Written by and Starring
Goodwill Cultural Ambassador
Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in "LET IT BE ART!"
the internationally acclaimed solo performance play about
HAROLD CLURMAN "the most influential figure in the history of the
20th century American Theatre"
Harold Clurman in 1980
"Elder Statesman of the American Theatre" Co-founder of The Group Theatre Award-winning Broadway Director America's greatest Drama Critic Author of "On Directing" and "The Fervent Years"
Ronald Rand, Artistic Director of "LET IT BE ART!"
has staged all productions for the past 22 years
in 26 countries & across America in 20 states
Act Alone Festival, Sudureyri, Iceland
International Festival of Making Theatre, Athens, Greece
The Ritz Theatre, Sheffield, Alabama
Kenya International Theatre Festival
National Theatre, Nairobi, Kenya
Nakuru’s Players Theatre, Nakuru, Kenya
Colombo International Theatre Festival, Sri Lanka
University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, Sri Lanka
“This play should
“Ronald Rand is one of the great dedicated artists of the American Theater.”
were inspired, absolutely
Cape May Stage, USA
“A theatrical evening not
to be missed!”
is an illusionist!
blew me out
of the ballpark!”
The very essence
of true acting!”
Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in his inspiring solo play, “LET IT BE ART!”
LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, starring Ronald Rand A dramatic journey of humor, boldness and fervor!
The man heralded as "the elder statesman of the American Theatre"
An experience you don't want to miss!
The moment Ronald Rand takes the stage as Harold Clurman in his famous one man play, LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, embodying Harold Clurman, through voice, gesture and size, we are immediately thrust into a world of boundless passion for the theatre, and taken on an inspiring journey that lingers within our consciousness for a very long time.
Mr. Rand as writer and performer captures the essence of who Harold Clurman was and what he stood for. His creation instills in the audience an unforgettable experience of passion, courage and inspiration.
In this inspiring one man show, we follow Harold Clurman from his beginnings on the Lower East Side, through his education at the Sorbonne in Paris with Aaron Copland as his roommate, his initiation into the theatre through The Provincetown Players and The Theatre Guild, his friendship with Lee Strasberg, and their decision with Cheryl Crawford, to found The Group Theatre, as well as his relationships with Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Edward Gordon Craig, Alfred Stieglitz, Marlon Brando and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, among several others.
Original 2001 production directed by GREGORY ABELS
LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion is a SPONSORED PROJECT OF THE NEW YORK FOUNDATION OF THE ARTS.
“I am very blessed and grateful to have represented the United States of America performing as Harold Clurman in my solo play, "LET IT BE ART! in the 8th Theatre Olympics to standing ovations in New Delhi's Kamani Auditorium on February 25, 2018, and then in Thiruvananthapuram's Tagore Hall in Kerala on February 27, 2018 - taught master workshops at the National School of Drama during my time in New Delhi - then traveled to Russia, performing to a standing ovation in the CHELoVEK Theatre Festival in Chelyabinsk, Russia on March 5, 2018 - and also taught master workshops at different academies of Culture and Arts, and at The Chelyabinsk State Academy of Culture and Arts! Sharing Art and Culture is an important bridge of friendship and understanding. I'm very blessed to have made many new friends around the world.”
"STANISLAVSKY FROM AMERICA" "LET IT BE ART!" by Ronald Rand of USA in CHEVoLEK Theatre Festival by Anna Kurolesova
“There is a special breed of people who have the talent to fill any space with light. Around such a person the atmosphere of a holiday, of love, of unity is created by itself. American guest Ronald Rand drew attention to theatrical parties from the first day of the festival. Still not knowing who he was and where from, I somehow immediately drew attention to this open look and the kind charm that comes from him. And only then I heard a lively overseas speech. I regretted that I was not strong in English. And wanted to get acquainted. However, he did not stop it, go to us and, smiling affably, give the program of his play. Even without translation, those kind words with which he turned to us were understood.
The translation was not even needed at the play. Broadcast on the screen text, I barely ran my eyes, hurrying back to the actor. I was afraid to miss the new stroke, the detail, the character. He was not alone on the stage. There were several. It was different. Changed every second. The man-orchestra. A man with a kaleidoscope. It was not even a game, but some attraction of acting. Even the famous Clurman's pause was sustained for a long time, in detail and artistically convincing. His hands were playing. Thin long fingers. The variety of their movements and the accuracy of the gesture constituted a rich palette of means of expressiveness. Everything in moderation, with taste, is extremely clear without translation. Countless times the artist sat at the table, unbuttoning the jacket at the same time, and immediately jumped up, went out to the viewer, while fastening his jacket with a light movement of his fingers. I do not know why, but I, as enchanted, watched these manipulations with buttons. Even in this seemingly prosaic gesture there was some special artistry!
His eyebrows played. Alive, mobile, they seemed to activate the whole mechanism of facial muscles. The richness of mimicry is incredible. Changing masks and characters, leading a dialogue, Ronald Rand knows how to instantly change sex, age, emotional coloring, mood - bravo!
His eyes played. Sparkling, expressive, radiating energy and conviction, they were directed at once to everyone and to each individually. The fourth wall arose and immediately disappeared by the wave of "magic wand" - the will of the artist. We were all caught in the network of this charming man through his attractive look, easily, in American, at ease, but with a purely Russian workshop - "in Stanislavsky."
His whole performance is a hymn to Konstantin Sergeyevich. Ronald Rand himself is surprisingly similar to the great Russian master. As if newsreels came down those years where the living Stanislavsky conducts rehearsals, on a bench with colleagues, walks along the alley ... Humor, kindness, uniting energy and faith in the great, timeless art of the Artist.”
"THE MAGIC NAME IS STANISLAVSKY..." "LET IT BE ART!" by Ronald Rand of the USA Festival "CHELoVEK Theater 2018 by Andrey Vaganov
“The actor from New York, Ronald Rand, presented to the festival audience his performance under the title, “LET IT BE ART!" A supporter and propagandist of the Stanislavsky system, Rand showed us a living example of reincarnation — for a few minutes our contemporary, who arrived in Chelyabinsk, disappeared, and instead Harold Clurman — the legendary actor and director from the very thirties who, in words from the play: "Have been in immemorial times.
A strict double-breasted suit, a hairstyle in the fashion of those years ... The actor does not get out of this image for a second — everything that Ronald Rand says and does on the stage is said and done on behalf of Harold Clurman.
Thanks to this technique, the public is plunged into an era when the American theater was going through a turning point. Near the entertainment shows on the stage began to appear performances that were staged according to plays by contemporary playwrights, devoted to topical issues — for example, a taxi strike. Actors studied the techniques of the famous Russian director, they partly imitated the Moscow Art Theater, partly looking for their own way.
Of course, the play mentions the names of such "Founding Fathers" of the modern American theater as Lee Strasberg (the founder of the famous acting school, whose graduates included James Dean, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, and others), Cheryl Crawford, Clifford Odets, and Stella Adler. These are people who created the famous Group Theater, which became the outpost of the Stanislavsky system in America. Rand masterfully shows the manner of pronouncing words, typical for Lee Strasberg or ceremonious and full of old-fashioned gestures of Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky ... But all this is nothing more than an actor's sketches - the main thing for the hero of the play is the story of what is important to him in the theater. Strangely enough, the main thing is not the method. Stanislavsky himself in a conversation with American actors advises - if my system you do not like, forget about it. Look for what is close to you, what works, allowing you to truly exist on the stage and to influence the mind and feelings of the viewer.
And this is a good lesson for many modern theaters, which, alas, have become "approximate" - again, according to the apt expression of the hero of the play.”
Ronald Rand's solo play has been running over 20 years. Rand is a student of Stella Adler, Harold Clurman and Jerzy Grotowski,
Theatre Olympics 2018:
American actor Ronald Rand talks about his play “Let It Be Art!”
— how he prepares for the role
March 2, 2018
by Phalguni Rao
Before the concept of method acting was popularised by Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty in the 40s and 50s, it was an individual named Harold Clurman who breathed new life into modern American theatre. He, along with Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, founded The Group Theatre in 1931 to focus on developing a “system” of acting and creating theatre that was rooted in reality. Today, Clurman, a noted drama critic and director, is considered one of the fathers of modern American theatre.
So influential was Clurman’s role in modern theatre, that American actor Ronald Rand decided to create a one-man play based on his life called “Let It Be Art! Harold Clurman’s Life of Passion.” Rand was one of Clurman’s students for a brief period of time. He also studied acting under actress and teacher Stella Adler for six years.
Inspired from Russian dramaturg Constantin Stanislavsky’s work, Clurman heralded a radical change in American theatre which was earlier dominated by vaudeville and dancing girls (“Ziegfeld Follies”), and introduced realism and naturalism into plays. Some of The Group Theatre members included Stella Adler, (who was married to Clurman for nearly 20 years), Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner and Clifford Odets.
“Let It Be Art!” enters its 20th year of performances this year. Rand, who essays the role of Harold Clurman in the play, has performed the show across 25 countries and 20 states in USA. He recently staged the production at the ongoing Theatre Olympics in New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram, where he also taught his two-hour long workshop ‘Art of Transformation’.
Speaking to Firstpost, Rand says it is his fifth time he is returning to perform the play in India. He has previously performed at Bengaluru, Jaipur, Mysore, Thrissur, Mumbai and Puducherry. He talks about why he chose Clurman as his subject and the process he undergoes to bring him alive on stage in his New York apartment in the 1980s.
Here are edited excerpts from the interview:
“Let It Be Art!” has been around for several years. What do you think makes the play relevant and enticing even today?
“Harold Clurman, whom I bring to life in my solo play Let It Be Art!, was one of the most passionate individuals you could ever meet. Not only does he take the audience on the journey of his life, but you also meet unforgettable individuals including Stella Adler, Constantin Stanislavsky, Lee Strasberg, Clifford Odets, and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Most of all, the ideas that Clurman shares in my play speak to us about how to grow as human beings, how to think — to look at life in a whole new way. To live life to the fullest every moment! I also believe the transformation the audiences experience before their eyes of “actually meeting” Harold Clurman in his apartment in 1980 in New York City makes for an exciting time at the theatre, travelling with him to Paris, to Russia, and all over New York City.
When and why did you choose Harold Clurman as your subject for the play?
I think he chose me. I studied with Harold Clurman when I was 17 years old, right out of high school, and the impression he made on me was life-changing. I had no idea I would ever write a play about his life and bring him to life. But I realised his contribution as the “elder Statesman of the American Theatre,” and the theatrical conscience of his time was something everyone needed to know. Not only was he one of the co-founders of the greatest acting company in America — The Group Theatre — but he went on to become one of America’s great directors of the 20th century, the country's foremost drama critic, a renowned acting teacher and author. His books, ‘On Directing’ and ‘The Fervent Years’ are must-reads for everyone who loves acting, directing, the theatre, and life.”
What is your process to transform yourself from Ronald Rand to Harold Clurman?
“My transformation begins the night before, in the dreams I have. It continues all day long before the performance, in what I read, in how I prepare before I go to the theatre. I always try to arrive over two hours before a performance. When I begin the transformation, I begin by applying make-up, as I have to become his age which is close to 80 years old. It is necessary I allow Harold Clurman to “arrive” as I slip into his clothing. Because I have been an actor constantly working on my craft for over 30 years or more, it has become more second-nature by now, and as the great actress/acting teacher, Uta Hagen once said: “It takes twenty years to learn how to act, and another ten or twenty to learn how 'not' to act.”
You’ve worked with and studied with the greatest of the greats in modern theatre. What did you learn the most during that period?
I was fortunate to study with Stella Adler for almost six years, and with Harold Clurman, Robert Lewis, Joseph Chaikin, and Jerzy Grotowski. Adler brought to us the deep understanding of the nobility of the actor as a creative partner with the playwright. To act you must understand the playwright, the given circumstances of the play, the social situation of what’s occurring in the play. She was greatly demanding and greatly caring, an extraordinary actress in her own right — and she never stopped demanding that we give our best in service to the playwright. The only time I “worked” with Adler was in a scene from Edward Albee’s important one-act play, The Zoo Story, when I played Peter and she decided to be Jerry, and all of a sudden, I was acting with Stella Adler in the scene.”
“Harold Clurman, now recognised by many as the most influential individual in the history of 20th century American theatre, opened our eyes to see the great humanity in the poet-playwright, to appreciate the heroic qualities of the great actors and artists who bring great art into being. He kept reminding us that we are connected to one another and to all of life. His dynamic passion awoke everyone who came in contact with him to appreciate the life-changing power of the theatre.”
Ronald Rand's show is running into its 18th year this year. A student of Harold Clurman, he began devising the play nearly 20 years ago
How do you embody Clurman’s voice, body language, speech for the play?
‘In the “creation” room — I do not refer to it as a “dressing room” — at some point, during my applying make-up and getting into Harold Clurman’s clothing, he “arrives” — my body changes, my breathing, how I see, how I move, and when Clurman enters his apartment, there is no stage; he is there to live, to talk to his students, and then he leaves and goes off to the theatre. I never know whether he will say the “lines in the play.” For him, there is no play. He is living in his apartment. At the beginning when I started to work on the play over 20 years ago, I began to explore how he moved, what his motivations were, what his day was like before he arrives back at his apartment. Now that I have brought him to life in many, many performances over these past 18 years, I am merely a vessel for his creative life as he lives in his apartment, and I allow him to live and say what he must say. Because I had studied with him, I remember how he was, and I would also would meet him from time-to-time at the theatre in New York City.”
Could you describe the journey of Let It Be Art from the time you conceived it to its present form? Has it evolved over time?
“The first time I thought of the possibility of creating a play about Harold Clurman was after I had read Stella Adler’s foreword to Clurman’s book, ‘The Fervent Years.’ She wrote that she feared his legacy might be lost. For her, he was the greatest American theatre individual of the 20th century. When I read that, I thought that it would be a great injustice to everything he had accomplished. So I wrote to Adler and told her I was considering writing a solo play to bring Clurman to life. She said: “Oh no, no one can play Harold.” But then she wrote: “If you have to — go ahead!” So I began, and I have to say, the play came from my “listening to Harold Clurman” — writing down what he wanted to say.”
“There’s no doubt the play has evolved from the numerous performances I have given as a performer, whether it was in a cave theatre in Tbilisi, under the stars in Kerala, in a 2,000 seat auditorium in Minsk’s Palace of Culture, or in Tangier’s Dar el-Majzen Palace in the Casbah. Every audience and space has allowed the play to change. But no matter where its done, Harold Clurman in always in his apartment in New York City in 1980.”
How and why did you choose to pursue theatre? In your opinion, what is it about theatre that separates it from other forms of art?
‘I think, theatre chose me. We are all born for a purpose. It is up to us to use our God-given talents to fulfill our potential in the best way possible to help others. It has become my destiny to continue sharing Harold Clurman’s great passion and ideas through this play. Theatre is not separate from any of the other arts. Everything we do every day has elements of theatre in it. We’re constantly telling stories to others, or telling stories to ourselves about our lives. All arts are related to one another because they ask us to see and feel with our hearts, not only our minds — to experience more of being alive. This is what keeps us human.”
Who or what are your biggest inspirations?
I am constantly inspired everyday by everything and everyone I come in contact with. I marvel at the universe we’ve been given. I’m inspired as much by holding a flower as listening to a great symphony by Mozart, or read a poem by Tagore or watch a performance in the Theatre Olympics or on Broadway. I’m inspired by watching a child build a sand castle or simply looking at a dragonfly sitting next to me.
Do you have a particularly cherished memory of Clurman? Something he said or did, perhaps?
At one point, Harold Clurman literally jumped up on a chair, raised his voice as loud as he could, and screamed with such forceful passion imploring us: “Go out and change the world! It's up to you! Go out and make the theatre you want to see!”
In a seemingly divisive and polarised world, what do you think should be theatre’s role?
I don’t think of the world in that way. We are all one people. We can bring love and beauty into this world with every thought we think, in everything we do or do not. It’s up to each one of us. Theatre has always existed to tell us stories about ourselves. To uplift and entertain, to make us more aware, to awaken us. Vijay Tendulkar, who was one of the greatest Indian playwrights was a friend, and I also had the privilege to get to know him. He certainly chose to use the theatre to make people more aware. I hope when audiences experience Harold Clurman in my play that they will be encouraged to have greater hope for this world, to get excited to live life in the most passionate way possible.”
Rand conceived Let It Be Art! after reading Stella Adler's foreword to Harold Clurman's book, The Fervent Years
Ronald Rand's Interview on Cayman Island's Cayman27 "Today Show" about his performance in his solo play, "LET IT BE ART!"
Radio Interview with Ronald Rand and Soon Heng Lim on "Front Row in the Bigger Picture" BFM 89.9, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia about teaching as a Fulbright Specialist at University of Malaya for 6 weeks, touring across Malaysia in "Let it Be Art!" and Stanislavski's "Method of Physical Actions" on April 15, 2015
Radio Interview with Ronald Rand and Fiona Powell on “Williamsport Today” 89.7 WVIA-FM, Williamsport, Pa. about performances and acting workshops at Lycoming College, the art of acting, The Group Theatre, Harold Clurman & “Let It Be Art!” on January 14, 2014.
Radio Interview with Ronald Rand & Judy Stadt on "The Lunch and Judy Show," about Harold Clurman, The Group Theatre, Ronald Rand's master acting workshops, the art of acting and "Let It Be Art!" on February 8, 2013
Learn about RONALD RAND's newest Book
SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE
A Journey into the Organic Process of the Art of Transformation
PLAYBILL has chosen SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE in their “13 Theatre Books to Take to the Park This Spring.”
Christopher Plummer calls SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE: “An unforgettable journey of passion, insight and discovery.”
Stephen Lang writes in his Foreword: “An astonishing outpouring of energy and experience. Ronald Rand brings a way to seek out a greater realization of what life means to you, putting into words what every actor feels in their heart; that what we do is as crucial to life as bread, fire and salt. A noble and useful book.”
Anne Bogart has written: “Ronald Rand is a natural storyteller. SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE reflects his generosity and interest in the methods of solo performance permitting us to meet many of the great theater luminaries of our time.”
Laurence Luckinbill: “An excellent book. Ronald Rand has described the holy and sacred process of acting intensely and just right. We need his story!”
SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE reveals a life-changing organic process creating your own dynamic solo performance through the ‘Art of Transformation.’ Offering a step-by-step guide using Stanislavski’s original acting chart, ‘The Method of Physical Actions.’
This inspiring book takes you through Rand’s two-hour transformation into 79-year-old Harold Clurman – revealing how creation takes place before an actor comes on stage, how to follow your genuine impulses allowing transformation to occur and to live completely inside your storytelling – trusting your inner compass to fly solo as a performer.
Filled with Rand’s fascinating experiences with his mentors – Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, and Jerzy Grotowski – and dive inside life-changing ‘moments of depth’ by unforgettable performers including Cecily Tyson, Ira Aldridge, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier, Geraldine Page, Paul Robeson, George C. Scott, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Lee J. Cobb, Laurette Taylor, Mei Lanfang, John Barrymore, and Marlon Brando.
You’ll find over twenty inspiring interviews with renowned performers who have performed in solo plays including Christopher Plummer, Ben Vereen, Billy Crudup, V (formerly Eve Ensler), Stephen Lang, Olympia Dukakis, Tony Lo Bianco, Angelica Page, Adrienne Barbeau, Ronald Rand, Elizabeth van Dyke, Spalding Gray, Anita Hollander, Hershey Felder, Marga Gomez, Susan Claassen, Karen Eterovich, Sabera Shaik, Libby Skala, Jean-Claude van Itallie and Julie Harris.
Plus there are quotes from performers who have performed in solo performances including Vinie Burrows, Len Cariou, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Charles S. Dutton, André de Shields, Tovah Feldshuh, Hal Holbrook, Judith Ivey, Sarah Jones, John Leguizamo, Laura Linney, Priscilla Lopez, Ian McKellan, Meredith Monk, Dael Orlandersmith, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Anna Deavere Smith, Lily Tomlin, and Lucy Wang.
SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE will speak passionately to experiences actors and students alike, teachers, directors, and become an invaluable resource for postgraduate students of theater and performance, and all lovers of theater.
RONALD RAND's second Book
How Extraordinary People Live To Create
and Create To Live
To Russia to Zimbabwe to Kathmandu to Thailand to Morocco as Harold Clurman in “LET IT BE ART!”
by Ronald Rand
For over twenty years I have been traveling with my play and teaching across the globe, experiencing the challenges and joys of performing, when all you can do is trust in the moment and “give over” with complete and utter faith, allowing you to play with harmony – to be fully present. Sharing in the ritual of theater I always feel blessed.
This past year I was the first American invited to perform in his own play in many years in Minsk at the Palace of Culture, and then invited as the first American artist to appear in the renowned “Voices of History” International Theatre Festival in Vologda, Russia presented by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Theatre Union, and Vologda Region Government.
Svetlana Smirnova of the Vologda Region Department of Culture and Cultural Heritage Preservation had invited me to come and perform in their most unique Festival. Over the course of my time there, I traverse the beautiful paths and streets of Vologda along the banks of its graceful river founded in 1147. Getting to know this lovely city, I come upon plaques and statues, homes of famous writers and poets. Vsevolod Chubenko, an honored artist of Russia, invited me to visit The Actors House, a three-story large wooden house all in blue, which serves as a meeting place for actors, a museum, restaurant, and where visiting artists can stay and perform when they come to Vologda. Lining the walls are portraits and photos of important Russian artists, and a beautiful photo of Stanislavsky holds a special place, a vase of flowers next to it.
The “Voices of History” Festival is held in many theatres, including a huge outdoor theatre sitting just inside the walls of the Kremlin. Among the productions, I relish the most during the Festival was “Moscow Choir” brought to life by the gifted Maly Theatre actors, and “Maria Stuart” by the Bolshoi Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg.
I am given the opportunity to visit the Ignaty Bryanchaninov Manor of 1812, completely rebuilt, & walk through its gorgeous gardens. It felt as if I had stepped back into another time. Sitting in the garden I feel I’m sitting in “The Cherry Orchard.” Around me are the constant humming of insects, a cobalt sky above, shimmering lakes, fields of bright purple flowers, and white birch trees. Another day I’m taken to the magnificent St. Ferapont monastery near a sparkling lake. I view St. Cyril’s original long cloak, and his original wooden tiny church. When I visit a small village, I taste home-made potato soup and bread, and climb to the top of a local church to ring bells for good luck, and afterwards, visit the shrine of St. Kseniya. The area near Vologda between St. Petersburg and Moscow is especially rich with shrines for many holy people of Russia.
At the end of the Festival, I’m invited to attend a special reception where I meet Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, and talk with Chief of the Department Valentina Ratsko. After several toasts, I’m invited to give a toast. I speak about the honor of coming from America to Russia to share Harold Clurman at this important Festival, what it means to me, and how much we share through our cultures, our peoples, and the theater.
My next journey lands me in the southern regions of Africa, when I fly to Harare, Zimbabwe. Margaret Chigumira of Patsimeredu Edutainment Trust warmly greets me at the airport. I have been invited as the first American in the BAFA International Festival of Arts; my visit is being co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.
Harare is the capital city of Zimbabwe, named after the Shona chieftain, Neharawa. The Festival takes place in Harare’s Theatre in the Park, and I listen to young students read their poetry, native dance groups perform, and young actors perform original plays in a large tribal hut made out of sod and straw. Bleacher style benches surround the playing area, and audiences enthusiastically react out loud to the performers.
When I bring Clurman alive in the tribal hut to a packed house, I’m surrounded on all sides by the audience. It’s the first time I had ever done the play when all Clurman had to do was turn to his side and have a conversation with someone sitting at his elbow. It made the entire experience much more intimate. I thank everyone at the conclusion saying: “Ndinotenda Bafa Festival nemi mese muripano. Zvakakosha kuti tidzidzisane tsika nemagariro.” In the evening I attended a Welcoming party in a traditional hut at a nearby consulate, where Jasen Mphepho, Director of Patsimeredu Edutainment Trust welcomes everyone.
The next morning I share my workshop with the students and actors in a tribal hut. I listen to their thoughts on how they approach creating roles and watch stories they act out – a truly illuminating experience.
My being in Zimbabwe touches me as I have been invited to perform and teach in the heart of Africa, while knowing my country at present doesn’t have official cultural relations. Yet I feel a responsibility as an educator and performing artist to come and share with these vibrant young artists-to-be. To explore and grow together through our common language of humanity.
I have also been invited to perform and teach at the Kathmandu International Theatre Festival in Nepal. As we make our approach towards the capital city, we’re told visibility is bad, and if it doesn’t clear, we’ll have to turn around. I can see between the fog – patches of layered terraces of farmland nestled on tops of hills. After several passes, on the final one, we’re going down; there is certainly still no visibility. Somehow we land in the bowl-shaped valley surrounded by its four mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri. Kathmandu is a city of nearly two thousand years old.
Meeting Sunil Pokharel, the Artistic Director of the Aarohan Theatre Group, I know I have found a kindred spirit of the theater. His deep dedication to all the possibilities of creating theater inspires countless young people in this golden city.
My workshop is held in one of the theaters at the Aarohan Theatre Center, a wooden structure covered by paintings by a local Tibetan artist. Thirty young students bow as do I, and we greet one another warmly. When I visit the revered Swayambunath Stupa, I climb up the steep stone steps, finally reaching the golden temple with its painted roof and large eyes, multi-colored flags flowing out from it in every direction. Worshippers line up offering sacrifices, while monkeys hang from statues and roofs. Bells ring loudly, and the smell of incense fills the air. Everywhere I feel the sensation of reverence and wonder. Below me is sprawled the glowing city of Kathmandu.
In the evening as I prepare for my performance, I can see the nearby mountains, and know just beyond lay the mighty Himalayans and the top of the world, Mt. Everest. An overflowing enthusiastic audience of young people greet my performance as Clurman with rich laughter and contemplation. It’s truly a very special evening of sharing.
During my time in Kathmandu I’m fortunate to visit the unforgettable Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square – a complex of temples and the Royal Palace. In one area, thousands of pigeons fill an entire square, sitting on sacred cows and holy shrines. Another day I walk around the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, one of the most important places of pilgrimage with its dome of 120 feet. I also find myself in Pashupati – a complex of historical temples and shrines, some dating back to the year 459. The Pashupatinath Temple itself was built in the 7th century and stands on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River. Groups of chattering monkeys run everywhere. I observe holy rituals of parting taking place, black smoke at times blocking my view. Sitting on the steps leading to the river’s edge sits an old, deeply sunburned holy man washing himself. He slowly dips his thin fingers into the water and sprinkles it on each part of his body – this is his bath. In front of a cave up the river, another holy man meticulously prepares a fire for his dinner. Ages of time and life permeate the air, mingling sorrow with re-birth as I sit and slowly breathe, taking all the sights in.
When I takeoff in the morning, directly across from the plane in the shimmering sunlight at 36,000 feet are the Himalayan Mountains. The peaks, covered in deep snow, majestically glow, are breathtaking and riveting.
A dream comes true of performing in Bangkok when I’m invited by Toby To, the Arts Coordinator of the famed Patravadi Theatre. It is the only theater allowed by The King and the government to be built directly opposite from the Grand Palace. Patravadi Mejudhon, the founder and artistic director of the theatre, has been a pioneering force in the Thai arts scene for more than thirty years. The beautiful arts center consists of a 300 seat garden theatre, restaurant, and rooms for visiting artists. The room I stay in has a view of the Palace and the city from its balcony.
Every day I take the waterbus across the river to explore Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep, meaning “city of angels.” Walking through the crowded cramped streets, I view colorful shops and statues. At one temple, I meet the over 200 feet long Reclining Buddha, and then experience the unforgettable golden splendor of the huge temples and shrines of the Grand Palace. When I climb to the top of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), below me is played out the entire drama of Bangkok, as the Chao Phraya River snakes its way through the city. One evening I am taken to see a traditional masked dance performance at the Royal Museum. When Burmese rule was overthrown and King Taksin died, King Rama I used theatre to unite the people of Thailand. King Rama I’s adaptation of the Indian narrative Ramayana became Ramakien, a story that follows Prince Rama and his wife, Sita, and their struggle between good and evil. Performed in various theatre forms, it remains Thailand’s national epic.
My time in Thailand becomes an even richer experience when I’m invited to teach for a week at the Yamchao International Theatre Festival in Patumthani, an hour south of Bangkok. Founded by the very well-known actor, Khru Chang and his wife, they have built out of the ground their own theater and house made of mud, creating Moradokmai Theatre Troupe: a Community and school for dramatic arts and development. Each year theyhost hundreds of international actors, performers, directors, and teachers providing an opportunity to share performances and workshops with over 300 Thai students from across Thailand.
Each day I conduct a workshop with a group of enthusiastic junior high school students, working on vocal, breathing, improvisation, and acting exercises. We also present our own class performance at the climax of the week at the magnificent National Artists Hall.
Soon I travel to Morocco to perform and teach at the International Intermediality & Theatre Conference presented by the International Centre for Performance Studies, and its President, Khalid Amine, Ph. D.
At the crossroads of civilizations, Tangier was founded in the 4th century as Tingis. First coveted first by the Phoenicians, then the Romans, Vandals, Spaniards, Portuguese, and English, the city’s rich history is legendary. In the 1920’s, it became an international zone, and over the years, countless artists, painters, and writers have fell captive to its magical spell, including Tennessee Williams, Matisse, Genet, Paul Bowles, Delacroix, Burroughs, Vidal, Ginsberg and Capote.
Right after my performance in the17th century richly tiled marble-columned open courtyard of the Palace Dar el-Majzen in the Casbah of the Medina, I have the privilege of teaching my workshop to many Moroccan students of English and literature, and teachers and professors from the Conference. We conclude with Pushkin’s words on the chart: “The truth of passion, the verisimilitude of feeling placed in the given circumstances, this is what our passion demands of a writer or a dramatic poet.” I remind them to follow their passion – that is how we can ultimately share our gifts, our talents with the world. • 2011