Whenever I attend an award ceremony, and let me tell you the frequency is running at once a year since this time last year, I think of the following poem:
It works best if you can image a rich, insistent Welsh baritone. Richard Burton maybe, Sir Harry Secombe perhaps …
In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art
Or maybe the author himself, Dylan Thomas.
And he would have known all about it, having finally moved off the mortal coil aged 39 after taking in an immoderate number of whiskeys down at The White Horse Tavern in New York City.
Sort of thing Rylance might recite when called to the podium … maybe?
Part slice-of-life, part tone-poem, shyly spiritual.
I play the Stage Manager in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production, a role like no other.
Well Paul Newman (whom I once had the privilege of playing for and meeting after the performance), and Spalding Grey, and Helen Hunt and numbers of distinguished others have played that Everyman, the Stage Manager. None of whom I am like. And yet we’re all actors.
And there is Dylan Thomas’s poetic masterpiece written in 1954, Under Milk Wood.
Do you know that poem by that good man of New England, Robert Frost, Trial by Existence?
And from a cliff-top is proclaimed
The gathering of the souls for birth,
The trial by existence named,
The obscuration upon earth.
But For sleight-of-the-eternal in the guise of the everyday, Our Town has it, I think.
What could be more quotidian than delivering milk or making breakfast or even getting married?
And what more metaphysical than:
– Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every moment?
– No, the saints and poets maybe. They do some.
Memory, Presence, the Ephemera that is theatre, the forward march of time …
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting …” — William Wordsworth
Or … “What’s that unforgettable line?” — Samuel Beckett
“Some say that the art of the theatre, born for and bound to the moment, must, like a soap bubble or nocturnal meteor, dazzle, then burst to leave no trace. Free yourself from this dark thought! The very fact that your art is a child of fragrance, of the spirit, of a mood, of personality and imagination, and not something of wood or stone, or even a thought fixed in black and white, but a sprite forever swinging free on beauty’s vine, the fact that it lacks tangible form, renders it immune to the gnawing of time’s worm. And that is what life truly means: to live in memory …. to rest in people’s minds free of the mildew and rust of age …. and this lot has been granted to you.” — Henrik Ibsen
“To live vividly in the memory of others seems to be a great thing. In terms of art, it always seems to me that there is something unique and electric about an artist connecting with an audience in live performance. The memory of these moments get parked in a different part of our mind. People speak of them with real reverence and clarity even many years after the applause has faded. To be remembered like that, in any aspect of life, is probably the nearest we have to time travel.” Jonathan Pytell — pytell.com
“We all come here and we don’t know why. We all go in our turn and we don’t know where. And if you’re a bit better off, be thankful. And if you don’t get into trouble and make a fool of yourself, well be thankful for that, because you easily might.” — Henry Ormanroyd in When We Are Married by J B Priestly
Kudos to my fellow actors in our production like no other. Cast list here. It has been quite a ride. Company members have come and gone, rehearsals and performances have been fraught with incident. All borne with good humor and grace by that fine collection of human beings, the cast and crew of Our Town. Theatrical companies become families within three days. But in a company of this size we are a community.
“Backstage was chaos distilled into a very small space.” ― William Alexander, Goblin Secrets
Note to self: this is one where the less ACTING the better …
N.A.R. (No Acting Required)
— John Voight …
“The most exciting acting tends to happen in roles you never thought you could play.”
― John Lithgow …
“When you most succeed, you do so by seeming not to act at all.”