This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
From card catalog: Dr. Esther Jackson, Nan Martin, Joseph Papp talk about the NY Shakespeare Festival and the role of the theatre in US future. Mr. Papp, festival's founder, also talks about what theatre does for society. Questions and answers.
Program is informally titled, "Changing Times, But is There a Change in Theater?"
Announcements. Program led by John Booth. Martin explains why she loves the NY Shakespeare Fest so much. Jackson discusses the broad changes taking place in society, specifically student protests. Gives examples of ways in which playwrights address these anxieties, but admits that theater has remained mostly aloof, exploring peripheral aspects of life. It's the function of theater to show us the human condition at the time. Enriching education. Joe Papp discusses education, teaching children to describe feelings. Normal development of the senses. Appreciation of the arts. Stories about the interest educators and students have in the theater in 1904. Changing audience, changing theater. The audience will influence the style of plays that are written. Bringing people to the theater who don't usually go, bringing the theater to people. Specific outreach plans.
Questions: Will the quality of the audience improve this year? Change in programming, direct interaction with the community. How are the plays changes? Shortened through internal cuts, rather than entire scenes. No message play ever attracts an audience that is not already convinced? (Jackson) Propaganda, yes, but all plays have content. Representation of life should be accurate and philosophically sound. Funding (Papp).
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 5775
Municipal archives id: T665
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
It's a very great pleasure for us of the Overseas Press Club to have with us today Joseph Papp Dr Jackson and Aunt Nan Martin to talk to us about the the Shakespeare Festival and about the brought a problem of the future of the of the theater as one of the capital contributions to the culture of this country and way of the of the news world and look to the theater with admiration as a very close and beautiful cousin of our own work and so we feel all happy yet to have such distinguished representatives of the the theater with us today before turning the program over to John both the who will introduce our guests and lead the program I have one of two announcements that I'd like to make our annual dinner will be Friday April thirtieth I hope all of us here will attend that it will be our annual awards dinner honoring the fifteen outstanding newsmen of the year and it will be a good show something that it's the climax of our club year and all of us will enjoy it and that will be at the hotel Hilton We've been doing doing quite well with the ticket sale we're past the two thirds Mark already so we hope for a sell out. Also I want to point out that Lynne wrote after five years of effort has finally arranged to have. Three language lessons here at the club and with the help of the Mexican government the Spanish lessons will begin on April twenty first part of the understanding is that all newsmen be eligible to take these lessons on a first come first serve basis I would like to see him a maximum share come from our own club and so I urge all of you to sign up quickly because those places will go very rapidly. Those are the two announcements that I want to make and now it's my pleasure turn the program over to join. Two. They. Chose a title of for this. Luncheon today for their talks and changing times but is there a change. I've been assured by practically everybody they are not going to talk to this subject but I feel it so broad that no matter what they say really will be in the context of it as we've set it up. We're really have very interesting and admired people I think that most of us have seen. On the stage both at the theatre in the park where she's been. Much ado about nothing. How much we've seen. On Broadway in J.B. and constant wife and many other plays and in her. Few off hours she is chairman of the drama. And the president and council and they are. Dr Esther Jackson is director of education for the Shakespeare Festival and she is bringing two. Very fascinating. New concepts of relationships between the. Education. And then we will hear from Joseph Papp who is the founder and producer of The New York Shakespeare Festival. Who has set new patterns for relationships between the city and the fair between the community in the theater and is one of the true innovators and creative innovators of. In this time. First of all going to introduce. Topic in. Our changing times that is there. And Joseph Pappas promise to free wheeling a stamp or a news talk which I will give for you Joe It took me forty five minutes to get here I left a rehearsal where we opened the windows to get some fresh air and enough dirt came in that we could have planted a garden before I left this morning apartment a negro playwright who was a friend of mine called to tell me that he had very disturbing news about what he called potential rallies for this summer and I think that. Translation of riots so I am delighted to talk to you about one of the happier facets of the city that we live in the New York Shakespeare Festival for women who. Dislikes committees I really don't know how or why I have ended up on so many of them panels. All that nonsense when the one organization that I've always done the most is this one and I don't do any service for this organization at all except Act This is the one group in the whole world that is closest to my heart. I don't know how to explain that except that I greatly admire courage and every step of the Shakespeare Festival has been taken because of one man's courage and. Also And I think this comes from my bringing up a believer in the power of what one human being can do especially today because you do really get oppressed to a deep pressed about the potential of any one person's thoughts or actions but every time I do every time I say Oh what's the use on a particular issue fighting this issue can't make a move to many people you know it's beyond me I always think of Joe So whether you know this or not Joe you're my form of Christian Science or whatever it. Comes to you are as I said to myself nobody no one God's green earth would have invented a story like this story not in this city this jungle no one would be able to do it and yet more than uniting and with incredible energy and put spot of. I don't know. Never never never. And never has he that anyone dissuade him from that dream that he had. When I think he had it when he was born only his mother didn't know about it for a while two years ago I was in London and the night before I left the London drama critic cooked a wonderful dinner for me it is flat Beth. That's an idea for home. And it way we spent the whole evening talking about the New York Shakespeare Festival Irving Waddell had just seen the work they were doing up at Stratford on Avon which was a series The War Of The Roses very difficult and very impressive but he was so involved in F. facet of the Shakespeare Festival how does he know this much I kept saying to myself How does he know that it all started off there on a little why I was you know that much about Joe he even knew things that it's a business Joe that I had done in Much Ado because some way or other words seep back and there was this wonderful curiosity so we were really open our hearts and he said how much he would give to be able to see the way we did it and then I got to thinking and I said Yes I think that's kind of stunning I never realized before but over here you have a sort of a guide range on doing Shakespeare Now let's see does he measure up to. You know the way he did that moment oh the way that. Was so what's the big Henry Irving did that moment is she doing that scene in the way that you know Peggy Ashcroft did whereas here. We don't have a guide chart a temperature chart a record we are there for three to. One fall flat on our faces but also because nobody ever told us no this is the way you do it. We have free to bring an enormous amount of. Inventiveness exploration discovery all these elements and I also sensed from all the Shakespeare I had seen there that we the spontaneity of our expression brought in to be vivid moments to live on the stage first time element of first time has been present a great deal in most of the Shakespeare I've seen in this country and then I have to include more than Joe's group the globe and. Action and even in kinetic I shouldn't say and in Connecticut but this is true it's because. For many of the company it is the first time and they don't have a vivid recollection of of the way Olivia's voice sounded and I'll never forget when I was doing much ado. My fitter is an Englishman trying cutting at the Old Vic in Stratford and he said to me now. How you going to say kills Claudio kill Claudio. And I looked at Ray different said well I hadn't even thought about it yet Ray but he said are you going to do it the way Alan Terry did it you know. Are you going or are you going to do it to the way so and so did it or so and so did it and I said well I hadn't even thought about it I think when it finally came out of public came out the way I would do it without any overtones or the way Ellen Terrio Peggy Ashcroft or Eileen Hurley or anybody else would do it and this was exciting to me this I mean I got very excited I then took the Queen Elizabeth in the morning I got off the boat and I bought a New York Times and Joe was having a fight with someone this time it was all over May and I remember how I laughed about that because the issue was American companies were not ready to go. Coals to Newcastle I'm Joe stance was that American companies indeed were ready to go abroad and should go abroad I then moved into position now where I'm chairman of the State Department drama panel for cultural presentations abroad we as yet have sent no company but one of the reasons I'm deeply grateful for my link with the Shakespeare Festival is that I can stand here very proudly and say yes we go abroad with Shakespeare there intitled to see our Shakespeare. And our checkoff and. With a comment that we as a young nation have to make our way of doing this they should say and we should take it. To the place where Shakespeare was born we should take it all over the world we should play a checkoff in Moscow because what we have is quite unique and we should be very proud of it I'm not speaking for my entire panel because there are pros and cons on this but my own position has been in the beginning and will continue to be and more and more we get stronger companies who can go abroad can carry that weight and I know that it's all due to the work I did on the Shakespeare Festival I want to thank you all of you because you are New Yorkers for your interest and your support which we've always felt and all these negative things that I described about New York. Fade away in my mind because there is one one image that I have it's the most thrilling thing I've ever seen and when I die someday and my grandchildren are gathered around the bed and say grandma tell us what your biggest moment in the theater has been I don't think it will be standing with Bravo's ringing or you know and you pivotal part I think is going to be that eight o'clock moment when I get to the park on a lovely some and I when it's not quite dark yet and I just stand there with my mouth hoping one time I got so excited I ran in and I dragged George got out of his dressing room and I said come home and see him up and see because winding all the way around that the baseball diamonds and the like. Were many thousands of people who had started gathering to I were standing there I was going to be there at midnight and they had left a trail of chicken bones and had eaten their sandwiches but if that isn't us feeling sad for a naturist you can die happy after that thank you. Thank you. To introduce Dr. One. I had left this month. Broken Tennessee Williams is coming out. Of the speech but I am proud of. Him I'm afraid I. Took this to booth at his word and did not prepare a piece about the Shakespeare Festival but perhaps the piece which discusses what I think the role of the festival is. My friend Mr Perry when he wants to be complimentary always says that I'm not really a professor you know that I haven't been spoiled so I hope that I'm not disappointing him by breathing a kind of paper with his rather strict to the point. I'm sure that he will take up some of the other issues and if you're interested in asking other questions about how this relates later try to answer them. I feel that there is no question but that the conventional American theater that is the Broadway theater has been slow to accept the challenge of the times which we call changing undoubtedly much of the criticism which we hear both overtly and tacitly of the thing that is role in our society derives from a common sense of disappointment which is not always very clearly defined surely the years since World War two have represented a major changes in the society these changes which affect both our domestic and international postures have altered national patterns political social economic educational and psychological and will continue to do so it is clear that a large number of Americans are deeply affected by this and that anxiety is make themselves felt not only in the terms which Mr Martin described but in others we are in a period of major social political and intellectual transition and this is a fact and there are throughout the society from top to bottom symptoms of very deep concern not all positive the civil rights movement offers perhaps one of the most constructive channels for young people whose collective anxiety is expressed Moreover we in the academic world know that many of the less focused seemingly less focused student protests are in the same way diffused expression of many of the same kinds of things. Unfortunately and very sadly for me when we look at those segments of the society which are attempting to deal with these problems in a constructive way we do not see on the part of the theater at large with the exception of a few institutions such as our own a clear commitment. It is true certainly that some individuals in the theater and individual institutions such as the Shakespeare Festival attempt to handle certain aspects of this problem to me anxiety playwrights such as Arthur Miller thought and while the Tennessee Williams It would all be an early of course you do know Neil have used their talents for many years to try to tell us about the nature of such anxiety to give shape to collective feelings and insights about common problems. Inst in institutional terms we are glad to say that the long record of the Shakespeare Festival has been we think exemplary in this regard in a few cases individual performers have identified themselves with particular facets of political and social action you members of the press off on the note for us the presence of stars such as Marlon Brando Sammy Davis Harry Belafonte Charlton Heston in lines of March on the podium at political meetings but the theater as theater that is has remained aloof from the highly affecting issues of our time from poverty education international cooperation civil rights and all of the elements which President Johnson calls the great society in the main the theatre continues to explore peripheral aspects of life in America or again I think with the exception of my own company to engage in a quasi historical concern for the forms of the past. Generally you know terms to avoid confrontation with the present and to leave the task of interpret in the human dilemma to other agencies to the communications to you to the academic disciplines such as the social sciences and lately to agencies of government I think those of us who watch the reporting on the march know that we are seeing what would have been and other times theater. And the responsibility for theatre has been taken over much of it by the television media the fact of this abdication of the fundamental role of theatre cannot be overestimated for in any society it is the theater which must must take up the agency of this vital function for it is the theater I think alone more than religion which is charged with the representation of the fundamental aspects of reality of the world in its own time and it is only in the theater that the total complex of old realities may be projected and that within the facet of that which seems temporary which is permanent may be shown it is the function of the theater to show us the human situation and. To help us Object Defy the complexity to isolate those alternatives for action and to show us those lines of action which men in our own age will call model now the creation of a kind of thing in which helps to clarify a transitional society I feel it is our problem it is a challenge which has always been taken up by the Shakespeare Festival and one in which we expect to continue. Perhaps the most serious of the complex of causes which have thus far prevented many companies from taking up this cause we may call intellectual the nature I feel one of the most limiting attitudes which effects the fear in America is a legacy from the nineteenth century it is a holdover from a kind of science which no longer is held even by scientists no one except people in theory except external reality is the central measure of truth the fact that phenomenal reality was considered a measure of truth has accounted for some progress and technological way but no physicist today would call this object solid this concern for phenomenal reality has dangerously restricted concepts of aesthetic representation for our it prevents us from identifying and clarifying many issues which are not amenable to this form of discussion but to kill am I multi-racial society we must transcend the restrictions of nineteenth century alyssum for no great has ever been altered by them like Greek drama Shakespearean drama the drama of drama low pay and moan here we must discover I would even say the drama to check off and when understood we shall need to discover a way to explore realities that are beyond those of skin color and hair texture The second problem involves another kind of discipline for it relates to the assumption of responsibility on the part of the theatre and other institutions for the responsibility of a training interpreters especially for the systematic development of actors who can excel in the interpretation of what Mr Martin has called our indigenous American forms. While I feel that we have a right to express ourselves in a way which is distinctive I hold that that distinctive way must be good certainly in this regard the theater could well follow the lesson of modern dance which today is receiving the claim of much of the world's poor form which was a half century ago nonexistent at the most universal acceptance of modern dance as an expression of certain basic human proves in our time both in Europe and Asia has not only to do with the validity and soundness of the representation in a reality but also with the diligence with which modern bands has set about to produce skilled and disciplined interpreters The final problem may indeed be the critical one for it relates to our attempt to develop audiences whose tolerance form are all an intellectual truth though unpleasant must be sufficient to support a serious theatre I feel that because of the patterns of organization which a peculiar to the American social and political structure a key factor and I hope to develop such a theory is the educational system I may say that this belief is not simply a philosophical one it has been recently supported by the promise of funds. I was in a meeting the other day where. Mr Stevens was sitting in on a committee of the Office of Education which still. Some ways and he said Well. Our committee has prestige but your committee has the funds. The house education bill seems to confirm the impression that it is going to be the educational system which will have a key role to play in the development of a serious. If we look back at the history of America and the intellectual history that is we will see that this has President it has always been the educational system which has been in the vanguard of certain changes. It has been the educational system which provided for Commons social background for people from many ethnic backgrounds it was the educational system which gave us a basis of technological advance it has been the educational system which has disseminated certain ideas which we call common to the American system the development of an American aesthetic is perhaps and I presume that I am biased here the highest level of development as a civilization for aesthetic development and judgment rest upon a complex of all intelligences scientific as well as others aesthetic judgment is not merely a rational it is creative social and most significantly ethical it is so far as I believe and I think Aristotle believed as well the crowning achievement of human experience for in that moment when a person makes such a judgment he brings to bear the entire range of his competence as a human being I do not believe that in the new relationship which we are seeking to establish between the university and the public school system and the arts that the primary responsibility of creation should belong to the educational system. Rather I believe that it is a responsibility of the educational system to prepare the artist so that he may create at the highest level of his form that is to say the job of helping the prospective writer design a technician a spectator in the long process of becoming sufficiently human and sufficiently skilled to interpret the distinctive American experience is fundamentally that of the American educational system and equally important potential resides in our system and that is the power of dissemination for the educational system is not only a total the only total Geographic into do we have government it is one of the few structures in our society which is capable of can maintain a continuing relationship with a citizen from the time he is a young child until he is in a bar as a result it is the educational system which is then the vanguard of the decentralization of the theatre finally the educational system provides not only the necessary system of facilities and services which will support the building of a serious theatre in the United States as a result of new and anticipated legislation is it is perhaps the only structure which will have sufficient financial support to undergird the kind of problem the two hundred or the kind of program which we think will be required to accelerate the growth of theatre I think today that the fulfillment of our hopes for changing theatre depend on the kind of co-operative pattern which we in the New York Shakespeare Festival are attempting to develop a co-operative relationship between professional theatre and the educational system specifically we anticipate the further decentralization of the theater the establishment of fully manned professional theaters and centers throughout the United States. We should hope that these new patterns of organization will accelerate the development of serious flaws in drama while managing in terms of our legislation to both support and enrich the total educational process thank you thank you. Very provocative I mean I think talking Thank you very much one sometimes wonder what the secret of Joe Papp is because he had wrought such wonders and. If he weren't going to speak you might think it was just vocative mind like Dr Jackson fascinating ladies like. But Joe Papp himself does have something and question. Thank you John you know we were talking a great deal about the fact that the country is in the throes of. A cultural explosion and these statistics are cited time and again to indicate that all throughout the width and breadth of this fine land people are rushing into museums and rushing into theaters and huge installations are being constructed of mortar brick steel glass and that there is a resurgence of the arts in the United States at the same time alongside this particular development there also exist programs that are being developed that relate to us children before they enter the school there are programs being developed to teach a child the feeling to express the feelings that result from his touching a piece of silk for example or to have him smell a rose for example. To have him. Have the experience of turning the page of a book all of these experiences being denied to him in the in his own home so when we discuss culture on any level we must talk first about the so-called normal development of the senses because they could be no culture of any kind without the senses relating to the particular culture so we have this contradiction. In this country today whereas we're talking about that beautiful figure on the stage the the the quintessence of the human form in terms of the dance the ballet figure and then we go to an area of the country in which is exists all throughout the country from Appalachia down right here to the lower part of New York City where people are still crouching and are not we are wearing tights or ballet skirts or ballet slippers with people are trying to communicate and they're not or rating from the stage saying magnificent lines these people that I'm talking about represent the people of the United States and they represent the segments of the population that must be brought up to a point where they can begin to think about appreciating the arts. This is a very serious situation and it becomes very ironic in light of the the recent talk about the arts in arts councils and huge sums of money to be allocated for the Arts any cultural force that exists apart from a country indicates that there is. An aristocracy. That is. Paying for and getting the benefits of the existing arts while a huge section of the population of being denied this privilege while we cannot ask writers to write on certain themes today some of the things you mention by Dr Jackson we can command a play there are things that we can command and things that can be done and to influence the role and the function of the arts in particular the theater with which I am familiar there are things that can be done in as it relates to the audience. The festival this year is embarked on a program which. Has many ramifications. Both in Central Park and in the boroughs throughout the city of New York the mobile unit which was started last year roam the streets of the city of New York and played in various locations every part of the city both in high income areas and also very low income areas and we made amazing discoveries during this tour and maybe they should not have been so amazing that people do respond to something that's fine now intellectually there's a great deal of hesitation on the part of many the literati to accept this as a truth it always comes out as a sort of a romantic notion it's nice the poor really enjoy the finer things but I think there is an ingredient that's overlooked. Which is that people in struggle generally develop a certain amount of receptivity to truths to certain beautiful truths to certain things that are profound and very deep and when they are confronted with the work of great artists. They inevitably I touched by this artist because it does it is in the question so much of whether the language itself is fifteenth century or sixteenth century language there are certain aspects of the particular work that reaches them I'm talking about I'm talking about plays now where it's which is the most difficult you can assume that music and ballet is much more understandable because it's visual mainly and aural and doesn't the person does not have to deal with certain aspects of language but it is constantly a source of great amazing to see that the language is not particularly a barrier. Let me read this if I may for a moment Shakespeare spells ruin is a well known platitude and unfortunately one of those platitudes having a strong foundation in fact it is therefore all the more agreeable to record a recent instance to the contrary when three performances were devoted to the bought of Avon when three performances devoted to the bought of Avon were given at the Cooper Union in this city under the aegis of the people's institute the Merchant of Venice was played one evening and afternoon and Twelfth Night was presented on one evening the lodge hall at the Cooper Union will hold about sixteen hundred people at the matinee which was given for schoolchildren the place was full to the doors with hundreds of would be spectators turned away from one school alone had come seven hundred advance applications for tickets the seats were three grades namely fifteen cents twenty five cents and fifty cents the first performance of The Merchant of Venice was given with every twenty five and fifty Cent seat occupied. So there seems to be a taste for real art lurking about somewhere after all somewhere in the benighted regions of the East Side among the Russian old clothes men hung Garion Gross's and the Italian Baba's how sorry we offer those ignorant foreigners who come to the shows how they need uplifting from their vitally degraded habits to the higher realms of Broadway musical comedy and the joys of Coney Island and nobody was ruined not even the humble fifteenth's. That's all right is Jimmy Mulligan here. And nobody was ruined not even the humble fifteen centers for the total of the money taken in exactly suffice to pay ben grete and his company of English players this was in one thousand eight hundred four the audience manifested an intellect and intelligent interest in what they saw and heard those so many of them were none too well versed in the English language as a theatrical nay a sociological event this was one of very great importance here was the finest of dramatic literature put before the common people at prices which they could afford to pay they were being brotherly entertained and instructed in so far as it is possible for the drama to fulfill these functions this is just an excerpt from this article that was written in the theatre magazine one hundred four I will read the rest of it to you but it makes quite interesting reading. Now just recently I'm not going to read this to you because you get tired listen people read there's an article in a magazine called Atlas you may be familiar with this magazine it's called peasants packed the house and it tells the story of a company and this was the company that performed in London I think the thing that production of the Flies which was quite successful. It was was the author of Athens that decided they were going to tour and go out into the mountains and and. Do a production of Sophocles and here again the the theme keeps recurring the extraordinary reaction of audiences who have never been exposed to a play before this is the content of this period I feel because when we talk about a changing theater we have to begin to talk about a changing audience we have to talk about an audience that reflects the country in a full sense of the Would it is postulated that this making these moves making a move in the direction of including people into the into this now limited sphere that it might influence perhaps the kind of plays that are written and the style in which they are written because once the audience is is a large audience and a representative audience inevitably it seems that the play's content will be reflected I don't think it's an accidental that Shakespeare's plays were of a certain kind. It is also no accident when that whenever we begin to talk about the establishment of theaters on a popular popular level Shakespeare immediately comes into mind the history of the Stratford and Shakespeare the Old Vic in particular. A company that was based in a working class district with all the romantic notions that accompanied it because it was the woman. That started a very fantastic lady had there certain aspects of her attitude which were she was more sort of a social worker and a certain sense but the fact that people came to listen to Shakespeare again was no accident I feel in terms of the great the great writers of our times and of times past I feel that in these geniuses there is content for people of all kinds regardless of their educational backgrounds so we're faced with the task of in some way making it possible for these people to get into the theater and since these people don't come to theaters the objective is to go to them I think if I may propose this the future of the theater not only in New York City but in terms of the entire country has to be based on a concept of. I was going to say disintegration but I mean that's that's the wrong word and I wasn't going to say desegregation I would say decentralization there has to be forms evolve that make it possible for companies of all kinds to get out of the theaters and to move about in terms of the rest of the country the standards of appreciation a very low because the people are not exposed to what we consider the finest work in the United States eventually when we build up companies in major areas as Dr Jackson mention these companies must move about you can't create great theater companies overnight it takes years and years to create one significant company. A country the size of the United States can produce four or five or six or eight major companies the service the country on the local level here in New York City the mobile unit is is pioneering in the sense that it is opening up areas that are have been untouched by the theater but it's more or less paving a way for a circuit which we hope will emerge from our present experience is that will include other cultural organizations in the united in New York City the construction again of centers to me is goes against the what I consider the future of the theatre I think it tends to do j