Winter quarter 1975 I directed Winnebago, a one-act play by Frank Galati. It played in the Benson Street Lab. In the lab winter quarter 1976 I directed Entertaining Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton about which Frank Galati said that he had missed the sex and the violence.
It was not unnoticed by me that sex and violence are central to Entertaining Mr. Sloane.
When a production closes never, never dwell on what was wrong. The result of such contemplation is despair. Always 1) recognize the wrong 2. immediately seek the why 3. Plan the approach to the next production. Always go on. Never dwell in the past. What must you do now? Where is the gap in your work? Why? It seems to me -- and from this angle I could be wrong -- your weakness is in character motivation. If your people had been truly motivated they would have responded to each other and to their world in such a way that Frank would have got from your production -- inevitably the sex brutality which he felt was lacking.
This aspect is latent in the first meeting with the cast. 1) Create the world in which these people live. Don't think because the drama is modern you will not have to focus on the elements which make this modern world. In a sense for this reason, a modern drama is more difficult than a classic: your people think they know their world. They don't. Bring newspaper stories to their attention -- stories in which your drama may be rooted. Get them out of the college classroom into the world of Mr. Sloane. 2. Establish the dramatist viewpoint on this world. Does he see it from the comic, objective viewpoint? from the tragic? The realistic: comic and tragedy? 3. Improvise your characters in this world until their character spines develop, until their responses are clear and habitual. Lead your characters into the playwright's viewpoint: in this moment of dramatization, what did the playwright, through character, say about his world and sex?
In fact, what I have written should be the subject of the last quarter of B43. [The three-quarter beginning acting class -- DD] If you no longer use the novelist to create character, you, yourself, will need to take on the attributes of the novelist. What is the world that created the people in Virginia Woolf? Maybe that's a good beginning -- Bring in a character study of a professor -- in a classroom -- after a movie, in a bar, in a faculty meeting, alone with TV, reading the morning paper, at commencement, etc -- etc -- His wife, ditto. Don't use one word from the play until the contemporary academic world is set up: money, promotion, honesty, success, failure, sex freedom, sex restriction, intellectual integrity vs. academic promotion, need to create an imaginary world, natural instincts vs abortion. Abortion of ideas, of ideals, etc ad infinitum. Maybe "Virginia" would be good background for your last quarter, But do not let them use one word from the play until near the end of the course. What becomes important to each person? What motivates him? What price education? What is a "character"?
You have much to learn -- that is wonderful -- you must grow and grow and grow. There is no end to growth in theatre. That's the wonder of it, the frustration of it, the amazement of it: you take a giant step and you're at the foot of a mountain. Even if you get to the top of it, there will be a whole range to explore. Climb on!
I have received no letter from [She names a student who wanted to move to Bloomsburg to study with her -- DD]. Let him write again but actually six students is quite enough. Tell everyone the class is complete unless someone has to drop out -- no more.
Muriel Bach [former student who regularly performed one-person shows -- DD] comes here this week with her new program for AAUW. I won't know how we are going to get Lucy to the auditorium, but somehow it must be done. She has not yet been able to get into a car. We have used the ambulance or the van for the aged. Neither are available for entertainment pursuits. No one realizes that Muriel's program is therapy.
Chin up, spine erect, eyes bright, stride into the future like Renaissance Man!