I’m very pleased to say that I will read the role of Valfierno (a Frenchman and a con man), in Norry Niven’s Six Painted Ladies, set in early 20th century Texas, at the SAG-AFTRA Script-to-Screen in Dallas on Sunday, May 7.
I do smile to myself when people call me Woody. (Rather than Wynt.) Happens a lot. The first name gives them some trouble, I am sure.
Of course, my dear father, Wellington Woody, and my mother, Wisteria Woody nee Womble, (Wiscount and Wiscountess of West Worcestershire) would not find it amusing.
As mother was wont to say, “Weawy! One wishes a wittul bit mow wespect.” Father would just stand there and twiddle his monocle.
I was watching a marketing video produced by the National Theatre (the actors on stage looked fantastic) and to my surprise heard the speakers use the term “relevant” several times, i.e., the work is “relevant.” I caught my breath each time with a larger intake of air (and the air has to go somewhere, you know).
“Relevant” is just another way of lessening the blow of “deadly dull.” (Sounds like something Noel Coward might have said, appending phrase-end “old boy.”) But the implication is you must still watch because there’s a moral in here somewhere for you. “I want to show you what life really is (and how miserable it is)!” But “this is how you must live instead!”
Evidently, the Everyman plays weren’t just a phenomenon of the Middle Ages.
On the other hand, when I see something like this, I am most heartened. (The young dancer is Emma Rubinowitz — I don’t mean the music.) I have met more than a few talented young performers, mostly in the South, whose aesthetic expression is focused upon revealed Beauty (I get to cap one noun in each post, otherwise, you’d think German my first language). Amoral and apolitical — and delightful and meaningful in every respect.
Here, in just under 6 minutes, is everything in theater that is valuable to me. And to those of you who understand this as I do (and there are many of you, I have come to learn).
And to think, at one time in this country, only two generations ago, this kind of fare could be seen every week on network television, nationwide. Shall we ever see its like again?
I’ve watched the Orson Welles “Othello” (1952) several times with increasing admiration. As a fan from earliest youth of Welles’s film and radio work, I’d not had the chance to watch his film discussion of the making of that film until it popped up on YouTube. It’s lo-fi, but the best we have at present.
“Filming Othello,” (1978)
In much of the film, Welles speaks into the camera. His body is almost entirely still; the camera angle changes only infrequently. Yet his manner is engaging, his stories regale. I found it rather incredible that I did not wish to turn away, such was his skill and presence. Nor any less important is the subject of his monologue.
The tit-bits regarding the production behind the scenes illuminate and inspire: they demonstrate the perseverance and genius that made excellent use of unfortunate (which they turned to happy) accident. For example, after months of preparation, the cast and crew hired, the producer’s bankruptcy interrupted filming on location in Morocco. Costumes were suddenly unavailable. They ordered costumes to be made locally, taking 10 days. But what was the cast and crew to shoot without costumes? They were all to be paid during this period, of course. “We will shoot the murder of Rodrigo in a Turkish Bath!” was the resolution, arrived at by means of great genius. For there were Turkish baths in Cyprus at the time of the setting of the play and towels alone were required to shoot the scene.
But, for me, the most intriguing section of the film is the conversation over lunch Welles has with Hilton Edwards (Brabantio) and one of my stage idols, Micheal MacLiammoir (Iago), on the ideas that undergird the theatrical expression of character in the play. Micheal MacLiammoir can be seen in the 1960 television production, The Importance of Being Oscar.
This is an endearing one man show that one can’t watch too often, so fertile is his work that one can mine it over and again to learn from. The two men are the subject of this wonderful biography, The Boys (2002), by Christopher Fitz-Simon, which I recommend to anyone interested in the Irish theater. Or, for that matter, more broadly, the underpinnings of English language theater, which I would posit are very much Irish, such has been their literary and theatrical influence.
Without giving away too much of “Filming Othello” the level of the conversation about theater and acting on stage is thoroughly literate, profound and engaging. Well worth your time.
If you haven’t seen Andrea Riseborough in the Hulu original, National Treasure, you must.
Yet another spectacular young talent. One can imagine her as a marvelous Antigone or equally, a Clytemnestra, or in any of the more contemporary high tragedies. She demonstrates a keen sense of the tragic and it’s roiling internal conflict, admirably avoiding the usual trap that is pathos. Believable right off the bat, with dramatic expression that constantly surprises. I think she steals the show among an already fantastic cast.
The show reveals itself as series of character studies developed over the course of an investigative line, that of a Jimmy Savile-like scandal involving alleged rapes by a comedian we assume is the “national treasure.” But while the format would seem just another common crime show, it proves itself to be far from that. It is, I think, a modern expression of some of the oldest dramatic themes in the West, done at the highest level.
Andrea Riseborough is the blonde in the first few seconds of this clip.
I was chatting with a talented younger performer earlier today and I thought this idea might be worthwhile for others.
My perspective, as one who has lived a little, is this: failure is to be encouraged. The first big failure is dramatic and dispiriting. When young, we take it personally. But you need to experience it, as painful as it is.
Why? Because when you get beyond it — learning from it — you will find the improvement that results was worth it. And you will have grown the hard skin necessary to move forward. The hard skin is just a matter of taking yourself a bit less seriously and more objectively.
Take it from me, as one who has failed many times, and then succeeded, the mountain becomes a hill we look at in the rear view mirror and laugh at!
Prior to 1968, American artists and performers generally avoided political advocacy in their work. While there were exceptions, the intrinsic quality of their work was higher than it is today. There is a connection. Sure, we can discuss this. But personal invective against the one with whom you disagree, rather than argument, demonstrates the fallacy of your ideas.
I’ve come to my conclusion: political advocacy in the arts is propaganda. Propaganda is subterfuge. It is essentially dishonest. It hides the motive to power while pretending to benefit the audience. It is beneath the thinking man and beneath the audience.
But more importantly, political advocacy in the guise of artistic work is destructive to the far greater purposes of the arts: the demonstration of Truth and Beauty which only the artist can discover.
Further, and not incidentally, propaganda demands that free-thinking creators toe the political line. I’ve lived in totalitarian and tribal societies and was grateful I could, unlike my friends, leave them. They were brutal societies. Those who lived among ideas as scholars and performers suffered very greatly, unless they surrendered.
I welcome the discussion. But it must be one in which the speaker cogently sets forth a position, adduces evidence in support of it and persuades, calmly and cooly. This is what is meant by civility.