My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 11:31:00 AM

A fine artistic production expresses the vision, the conviction, and the insistent presence of one person. It is best when it is undiluted by artistic cooperation, when it is not characterized by any of the seven (or more) deadly virtues: fair-minded, well-balanced, accommodating, unassertive, cooperative, and so forth. —from A Life, by Elia Kazan (1909-2003), Distinguished actor/director 

If Elia Kazan were talking about writing novels and short stories, I could agree completely; my writing is mine, my stubbornly-held vision, not to be diluted by the well-intentioned messing up of group creation. 

But Kazan was a stage and film director. My experience writing for local theater (as co-founder of Aurora Theatre Company, for which I wrote 4 or 5 plays) does not support Kazan’s dictatorial view of creating a production. In fact, his attitude seems to come out of one of those corny old movies about how a maniac director bullies the actors to tears, and brings out the performance of their lives. 

Hanging out at rehearsals of my plays at Aurora and elsewhere, I learned that actors—who make great sacrifices for little or no pay, while working at full-time jobs to support their families—do their best work, give their finest, most intelligent performances, when they are respected, consulted as professionals who are capable of giving valuable suggestions and eager cooperation to improve the entire production. 

Kazan might say I just proved his point. He’s the one who made the big time, right?  

True, none of the actors I worked with became rich and famous. Few artists ever do. Their only reward is the joy of the work itself, performed often under difficult conditions; their only serious disappointment being unable to work. Their tragedy—like dancers—reaching the point of wisdom and intuition high enough to do their best work, as their bodies age them out of the big, demanding roles.  

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