Sunday, October 28, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: 17 November 1975

Context
Self-explanatory

Letter
Geisinger Hospital
Danville, PA
Sunday

Dear David,
This is difficult to write. I am at the hospital where Lucy is confined. She has had a brain hemorragh [sic]. Not a massive one. She was treated for several days for a concussion. They have performed a strange operation. A silken tube has been run from the groin through the entire torso to the brain: the blood has been drained, the bleeding stopped. And that is all I know. She is under sedation most of the time. In between pills she is lucid, speaks clearly, remembers everything except the moment when it all occurred. She is holding her own -- that's as much as I can tell. The bevy of doctors -- five, six, seven of them -- seem pleased with her state. She keeps say [sic] "Can I go home today." It will be two weeks at the very best is the answer. I am spending my days here by her bed. My niece has come from Detroit to look after me --
Tell R I won't be answering letters for a while. Tell others the same --
A.K.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1975

Context
I visited Bloomsburg the beginning of summer 1975.

Letter
David,
I hope your visit was as profitable to you as to me. I can't turn off my think-pot.
Your article is too good for Alumni News -- but turn it in. Then why not extract the best, most pertinent to the teaching of acting and submit it to American Theatre Association or Speech Association or whatever are the big professional organizations. I realize more and more that we need to fight a concept which prevails in colleges and universities: "Acting can't be taught". And your Dean wants you to publish! Well go ahead on your favorite subject!
Think seriously on your new course. Talk to the Dean about it. Tell him you have no intention of forever being a protegé of AK. That you would like to break that tie with a new course -- all yours. Remind him that you all are trying to teach AK courses. You want to break the chain. Be explicit and firm. Tell him that I was forever changing and adding. If I were teaching now I probably would add Acting & The Humanities or something of the sort.
Do understand: I don't want you to exploit me, but use me to write about teaching acting, of a theory of teaching. You do it well, so go ahead and use this material to your advantage -- You might even have a doctoral dissertation it it!!! Learn to play the academic game your way (but don't let anyone steal your ideas.) Publish! But publish what you most like!

Postscript
Eventually I rewrote the Dialogue article as the shorter bio piece they actually wanted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer and Fall 1975

Context
I was asked to write a profile of Alvina Krause for Dialogue, the new publication of the School of Speech. I asked Krause to provide me with some background information.

Letter
[...A brief discussion of an unrelated topic -- DD]
I have jotted down on the back of your paper some of the places I have been since retirement. I simply cannot remember all. It seems I was continually catching planes to take me somewhere for a workshop after retirement -- I kept no record.
Just remember the basic philosophy I tried to communicate -- "Theatre if it is real is big. In comprehension of humanity it stretches to the far horizon -- In understanding, deep as the human heart--

Doane College for lectures and workshops repeatedly until they gave me a PhD Dr of Humanities
Yankton College several times
Texas U -- lectures and workshops
California U at LA
Michigan U
Illinois U --
Illinois Wesleyan Interim session 2 or 3 weeks of teaching and workshops
S Methodist U -- Dallas
Loyola
Gallaudet, the world's only college for the deaf Washington D.C.
Master classes for the Recreation Dept. of D.C.
Roosevelt U. Ask Frank Galati

Ask Vera Ward [former student -- DD] about Yankton
Ask John Van Meter about my retirement
Evanston and New Trier H.S. Do talk to Winifred Gahagen at New Trier.  She can tell you how I work with H. S. students and how wonderful their response is. And she would be happy to help you. She understands my work as a teacher ----
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.

****

Further Notes
Alvina Krause
NU Alum
Assigned to teach a 2 hr. credit course in acting, AK soon transformed it into a 4 hour year course; an intermediate 4 hr year course in the acting of Greek drama, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Shaw, Ibsen was soon added. A third course in Style followed. This unusual sequence of Acting courses attracted students with serious professional aims. To complete their training A.K. established a summer theatre: The Playhouse, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. Out of this combination of academic and practical training came Patricia Neal, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, Gerald Freedman, Inga Swenson, James Olson, Corinne Jacker, Marshall Mason, Jack Clay, Omar Paxon: teachers, directors, actors. She directed and produced 180 productions at Eagles Mere.
University Theater productions of Chekhov brought her national recognition as an authority on Chekhovian drama. Her production of King Lear was SRO. Long Day's Into Night [sic] was her final production at NU. O'Neill's Anna Christie had been her first.
Since retirement: lectures and workshops in universities and college throughout the country, directed Three Sisters and Beckett at Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, Santa Maria, California. American College Theatre Association gave her a gold medal award of excellence in 1974.
At the present moment (July 1975) she is preparing to participate in August as critic teacher in the finals of the National High School Festival in WAshington DC.

****

Context
I sent her a first draft.

Letter
I began your paper with dread fearing an obituary. Thank you for avoiding that possibility!
Can you add somewhere that I am a tyrant on techniques of communication, on voice and body training, on timing and pointing of lines, on all elements of the art of communication. (This needs some stress because too many people fail to see that substance without form is meaningless -- that I demand both. To some it is a contradiction in my work.

****
A Final Note
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.
Goal: Not stardom but excellence in the art of theatre.
Can you write up what I did for Galati's class? That may be what the Dean wants -- [Krause went to Evanston as a guest teacher in Frank Galati's summer 1975 class on Clowning. She was pointedly clear that she was responding to Galati's request, not to an invitation from the school -- DD].
My only reason for travelling after retirement was to communicate what acting, (theatre) really is to young people (like you) who really want to know in depth.
*Also to spread the doctrine that courses in acting in colleges and HS should not be pushed to the periphery of education, but should be at the very center because acting is the study of human motivation, of the "why" of behaviour as well as an art form as serious and big and great as opera, all music, painting, sculpture
Please try to make clear why I travelled so extensively -- It was not for money, nor fame nor self exploitation. It was because I believe totally in the importance of theatre in our culture, it must be restored to that importance if we are to exist in this world of conflict. UNDERSTANDING -- God help us! Let us do the drama of all nations, all people, with understanding, for understanding -- Please get  the motive for my teaching! And my concern for young people (like you)


Monday, October 22, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1975

Context
The group of students in Bloomsburg was growing and they were by now mostly graduates of NU. Krause's letters included more and more discussion of her work with them.
I have used capital letters when she writes actual names.

Letter
David,
You make sure you recognize priorities! You just may have the capacities that make a great teacher. Let nothing come between you and that aim! And if you need warning, look at [She names an NU colleague -- DD]. A man of colossal talents who lost sight of priorities and what is he now! Keep your vision clear. It's a lonely road, but look at [ditto -- DD]: he chose the other --

Yes, I have told the group we stop work in two weeks. It is useless to go on and I refuse to pursue a useless course. I would rather work in my garden. I tell you this because you better do something about that sophomore course in acting! It should be the very guts of the work in acting! It should turn on the creative minds of actors. It should be the touchstone for all future work. An actor creates should be the theme. Out of what? Stored up images, sensory images, action images, people images. By what means? The creative imagination. Do you know these NU people --except for Y -- have none? No imagination at all! Even when I supply the flame, nothing kindles! They admit it: they are numb, they have never used the creative mind. P brought it all to a climax with Mercutio. We had worked on Mercutio earlier in the year. I told them: here is Shakespeare himself, his active creative mind teeming with images thrown into galloping verse. And what does P give us? A clown. A bumbling clown. Wit? Not a trace! Poetry? Imagination? Not a sign! I blew my top, P left and probably will not reappear. And thus we got to the acknowledgment: no creative minds. Three years of acting at NU and imagination is a foreign word. Now you get busy on that basic course. Scrap my program. Devise your own. But reach the creative mind! I shall work with U and Y if they like, but the rest -- goodbye.

The Chekhov cherry tree was beautiful [Those of us who first went to Bloomsburg during spring break 1972 planted a Cherry Orchard cherry tree in the backyard as a parting gift -- DD]-- and now the iris gloriously regal and I plucked a white rosebud today.
And what is NU doing for the Bicentennial?

A.K.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1974


Context
During fall 1974 and winter 1975 my journal was full of questions.

Journal
Me:
[On Creative Imagination, I end the entry with this question:]
What am I missing? Where is my blind spot?

Krause's Response:
Imagination works through the senses. They must be trained to respond.
See the lake -- actually see the color, the form, the movement: See a gull flying over the lake, muscles perceive the movement, the dip, the soaring, Hear the waves, the beat, the tempo, feel the spray.
Enlarge the responses, the lake becomes the North Sea, the water darkens, the roar is loud, the gulls cry out, the spray slaps your face, the clouds are dark, they rush -- Hamlet watches the 7th wave come in, break "To be or not to be"
[Along the left hand margin she wrote "Reality" to bracket this first part -- DD.]
Imagination becomes creative only if the realistic sensory response to a stimulus is vivid enough to enlarge of its own accord from lake to ocean to Hamlet on a parapet --
"To be" will only be words unless touched off by images rooted in reality

"My dear Judge, how mortally bored I have been" -- What must the actress see, hear, perceive -- what must the actress do -- turn a rehearsal table into a Victorian table with marble top, a miniature in a gold filigree frame, a lamp with a decorated globe shade --


Turn a rehearsal prop into Gaev's bookcase through sense response -- begin with your own reality.

Me:
[About a student in beginning acting]
And what do you do with a student who sits caved in, thinking like crazy, uncomfortable with his physical self, unable to let himself create because he is self-conscious even when I get the entire class involved in an exercise? He'll try and then he gives up, collapses. I'm at a real loss.

Krause:
What is his chief interest? What does he know well? To some degree, in what is he an authority? Whatever it is, get him to show the class how -- If he is a camera buff -- Let him illustrate -- Then go to -- If Hamlet had a camera -- what -- how -- Work from the known -- from confidence to --

****

Me:
[A description of work on the Antigone/Creon scene in Anouilh's Antigone and my attempts to get students to create the characters as forces more than as realistic human beings. When I met resistance from the students, I flailed.]
As ever, any light you can shed will be assimilated.

Krause:
Begin with real people, eliminate gradually all small actions, all small intonations. Try it in French, the language of precision. Listen to French drama.

About Antigone's Nurse
She is stripped of everything except the qualities that make her not see, not realize.

Get to the basic motivating force for each one and let that force dominate
Haemon -- a deep love for Antigone -- he would choose death for it. Youth, eliminate all romanticizing about youth and love. Play only the motivating force.
Ismene -- Youth loving life (normal) more than death.
Soldiers -- just that, no more  -- no individualities, they await orders, receive them, obey -- play poker while waiting --

Me:
I begin to question for myself. What is the difference between realism vs. Greek tragedy? Greek tragedy vs. Anouilh?

Krause:
[Next to my "realism"] Death of a Salesman. Keep Arthur Miller in mind for realism.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] tragic realization "Lo, he is fallen"
[Next to my "Anouilh"] Aimed at the head.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] Aimed at understanding through -- ?

Me:
[Observations about Greek tragedy, ending with this:]
But isn't that essentially what the French drama does too? There is a difference -- I can sense it, but I cannot articulate it and therefore I'm not certain how to teach it. Will you help clarify?

Krause:
It's in the aim -- the French insist on that intellectual grasp.




From my summer journal
Try being Anouilh -- with a keen mind, with a deep concern for his country, for humanity, looking from a high tower at his Paris, his France, knowing, realizing that with his talents he had the responsibility to strike a blow against Nazism. Play the Antigone he is creating as he looks at Paris.

****

Context
I send her copies of the notes I post on the bulletin board.

Letter
David,
The notes are to the point. Can you expand each point, illustrate, question? Always test your own imagination until you can trust yourself fully to develop any statement. Feel that you know Hedda and all her associates better than you know your own friends. And trust your own mind to explore, discover.
Talk about characters in drama as real people. As you talk about Eilert Lovborg become Eilert for a few moments.
[...A discussion of students and friends...DD]
I'm glad you have moved to Evanston. Should save time--

A.K.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: The Greeks Fall 1974

Context
Notes to my junior class: the Greeks.

Krause's Comments
Excellent foundation on which to build. Be sure you bring it to concrete realizations. Insist that your students find definite modern personifications of Greek drama -- Who, today, is Creon? For me: McBurney -- Smooth, good looking politician who forced his way into a place of power to destroy the school his predecessor had created. [James H. McBurney, Dean of the School of Speech 1942-1972 -- DD]
I have always felt the Kennedy family is the epitome of Greek drama. Robert was Haemon -- Rose is Greek in facing destiny (I rebel at the Camelot application to the Kennedys)
Electra -- surely she is still among you. Lilla Heston [Charlton's sister and Chair of the Interpretation Department 1979-1984 -- DD] was once Electra -- through personal strength she survived--
I am sure that Mrs. Martin Luther King has elements of Medea in her. Not capable of killing her children, but great depth of indignation. Perhaps you will find Medea among the blacks. Remember her tragic rage was not only against Jason but against the society which created woman's role it it.
For Antigone remember my story of the Hungarian Youth watching the Russian tanks roll by --
Jacqueline Kennedy has qualities of Antigone -- she didn't choose physical death.

And I remember the students -- men and women -- who drifted into my house that afternoon of Kennedy's assassination. There was a true Greek chorus -- Speechless, numb, lost, they found their way to my house: Frank Galati -- an armful of books clasped close to his chest -- sat by the radio, tears, silent tears, helpless, hopeless tears streaming down his cheeks.
I sat by a window my eyes closed tightly wishing I could shut out the fearful words I had heard: "We break this program to announce -----"
There is the beginning of a Greek chorus -- begin with such realities to take you into Greek tragedy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1974

Context
Year two begins.

Letter
David,
Continue to seek communication with Dr. Scott [See post for September 24 -- DD]. Invite him to luncheon with you. Ask him direct questions: How would he stage a Greek chorus today? anything to get him started talking. Let him know that in your philosophy acting cannot be taught as a separate entity: it is part of a whole, it must be so taught -- a whole, not only of living, but of the arts and humanities. And continue to make that point in staff meetings! To teach acting you must teach theatre -- only achieved by cooperation within the department. Ask Scott -- and the department -- who are the finest teachers of literature on campus because you want to recommend that your students study with them. Who is doing significant teaching in psychology? history? sociology? The good actor must have a comprehension of the entire system of human life. Scott can help you with this, but let others know positively what your goals are. The actor acts with all that he is. This is your basic principle, isn't it? Well -- establish, promote work for this principle. Tell your students to take Galati's courses. He is no competitor, he is a colleague working for the same goals. Insist upon registration in Dr. Bacon's Shakespeare -- he too is your colleague. Maybe you can make a small break by having Yvonne [the head of the costume shop -- DD] talk to your class on acting in costume: how the chest must lead, how muscles at the waist line govern movement of the skirts, how to leap over sofas in flowing robes, how to wear "costumes" as clothes.
Break down these ridiculous barriers which have been created by jealousy and incompetence. Recognize the fact that teaching acting is teaching theatre and theatre is the astonishment of living cast into theatre form -- See John Van Meter. Seek out the people who will sustain you in your faith.
God help you
AK --


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1974

Context
Beginning with fall 1974 I would be teaching for the first time the final year of the acting course -- Style: The Actor as Communicator.
I went to Bloomsburg for the summer of 1974 and Krause worked with her students on French drama (Moliere, Anouilh, Giraudoux) -- drama, as she put it, that demands style for its communication.
As the summer went on, the class worked on other dramatists, but as much as was possible Krause kept the focus of their work on style.
I kept a journal.
This post comprises excerpts from that journal and Krause's comments.

Journal
I titled the first entry "Style".
Krause commented:
The last stage in the creative process.
Style is more real than reality. "Why?" It is reality heightened, intensified by selectivity.
Quote, I think, from my lecture on style:
"When a craftsman has something distinctly his own to say, he may say it so clearly, so emphatically, that his manner of expression is part of what he is saying. He gives his subject clarification, intensification -- projection: he gives it Style."
"Style is organic". A.K.

*****
Me:
Difference between Moliere, Coward, Wilde, Feydeau -- techniques are the same, but the style is different? the manner in which the techniques become part of the communication of the drama changes, but the techniques stay the same? Can you clarify?

Krause:
Go straight to the end of the line --
Punch the end of the line in some way --
Use bright tones --
Toss up and out and over the audience
End business with the line --
Business points the line, must not steal the line --
Etc -- These are techniques common to all.
Style comes from discovering exactly what best suits the specific character and drama --
Style makes choices, Style selects, Style throws focus exactly where it should be to make a point (Chaplin throws focus on his eyes for instance by eliminating focus on his mustache -- Throws focus on his hat by eliminating all else)

I could do a dozen things (acts) to characterize me. If I wanted to project an acting teacher cares passionately about humanity, what specifically would I do? That selection of detail is style.

****

Working on Dorine and Orgon from Tartuffe, I asked about getting students to discover the responsiveness and flexibility of character spine.
Krause wrote this:
Spines --
I used animal studies to make students aware of spines -- Be a cat -- note that the tail is moved by the spine -- Note that each footstep starts in the spine, flows through -- Be a cat -- be a human cat -- control the tale [sic] through the spine.
Trees have spines too, I think. Isn't Antigone a birch tree that is being bent to the ground by storm, heavy ice, snow. But it must rise, it must grow toward the sky. It doesn't know why, it must slowly come erect. Our birch tree was bent to the ground during a winter storm. We thought it would break, it took days to come erect, but it did.
Have students observe and recreate the spines of the old, middle-aged, the ill, the soldier -- big business, etc.
Create National spines -- the very erect Norwegian spine, the curved Polish, the flexible Italian, etc.
Study a dancer's spine -- a trucker's --
Where will you find the Creon spine
Have you observed Nixon's -- slightly curved, but no flexibility

****

This is my record of Krause's comments focusing on elements of style during a work session on the beginning of Three Sisters.
Krause:
That was good realistic acting but it wasn't Three Sisters. Why? What story must you tell? What story did you tell?
Masha--you want to tell her whole story in her response to that [Olga's saying that they would soon go to Moscow-- DD]. What will you do to tell: I don't believe a word of that, I have given up hope, I am purposeless. What single movement of the head will tell this?

The audience must get a chance to identify with each sister, to respond with each, to understand the basics of each -- they must care for each one -- at the same time Chekhov's drama must be sent home.


Olga -- what will you do on "I have a headache" that will show you are not a teacher, but that will keep the audience liking you?


In my journal she wrote this:
Note on the opening of Three Sisters, although verbally it seems to be Olga's "scene", the focus changes from one to another. 
The director will say Focus on Irina! Focus on Masha! and there is an arrest and a hold.

In one entry I described the work of actors dealing with the Orgon and Dorine scene in Tartuffe. Krause was going to keep me focused on style the whole summer.
She wrote this:
You have described the preparatory improvisation. After that eliminate, choose the most telling movement, or tone -- the arrest of what movement
So you arrive at
Style and meaning -- (always remember style and meaning are one)

****

Postscript 
We did work like this on Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Anouilh's Antigone, The Importance of Being Earnest, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and others.
I left Bloomsburg in late August ready to add the third year acting course to my teaching schedule.

****

Context
I got this letter shortly after returning to Evanston for fall quarter 1974.

Letter
The flowers are beautiful. Stupendous! I wish you could share them with us. Thank you!
In the Saturday Review --World for this week -- August 10 -- is a description of Lunt-Fontanne acting which I think you could use. It's in the Henry Hewes column. You might be able to use it in "Styles". I would send you my copy but I think our group should read it.
It was good to have you here this summer!

Good luck
A.K.

****

Context
An excerpt from a letter a year later -- fall 1975 -- in which Krause responds to a comment I had made about something one of my colleagues had said.

Excerpt
The third quarter of "Styles" has not "traditionally" been contemporary realism and certainly not "American". The focus is on Style always. My last quarter culminated in drama that was highly dependent on Style for success: Ionesco, Albee for instance. [The name of another colleague -- DD] has turned Styles into something he thinks he can teach because he doesn't know what Style in drama is! Don't let anyone pull this "traditional" stuff.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: May 1974

Context
Krause invited me to come to Bloomsburg for summer 1974 to work on Style before my first senior class started in the fall.
And as she believed that theatre happened only when there was an audience, she was urging her Bloomsburg students toward public performance.
Where Krause names names, I use letters of the alphabet.

Letter
David,
The positive note dominant in your letter is great. Hang on! Move on!
A girl called me a few days ago asking to come here this summer. I referred her to you for a reference. I cannot judge by a telephone conversation, but my responses to her were negative. She is a Junior, she says. Is she mature enough to work with our group this summer? With you? I she emotionally stable? She seemed "carried away" with an idea that had just hit her. J and S are doing very good work; K is mature. If R comes back he will be highly competent. Wouldn't this Junior be lost in such a group? Don't be hesitant about a frank evaluation of this girl. It would be kindness to her.
The possibility here of a play in the park this summer is again in the air. I am not encouraging it. What they want is a "show" -- However we must be ready to do something if it is called for. What? I think it must be non-royalty for there is no money available evidently. It occurs to me that we could do an old melodrama with style. My favorite is "Lady Audley's Secret". I have no copy of it now. I think there is one in Deering Library. As faculty you could draw it out for an unlimited time. Could you get a copy, read it, send it to us. When it is done with real style it is terrific. Would you be interested in directing it and playing in it?
Be firm on this "coaching" business. Coaching is a practice of the commercial theatre. They cast "stars" in leads. They cast by appearance, size, etc. And so they need a coach to tell people how to walk, to speak, to sit, to "emote". The academic theatre should be above that for it is their business to teach students to act. If they are taught truly to act, they need no "coach". I fought the term when I came to NU. Mitchell [Lee Mitchell, chair of the department, teacher of directing, Krause bĂȘte noire -- DD] asked me to "coach" his actors. I told him I was a teacher, I would teach acting -- I would not "coach". Understand? I was successful in banning the term during my presence at NU. Be forceful in your stand. Don't fight, but stand on your principles and make clear where you stand. And see that your students understand. When they learn to act, they will not need a coach. They may want to go to an authority if they are cast in a complex role in Shakespeare, Chekhov, etc. They may need help in analysis, they will need study but not "coaching".

****
Postscript
There was no public performance that summer.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Voice (April 1974 and April 1978)

Observation
Krause's righteous fury at any failing on the part of the school never faltered.

Context
Recent NU graduates had gone to Bloomsburg to study.
For their names I have substituted letters of the alphabet.

Letter (April 1974)
[...A discussion of more students who had written asking to join the Bloomsburg group --DD....]

In heaven's name, do something about the voice problem at NU. You say you have an instructor -- what is she doing, for heaven's sake? RL is the motivation for this outburst. Here is a capable girl, I think a talented one. She is a graduate of what should be a leading school of theatre. She is trying to do Shakespeare, in fact she has played in Shakespeare at NU -- studied Shakespeare. And she has a little flat, restricted vocal mechanism that forces her into tensions that defeat any talent she may have. A graduate of theatre school! And no voice training. Raise hell! This is outrageous! Before I can teach her acting, I must train voice and body. After four years in Speech School! I think she has ability, but why must I teach voice, diction and body movement to a graduate of Speech School before I can teach characterization and all the other elements of acting. As you see, I am profoundly disturbed and angry --
Better master the elements yourself and prepare to teach them in each class -- Breath control, rib carriage, front direction of tones, open throat, "tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth" ("articulation") --
the balanced body (hips tucked under, weight forward, the supple spine, reach for the stars" etc etc --
Better give five minutes to exercise in each class -- If N and P [the potential new students discussed at the beginning of the letter -- DD] have no training in voice and body tell them to get busy before they come here.
Poor R! Trying to do Juliet with a little, flat, high pitched voice!
Somebody should be shot!

A.K.

****

Context
From the beginning, Krause urged her Bloomsburg students to find venues for public performance in Bloomsburg. ("Theatre doesn't happen in my rec room").

Letter (April 1978)
David,
You must do something, something drastic if necessary. Here are twelve graduates of the School of SPEECH and Theatre. They are highly intelligent, hard working serious students. Only one in the group -- K and his undergraduate work was not at NU -- only one has the knowledge and trained equipment to use effectively his instrument of communication: the voice. A hotel dining room throws them into panic, they resort to vocal strain. Graduates of Speech! These people have spent how much $20,000? for an "education in Speech and Theatre and had no opportunity to learn the basics of communication. Their poor little, squeaky inflexible no-range voices: is this what NU stands for? "Follies Moliere" was a success due to the vitality, the infectious spirit of these Moliere actors -- but it was produced with great strain -- mental and physical -- as they came to hard realization of their vocal inadequacies. Now they are planning a summer season and must compress a year's course in Voice into two weeks! When are you going to insist that training in voice is essential to training in Acting? And that training must be given by a specialist? would music school give a course of that importance to an incompetent grad student like F?!! McBurney got rid of the Voice work [James H. McBurney, Dean of the School of Speech 1942-1972 and Krause's primary antagonist -- DD]. I took over the burden by sending acting students to Music School for Voice training and I took over the application of that training to Speech. But, thank God! I had had good, solid basic training in Voice and Diction. You have not had that training. Therefore, you must have a Voice specialist in Theatre and Interpretation. How dare you send out actors -- and teachers! into the professional world without such training? A lot of good it will be to have a fine new theatre at NU if actors must shriek and screech to fill it. What's more some day some one might just be smart enough to sue NU for a strained larynx due to no training for his craft of acting. Your own work in directing a production will suffer under this handicap.
Can't you get your students to demand this training? Not by a grad student!
All this has been boiling inside me for years as I have had to work with NU graduates. Now it is off my chest, -- at least to you. Are you a professional school or no? If you are: actors must have flexible voices of great range and quality or -- no degree in theatre!
Thank you for your good wishes on "Follies". They really brought off a good production, the audience loved them -- but the last week was Hell! But I love these students!
Be a leader!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1974

Context
Notes posted on my bulletin board about realism and characterization, specifically Hedda Gabler.

Krause's Comments
Remember the place of men in this man's world. Lead straight to the curtain:
Tesman: Fancy that!
Brack: Good God, people don't do such things.
To avoid stereotype men, show them in relation to their world. They are both three-dimensional characters -- products of their society.
And Thea -- more courage than Hedda. Why didn't she fear scandal? "So that little fool has had her fingers in a man's destiny".
And the artist Lovborg. What is Ibsen saying through him? Note that Hedda is always surrounded by men -- an artist, a scholar, a judge. What has society done to them?
Your lecture on Hedda is excellent -- I make suggestions only to balance your drama. Too often it is played as a one-person vehicle for someone.
"Woman's place is in the home" -- and here is a home -- a new home with all the old furnishings. Be sure to emphasize the fact that Ibsen's drama takes place within four walls -- a living room. He goes right to the core of drama. Make your people identify with the objects in that living room -- piano, sofa, bric a brac -- rug, walls -- curtains. Surely there is someone in class who would enjoy improvising the servant, serve tea to Hedda and Judge, etc. -- a sturdy Norwegian with straight spine, never "servile", human, dependable, clear-sighted. Assemble props, have a cupboard somewhere to keep them for the quarter. Encourage students to bring in an essential prop when they play, wear long skirts, suggest that men put on bow ties, wear suit coats --- -- and be human.

****

In my journal she wrote this:
She [Thea -- DD] is all that we call "feminine" -- compassionate, tender, understanding.
"That little fool has had her fingers in a man's destiny" is Hedda's summation -- Ironic!
All that Hedda rejects Thea is. Thea, feminine, dares do what Hedda fears to do. Scandal has no power on Thea's warm, concerned heart

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Responses to my Teaching Journal Winter 1974

Context
The beginning acting class sophomore year had three quarters of work: Fall -- Sensory Perception; Winter -- Creative Imagination; Spring -- Character Creation.
In Winter 1974, besides two sophomore sections of The Creative Imagination and the junior class in Shakespeare, I also had a freshman class in Sensory Perception. (This class started their acting course winter quarter their freshman year and had eleven quarters of acting--the only time we did that in the thirty-five years of my teaching.)
I include only enough of my journal writing to give context to Krause's responses, written between the lines and in the margins, etc.
To illustrate, at the end of this post I've included a photo of a page of the journal.

Journal
Me:
How much of what is told about "off-stage" action should be improvised?

Krause:
Until the true Hedda evolves -- Until she senses social pressures -- Remember she fears gossip. How do you get to that? Brack does not fear social pressure -- Hedda a woman -- does

Me:
Only enough to give the actor a basic, spinal, total response that can bring him back into the drama?

Krause:
And can lead him to create -- Set his imagination going -- make him perceptive.
Search for the key to the actor's creative sense.

A young man at Santa Maria [Krause directed at The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria CA for summers 1969 and 1970 -- DD] was a promising actor, knew he would succeed -- a year ago he killed himself. Why? [The name of one of her former students -- DD] with far more cause, is still fighting? Why?

****

Remember:
The genius of the theatre has always started with the bedrock of human experience--
(Shakespeare, Chekhov, Sophocles, etc.)
Let this be your fundamental, guiding principle in teaching and you can't go far wrong. You will make mistakes -- unavoidable ones. In the complexity of life and art, teaching cannot be perfect. But if your fundamental principle is true, you cannot go far wrong.
So -- relax, trust your dramatist -- or life, or your God -- Even the fundamental principles of art are rooted in life -- balance, harmony, rhythm, proportion -- go listen to the lake and learn from it!

Build on bedrock of human experience.

****

A page from my journal:





Thursday, October 4, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Creative Imagination Winter 1974

Context
Beginning Acting. Winter quarter Sophomore year 1974. The Creative Imagination.

Letter
Do you remember your attempts at Othello? Horrible! Awkward! Self-conscious, unbelievable -- words without meaning, emotions without motivation -- Why? Because you were not using your creative faculties to become Othello. Your creative faculties were dead. You were a typical acting student -- memorize words, speak them with emotion and that's it --
The objective of the quarter on imagination is to start the creative faculty working again -- to stimulate the creative mind -- to demonstrate what creation is and the glow of it. My exercise worked for me. Scrap it if it didn't work for you. But find it! Did you get people thinking of how their creative minds functioned in childhood & then they got to H.S. & they started to follow the heard [sic]. Did you get your class excited about recapturing this lost faculty? Creating a character is far more difficult than creating a fantasy -- A child can build a universe on the beach sands -- Scatter some objects, fabrics, etc., on the floor. Build a Moor out of them -- While building say he is dark, a different skin, his blood is hot, his heart is warm, passionate, he trusts too much, he loves too much, he is a soldier, a leader, etc. -- Pick the fabrics for each quality -- Devise your own system -- But stir the creative mind!

****

Letter
David,
I can't remember where Complex Oedipus came from! [An article Krause gave me and that I had misplaced--DD] If it is a newspaper clipping probably it came from Lucy's niece in England. If you send it back to me maybe Lucy could identify it. More probably we would need to send it back to Jerry.

Imagination -- Try acting the titles of plays: Gamma Rays...Man in the Moon Marigolds -- alcoholic mother (The college here might have had a good production if they had started with the title) --

a tailor.... a lion.... a Roman Emperor

Or take a title of a play and add other elements in the play --

Rhinoceros ... Paris ... !

Such a process might show students the relation between creative imagination and acting -- Oh yes: Marchbanks (not April or May or August but March) -- an Episcopal minister .... a fireplace or ?
You can't be Marchbanks unless your mind has played with the word!

****





[I'm including this photo because it's the only way I can think of to get facebook to offer it as a thumbnail accompanying these letters as shared status posts on facebook -- DD.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Creative Imagination and Shakespeare -- Winter 1974

Context
By winter quarter 1974 I was posting notes on my bulletin board. I sent Krause a copy of each set of notes and she returned it with her responses. I include only those parts of my notes that are necessary to give context to her responses.

Bulletin Board Notes on The Creative Imagination
I wrote a long essay about metaphor and the actor with nods to Hedda Gabler and the army pistol and Desdemona as a rose, including this passage written in my best AK manner:
"...What is a rose? Form? all right -- but everything else has form -- what is the exact, unique form of a rose? Can you capture that form in your body, sense it, create it, transfer it to yourself? Beauty? All right -- but what precisely is the beauty of a rose that is not the beauty of any other thing...."

In the margin AK wrote this:
Good.
Continue on the "action" words. On behavior resulting from action --
A rose turns to the sun, sways with the breeze -- droops in the drought and heat --
bends

At the end of the notes, she wrote this:
You are terrific in concepts -- But develop ability to touch off creative action by the use of creative action.
Your fantasy [an assignment in which an actor plays one of a given human being, animal, or object, creating a pantomimed story involving all three -- DD] again needs explicit action.
Use "if" more
Everyone has a pistol within him -- go on develop, illustrate -- its power to destroy
He also has a mouse within him -- who peeks out, etc. --
Everyone has a peacock within who preens his feathers, steps high, etc. --
If pistol, mouse, peacock collide [Hedda Gabler, Tesman, Judge Brack -- DD]
???

****

Context
In her responses to my notes to the Shakespeare class, Krause continued to point me toward illustration by direct action.

My notes on creating the reality of A Midsummer-Night's Dream
In the notes I eventually get to this statement:
"...play the play, play the drama to create the beauty, the magic, the joy of a mid-summer night's dream -- to create the truth in 'Love is blind'."

In the margin she wrote this:
Illustrate: 
A night to do as you please, to race into the woods.
You are in a wood, at midnight -- trees, shadows -- crickets -- a cow moos, a bush shivers -- you see a pair of eyes -- owl? 
No -- it has horns!

A bit farther on:
You are so right, but you stop short of the images, action metaphors, which motivate -- imagine -- "It is midsummer night -- anything can happen --- you are in a wood -- there's an open space -- a stage --moonlight -- you start out 'to be or not to be' a donkey brays, dances in the moonlight" etc. etc.

Later in my Midsummer notes:
Men -- toss your capes joyfully over your shoulder, stride vigorously through this world, perch that cap with the feather in it on your head and bolt off into the forest.

Krause:
You want --- what? a girl? money? Fame?

Me:
And Bottom?

Krause:
You want to act -- so does Bottom. To act you need a loud voice. So does Bottom. Do it -- No -- a deep voice, etc. etc.
Bottom is anyone who wants to act -- He dreams -- Titania -- Elizabeth Taylor ----

****

Context
My journal

Krause's Comment
Ideas are only starting points -- The good teacher takes them into action.
Hedda is a pistol, Hedda is afraid of society, Hedda tempts Lovborg
etc.
Human beings are made up of opposites -- part reaches to the stars, part follows the herd: be a lark, be a sheep --
Macbeth is a 1) Great soldier, even a poet 2) Macbeth wants a throne.
Honor vs. base ambition
Eagle vs.  ?


Monday, October 1, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Teaching Shakespeare

Context
As she did with the Greeks, Krause sent me an envelope of notecards about teaching Shakespeare. (Actually, they were 3 x 6ish cards advertising the final season of her Playhouse at Eagles Mere--1963, I think. She wrote on the blank back side.)

The Notecards
Shakespeare
Begin with the language, the verse. Nothing strange in the iambic pentameter -- it's a basic English rhythm --
Through his use of meter and language he delineates character. Your cues to character are in the verse. Learn to read it for clues.
Read to them lines from Friar Laurence -- emphasize the trite rhymed couplets -- light, night etc.
Ask them what kind of person would speak so tritely -- Emphasize the extreme regularity of the iambic line -- What cue to character do you have -- If you were impersonating him, what characteristics creep out (Pick a few herbs to accompany the lines) dead serious trite to dah to dah to dah -- Now what do you know about his part in the tragedy --
Shakespeare delineates through his verse.

2. Titania -- usually played as a lovely, delicate little fairy. Read These are the forgeries of jealousy -- let it spit & hiss -- There is not a pretty sound in it. Cues to character & role in the drama.

Perhaps compare with Oberon's Once upon a promontory --

Read some of Lady Macbeth's utterly prosy lines "My hands are of your color" to compare with Macbeth's  "All the multitudinous seas incarnadine"

Perhaps Mercutio
Do just a few lines -- enough to get students fascinated with the language verse -- Point out the infinite variety in the blank verse --

Brutus -- sustained, regular, etc.
Marc Antony -- brilliant rhetoric
Cassius -- cutting --

Make them aware of the effect words have by sound alone.

Point out iambic pentameter is natural speech. We fall into it -- or wish we could -- at moments of depth.

Point out the difference in long & short sounds
To be or -- long, sustained
"O then I see Queen Mab" -- prevailing short with long to create the magic of his mind.

Assign significant speeches which they will enjoy --
Mercutio "Queen Mab" --
Puck --
Titania --
Cleopatra (I dreamed there was) --
Macbeth  ("Tomorrow" or "Is this a dagger") --
Juliet -- "Gallop apace"
John of Gaunt --
Richard II --
Opening of Richard III
(Always ask them to tell what character traits they discovered from the verse)

Read Granville Barker Prefaces -- Use them freely -- Never hesitate to borrow ideas in the beginning. They will become your own as you use them -- Assimilate -- use -- Maybe there are still copies of the lists of speeches I used for these first 2 weeks. If not make out one of your own -- don't be afraid to use your own favorite passages! -- In the beginning do what you know you can do well. Then grow -- stretch -- reach -- -- --

Point out Shakespeare uses prose for Rosalind & Orlando in the beginning. But what prose! It's Shavian. What do you know about Rosalind's mind? Her wit, her humor, her enchantment?

Point out the commonplace language of rustics, citizens -- the literal, unpoetic, absence of imagery -- Give some time to rustics of Midsummer -- Porter of Macbeth -- Grave diggers -- through their language you know them -- Have fun with them -- then turn to Hamlet -- Macbeth
Do the ones you know best.

******

Context
At the end of a journal entry, she wrote this.

Journal Note
Swordplay --
Capes
Long full skirts & many petticoats to be lifted up as one runs, kicked out of the way.
Astonishment -- a ship from China
Bait the bear
Dance the Elizabethan dances
Sing with Feste
play tricks on Malvolio

A glorious age!