Tuesday, April 22, 2008

'Theatre for everybody'

I've listened to lots of Downstage Center podcasts from the American Theatre Wing, and usually they're G-rated. So it surprised me when I saw that an interview with James Earl Jones carried an "explicit" warning. The interview is great, but the actor known as the voice of CNN and Darth Vader is fairly free with the expletives.

I guess the language is fitting for his current role, as a very profane Big Daddy in the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (I wish I could see and hear him in that!) But here's an old clip from Sesame Street that's suitable for the whole family:

I've really enjoyed working my way through the Downstage Center archives, and I've learned a lot. In addition to interviews with actors, directors, composers, producers and playwrights, there have been shows with critics, on Broadway advertising, and on recording cast albums. It's all very interesting stuff. One of my all-time favorites is a 2007 interview with the legendary Marian Seldes, who, I am certain, would never, ever utter a four-letter word.

There are always one or two parts of the program, one or two quotes, that really grab my attention, tell me something I hadn't thought about before. This time, it happened when Jones was talking about the opportunity he found as an actor in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He came to New York after a stint in the Army.

"When I came out of the Army, no longer did you have to be a Barrymore to be a qualified, respected actor. Marlon Brando had been on our stage Marlon Brando is everyman, and that meant every man of every color could benefit from that. The civil-rights movement, Martin Luther King, all that. There was a confluence of energy in this country. Not only in this country, but in Europe, in England with the angry young men period, in France with the avant garde period. ... You didn't have to be a Barrymore, you could be a Brando. And that opened up the theater for everybody, finally."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So I just came across a new website that does something pretty cool. You can check out a funny little icon to see if the NY Times enjoyed the show or not! No kidding! A little Ben Brantley icon either gives the thumbs up, sits on the fence, or looks like he's going to hurl! It's hilarious. You all have to check this out and tell me what you think. Are these people on? Let me know your thoughts. Go to www.didhelikeit.com No, I'm serious, that's the name of the site!