Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1977

The play I directed for my first University Theatre mainstage production (fall quarter 1977) was Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance.

Letter (27 November 1977)
Do you present your show in Cahn? [The largest theater auditorium on campus. With one balcony, it seats over a thousand-- DD] If you do let me warn you about projection problems. You know it is difficult. There are spots on stage from which it is exceptionally difficult: upstage center and in a direct line down stage. Get your people on stage before dress rehearsal and have them think out and up to the balcony. It isn't loudness that carries. In fact loudness strikes up subtle reverberations that muddle sound. It is (1) think up and out, (2) realize that it takes sound time to travel that distance 3 articulate clearly but not artificially, 4. Direct tones to the front. I know you have probably been aware of this, but I have to make sure -- And maybe you are not in Cahn!

[Comments about an NU colleague -- DD]

Can't you get the department to bring in a good voice instructor? Your people badly need it. It is shocking that people in the field of acting graduate from Speech with such hideously inadequate voices. And people like T [A former graduate assistant, studying in Bloomsburg -- DD] are not equipped to do the job! And Speech reeducation people [now the department of Communications Sciences and Disorders -- DD] are not equipped to do the job. They know only remedial speech, not speech for the actor. When is the department going to wake up to this fact?
Write me in full about Delicate Balance opening. You know we are all wishing big wishes for you. Keep your spine erect, no caving in! My other self will be sitting in the right end seat, 8th row, center section. Tell them to play out to me.


Letter (19 December 1977)
I have not yet had a direct account of Delicate Balance, maybe Rand will be back tonight. [Rand Whipple, NU alum and Bloomsburg student, and current resident of Bloomsburg PA -- DD]
Sizing up the strength and weakness of this year's group: You must concentrate on responding, responding to fellow actors, to the world in which their characters exist, to the specifics in that world which play on character. These people still want to play emotions, say lines! After six months of Chekhov. I am desperate. They can play escape, but from what: the stemming from the stimulus is missing. And stir creative minds!


Letter (30 December 1977)
David, this letter came to me from John Van Meter. He is a deeply thoughtful critic. I thought you might like to see it. It is high encouragement. Did the theatre staff recognize the merit in your work?

[...Discussion of the beginning plans to start a theatre in Bloomsburg -- DD]

A brilliant 1978 to you!

Letter to Krause from John Van Meter (27 December 1977)
Dear Alvina,
David's production was such as to command the utmost respect from all who saw it. The quality of listening in the audience was something you rarely sense in theatres today and the lively discussions of Albee's intent, meanings, dramatic methods which you heard in the lobby during intermissions and after the play showed that the drama was engrossing to the spectators. David seems to have spent his rehearsal time on all the right things, so that we were treated not only to comedy and climaxes, but to poetry, good diction, voices well-placed, actors' bodies under control, developing characters and character relationships, beautiful resonances after and between lines. He did, I thought, an especially remarkable job of opening up the evening -- of establishing his characters, the tone of the evening to come, the questions to be probed in our own minds. David seemed genuinely excited by my suggestion to him that his principal characters needed something "new" to do in the latter part of the play so that an audience wouldn't feel they had heard all the strings in a given actor's bow -- that some new vocal tones, new notes of speaking, new acting areas to play in, new attacks on scenes, etc. in the last hour of playing could keep us refreshed and on the edges of our seats right up to the end. David's mind grasped the possibilities of this with any production and went racing off to develop its potential: he has a robust intelligence. I know you would have been thrilled by the play in performance and by seeing the sound applications of your principles to worthwhile material. And at NU again -- of all places. My own fondness for Albee as a playwright has quickly-reached limits: I find his people tiresome, I don't like some of his involuted dialogue, he hints at things he will dramatize later and then sidesteps the whole matter instead, and he is too darkly pessimistic for my taste. I would hate to be trapped for six weeks as the director of one of his plays, but I admire David's staying power in such a situation. When he told me about some of his problems with individual cast members (the girl who played the four-times divorced daughter in particular) I was in awe of his handling of the cast, for it was ensemble playing from beginning to end. And how difficult! -- all the characters in that grey zone of middle age where nothing but solid character acting will carry the day, even if the average cast age is 20! ... a college girl who has to be drunk all evening, etc. etc. David dared mightily and brought off a production to be remembered by U. T. [University Theatre -- DD] audiences. His lot from now on with his colleagues wil not be an easy one. He is too good!
I'm delighted to know that Lucy has been feeling well and that you have had some company in the house for part of the holidays. I'm so sorry to learn of your sister's death. [Krause's favorite sibling -- Otelia? Krause was the youngest of five and ten years younger than Otelia, the next youngest -- DD] Would that we could go on at our peak performances always and not have to waste away. But it cannot be. And so I settle for memories more and more of the enrichments that have come my way from those who have at some time been close to me.
Will you ladies travel to Chicago when the snows are over or shall I come to Bloomsburg again to see you?

1 comment:

  1. I was there. It was that good. "What are we going to do about...everything?"