Monday, November 18, 2013

More thoughts on what I dream Shakespeare to be in NYC

My last blog was about the English production of Julius Caesar I saw at St. Ann's Warehouse in NYC. I thought that I should elaborate on that. Because, though I said I always admire the English, whether I feel their production has feeling or not, I know that the overall feeling I left with you, was that the production wasn't very good. I actually would love it if Americans mounted Shakespeare as well as the English do. I believe that it is the failure of my generation not to have carried the deeply personal, intimate reality of our work into classical theater. We came after the height of the artistic movement in the United States, the generation of my father, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, etc, whose intimate and personal work changed theater, film and television all over the world. I believe that our responsibility was to apply the principal of reality to classical material. Regardless of the efforts of Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman, we have failed to do that. I think that I have done it, to some extent, but in productions I've directed in Europe, most of which lacked the deep reality that I seek in everything I do. Anyway, as my friends and colleagues said to me years ago, "Johnny, why do you want to work in Europe? You'll ruin your career here." So, whatever I've done, it doesn't count here. The best theater production of Shakespeare I ever saw was Franco Zefferelli's production with the Old Vic, of Romeo and Juliet, starring John Stride and Judi Dench. It may have lacked deep feeling, the grief that marks great tragedy. But, it was alive. And, I saw the player's scene from Hamlet done at in workshop at The Actors Studio, with Kevin McCarthy, Geraldine Page, and a host of wonderful actors that were part of the ensemble that the Studio had in those days. It was directed by Walter Beakel, who later became an agent in Hollywood, much to the theater's loss. It had life! It was exciting and alive, and had a physicality, and personal relationships, that I believe marks American acting at its best. Passionate, intimate, physical, life. I imagine an entire production done the way we could do it. But, I've only seen it in my dreams. Most of the American productions I've seen are watered down, second rate versions of English productions, lacking the kind of skill and energy that the English have. We never have learned to speak the classics from the heart. Yet! I thought I owed you, and the English, the thought I am expressing here. I wonder if I'll ever see my dream come true before I transition, as my sister would say.