- Del Meyer, MD - http://delmeyer.net -

Theater Lines

The theater has been called the fabulous invalid because for a least half a century it has been described as dying. Broadway, the legendary “great white way” of the state, was labeled as doomed when talking picture came upon the scene. When television developed into the nation’s most popular theatrical form, the prophets of doom for the legitimate theater renewed their prophecies. But the vitality of living theater went up. Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway bloomed. Regional theater became a thriving reality. Theater studies at universities prospered. Foundation support for resident companies was a new development of the 1960s and 1970s. In any community of size, the theater today is present, whether struggling or flourishing. It behooves the cultural leaders to facilitate the latter. May our profession be among them.

On Tragedy:

Tragedy on the stage is no longer enough for me, I shall bring it into my own
life… Antonin Artaud (1896-1963)
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
D H Lawrence (1885-1930)
Tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which exists in pain…
Percy Shelley (1792-1822)
When you close your eyes to tragedy, you close your eyes to greatness.
Stephen Vizinczey (1933- )
On Comedy:

Comedy is the only honest art form. You can’t fake it… Lenny Bruce (1925-66) Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people… Angela Carter (1940-92)
Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in the long-shot… Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into
faith… Christopher Fry (1907- )
The only rules comedy can tolerate are those of taste, and the only limitations are those of libel… James Thurber (1894-1961)

One of my chief regrets during my years in the theatre is that I couldn’t sit in the audience and watch me…
John Barrymore

‘How’s the acoustics in the new theatre?” “Splendid. The actors can hear every cough.”

“His last play had the audience in the aisles.” “Applauding?” “No, stretching and yawning.”

“After tonight I am going to have you killed in Act I instead of Act III,” the stage manager said to his leading man. “Wherefore the change?” asked the heavy villain. “I don’t want to take the chance of having the audience do it!” replied the manager.

The struggles of an actor are exemplified in a story told by Faye Copeland about a banker and actor seated next to each other. Banker: “So you are an actor? It must be I 5 years since I’ve been to a theater.” Actor: “I’m quite certain it has been at least fifteen years since I was in a bank.”

Hostess pointing out guests to new arrivals at a cocktail party given for the theatre patrons: “The Von Soostens under the chandelier represent old money; the Hendersons by the champagne punch represent new money; the Gibbons admiring the bookcase represent lottery money; the Krogers sitting on the velvet divan ladened with gold and diamonds around their wrists, waist, and necks represent managed care money; and Dr Livingstone, my HMO doctor, bending over the diving board with his wife tugging on his coat represents no money.”

Murray Banks tells about the New York couple who took their Golden Lab to the theatre to see Auntie Mame. The dog sat between them. The man behind the dog missed the entire first act. After the second act, he couldn’t take it any longer and tapped the man on the shoulder. “That’s truly an amazing dog you have there. Not only does he seem to be enjoying the play, he actually applauds in all the right places. How do you explain it?” The man with the dog turn somewhat dismissively saying, “I have no idea. He hated the book.”

As I write this, Fay Dunnaway is on stage in Sacramento performing in “Master Class” at the Community Center Theater. “Tap Dogs,” “Bring in ‘Da Noise,’ Bring in ‘Da Funk,”‘ and “Chicago” will be produced on our stages. Sacramento has also been visited by two world-acclaimed dance groups in the last two years–Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp. Superb performances are playing in this quiet river town. Don’t miss them.