Alfred, Levin, Seltzer Give Drama Symposium
Harvard theater--its history, relation, to the national theater, and present state--was reviewed by three members of the Faculty in a symposium led by noted playwright Robert W. Anderson '39 yesterday morning.
Harry T. Levin, Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature, William Alfred, professor of English, and Daniel Seltzer, assistant professor of English and acting director of the Loeb Drama Center, informed, challenged and entertained an attentive audience of more than 200 in Lowell Lecture Hall.
Recounting the "lean years of the past three decades, the long interregnum of Harvard theater," Levin compared former President Lowell to St. Patrick, asserting that Lowell's lack of support had in effect banished theater from Harvard "as surely as snakes had been driven from Ireland."
But Levin emphasized that while "there may not have been a Harvard theater there was always Harvard drama." He noted that although a number of productions were based only on "two boards and a passion," the underlying enthusiasm and the construction of the Loeb Drama Center, has finally led to stability. "Even the garden of Eden had snakes," he concluded.
Alfred continued the imagery by giving what he termed a "cobra's eye view" of theater outside Harvard. He urged legislation to establish national subsidies for the theater, and added that at present giving an imaginative production in New York was like "playing Russian Roulette with five chambers loaded."
He cited a lack of standards in tradition, managerial judgment, direction, performance, and criticism as the five "bullets" that might be fatal to a show. He asked that the national government begin its subsidy by appropriating "one rocket's worth of money for cheaper tickets" to permit a wider range of people to attend theater.
Describing the average undergraduate as "dedicated to his own capabilities, seeking autonomy, and yet stubborn, capricious and unsure of his role at the Loeb," Seltzer cited the difficulties of running the center which he called an "anomolous beast."
He said that supervision must be self-effacing but efficacious, and that the best teaching was the sleight of hand which led students to discoveries they felt were there own.
He felt that the center had avoided two major pitfalls, professionalism and total student freedom. Despite its machinery and glamor, the Loeb is fostering the same spirit of excitement and creativity as existed during the challenging, less prosperous days of Harvard theater, he concluded.