comprehend, and in a way that will force you both into many levels of concentration.  If these methods should fail, then while you are delivering the lines, multiply by 13’s or 17’s, or solve an intricate puzzle.  Try any or all of these exercises to discover those levels of concentration that operatebehind the actual words of the text.


Those term papers assigned first this quarter will not be accepted after Friday of this week.  The grade of “F” will be recorded for those who fail to fulfill these written assignments on time.

ORAL STAGE FINALS begin on Monday, November 26th.  For the weeks of November 5th and 12th, present in class improvisations and episodes from the drama you are using for your stage final.  Your objective: development of character with the classic framework.

--Alvina E. Krause (wb)

AK  10-23   Objectives


Know the character-objective of each scene, and achieve that objective.  Know the desire of the character within the sequence; then, as the character, fulfill that desire.  You are still -- almost all of you --acting in general.  The Antigone-Creon scene (Love-Winkleman) yesterday was a supreme example of acting in general, with its empty emotionalization signifying nothing.  if your minds and bodies are fully occupied, you will be completely engrossed in fulfilling an objective -- not in playing an emotion that you have assumed accompanies the words.  Hereafter, before you start a sequence on stage, state briefly and succinctly in action verbs the objectives of the character you play in the particular place and for the particular reasons the playwright has given.

For instance, Antigone’s objective is to justify her act by (1)acknowledging it publicly, (2) advocating publicly God’s law, (3)convicting Creon of folly, (4) approaching directly the minds of others, and (5) choosing death.  Another example is the Chorus’ objective: to condemn anarchy by (1) extolling man’s achievements, the highest of which is the creation of law and order (the state), and (2) supporting law and order.

Once you are truly concerned with achieving the specific objective, once you concentrate -- in character -- on that achievement, it is certain that a particular feeling will be aroused, not the general hysteriaof yesterday’s Antigone.  What should be there is the specific, greater, deeper indignation of the true Antigone.

Never again let me see you take up positions downstage right or left -- or anywhere else -- unless a specific purpose has brought you there at a specific moment for a specific reason.  You saw how dynamic the action became, and how alive the whole stage became when Niki and Carlos played with purpose.  If the actor is fully engrossed in achieving the objective of the character by the means the playwright gives, then the action becomes credible and vital.  Achieve this intensity of attention on real objectives, and the inevitable emotional response will also be true.

If you want to continue working on Creon-Antigone-Ismene scenes in class, present new sequences.  In four weeks we have reached a stalemate in class discussion of these opening scenes.  If you want to submit the old scenes for discussion, they must be done for me privately during office hours listed on my door.


NOTE:  Early this quarter, I reserved the stage for your use on all Tuesdays at 1 PM.  since then, I have observed that it is not being used by you.  Shall I then assume you do not want or need the use of it and release it for the use by other students who do need rehearsal space?  If you can and will use this space at the time I have indicated, notify me to that effect at once.

ADD TO YOUR FINAL EXAM PAPERS:  A statement, in active verbs, of the character objectives in the scenes you will present for your final stage performance.

--Alvina E. Krause (wb)

Thursday, May 29, 2014




SPRING QUARTER (1960-1961)


1. To give students the experience of developing a characterization for a play and presenting its component parts onstage so as to communicate to spectators what the author wanted them to know about that character; to follow through on the actor’s Creative Process in connection with one role.

2.  To acquaint students with the concepts which underlie the acting of comedy and to develop some techniques used in acting Comedy.


 1.  To continue development of everything else the student has been working on during the year.  See outlines of previous quarters.


1.  Comedy of character results from opposite elements (incongruities) in a person’s makeup coming into evidence; the actor must dramatize the opposites, throw focus onto them, play them off against each other so as to evoke laughter.

2.  Sample opposites would include:  Prossy’s primness, efficiency, capability being upset by Marchbank’s reference to “love”, so that we see the real woman underneath; Prossy after a glass of champagne lets us see her two selves; a person who has a relaxed body and voice, but who uses “intense” language, is manifesting an opposite; a person wanting to help out in some way, but making a mess of things, etc.

3.  Drama is the one thing coming in conflict with another; you can have comedy that is very close to pathos -- and this is the finest kind.

4.  In comedy things are often in excess: there is too much excitement, too much intensity, too much eagerness, too much casualness, or something in relation to what is doing on, in relation to the other stimuli.  (Athene Seyler’s idea that comedy depends upon the audience recognizing a “norm” of behavior from which the character in some way deviates.)

5. Actors must avoid doing too many different things, adding little extra wiggles and embellishments and the like, which distract the audience from seeing and hearing what is significant.

6.  When comedy results from the situation, you are in the realm of farce; comedy of character is something else.

7.  Opposites can be played simultaneously, or alternatingly; one can come in and cut off the other; actors: use arrests, realization!

8.  In verbal comedy, lines have to be “landed”, to be made to hit out front and connect with the spectator.

9.  Comedy acting -- or any acting -- will lack freshness if you just do a sequence of planned things without responding to the stimuli which touch off responses and actions.  Avoid breaking lines up too much, or speaking too slowly.

10.  Play reactions of surprise to the hilt.

11.  Everything you wear and do must have a purpose, must make a statement to the audience; you must not offend us, for when we are offended, we will not laugh.

12.  Before studying a role, the actor must study the play itself; ask: what is the author’s purpose in writing the play; since it is theatre, it is to entertain -- through laughter, through the exaltation of tragedy, or through enlightenment and making people think; a few dramatists want the audience to do something, like fight for the brotherhood of man.  State in a word or phrase the subject matter of the play.  Then state the theme of the play, which is always a comment on the subject.  Theme must determine everything you do.

13.  Too often actors deliver a line and then stop as if they wanted the other actor to go on.  This looks false.  Hence, the need for something else to concentrate on, something for the mind to be occuped with, for a divided focus, something else to go on reacting to.

14.  Comedy of character is based on real character traits and does not make fun of people, does not caricature.

15.  The dominant drive of a character can be summarized in a “psychological action”.  Watch the eyes of people to see what their goals are; if they tend to put on a complete mask, watch their mouths.

16.  You can’t just create a character; the character has to be part of an organic whole.

17.  You illuminate a theme by finding your position in relation to it; then the audience adds it all up.

18.  Be careful you don’t work to create the mood you think exists; do what the characters do for the reasons they do them and let the audience create the mood from this.

19.  Voice and movement are an outer manifestation of something: curiosity, wonder, etc.

20.  Improvisation has as its goal (or as one of them) creating the inner life of a character -- the many-leveled thinking that goes on; if words come out, they are only part of it.

21.  In acting, start with essences, don’t act the “buts,” at least at first.

22.  Remember that drama takes up near crises, moves towards crises; don’t key things too low, or you won’t get to the crises; intensify the conflicts; intensification is an imaginative process; make distances bigger.

23.  Drama lies in the moments of transition.

24.  Creation is creation of stimuli.

25.  To stimulate imagination in connection with characterization, find the metaphor for your character and present it in fantasy form.

26.  Bodies must reveal what is going on inside the person; you are faking if your bodies don’t reveal anything;  start with a character’s spine.

27.  The discovery that comes from analysis must lead into kinesthetic responses in your body.


There are two strong memories I have of the work along these lines.  One was a character AK loved to play -- a runt of a belligerent Irishman, three sheets to the wind with his dukes up ready to punch out some offender.  But wait, it’s necessary to find someone to hold his coat.  Wouldn’t want to dirty his coat.  The woman would be angry.  “Now I’m going to knock your block off and you’ll rue the day . . .  but first I’m that thirsty, I’ve got to have another beer!”  She’d dance in and out, feinting at the shoulder of her victim and then backpedaling away, stopping to roll her sleeves up a little farther, thumbing "his" nose to look fierce, never really doing more than shadow boxing, the little banty rooster of a man’s intentions of aggression entirely undercut by his actual ineffectuality.

The other was a little game that Paula Ragusa/Prentiss used to play as an improv.  She had invited the local parson to tea.  She herself was an ever-so-proper but rather mischievous old lady who fully intended to put a spider into Rev. Applebaum’s tea.  What a delightful thought!   But one must not give away one’s intentions, so “Lemon in your tea, Reverend?”  Maybe the spider could just be slipped in under . . .

This list looks less like a course outline than a compendium of remarks made in class.  I suspect Weldon.


TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014


WINTER QUARTER (1960-1961)


1.  To acquaint students with the nature of Imagination; to show them how Imagination may be stimulated and developed and used in Acting;  to begin mastery of the use of Imagination.  Principle teaching device:  the Fantasy Exercise based on three words, to be found in Modern Acting: A Manual.

2.  To acquaint students with concepts of Thought Between Lines (Sub-text); Multi-level Awareness and Response; Interplay; Transfer of Thought and Emotion; Playing from Moment to Moment; Recognizing Climaxes (the exact moment of transfer or change) in Scenes; Realizations; the Use of Metaphors in Acting.  To develop skill in the use of this knowledge.

3.  To acquaint students with the nature of the Vicarious Experience; to show them how vicarious experiences derived from reading and observation may be utilized in acting.  Principal teaching device:  The semester-long study by each student of a character from a good novel of character, and the presentation by the students of a series of improvisations and situations from the novel.  The students’ objectives in this work are (1) to make the audience believe he is the character and (2) to love himself in the role.  The written Journal and weekly laboratory exercises continue to supplement the classwork.


1.  To continue the work of the first quarter, the comprehension and use of Concentration, Observation, the Visual Sense, the Auditory Sense, the Taste and Gustatory Senses, the Kinesthetic Sense; of Sense Memory; of Memory for Experience; on insight into the reasons for human behavior; of insight into the nature of what is “dramatic” and “theatrical;” the use of body and voice in acting; of improvisational techniques; of the discipline and ethics required of theatre workers; of insight into play construction; of Truth in Acting; of the influence of environment on people; of how to show Reality onstage; of how to communicate with audiences and control one’s work; on allowing analysis to move into the realm of action; of theatre and acting terminology.


1. Imagination is the actor’s creative faculty;  it involves using what the actor has observed, knows of himself and others, and has experienced -- is the faculty which selects, recombines, intensifies what we have in us to work with.

2.  Belief in whatever is created by the actor as truth also stems from the imagination.

3.  The ability to visualize completely the appearance of a character comes from the use of the imagination.

4.  Fantasy exercises get the imagination going; fantasy takes up where experience leaves off.

5.  There must be continuity in acting, as there is in life; bad theatrical performances have “gaps” in them.

6.   It is possible to analyze inanimate objects (like the lectern in the auditorium, or a brace of pistols, or a Greek column) to see what qualities these objects possess -- qualities which could be carried over into a person if that person were “like” the object; this is how metaphors are used in acting.  The kinesthetic observation of objects can be done without even having to think.

7.  An audience must never be in the dark about what you are doing onstage; give one positive cue after another that will add up tomeaning.

8.  You establish an environment (in a fantasy, say) by doing single things; there has to be an arrest, a focus, on the first significant thing you do; when you sense that the audience begins to “see,” you add the new cue on top of the old one; the first thing you do onstage is especially important;  acting is a process of supplying details that will “add up” for the audience -- it is a process of funding.

9.  There must be no vagueness onstage; in performing a fantasy, tell your audience when the “curtain” is going up; every movement must have a beginning, middle, end.

10.  If, in a fantasy, you are going to twinkle like a star, first you must find the way to establish the idea of your being a star in space before you twinkle; if the star is to “turn human,” the audience has to be able to watch the evolution from object to being.  Never assume that an audience can read your mind; give them what they need to know to comprehend.

11.  Along with doing things one at a time, each detail must be sustained long enough for the audience to focus on it; often an actor can create suspense: we may not know at first what he is or what he is doing, but it will be done with such intensity that it will compel our attention and make us watch intently for the cue that will tell us.

12.  When an audience becomes aware of an incongruity (say between an intense body position of a performer and his wide-open, innocent eyes) it may laugh.  Comedy depends upon the dramatization of such “opposites.”

13.  To help carry off a Transfer, the players must concentrate on their characters’ purposes, must have goals to play toward. 

14.  Playing together results in a scene which seems natural, true, inevitable in its development;  too many actors try to manipulatesituations, scenes.  Response to one another, to what you see and hear, makes for interplay.

15.  Onstage, the flow of thought continues all the time; when it comes up against a problem, words may stop for a moment, but not the drama of the situation.

16.  In rehearsal, use the most real props you can; the handling of them has something to do with the truthfulness of responses.

[THERE’S A MISSING PAGE HERE.  I’LL SEE IF I CAN TRACE IT.  I'm not entirely sure whether this is from the Van Meter notes or the Bleiler notes or even possibly something that AK composed for the administration.  But it rings true.]

31.  Sample questions asked of students working on characters from novels, questions designed to steer their thinking and to touch off visualizations, the use of their imagination, etc.;  What kind of tables are going to be in her (Emma Bovary) life?  What does she want?  Where do we want things?  Why does the author call her EmmaBovary? . . .  Anna Karenina sits on a “settee.”  We should begin to sense the road she will travel the moment we see her . . .  “Emma!”  What does she hear when her husband calls her? . . .  Kathy is outside?  Think of the title:  Wuthering Heights;  What kind of heights?  What’s the word?  Shout it!  Name should tear her in the vitals.  What’s the wind like?  Show us!  Too much face; how do you walk against the wind?  Heights: it’s on top; barren; stark; covered with mist; you can see valleys below; a particular place for her is a crag; get the joy of conquering; etc.

32.  Surround your character with the little things that make up his world; it’s our responses to our environment which makes us what we are.

33.  Test for how well performer may be doing with his improvisation of a character from a novel:  do you begin to see the character, rather than the actor?  An hour from now will you remember the character?  Have people onstage begun to change?  To what extent have they changed?  Has your thinking changed?  Have you done something different physically?  Everything around you -- objects, noises, aromas, etc. -- part of your new subtext.

34.  “If --” is a good starting point . . . “If my father is --,” “If I lived in --”, etc.

35.  To get at characters: do the things they do -- their work; go for their walks; develop their attitudes toward everything in their lives; dosomething.

36.  A goal of acting: to show three-dimensional people emerging from a background.


MONDAY, MAY 26, 2014


As I type this material I am 75 and fairly widely read, so naturally much more strikes me than did when I was 18 and only read novels.  One thing I note (maybe I read it somewhere) is how much AK comes back and back to the Elizabethans and the Greeks as epitomizing what it is to be free and alive.  Other writers have noted this.  In the Sixties, just before the cultural renaissance called New Age (if you accept that characterization), American culture was celebratory.  We had won WWII, we all owned cars and houses -- but it was unseemly to show off our conviction that we were a “peak culture,” so we implied it by associating ourselves with two other periods that were grand and cultured.

Now, of course, we are looking at the end of things, diminishment, confusion, and want to think about neanderthals and the end of the Roman Empire as well as the end of the English empire.  It’s a playwright’s problem, but also one for the actors.  Perhaps AK is so fond of Ibsen and Chekov because they are critical and see “modern” as not so fail-safe.  But my high school teachers in the Fifties also held up Elizabethans and Greeks as exemplars.  Were the Sixties and Seventies an attempt to return to those periods in some way?

The point for an acting teacher is that a sound knowledge of culture and history is vital.  How did AK come by her opinions of how people did things long ago?


Can be put together but are separate.  Gustatory is in tastebuds in tip and sides of tongue, but there is also a response in the stomach.  Other sense is in the nose.  These are two senses that have become dull -- very.  [Sometime I wonder how much of what AK thinks is true of the society is in fact her own self projected.  She is aging, thus her senses become more dull.]

Begin acting by asking why is this character in the play, why is this scene in the play.  One Foot in America (opening U.T. show of this season) is filled with eating scenes.  How you eat, your response to food, is you.  One Foot is folk drama -- delineates a folk through their love-making, hatreds, etc., exists to reveal a people.  We saw a group of people onstage acting -- sitting around a table and doing what?  Why does your mouth water at the thought of food?  . . .  Once there was a reason for a prayer before a meal; when our attitude toward food changed, the prayer went.  AK recollects a man who smiled at food, another man who thought a baked potato was “beautiful.”  Comments on how long a novelist takes to describe about food, eating, etc. which we can show in an instant onstage.  She refers to other eating scenes in Studio Theatre plays class has seen:  Sicilian Limes, Demi-Monde; recollects her first French breakfast:  “Ze butter is in ze roll!” an article in the New Yorker about a restauranteur who goes around tasting food, asks class to distinguish between a gourmet and a gourmand.  

Eating reveals national characteristics.  In the last scene of R.U.R. there are people in tails after dinner drinking brandy -- have reached the highest level of sophistication, but only one man onstage recalls how to handle a brandy glass.  If you have a drink to handle onstage, know what it must tell.  You say you can’t eat and talk?  People do it.  The way you size up your plate (or don’t), put in the first fork-ful, etc. all reveal something about us.  Think of your favorite food; what happens?  Your mouth begins to water.  Think of Falstaff.  He tastes beer before he’s got it.  Where does he want food?  Elizabethans were very open about it.  You can’t fake these things onstage, can’t “play an attitude.”  What do you get in an animal?  It’s a necessity to have food.  When he has enough he quits.  Eating scenes provide dramatists with one of the best ways to show family and social relationships.  Noel Coward went to the cocktail set for his material; a whole era was caught and on top of it are the clever, brittle lines.  Do you know the mark of your own eating?  What epitomizes you?  What food?  

One girl says German beer is her favorite.  Not just beer, but German beer -- she’s gone up in the scale of discrimination; the girl explains why and comes alive as she talks about drinking the beer in particular surroundings with particular friends under particular circumstances; she describes the taste, color, richness, glass it is served in, where you go for it, etc. and almost makes a stein of it materialize.  The stein itself is an expression of part of the German temperament -- German word for “friendship” mentioned, for love they can be very sentimental -- can weep, sing, be warm, you belong, you are welcome in their little places. . .   

Do you know spices?  The names of them perhaps, but do you really known the essentials of them?  Acting is illusion; that’s why we’re training your senses -- so that you can turn stage oatmeal into -- ?

Critique of a student’s efforts to reproduce someone’s drinking: Give me a character sketch of him?  What do you know about him?  A professional gambler? (He was throwing dice and drinking.)  Why do you use the label “professional”?  It looked kind of amateurish.  Was it whisky?  How do you know it was whisky?  You mean you didn’t know what he was drinking?  Was he rich, poor, in between?  What sort of place was he in?  Was he a heavy drinker?  A light drinker?  We ought to know a great deal about him by the end.  What size glass was it?  What are his eyes like?  What makes him sit there for a long time between drinks?  WHY?  HOW DO YOU KNOW?  AK says, “I’m still asking why.

Critiques of other eating scenes:  Class are giving situations rather than character responses to food. . . AK wants to know what a character’s attitude toward food is . . . What role you would identify the character with -- Juliet?  Hedda?  Clytemnestra?  it should be possible to take the character into some other situation once his or her eating habits have been established. . .  One student seems to be acting anyyoung girl, to be acting attitudes; each person is a unique being in a specific situation: look at her head, feet, eyes, etc.  From the cigarette exercise onward you’ve been looking for the why of behavior.

Critique of an exercise in which a boy attempts to create an Elizabethan: you’re faking.  The listening was inadequate, the voice was wrong.  Now you’re really listening (to the critique!)  Before you didn’t hear.  No, you’re going through planned sequences.  You were a little modern man rather than an Elizabethan with curiosity, wonder, love of life.  If you wore tights all the time you would be free, and you would show your legs to advantage.  We see something prissy.  Where’s your weapon?  How do you know you’re not going to be attacked?  Murders occurred in broad daylight as well as at night . . . Create an Elizabethan who might be in Shakespeare’s plays.  Before you weren’t alert; you’re a little alert now;  London must be full of smells, etc.  He talks about there being “garbage” around; is that all there is in the room?  He is “attacked” by another student who has been hiding in the shadows.  There’s always something going on around you.  Student look up several details on Elizabethan life, but made the mistake of stopping there.  Put into action the child’s principle:  “IF I wore tights -- IF I lived in dangerous times -- IF I were a man and wore a necklace -- IF I wore a ruff.”  Pictures?  What did you see in the pictures?  Hands must be ready to draw weapon, but must not touch weapon unless someone else draws.  Protect the vital parts of the body -- where the organs are.  In this era of Elizabeth you doneed to to be prepared.  No “buts!”  something has to transform you or else it does no good to read dozens of books.  I’m giving you what is typical. . .

Critiques of other Elizabethans:  Did she have a quality of open-eyed wonder?  Why did she walk sideways, crab-like?  Only crab-like people walk sideways.  Where’s your big skirt?  Twirl it, kick it out of the way.  Arms being out away from body at the beginning was good, but don’t let them get stuck there.  Don’t get so close to a chair as you approach in your voluminous skirt; some women wore farthingales, but not all.  How much do skirts weigh?  Feel resistance against them with pleasure.

To a boy acting the death of Christopher Marlowe:  You are giving us an elaborate “plot.”  You must achieve a much stronger walk; sitting needs more room; never let yourself get squeezed up against furniture regardless of what the play is.  Handle the cloak easily; experiment with possible ways to dispose cape around you.  Now feel the weight of the cape and enjoy the movement of swinging it;  these people haveenergy.  Don’t swing your weight from side to side.  Keep a pull upward; work on stopping the middle of a strong step.  Let all parts of body “follow through” on a movement.  Exercises tried to get strength and suppleness and follow-thru.

Girl dressing herself before a mirror: her happiness was excessive to the motivation; no reason for being so happy.  What was she, anyway?  I’m going to say she was a high school girl doing her first costume show.  Were you an Elizabethan?  assignment was to get an Elizabethan body responding.  To another girl:  You’d be carried out of court for a little bow like that.  The bow goes down and under, with nothing sticking out.  Circle around rather than pivot; the skirt must follow you.  Feel the skirts; where’s the pull felt?  What about her step?  What’s inconsistent?  It’s little and tiny.  Women, too, must take long steps to get somewhere.  Do exercises; enjoy them.  Everything (parts of body) needs to be in alignment; bodies “resent” an off-balance position . . . 

To students attempting to be Romeo and Mercutio:  you aren’t holding our attention; if you can’t hold attention something is very wrong.  Mercutio should be the best swordsman in Verona.  He is not an animal but an element: quicksilver!  Moves quickly, all in a piece.

To another girl:  leap, leap for the joy of it; walk; leap; reach for something -- a star, a man, anything!  Elizabethans have so much to reach for they can’t choose.  The Queen is coming!  The Earl of Leicester!  A musician!  Strange animals!  Strange people!  . . .

To another girl:  Nothing really Elizabethan in her portrayal of a Catholic woman at a shrine.  Her religious feeling would be very intense, because she’s had to take sides, or evade the state’s decree.  The worship business restrains you;  try being at a theatre with a mask on, in a world of intrigue;  skirt must have weight, a concealing cape; enjoy it!  What play is it?  Why are you there? . . .

To another girl:  Movement actually suggests a dainty delicate person!  Be Juliet running to meet the Nurse, with the “why” of Nurse bringing Romeo’s first message.  Running on tiptoe to life.  What is life to a young girl in love for the very first time -- and with a Romeo!  What does the sky look like?  The grounds?  The trees?  She wants to take it all in!  Don’t think about it -- feel and sense it all.  Make one good run across the stage and stop; good because it had suspense in it.

Side comment to girl who “doesn’t feel like it” when it comes to doing a scene:  What do you do if the curtain is going up in five minutes and you’re scheduled to play Juliet?  What do you do?  Never let an audience down: never, never, never.  The rule of the theatre is: the show must go on.  If you aren’t there, that’s the end.

Other Elizabethan:  You’re acting attitudes.  There was no reason for picking up that skirt.  It is stupid to walk in straight lines; your clothes wouldn’t follow you; you must go in circles.  How many petticoats do you have?  Many.  Don’t tell me, feel them.  It is nothing to intellectualize: you must be kinesthetic, not mental.

Actor showing Krapp’s response to banana -- and other stimuli.  Everything was “more than clear.”  What dimension did performer add?  Delight.  A man who knows how to get what he wants out of a watch, a banana, etc. who has the delightful recognition that everything is “working as it should,” that the watch is running, that the banana tastes as it should, etc.  His joints had to be manipulated as a result of extreme age.  Everything he did was beautiful.  What did you learn?  -- that what the author gives him has to be motivated.

Critique of actress setting table:  Class is asked to give a biography of the character they have just seen.  Why does she do it this way?  She did each thing one at a time.  Finished one thing absolutely, then took up the next.  Tiredness without martyrdom was clear.  She realistically checked everything.  Woman seemed older than student actress because she had a “settled” quality of middle age.

Same student as Kate the Shrew:  Let’s  see her express joy in living.  You have so much energy it has to be expended somehow -- in climbing to the sun, in choking a man, etc.  Cry out; leap; run.  Now pick up that little lute, used to sing insipid songs to Bianca.  (Movement is too inhibited.)  Get on a horse.  Swing up!  Get on a bike.  Two men go onstage to “tame” her -- real men, not Bianca men.  (Now actress feels “just great.”)  Her society is is trying to make her conform to being a Bianca -- she replies by being the opposite.  Then she meets Petruchio and falls in love with him.  Recognize first that hedares, then respond. . .

Critique of boy presenting a character study observed from life:  Everything onstage tells a story: tell me a story here.  You saw a timid little man absorbed in his paper and less in his food?  If you were writing a play, how would you use him?  This is character study.  I’m not interested in plot.  One person eats at a particular time -- so, when it gets to be that time, he eats; is this the man you saw?  He felt he had to read the paper?  What page did he read?  Was that the actor or was that the man observed?  “He reads the comic section first?"  Howdoes he read the comic section; why does he read it first?  Does he laugh inside?  Does so because it doesn’t take any concentration?  Because he doesn’t feel like plunging into world affairs or high finance?  Because comics provide a certain positive thing that comes up day after day -- provide a kind of safety, certainty, security.  What did the eating tell?  College student?  Businessman?  Does he taste his food?  What’s he eating?  An egg?  Oatmeal?  Does he enjoy it?  If it is not so good as usual, would he know it?  Is he in his own home?  Go on doing it, and while you do, tell us what you’ve discovered about him.  Give us a “hand study” again.  Does he smoke?  Is there anything you notice particularly about his hands?  Does he use his fingers separately, or the hand as a whole?  If the former, it says that this is a man who has time and/or taste to know what his fingers are doing.  Next time you do anything, take your opposite, somebody as different from you as possible.

Critique of a boy doing an Elizabethan:  We don’t like the laugh; it’s a self-conscious snigger.  Show us you can laugh like an Elizabethan.  Movement excellent -- had pull-up, follow-through, balance, ease.

Critique of boy eating:  A laborer?  An Italian -- or some excitable nationality?  A person who hasn’t had much education, but who gets through life well enough?  A college student showing off?  Go up onstage again.  Something needs clarification.  Study him more.  Enjoyment of food, showing off, etc. coming through better . . .

Critique of girl impersonating an old woman eating:  A very old woman.  Some good observation of character.  She did walk in between counter and stools.  Why didn’t she take napkin to begin with?  Why was coffee put where it was?  It is an actor’s job to give the audience cues to understanding.  Did spectators believe in it?  Was it caricature?  You tend to say this whenever you see something extreme;  Evanston is full of extreme people.  Scene still needs “the reasons why,” although some of these were there.  AK asks actress if she is satisfied?  Actress feels she hasn’t got inside woman yet.  AK says audience wanted to know why she became old in this particular way.

Critique of boy who impersonates a literary-minded college student who does nothing but talk, talk, talk at table.  Next time choose an opposite kind of person.  When class laughs, AK points out they are laughing at a comic irony.

Critique of a girl’s exercise.  What did you get from this?  Did you believe her?  What kind of person is she?  What is her personal drama?  How does she look at life?  I’d say that she rejects practically everything.  What we’re searching for is the reason why -- otherwise you will act stereotypes.