CELEBRATING ITS 20TH YEAR!
25 COUNTRIES! 20 STATES!
RONALD RAND starring as HAROLD CLURMAN
in RONALD RAND’s acclaimed Solo Performance Play
PBS American Masters
Essays by Ronald Rand from
A Selection of Essays by
The Actor: The Soul of the Theater
by Ronald Rand
LIKE THE SCULPTOR standing before a beautiful block of marble, hammer and chisel in hand, we stand before a play, not with logic alone but with exaltation and passion – an unconquerable faith in our courage as artists.
We know the truth of our art is a timeless truth, and the actor, a vital necessary manifestation of who we are as a people, our time and our place. As the theatre becomes more and more an industry of supply and demand and not the art form which we aspire it to be, we must continue to allow our dramatic imagination to play an even larger role in our creative lives.
Harold Clurman once wrote: “We must get to know ourselves by getting to know one another.” This naturally involves a huge risk—the sacrifice of ego. Realizing we do not exist alone we must take into consideration what we mean to each other and how that affects the cause of Art Theatre.
The actor is the heart of the theatre, its stature and its soul. For the theatre to play a greater role in laying bare our soul it depends upon each of us to recognize our common attachments to one another. What we reveal about ourselves on stage and off determines our strength as artists.
To envision a brighter future for our art and Art Theatre requires a re-awakening of our soul, and a greater reaching out to our fellow human beings. ◆
This Miraculous Accident
by Ronald Rand
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ONCE WROTE: “The world? The universe? And your position in it? This miraculous accident of being alive!”
These few short beautiful words in a simple way, touch upon our relationship to each other, this planet we fly around upon, and our role as artists. We sometimes forget in the blur of existence to touch – to smell – to feel: ourselves, those around us, the spectator.
The theater is there to remind us or at least we expect it to. And as its evolved through time, new expressions have arisen which we’ve labeled experimental, avant Garde, environmental, expressionistic, performance art, it’s still our way of dealing with the “miraculous accident of being alive in this universe.”
We’re constantly searching for meaning, and every object we’ve created, from the light bulb to the wheel, every art form, from a painting to a play raises new questions. “How are we to express our nature?” “How we are to live with one another?” “How are we to make sense of it all?”
On this continent we started asking these questions long before our first experimentaltheatres like the Provincetown Playhouse or The Group Theatre. Long before there was an America, there were those who lived on this land who looked at the sun, the moon, the stars and wondered: “Who am I?” “What is life?” “What is death?” “Why can’t I touch the sky?” “How am I able to live without knowing the answers?”
The new thrusts we make every day as artists continues those questions and whether on a stage, in a studio, on the street, from a mountain top or in a cave we still must find new ways because those who come, expect us to. ◆
The Actor’s Task
by Ronald Rand
STANISLAVSKI WROTE: “Theatre art creates the life of a human soul…to be able to transform one’s self physically and spiritually is the first principal object of the art of acting.”
This is our source of power – the art of transformation – our constant challenge. To create life where none existed before. We may live in an imperfect world, a million and one things running through our mind, a constant tug-of-war existing within us. At times, it seems like an over-load of impatience, doubt and frustration. Other times it feels as if we’ve tapped into an unconscious universe, whatever we do, we can do no wrong.
Ultimately as artists, we acquire our character through our integrity, our creativity, our imagination. Our essence is knowledge, patience, determination. Availing ourselves to ourselves we begin to listen to that significant truth which resides within.
As Clifford Odets has Joe say in his play, “Waiting for Lefty:” “It’s as plain as the nose on Sol Feinberg’s face….”It’s up to us to access the deepest part of ourselves, thatstrength which makes us immune to distractions. To findand hold our ground against those who would deny ourvalue and who often seem to be trying to do away with italtogether.
What we do is inconceivable without recognizing our main-spring – the audience. Only by our arousing their deepest needs and desires, only in the sharing of our common anxiety and hope, can we expect to emerge. Theatre is our rite of faith. A play our offering, which we hope will be accepted.
I’m reminded of what Harold Clurman wrote in On Directing: “When an actor exhibits sorrow or rage, nobility or exaltation, without our feeling something of their reality, he is merely demonstrating that he wants us to believe him though his demonstration may be executed with remarkable expertise. What he is doing may be superb imitation or illustration, but it is not creation.”
Embodying true experience on stage and creating life is our clearest way of communicating truth. And whether we create in a tiny black box space below 14th Street or in a large extravaganza upon a Broadway stage, whether on a ship or in a theatre across this great land, we are all part of a family, in the best sense of the word. A community.
Franklin Roosevelt once declared: “We want a society which leaves no one out.” I believe we must have a theatre which leaves no one out. This is our task as artists. ◆
by Ronald Rand
WHAT DO WE SEE when we glance in the mirror? A true reflection of ourselves? A mask we’ve allowed the world or others to paint upon our face? Or do we allow our two “pools of light,” poetically referred to as “the mirror of our soul,” to see us for who we are.
It appears we often have the habit, as all human beings do, of piling on even more masks. Yet, it is the task of the artist to “strip away,” to “reveal,” an even deeper meaning of existence.
If we’re handed a “blueprint,” a script of moving form, light and emotion, it is a world we cannot afford to skim over lightly. This particular journey of artistic life we’ve chosen rests upon a symbolic connection between the actor as creative instrument and the author, a “seed of meaning.” Thus, our historic tasks – to reveal the human soul, becomes an even greater responsibility.
What allows us to perceive the truth of a character, to embody a “soul?” Certainly, technique, talent and that momentary inspiration we receive can lead us closer. Our emotions, sensibilities, imagination and spirit is essential. But ultimately for “illumination” to occur and not merely illustration, we must find a way to transcend imitation.
We must awaken our artistic courage and this rests in recognizing our humanity, our nature. As an ancient text reminds us: “Upon the road I saw in the distance what looked like an animal. I went closer and saw it was a man; closer still I recognized my brother.”
It is by embracing others in our search we embrace ourselves. Genuine art and artistic courage cannot be found by the repetition of “popular showmanship,” but by seeking nature in “the mirror of our soul.” ◆
The Imprint of the Artist
by Ronald Rand
DURING THE PAST CENTURY, an imprint of man was left on the surface of the moon. Images of astronauts literally dancing were beamed back to us.
Thousands of years ago on this perpetually spinning blur of blue and green, the first brush strokes appeared in caves, images were etched on to stone and around fires, voices were raised to appease the forces of nature. The imprint of artistic tradition was born. “Actors” began to imitate gods and drama emerged. The rite of theatre began.
Civilizations and cultures appeared, some flourishing, others disappearing, giving way as human evolution developed. The limitless extent of our imagination began to flower. The need to “make sense of our existence” drew those called “artists” to question the very choices made in the name of progress and then present these visions before their fellow human beings.
The imprint they decided to bestow upon their cultures rose from their souls’ deepest questions, which ultimately fuels the root of all creativity. At the dawn of the 20th Century the modern actor was born.
Eleanora Duse breathed life into the soul of a character. The result was no longer illustration, but illumination. Today we stand at the dawn of a new millennium, asking new questions as artists, and as human beings.
Whatever imprint we choose to share has the potential to reflect our greatest dreams. Theatre can either amuse or not, but when the imprint of the actor’s truth is revealed, the heart, mind and soul of our audience is changed forever. ◆
The Revelation of a Role
by Ronald Rand
INDISCERNIBLE AT FIRST, the actor approaches a role and the questions begin.
“Who am I?” “What do these words mean which the playwright has given me to express his or her ideas?” “What do I need to do to find a way in?”
And slowly the floodgates open, something flutters in our consciousness.... The path towards the revelation of a role has begun.
While slow and arduous the task may be, there are, of course, those moments when some “unknown” occurs and, lo and behold, the actor and the role become one. It is this alchemical metamorphosis which has hypnotized audiences for thousands of years and ultimately is the mystery and wonder of our talent and our art.
Over the course of our journey as artists, we’ve learned simply “representing” a role, without true feeling is no longer sufficient to sustain the life of a character given to us by today’s gifted playwrights.
The revelation of a role, when it occurs, illuminates the baring of a character’s soul, and in turn, the audience is transported, reveling in all the wonder laid before them. One gesture, a lilt in the voice, a pause, even an embrace coupled with the playwright’s and actor’s creation catches the consciousness of the spectator and their life can be changed forever. That is our gift as stage artists, and our responsibility.
The joy and satisfaction we gain through this creative process only further strengthens our soul and contributes to the depth of the playwright’s ideas. With the revelation of a role, life is allowed to emerge, and as we confront our audiences with themselves, we find the artist within ourselves. ◆
The Actor’s Incomparable Imagination
by Ronald Rand
THE FIRST TIME OUR EYES dart across a page from a script, taking in the writer’s words, images appear, sometimes even in spite of ourselves. Astonishing truths, which may have been buried, are now laid bare. To what do we owe this power?
It is, of course, the actor’s incomparable imagination: everything he has ever laid his eyes upon, read, touched or tasted. It is an irrefutable fact - an untapped mine of experience exists within us.
And if we are to truly realize the author’s dramatic intention, we must recognize this inescapable fact; everything on stage once experienced through our imaginative powers lifts the eloquence of our art.
As artists, we rely upon our powers of experience, our powers of transporting an audience to a different time and place. If we are suddenly seized by an overwhelming desire, an ‘inspiration’ – where did it originate from?
What always astonishes me is the connection we elicit between the baring of our souls and the miraculous contagion of the audiences. A communion is born of shared feeling, a recognition that exalts us and sometimes overwhelms us.
The very nature of this unique collaboration between actor and audience is an act of faith, a sharing of truths, and the greater the imagination of the artists involved, the more the audience achieves genuine theatre.
Yet what prevents at times the flowering of imagination? Is it the overwhelming need to succeed? Or as Moliere put it: “Le grand art est de plaire?” The need to succeed in the art of pleasing?
Stanislavski said: “The source of acting is imagination and the key to its problems is truth.” Every day the necessity arises for art to lead us closer to ourselves, to each other. If we are to accept that responsibility, we must recognize the path leads us to our incomparable imagination. ◆
The Legacy of Stanislavski’s
by Ronald Rand
AS I TALK ABOUT THE ART of the actor today with many actors, one name I mention time and again is – Eugene Vakhtangov.
While some profess to not having heard his name before, others know very little about him. Yet his profound influence and discoveries on the art of acting and the extraordinary experimental productions he created have had a lasting effect on all of acting and actor training.
Considered by many as Stanislavski’s greatest pupil, Eugene Vakhtangov, was chosen as a member of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1911. And until his untimely death eleven years later, at the young age of thirty-seven, it was his spark of creative genius and passion, not only as an actor, but as a director, combined with an abundant imagination that forever influenced the discoveries of Stanislavski, and the future of world theatre.
As soon he began studying with Stanislavski, he dedicated himself to the essence of theatre, to the uncovering of “the life of the human spirit,” and soon became Stanislavski’s assistant. He became convinced that it was of absolute necessity to find a way to stimulate the actor, as did Stanislavski, for the actor to create and live the inner experiences of the character he or she would be called upon to play.
Sonia Moore, the excellent teacher and student of Stanislavski and Vakhtangov herself, wrote in her book, The Stanislavski System, “Vakhtangov was the first to teach young actors that their task was to not only find the right intonation and to “feel” the role, but to learn the science of acting. “An actor must live and think as the character,” he said, “The character is the organic union of the life of the character and the life of the actor. An actor must assimilate the character’s life.”
Two years after he began, students which Vakhtangov had been working with, were chosen to become the First Studio. Vakhtangov pursued his work with such steadfastness, it ultimately separated from the Moscow Art Theatre, becoming the Vakhtangov Studio, and after his death, the Vakhtangov Theatre.
In the initial presentation of the First Studio in 1914, Vakhtangov portrayed Tackleton in Charles Dickens’ “Cricket on the Hearth, and soon after staged G. Berger’s “The Deluge.” These two productions set a standard of artistic truth, which then culminated in his direction of Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm.”
It was then he told his actors: “Play your point of view of the character, not the character. In theatre there must be theatre.” His constant search to find plays which would fire his actors and audience led him to stage Chekhov’s “The Wedding,” and then Maeterlinck’s “The Miracle of St. Anthony.” Now through a symbolistic style of movement, gesture and intonation, the actors rose to a new level. Vakhtangov’s next productions of “Erick XIV,” “The Dybbuk,” and finally Schiller’s “Turandot,” ushered in the extraordinary expression of theatrical imagination and profound thought on stage through the truth of the actor that he had been seeking.
Although he was mortally ill, he attended the last rehearsals of “Turandot,” urging his actors on: “Actors must have joy in their hearts from the feeling of the stage. Without this, theatre is a layman’s pastime. Never stop searching and cherish the form which discloses the inner content.” ◆
The Artists’ Journey Towards Truth
by Ronald Rand
PICASSO SAID: “I do not seek. I find.” And that is one of the greatest challenges facing any artists’ journey towards truth.
We are “truth-tellers,” stemming from an unshakable faith in our abilities, an unalterable confidence in our dreams, an understanding about life deeply rooted in our responsibility as artists. Yet how does one begin any journey towards truth?
From where do we find an answer? From life? Certain examples we see around us? From ourselves? To paraphrase Hamlet, “…it puzzles the will.”
Time and time again we’re told: “Leave yourself open,” “Be still enough to listen,” and out of this stillness, a door will open wide enough for us to walk through. And while there may be frustrations, distractions, disappointments along the way, even failure, the transforming power of our art of creativity will become our enabler, mysteriously arousing all of our hidden strengths against whatever odds, to “find” the truth.
There will be those along the way who will feel some deep need to judge us, criticize, or even condemn our actions, yet we know our soul will shield us as we pursue our main purpose in life. What keeps us infallibly reaching out is our grace as artists. We know enough not to expect easy answers to fall into our lap. Experience has taught us too well. But without innocence we are also lost.
So, as we fly across the canvas of life, our passion aflame, startling and sometimes shocking those who crave our art, how can we expect to achieve our journey and to have some affect when we see around us that today’s theatre has become intoxicated with itself?
The artists’ journey towards truth has never been easy. Yet, we have no other choice – to believe in our task and persevere. ◆
Revealing the Soul Within
by Ronald Rand
TO WHAT DEGREE DOES it fall upon us, as Tennyson once said, “to reveal the soul within?”
If merely reciting the words of a playwright cannot begin to sufficiently interpret a writer’s work, it becomes impingent upon us to go further. What of our own intelligence, understanding, truthfulness, humor, imagination, and humanity? How are we to bring it into play?
Morris Carnovsky once wrote in his extraordinary book, The Actor’s Eye, “…no truth can be expressed except your own truth. Artistic control means the intelligent
It’s a fact – our audiences come to be moved. They can be wooed to attend, but it still remains incumbent upon us to achieve a collaboration, a common faith and consciousness between them and us. So how are we to take another’s work of art and create in our own right?
By fundamentally immersing ourselves in the play. By extracting as Stanislavski put it, “the life-kernel” of the dramatist’s creation, and letting it seep deep into our soul.
By allowing our unique talents, our integrity, our truth to emerge, we’re able to produce an irresistible creation so the audience acquires an unforeseen insight into their human nature, causing a ripple of awareness to enter their mind, body and soul.
This organic act is both demanding and naturally one of uncertainty, but from out of this process an inner exaltation will occur, and the state of creativity exist. We can do no less for our audience. To illuminate and inspire through the art of the theatre requires all of our depth of character and experience to reveal the soul within. ◆
Creatively Mining our Theatrical Heritage
by Ronald Rand
AS WE ARE ABOUT TO ENTER onto a stage our pulse quickens, our breathing increases, our heart races, yet around us, through us, within us, we carry those “whose shoulders we stand upon,” in other words, those who have enabled us to reach this very moment.
As a young actor I often wondered how could this “knowing” be translated into what I was doing on stage? And also in such a translucent age as today, where it has become almost a glorified art form to achieve one’s “fifteen seconds of fame,” can any idea of “tradition in the art of acting” be something to be valued and cherished?
My teacher, Stella Adler, would often say: “that as actors we represent two thousand years of civilization when we step onto a raised platform.” I’m also reminded Stanislavski once wrote, that one of the fundamental aims of our craft is to “leave a lifelong mark on the spectator.”
What other factors, on top of the training of our instrument, can aid us in this task and our creation of a human spirit on stage? So much of what we do every day to survive and prosper as working artists depends upon our dealing with so many different vagaries of life, blowing us at times from pillar to post, other times bestowing moments of sheer ecstasy or a complete self-doubting.
Through our creatively mining our theatrical heritage, we can rely upon, no matter what we’re faced with, an unexpected enlightenment and a sustaining inspiration.
By stirring the deepest waters of our soul with those who have lighted the way for us, a re-firing of our imagination will take place, leading us to a greater realization of our gifts.
Harnessing this power still remains dependent on our choosing to not only cherish and value what we’ve been given, but it requires our aligning ourselves with the truths they have discovered, and then demanding an even greater depth of humanity towards our fellow man and our art. ◆
What are We Saying to our Audiences Today?
by Ronald Rand
AT ONE TIME BRECHT SAID: “It is most difficult to discover a truth which is socially useful. It is precisely this truth we need.”
As human beings who make art, with the goal of touching our audiences with meaning through the wonder of theatre, in what regard are we truly challenging ourselves today to penetrate to our audiences with “a truth which is socially useful?”
There’s no denying we all have a thousand and one different reasons for making theatre. Our choices may spring from innumerous motivations; perhaps, it might even be a simple one. Yet whatever the reason, it still remains our aim to reach our audience, to envelop them, sucking them into the experience and emotion at hand.
How to do that always remains the challenge. Yet once we have, another question presents itself: What are we saying to our audiences today? Recently I had the delight of reading the screenplay of “My Dinner with Andre”by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory again, and I was drawn to the thoughts which Mr. Gregory expresses so vividly when he says: “…We’re talking about trying to find the truthful impulse, to not do what you should do or ought to do or what is expected of you, but trying to find what it is that you really want to do or need to do or have to do.”
To be that honest and open, daring and bold in life, is also just as necessary for the actor when discovering the “truthful impulses” that lie within a particular role. It is exactly this task that is required when illuminating a script, and ultimately creating a human soul on stage.
No higher task exists for the theatre artist. If one is “lucky,” this transformation could just “happen” at a rehearsal or during a performance. But we know inspiration is elusive more times than not, and not something to be relied upon. No, a craftsman builds through immense effort and time, discovering all the subtleties existing within the human being one is portraying. And then perhaps, from out of all this, a shared experience will be created live on stage between actor and audience that is felt as in no other medium.
What can come forth is a “living truth” – with the potential to be not only socially useful, but spiritually valuable, speaking directly to the audiences’ lives – confronting them to make the choice to be more human, more compassionate, more loving, more concerned – about themselves, to those around them, the world we live in, and how to go on living one day to the next. ◆
Our Art’s Essence
by Ronald Rand
WE ARE ALL ‘ALL TIME’ pressed into one knowable moment. At any particular second we have the ability to burst forth and dare ourselves with a universe of possibilities.
To act upon the stage is to put one’s life at risk. Our very act of inhabiting another’s skin, another’s soul, through the actions we portray, the words we speak, the ideas we reveal, calls into play not only all of humanity, but our universe, which hangs in the balance from one moment to the next.
Our performances have meaning because they exist beyond the ‘enjoyment of transitory pleasure’ – within them contain the very act of genuine communion – our Art’s essence.
At times in life, for some it may seem as if one is merely ‘treading water,’ observing others acting out their dreams, while we appear to be swimming alone, seeking ways not to be pulled beneath the undertow. But our path was chosen for us a long time ago. We only have to have the courage to claim it as our own, and then share it with the world.
The dreams we dream every day, they are our reality asking to be born. We have to be open enough to receive them. And then be fearless to make this world, and our theatre, what it truly deserves to be. We make it so.
Everyday we’re confronted by a myriad of choices – what to do, which way to go, who to trust – we have to decide what to believe in. Our impulses may be pointing us in one direction, while we’re being pulled in an entirely different way.
What leads us to forward is having the courage, which we’ve acquired through our Art, to awaken others to the truth within themselves. How can we ever forgo such a responsibility? ◆
Our Theater’s Relevance
by Ronald Rand
OUR NEED TO EXPERIENCE THEATER sits deep within the well of man’s consciousness and psyche.
All our hopes as a people, our dreams, our aspirations as a culture are embodied when the theatre artist says to the world: come with me on this journey to try and understand the truth of our existence and perhaps we’ll find it out together.
What is theatre if not the communication of the human spirit. By transcending time and space, we reveal ‘ourselves to ourselves.’ Those who come, come to be moved – to be aroused – to laugh, to shed a tear or two. While full well knowing all the while, that it is still make-believe. Yet what remains real is the ‘spectacle of existence.’
While some may put their faith in material goods, others in those in powerful positions, or out of a deep cynicism or uncertain fear lock it away from the glare of the world, I believe more than ever, our theatre’s relevance lies in our ‘touching’ one another’s heart, daring our soul to keep renewing faith in the world.
What continues to reside in the atoms of the universe after the ritual of theatre is a deep, resonating, fragile interplay of connectedness. Out of which, our community will hopefully be renewed, soothed, and feel more human. Not only to keep breathing but to remind others how to. ◆
The Great Gift of Art
by Ronald Rand
EACH DAY we’re greeted by a sun which has shone down upon this planet from the beginning of time. And each day essentially we are “re-born” in the world again with our talents, to reassure and comfort one another through the great gift of art.
But the artist has always paid a heavy price to tell the stories he tells – to get closer to the “truth” – to reassure us that death is not to be feared. Conscious of the power of knowledge we guide those around us, in a sense, to heal the “scars of our existence.” Enabling others to develop perceptions, to stimulate their own sensitivities, to utilize their own “muscles of meaning.”
Life is our stage, as it always been from the first. And those who come, continue to come, with the hope they will catch a glimpse of who they are. But where are we headed in our quest? Those who have come before, have struggled with courage and conviction, and with eloquence, to “step us into the light.” Arthur Miller showed us that man is responsible for his present as well as his past, and clearly remains capable of changing it.
While each age carries within it its own demands, its own hypocrisies and confusions, plus a world of possibilities, I still believe we must as Harold Clurman reminded us: “retain our human stature and possibly enhance it. To learn to walk in the outside world and at the same time find a quiet place within ourselves where consciousness and conscience dwell and develop.”
Actors such as Ira Aldridge, Paul Robeson, Rose McClendon, Ethel Waters, Canada Lee, and Ossie Davis, to name a very few, in spite of overwhelming adversity, persevered with integrity, in their task, and led us forward.
The art of acting, from the time of Booth, Forrest, Siddons, Bernhardt, Jefferson, and Duse, to the present, has strived to touch the heart, stir the soul, and move the mind of all those who are present at the moment of creation, in what we know as the “ritual of theatre.”
As we go forward on the ‘river of time,’ let us allow its ‘ripples’ to constantly renew our souls, to re-affirm and inspire our will and daring, and our humanity.◆
“Images of Magnificence”
by Ronald Rand
THIS PAST JUNE I WAS FORTUNATE to be invited to perform my solo play, “Clurman,” in Eastern Europe at the 9th Annual Georgian International Festival of Arts in Tbilisi, and then in Valdez, Alaska at the 13th Annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference.
At both memorable events, the theatre artists and individuals I became acquainted with (and some have become dear friends), the many memorable performances I experienced, as well as observing all those involved with the events themselves, filled my entire being with a deep sense of humility and wonder.
I witnessed an overwhelming enthusiasm for creation, a deep empathy and genuine desire to try and say something essential, engaging not only the heart and mind, but the soul. We live in perilous times today.
Each day it is up to us, through our actions to do something universally pertinent, to not only amuse, but also deliver a sense of ease to our fellow human beings.
The human impulse which flourished at each one of the events I attended and accompanies, I’m sure, thousands of presentations and performances across this land and throughout the world, reflects a deep-seated aspiration for meaning, a passion for humanity.
Truth is always the rarest of commodities. It ultimately defines us as a moral civilization.
I witnessed an irresistible vitality of engagement from one corner of the globe to the next, reassuring me of the transmutable grace and power of art.
“The theatre is itself a life,” Harold Clurman once wrote. So, it becomes our responsibility to not only flourish but also unfold “a way of living.” And in doing so, share what is in common to all of us.
The complexity of our time requires boldness, courage, and the willingness to inspire. To seek out reason and compassion within ourselves, and then present, as Robert Edmond Jones once espoused: “images of magnificence.” ◆
Nature and Art Intertwined
by Ronald Rand
THIS SUMMER I had the rare good fortune to perform and teach at the 2nd International Festival of Making Theatre in Athens, Greece – and then a few weeks later to perform at Shantigar – Jean-Claude van Itallie’s extraordinary retreat set deep in the woods of Massachusetts.
In both instances, I was struck by the exuberance of the students who came to participate – by their willingness to submerge themselves in the process of expanding their consciousness and their instrument.
Plunging by leaps and bounds into the work, they availed themselves with the many different means of expression – techniques of freeing their instrument, many they had never experienced before. In a very short time, something beautiful had been achieved.
Through freeing their mind and body, a connectiveness arose for the sake of art. A robust hope and energy pervaded each of their movements as they worked in class – an exhilarating intensity of engagement and intellect.
While we exist upon this planet each day without always knowing why – I am more and more convinced each day our greatest strength derives from not having all the answers answered, the “i’s” dotted and the “t’s” crossed – but by giving ourselves over to a greater appreciation of life and art – and to understanding one another.
When, at the end of the week of my teaching in Athens, Evdokimos Tsolakidis, the Artistic Director of the Theatre of Changes and Festival Director, arranged for all those of us who taught, to travel to one of the most beautiful sites in Greece – Epidaurus – and experience the National Theatre of Greece’s production of “The Persians,” I was in awe of how deeply we remain connected to what essentially keeps us “human” – our desire to inspire one another through art.
There, surrounded by more than 13,000 spectators, sitting on the ancient marble of this elegant theatre built somewhere around 300 BC, which over centuries saw the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, Aristophanes’ comedies, and much more – I experienced the continuing mystery of life – above me an overwhelming carpet of stars, around me a community of “brothers and sisters” – and before me, the enduring “ritual” of theater.
During my stay in Massachusetts, the renowned playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, was generous to take me on a Zen walk through his “cultivated and tranquil”
Within this wood he had divested it of all of its tree limbs, on the ground, and within reach, and allowed the graceful features of the trees and rocks to emerge.
Walking together on a carpet of moss, surrounded by the rich shrubbery and natural pools of water, I could very well understand the eternal connection we all share in together – essentially, the grace of nature and art intertwined with one another leading us forward on our path as human beings towards the light.◆
The Art of Human Reflection
by Ronald Rand
AS I WALKED BAREFOOT down a beach on the island of Mykonos in the Aegean Sea this past summer, (after I had performed in Athens), for a solitary moment I stopped, turned around and looked behind me.
There, on the sand, without any conscious effort, I had left impressions in the sand. I had touched the earth and the earth had received me. But no sooner did I perceive this – that a large wave washed ashore – and in a blink of an eye, my imprints were gone, lost forever.
Still the memory of the moment lingered and continues to. It reminds me, in a huge way, of the cascading moments we experience from the time we are born. And they continue to inhabit our lives. Memories are imprinted upon us and reside within the corners of our soul – whispers of how deep our awareness and consciousness is.
Life shapes and re-shapes us continually. Our behavior is an embodiment of our character, our persona. Our choices lead us to how we live and work. How we learn
Those who act upon the stage bring to life human beings drawn by a playwright, and for one solitary moment, are thrust before us to speak with great urgency.
Time is compressed into moments, days, weeks. Those sitting in the dark, feed upon the actor’s every word, every gesture, to keep finding a way to live another day.
The theater allows us to recognize the fragile preciousness of living, reminding us how to feel. The more the theatre artist can engage the audiences’ compassion, the more they will be able to recognize life and live it all its beauty and wonder. ◆
Bringing Light Through Art
by Ronald Rand
RECENTLY I FLEW across the wide and beautiful Atlantic to alight in the land of Balzac and Barrault.
Renowned producer Rita Fredricks, and award-winning director Jack Garfein, presented my play, “Let It Be Art! Harold Clurman’s Life of Passion,” a block from the Sorbonne in the Filmotheque Theater. Each night when I ascended the footlights of a most delightful theatre run by the revolutionary French filmmaker, Jean-Max Causse, I was fortunate to bring to life the passionate ideas of Harold Clurman to a very receptive French audience.
What made the experience all the more memorable was once the show was over, there was always a spirited question and answer between the audience and me, Ms. Fredricks and Mr. Garfein, and the audience members wouldn’t leave until they told me how much the experience meant to them.
This kind of give-and-take I think should be an essential part of every performance a cast gives with those who come to experience a play.
The afternoon of my final performance before I departed Paris to travel to the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, where I would teach and be a
The words of O’Neill, “Julius Caesar,” and Strindberg, all in French swept over me as I watched each actor dive in, mining their characters’ life. I was touched deeply to see the truth of the play come to life, nobly inspired by Mr. Garfein’s teaching.
Everything I was involved in reaffirmed to me the essential ‘light’ of humanity that is shared at that special moment when we feel most human through art. ◆
The Eternal Language of Theater
by Ronald Rand
AS I TRAVELED RECENTLY across America, Europe and South America, sharing the life and passion of Harold Clurman through my solo play, I was constantly reminded, no matter what language was spoken, there was so much we could learn from one another.
Before I left, I was asked “How will they understand you?” And when I returned, “Did they?” Of course. How could they not? We spoke a common language – of the earth, the sky, the air, the trees, the ground beneath our feet.
The eternal language of theater.
And after each performance I would immediately return to the stage and talk with the audience, answering their questions.
During our time together something shifted. We had merged into one and together we realized we had learned from each other, sharing in the language of the
Theater teaches us how to live, if we’re willing to share in the possibilities of the moment.
I would also teach acting workshops in the countries I’d visit. And through an interpreter, we’d sit in a circle, discovering together the common thread we shared. Instantly all obstacles would melt away. By breathing and reacting, trusting and discovering, we’d open ourselves to the moment.
As I had done on the stage the night before. I ask only to be still enough to receive,
Sharing “LET IT BE ART!” in India
by Ronald Rand
THIS PAST YEAR I WAS invited by C.S. Biju of CRPACSIS (Centre for Performance Research and Cultural Studies in South Asia), to perform at the International Theater Conference on ‘Body, Space and Technology in Performance’ in Thissur, Kerala, in the southern part of India. I was also asked to deliver a Paper on Harold Clurman and The Group Theatre.
At the Conference, I also had the privilege of meeting several distinguished teachers and directors of Indian theatre, including Sri. G. P. Despande, Sri. Sadanand Menon, Boris Daussa-Pastor, Padmini Rangarajan, Satish Pawade, Sunil Kumar S., R. Prasanna Venkatesan, and K.C. Manavendranath (Research Director of Thissur’s Ankanam Theatre Group).
Being in Thissur is to experience a blossoming of activity, with streets lined with markets of fresh fruits and vegetables of every shape, color, and variety. A very large Catholic cathedral overlooks the city, while not too far away sit ancient and noble temples.
For the first time in my ten years of performing, my play came to life outside under the stars, in a courtyard with tall trees as my set. During the short talk-back with the audience, I was asked what I learn from continuing to perform the play so many times. I shared how it’s always the “first time,” and that every audience affects Clurman in its own unique way.
My next stop was New Delhi, where I was greeted by Deepak Bonsal of R.K. Films & Media Academy, and introduced to N.C. Bansal, the Chairman of the Academy, its founder. For two days I conduct workshops with students who are studying to be film directors, announcers, editors, journalists, and camera operators – sharing with them their responsibilities to the creative process.
One afternoon I visit Gandhi Smitri, the national memorial to the Father of the Nation. Housed in the old Birla House, Gandhi had lived there for the last 144 days of his life, until his tragic assassination on January 30, 1948.
At a simple doorway, a sign read: “Gandhi’s Room.” On the floor is a mattress; next to it a small writing table. On a wall, a frame holds Gandhi’s last possessions: spoons, a fork, reading glasses, a stone he washed with, and his cane. A frame on the wall above a stone fireplace holds the inscription: “My life is my message.”
On my last day in Delhi, I meet Alyque Padamsee, the patriarch of English theatre in India, the director who introduced “Evita” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” to his country, the “godfather” of Indian advertising, and a fine actor – he had played Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the film, “Gandhi.” Plus – and I had no idea – when I mention I’m staying with “Q” – (short for Quasar) in Mumbai, he tells me: “That’s my son.” An amazing coincidence! This is the magic of India!
Alyque’s son, “Q,” is an enterprising young man, a playwright, directed productions of “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,” “All My Sons,” “Minorities,” “Kindertransport,” and created an annual theatre festival ten years ago, called Thespo. The Festival has led to the formation of new theatre groups including Akvarious, Proscenium Theatre, and the First Play Theatre.
Over the next two days I performed my play for all the students at Anupam Kher’s prestigious Actor Prepares School for Actors, and shared my Workshop. We worked together on improvisations, energy exercises, and scenes from Shaw’s “St. Joan.”
One morning, all the students and teachers stand and sing the National Anthem – it is the 60th anniversary of the birth of India. Listening to their voices sing touches me deeply.
Anupam Kher, who created Actor Prepares School for Actors over twenty years ago, is one of India’s most acclaimed actors. He has appeared in over three hundred films, receiving eight Filmfare awards, and a Padmarshri (a national honor). He directed “Om Jai Jagadish,” and produced and starred in “Maine Ghandi Ko Nahim Mara,” receiving the Best Actor Award from the Karachi International Film Festival. He created his own film company, Karol Bagh Productions, and produced “Tere Sang,” directed by Satish Kaushik.
I asked Mr. Kher when we sat down to talk together how he began as an actor. “I wanted to stand out in a crowd,” he replied. “I was a ham, and loved watching films, but never entertained the thought of having a life as an actor. I started acting in plays in school, and later went to Punjab University to study. I understood the importance of training.”
“So, I studied further, and went to the National School of Drama. I was lucky to have a very fine teacher. I was able to discover who I was as actor, and as a person. I was a star student, very much into it. I continued acting and then taught in Luchnow, in northern India for three months, and ended up staying two years.”
“After a while I decided to go Bombay, soon began acting. After my first play, Dolly Thakore’s mother came to see act, and wanted me to meet Alyque. He was the “god of the theater.”
“Alyque didn’t even look at me. He said: “I can’t meet every Tom, Dick & Harry!” It was three years of struggle, but I believed if you wanted something and you went about it fruitfully and honestly, you would achieve it. Finally, when I had a meeting with the film director, Mahesh Bhatt, and he said to me: “I hear you’re good.”
“I told him: “I’m not good, I’m brilliant!” I finally got the role of a 65-year old man. I found a way to express the great emotional pain of this man, by drawing upon the immediate reality: What if this film doesn’t do well, my career’s over. But it’s a big hit and launched my career.”
What does teaching mean to you? I asked him.
“It keeps me alive. I have a reference point. I know there is more to life than acting. It’s very important to grow up as a person. Teaching young people, inter-acting with them means so much to me. I used to mimic my teachers. It goes back to the same journey I started with.”
Learning, performing, teaching in India reminded me how much our art is a healing art, that it remains our duty to help continuing to heal the world. In India I knew I had “come home,” and would return soon to this sacred country. ◆
Acting from the Heart and Soul
by Ronald Rand
EVERY TIME I WALK out onto the stage I surrender more and more of myself – trusting and swimming in the freedom of the moment with a deeper consciousness.
I tap into the energies of my soul, knowing I’ve come to breathe with those in the audience. Quieting my mind, I share with greater clarity and sincerity in the eternal moment. What does it take to act from the heart and soul?
The Courage to overcome fear and limitation. Sometimes we may be drawn off our path or the unexpected may occur. That’s when we need to take the time to draw upon our courage, to be willing to step back into the light and know just around the corner there’s an even greater possibility for expansion.
The Love inside that’s just waiting to be released. When we’re able fill the space with all the love and joy in our heart – a true authentic and honest connection can take place.
The Passion that comes from the core of our being, aligned with our soul’s desire, is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our self and others. When we’re free enough to release the deepest vibrations of the eternal part of ourselves, our passion can be an illuminating experience of truth and magic.
The Humor of just having fun, falling down, picking ourselves up and laughing. Filling our heart full of joy. Singing, dancing to our heart’s content. Allowing exuberance to fill our entire being and all those around us.
The Trust to connect to the richest part of our Self, to nature, to let our soul sing with every cell of our being. Trusting everything that’s been placed in our path is there to help us grow and expand. Trusting and accepting it willingly, with a glad heart and an open mind.
The Knowing that comes from not having to judge or control others. By paying attention and remaining open, we give ourselves permission and the freedom to simply “be” and to “fly” – accepting all of life in its simplicity – allowing our consciousness to truly awaken our heart and soul.
The Compassion to feel what others are feeling with total empathy, innate understanding, no matter the situation. We may not always know why we’re being asked to do what we’re being asked to do. So, give more.
The Truth in finding your own inner voice can lead you on a never-ending journey of self-discovery and self-realization. As long as we’re willing to be open enough to continually challenge our preconceptions, prejudices and habits, our heart and soul will lead us forward. By developing our moral compass, we enable ourselves to expand from a grounded state of truth, vibrancy, and understanding.
The Communication of language and behavior – the simplest vibration, energy, movement, light particle, or wave carries within it all the seeds of our past, present and future. Universes of thought and spirit just waiting for our permission to dance with them in ever-ever-expanding ways.
The Transformation of our entire body, mind and spirit fused into an instrument for storytelling carries within it all of creation. By having a strong work ethic, discipline, tactfulness and respect for ourselves and those we work with, we give ourselves permission to transform, allowing the audience to be truly awakened.
The Listening that comes from mindfulness, intuition and discernment. Listening to the still small voice within – to all the sounds of nature – so slowly, slowly, we can begin to re-discover not only our Selves but all the wisdom of creation.
The Surrendering to open our heart with kindness and compassion for all. The willingness to share our talents in the truest way possible – this is the ultimate gift to ourselves, the world, and the universe. What continues to give me my faith as an actor are all those joining me on my journey who have come before me.
Those who continue to inspire me today…inspiring souls including Mandela, Harold Clurman, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Thích Nhát Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Rabindranath Tagore, Oprah Winfrey, Louise Hay, Elie Wiesel, Joan Baez, John Lennon, Ilona Selke, Rita Fredricks Salzman, Nancy Rhodes, Marilise Tronto, among others … who have drawn upon the richness of moral compass, by searching deep within themselves, have expanded the preciousness of life through their goodness and humanity.
Every day I draw from nature, letting its inspiration flow through me allowing for a greater mindfulness. Birds sing within my breast. A mountain stream cascades through my heart.
Once I allow myself to awaken to the ever-expanding vibrations of the earth, my soul’s joy is released to serve the noble art of acting. ◆
The Healing of Art
by Ronald Rand
AS CREATIVE BEINGS WE’VE been given the power to transform our lives into a most wondrous journey. We put ourselves into “play” every day – hopefully with love in our heart.
Every day we set tasks for ourselves. We do have the choice to help others or hurt others – we do have that choice. Or we can just exist in our own little world. But everything we do has a ripple effect.
A work of art is an expression of nature. We’re hoping to find more meaning to our lives through art. Art is supposed to help more than hurt. We want to believe art makes us more humane.
When I played Captain Keller in “The Miracle Worker last summer as part of the professional summer stock Greensboro’s Arts Alliance production in Vermont presented by the Mirror Repertory Company, and when I perform in my solo play, “Let It Be Art!” as Harold Clurman around the world, I visibly see and feel and hear the affect art can have in the most positive and healing way.
The soul of man and woman wishes and yearns for peace. Like the great solitude we feel in nature. A wishing to know that somehow all is well. Everyday there’s so much pain in the world, and so much joy.
Last week a tornado touched down and in an instant a family found part of their home was gone. This is the uncertainty we face every day in life.
So, what role can art and theater play in all of this? Artists – they transform life into an expression of joy. Or they can take their talent and skills and “de-humanize”
I believe in the responsibility of the healing artist. That’s why when we’re moved – we’re moved as much as we are. We’re all longing to be healed. Art can do that. So can nature. And when they go hand-in-hand, we understand more about ourselves than before. That’s why art throughout the ages continues to have the power to transform – and great art can help heal us all, and so we are.
A tree doesn’t need to know how to grow – it just does. We know when something’s true… we know it… in our soul... when it’s just… and when it’s real. As much as we know when something’s false and wrong.
We can understand when something’s being revealed, a lot of the times without language, like a canvas before us or a gesture, a smile, a wave – it can stir our heart in the deepest way.
We all know the power of love sustains us. Art cultures us. The more we can open our hearts, the more we’ll stop hurting each other – and the more art will bring us more joy and healing. ◆
Creating the Life of a Soul on Stage Through Stanislavski’s “Method of Physical Actions”
by Ronald Rand
HOW DOES AN ACTOR CREATE does an actor create a human soul from a playwright’s words? What does it take to plumb the depths of writer’s work, to allow it to breathe before an audience?
This mysterious act of intense communion and luminosity is achieved through the art of creation, which is ultimately how a stage artist defines himself. Through the sacred ritual of theatre is how the audience comes to know
Acting is an act of liberation - of releasing spirit and senses to the moment. Rooted deep in the rich soil of our forebears, the art of acting teaches us how much there is to find out every time we go to the theatre. For those on the stage, it is an opportunity to dig deeper until a kernel of the truth of existence is revealed.
Every day we face ourselves. The riddle of existence – always a mystery accompanying us. Our saving grace? That we can return to our heart and trust our gut to ‘act human.’
The art of acting requires complete and total surrender. I accept this task each time I step on the stage, whether it’s to bring Harold Clurman to life in my solo play or as another human being in the plays I perform in.
When I enter on the stage in my play, “LET IT BE ART!” I haven’t a clue whether Harold Clurman will say the lines ‘he’s supposed to say.’ But he doesn’t care. Why should he? He’s not in a play. He’s living ‘his life,’ saying what he has to say, doing what he has to do. I must release myself completely so he can live. I’m in service to a force larger than myself. I accept the inevitable, allowing creation to occur.
The task of the artist of the stage is to open one’s heart, mind and soul to attain a purer way of seeing, hearing, listening, revealing all that we are through the act of remembering. It is incumbent for all those who dare to tread the thin line of revealing the deepest secrets of mankind through great literature to develop a mastery to share with others.
It’s just as important to build a confidence in “not knowing.” So that somehow simply letting go to the moment will take you to discover the truth through the ‘art of transformation.’
Stanislavski’s “Method of Physical Actions” allows this kind of surrender to a force of nature larger than one’s self, allowing creation to occur.
Constantin Stanislavski, co-founder of the famed Moscow Art Theatre, after forty years of experimentation, created his “Method of Physical Actions” chart. Consisting of forty acting tools, Stanislavski laid out a path for the creative actor could take towards presenting truth on stage.
He described in great detail his theories in his autobiography, My Life in Art and his three books, An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role. After his death, his complete works filled eight volumes, which were subsequently published. Stanislavski’s “Method of Physical Actions,” (and some have been translated into English), is a key into the art of acting and creativity to capture the soul of another human being.
Through a set of steps including “Working on one’s self,” “Action,” “Exhibiting feeling or passion through the resemblance of truth under given circumstances,” “Creating through a conscious technique which can arouse the subconscious,” they ultimately lead to “The creation of the life of a soul” on stage.
This way of working brings the actor forward as a creative artist, not only an interpreter of another’s work, but being able to build the life of a human being and live in a most organic way. In this way, the audience may experience witness a true life on stage, not merely an indication of a person, and then truly dissolve into the story being told.
Of course, these ideas had been put to discourse much earlier than Stanislavski. In 1832, Goethe wrote: “The earlier man becomes aware that there exists a craft, an art that can help him towards a controlled heightening of his natural abilities, the happier he is… Here begins the manifold relationship between the conscious and the unconscious.”
Essentially, we must also recognize that all sets of rules, tools or techniques of any craft are always ‘a way in.’ One might say, a ‘stepping-stone’ on the path towards a greater recognition or ‘inner-knowing’ leading towards the ultimate release of organic creation.
Around the year 1400, Zeami, who is known as the original practitioner of Japanese Noh Theatre, wrote a classic book on dramatic theory called “Kadensho.” He led us to begin to see what performance could be seen as, by using the image of a flower as a metaphor.
Kenneth Yasuda, through his book, Masterworks of The Noh Theatre, explained that “A ‘flower’ is both an aesthetic principle, and like the soul of the actor or the character or the play, in itself it exists – but beyond that – there is the spiritual quest. Every element of the play, every gesture, must be devoted to the ‘flower.’”
Perhaps when Zeami looked upon this ‘flower,’ he recognized how by shedding its petals, and going through its many different stages till it disappears completely – that this process, makes the invisible visible.
Like an actor before an audience who goes through the art of transformation, she may burst into life one moment before once more disappearing. The sacred act of performance – to mirror nature through art – is really a universe we imagine we see. ◆
Theater – A Celebration of Life!
by Ronald Rand
IT FEELS LIKE TIME IS flying faster these days. We’re experiencing something so different, it’s like nothing any of us have ever experienced before. Are there positives in all of this uncertainty? How do we keep our center in the midst of so much turmoil, fear and hysteria?
Questions resound through our lives every day: When will this be over? How will we survive? What will the “new” normal look like?
Many great plays contain an element of the “bottom falling out” – confronting the totally unexpected, stepping into the unknown. Many times, we’re led on a journey following either “the hero” or a tragic figure facing their greatest doubts, confronting their deepest fears. In the deep recesses of their soul, in the pit of their stomach, tracing every possible route in their mind, they face an inescapable trajectory into the abyss.
Who are we to rely upon today?
We have and will always have – ourselves. There’s no greater power in the universe than our inner strength and courage, our perseverance in the face of an impossible situation.
For those of us in the theater, this is an especially excruciating time. We find ourselves “stage-less” –adrift, at sea – without our means to do our work. The theater is our home. The stage where we tell our stories. What are we to do?
Keep creating new ways to tell our stories!
Across the internet we’re seeing ‘virtual’ stories springing up, re-broadcasts of stage performances, “performances and tributes, and other ways and means of expressing who we are, to keep the celebration of theater alive.
To keep the ‘flame of art’ burning until we’re back performing and working in our art. Everything will be different when we come out of this. We will have lost many dear friends and family.
I’m reminded more than ever before, and something apt for this moment, something one of my teachers, Harold Clurman said: “My message to young people in the theatre today is more than ever, “To thine own self be true.” Discipline yourselves to speak from your heart and from your mind, that is, from your own experience, to the people who have provided you with the ground and framework of that experience. The more scrupulous your effort to make the passage from your conscience and consciousness to theirs the more successful you will eventually be – in whatever way is most important to you. In short, every decade the call must be raised anew: “Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!”
Through our art, let us come out! Through our humanity, let us come out!
We have the means to re-affirm the goodness that makes us who we are. And like a lark singing in a meadow at dawn, we will rise again To Sing! To Act! To Dance! To Play! ◆
© Copyright Ronald Rand 2003. All rights reserved.
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