For decades, I have found Orson Welles to be as complex and as essential as any of the great creative souls of the 20th century. This excerpt from Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 84, June 1958, reveals the profundity of his own self-knowledge and its revelatory, yet disguising, nature upon screen.
You know, in the old classic French theater, there were always some actors who played kings and others who did not. I’m one of those who played kings. I have to be, because of my personality. So naturally, I always play the role of leaders, men of some unusual breath: I always need to be bigger than life. It’s a fault of my nature. So it’s not unnecessary to believe there’s anything ambiguous about my interpretation. It’s my personality that’s responsible, not my intentions. It’s very serious for an artist, a creator to be at the same time and actor. He runs a grave risk of being misunderstood. Because my own personality intrudes between what I say and what you hear; and a great part of the mystery, the confusion, of the interest, and all you can find in the characters I play comes from my own personality and not from what I say.
This excerpt, Comito, Terry, ed., Touch of Evil: Orson Welles, Director, p. 205.
Classical language is yet our language. Centuries have past since what we consider classical was contemporary. And yet, the aesthetic discoveries made by Western civilization, which represent our common tradition, provide us with many opportunities to delight in them, whether poetic beauty or dramatic engagement.
This is the first in a series of video readings of brief segments of the classical language. I’ve read this poem in its entirety for you in a conversational, modern American style. One can say, readily, that this is neither the dialect nor the style in which the poem was written. One question to ask, when reading any work, is this: what did the author intend? Does one take a liberty to read this poem aloud in the modern tongue? And conversationally, without reference to the meter?
The Undertaking, published in 1633, was written by John Donne. The speaker has discovered a woman of rare virtues, worthy of his greatest love and admiration. He must, however, love her in secret (as she presumably must love him in return) because the men of these times will not allow that such a love is commendable.
A good discussion of the work may be found here: online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?35367-What-does-Donne-s-quot-Undertaking-quot-signify-!
The first two videos in my series on American readings of classical English language works pose several questions:
How might (or ought) an American performer read aloud the classical English language, when it was written to be voiced in a dialect long unspoken?
Is a conversational American reading persuasive for a modern audience?
What about meter? Is a work of definite meter, intended to convey a musical rhythm undergirding the meaning, more persuasive when so read?
In the first video, I’ve read John Donne’s, The Undertaking (1633), in a conversational American cadence.
In the second video, I’ve read the same poem while closely adhering to the meter. I’ve not approximated the dialect scholars believe readers of the early 17th century would have expected.
Which do you think is more persuasive?
Yesterday, I reassembled my voice studio (post-Harvey) and I’m back in business. Frankly, I don’t think it has ever sounded better. (My video studio, used for film auditions, was less laborious to reassemble, but that’s up, too.)
My primary mic is an MP47 MKII vacuum tube condenser microphone made in Nashville by Gene Lawson. I put that through a Millenia TD-1 Class A Recording Channel, then through a secret vintage analog component, finally into a Fireface UC 36-Channel, 24-Bit/192kHz USB High Speed Audio interface.
Within an hour of setting up, I had surprise followed upon by surprise: two commercial scripts requesting auditions, one for a major league sports organization. So, whereas a week prior I thought I might be out of the game for weeks, here I am back in.
We live in an age with a profusion of material comforts and a paucity of aesthetic ones. But I sense the change, see the evidence of it happening before my eyes, even where I’d not considered it possible. We who agree on this — and you know who you are implicitly — will nourish it, foster it and bring it to fruition in time.
Here’s a production I don’t think I have ever shared.
(Listen with the audio player at the bottom of this post).
“Gone with the Wind.” Well, really gone! I do the voices in this parody meant for the stage, but delivered in audio.
The scene is a small theater in a mid-sized third tier town, run by a superannuated and usually drunken producer, Maury Mishpucha, whose last good credit was in 1946. His cousin owns the theater, which he keeps only because he can’t sell it. Assorted has-beens and hacks populate the stage, playing to an audience of bums. They don’t get far into the production, when Wally the Wino perks up and starts heckling, Larry the Lip offends Sir Prolix Verbose (ask me to do him for you when we meet) and all hell breaks loose.
Featuring my characters:
Miss Verity Take
Dr. Ruth as Ruth Gordon
Jimmy Stewart impersonator Stewart Jimmy
Dalek the Alcoholic
Toshio Mifune’s Third Cousin twice removed
Festus from Bonanza
Lady Bracknell (in pumps)
Lenny in the Grapes of Wrath (as done by Mel Blanc)
and many more…
The sound design is by John Colucci, with whom I worked at scifi.com when they had a budget for internet theater. Ages ago. But you will enjoy it.