Larry recently received this request to share his thoughts on theater from an unlikely source, so we thought we’d share it with you – Editor.
Hello Mr. Stark!
Our names are Aylin and Julia. We are students of JJ Daniel Middle School and we need help with a project. We are studying “Entertainment Throughout The Years” and we have some questions for you. We would be delighted to have you answer them.
Thank you so much for your time,
Julia and Aylin
First, I’d love to take such a course with you; I’d learn things I never thought of before, I’m sure!
What I did was just whip up a couple thoughts off the top of my head. Let me know if anything is useful…And, as we always said back stage:
Break A Leg!!!
How have you seen theatre change?
All THEATRE is Local, so I can only speak of the Greater Cambridge/Boston area.
When I got here (after finishing colllege [A.B in English])— the year Loeb Drama Center (built originally for the Harvard Dramatic Club [i.e.
students]) opened — two “regional theatres” (The Charles Playhouse & Theatre Company of Boston) worked here, but the center of atterntion was on Boston try-outs or touring shows in the three big (i.e. Broadway-oriented) houses.
In 1971, I counted ten tiny “fringe” theatres, and a number of “Community Theatres.”
By about 2000, I counted around one hundred “fringe” companies inisde the Boston city limits. The Factory Theatre, the Boston Center for The Arts, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, and the IRNE Awards focused attention a little more to local rather than visiting (i.e. Broadway) companies.
That means that playwrights, directors, and actors can work and grow while staying in Boston, though New York and California still pull people away to work on plays, movies, and television. Recently, however, some of these have come back to Boston where it’s easier to find roles.
What is your experience in theatre?
- 1946-50 @ South River High School (New Jersey) Speech Classes & work with the Dramatic Club (tiny roles, blew lines) 2. 1957-63 Cambridge MA Two roles in Harvard Dramatic Club plays, then backstage-work @ Loeb Drama Center and other productions 3. 1963-72 Reviewed plays for the weekly entertainment newspaper BOSTON AFTER DARK 4.1994-now Started THEATER MIRROR; reviewed plays on the internet 5.???-now Founding member of Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE)
How do you think theater affected history?
Radio, television, and movies are “mass entertainment” media which require
massive paying audiences, and for that reason they have more than not shrunk
from making people think. Theatre is always a live dialogue between the play
and each individual in its audience — it breathes the same air as the
watchers, and theatre is made out of People, not disembodied shadows. Plays
allow people’s minds to participate in the emotional conflicts on the stage,
and to introduce people to worlds they might never be aware of otherwise. So
classic plays — from those of “Wilm Shaxpy” to the new Kander & Ebb
musical SCOTTSBORO BOYS and HAMILTON — mold how people think about the
wider world around them, comparing art to reality and drawing conclusions.
That’s the “how”; Shakespeare always tells people how rulers should and
shouldn’t act, and A RAISIN IN THE SUN and Wilson’s ten-play cycle have been
teaching people of all races what Black people experience and think.
“Every night you fight that giant, and sometimes if you win, you send it out
a better giant than it was when it walked in”; Oscar Hammerstein II said
that in a song (“The Big Black Giant”) about the audience
How do you think theater will change?
Not a lot, really. In his little book THE EMPTY SPACE Peter Brook says
“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A person walks across
this empty space while someone else is watching, and this is all that is
needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”
Beyond that, every playwright, every director, every producer adds to it
whatever they think works — and often it does. Sound systems and projected
scenery can expand things, but right next door one person on a bare stage
can be the equal in importance of the newest and biggest. And when they do,
I’ll be that “someone else” — watching.
What makes a good actor/actress?
Empathy, commitment, and ambition.
Acting consists of listening and responding, in character, to what happens
in the moment on stage.
Both the particular play at the moment, and what you audition for next,
demand your full attention.
A desire to grow, to play with good actors and directors who can stretch
you, and to play roles that expand your expertise, are what make every
actor worth watching — both in each role, and over an entire career.
Please, let ME know what you learn! Sounds like a great class — and I
still have a lot to learn.
( aka That Fat O L D Man with The Cane also ka lLrry Stark