Goes On Tour With Brecht's'A Man's A Man'

hearing. Theatron rehearsals have generally spanned the weekends; Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and all day Sunday.

"Granted, it's a rigorous schedule, but it's not impossible. This summer when I was doing summer stock, we were doing three shows in repertory and we had to get them all ready to open in the same week, so that the five week rehearsal period that we had went from nine in the morning to eleven at night, seven days a week. It's been a strain on people, but I think it's the best way of getting a show like this together."

"It's also not so horrible if you consider that if you were doing a show at college, you'd be a student during the day and an actor afternoons and evenings. You are with it all the time: it's a constant pressure."

"What has happened is that people have given up all their free time-weekends are free time."

"Another thing that I have noticed is that I don't even know what day it is."

"It's more pressured when you're rehearsing, but you don't have the constant thing of every night, and the fact that you do get away from it . . ."

"I can study on Monday."

"For example, the first week we were rehearsing, on Thursday night-???h it was just abominabale, and by Sunday you had the feeling of a show getting together. By the end of this block of time you felt that you had really accomplished something. It wears people out but it really polishes a show."

"The difficulty is that during the week if people aren't rehearsing, they're studying, and weekends are times when you recover physically. And this is why Polly's voice has been maybe permanently destroyed."

"It will take her a few months to recover."

"I think I get an average of about three hours sleep a night."

"All Polly has to do is do what Dylan did and stop smoking."

"Well anyway you see my point that that's where the real sacrifice comes in."

"Yeah, you end the weekend exhausted and then you have to star the week."

"You know, it's a funny thing how you used to look forward to weekends and now, "The weekend's coming-Ohmygod. it's the weekend again!' "

Total Theatre

Theatron is as close to total theatre as any newly-born essentially collegiate group could hope to be. People have not said, "Well, I'm an actor and therefore I do not help construct the set," or "I'm a technical person and don't bring that tube of makeup near me." A sense of cooperation permeates both the concept and the fact of Theatron.

Take busing people around. About half the members have been doing regular driving chores, which is about the furthest thing from theatre, but absolutely essential . . . . . And theatres are basically grubby: the stage has got to be swept before rehearsals. This is what college productions lose; they have their teaches, and they have their actors, and very rarely . . .

"The really nice thing for me is that it's given me a chance to see things done from the ground up. There's a lot of stuff at the Loeb that I never know about. You know, like basically I don't know that much about what goes on with the tech people. And because of this show I've learned a lot more about the Harvard tech as well as just generally what you have to do is put a show together."

"Just finding out that you've got janitorial expenses at each of the places you go to. . . ."

"One thing I think it may do is prepare everybody in the company to direct."

In most college productions there is a well-defined hierarchy from the star down to the assistant properties mistress. The members of Theatron have little if any awareness of any one individual; there is no distinct sense of differentiation. At rehearsals I was surprised at how little consciousness there was of how big whose part was and who was onstage. This is partially due to the selection of A Man's A Man. of course. Brecht incorporates the scenic and musical aspects as such important parts that, for example, the set designer becomes one of the most vital people in a production.

The fundamental aspect of Theatron is that it is an intercollegiate group. But the real attraction is that performances will be given at five different places (Wellestey-February 20, 21; Harvard-February 27, 28; Yale-March 6, 7; Princeton-March 13, 14; Yale Drama Festival-March 20): the high point will be the Yale Drama Festival. About eighty schools will be represented there, which is an enormous amount of exposure; and for those interested in the theatre permanently it looks great on credits. Yale gave up its own cherished spot in the Drama Festival to permit Theatron to perform. They are on the first bill of play, on Friday night, which is generally considered the premiere spot, because that is the only set of plays that everybody comes to. And it is unheard of for Yale not to per form at its own festival.

Sacrifices

"Maybe I should mention Gary Trudeau, who writes Bull Tales at Yale, and has published a lot of cartoons. He did a poster that fit in so beautifully with the production concept-just absolutely ideally-only it required a seven-color lithograph. . . ."

"A little out of range."

"You know, you sacrifice artistic but the feeling among most of the people. I will say all the people, has been that the important thing this year is to get it off its feet. get it working, and put on a good show the total concentration is putting on a good show, and people are willing to make personal sacrifices."

The concentration now is on this production of course. But at the same time, this production of A Man's A Man is only an initial stage for further development. As a one-shot deal Theatron could not hope to have much of an impact; as a continuing concept the prospects are pretty much unlimited. There is a greater-than-usual burden on the company to present a good show: Theatron not only wants to present a good show per se, but also to impress audiences with its underlying concept.

The concept's only representative at this point is the play: so to a certain extent this production is a make it of break it proposition. If people don't see this production as a good play representative of a touring concept. Theatron lose, whether or not they see it as a great play. And great concepts putting on poor plays don't at tract many people, either.

But, given the proper nourishment, Theatron could easily become an octopus. It is ready to expand into film next year, having experimented a little with that medium this year. (Drew Denbaum, who plays both the Master of Ceremonies and Uriah Shelley in A Man's A Man. had a role in Midnight Cowboy which was ultimately cut from the script.)

Experimenting

"The next plan is to take my popart on tour, sort of impose it on the world. Another idea that has sort of been developing in the back of my mind as an idea to work on is that. I think that there is a lot of potential for playing around with experimental studies, probably in psychology, to develop a type of acting technique. For example last year I did an experiment with a play I directed on the ??? of background projections and color on audience reaction. And if you have a repertory company which is doing plays like this there is no reason why you can't even play around scientifically to find out what kind of acting style, theatre style-you can develop. I was talking to Mike Zeilik about this and he seemed sort of interested. And maybe this is something we'll start doing-you know how does background color affect an audience, could you develop a theartre group or a company which will employ scientific techniques which would appeal to me because I've always wanted to incorporate psychology in theatre. . . ."

"It has been incorporated in theatre to a certain extent. I think that the interesting thing here is that this is a company that can theoretically, if not financially, afford to deal with extensions of established practices."

"Last year I did an experiment in which I directed a play using back-ground projections to see what kind of effect they would have on an audience. What I thought I was testing was the effect of color, but because the backgrounds were sort of a pop arts design, the result was that I was getting reactions not to the color, but to the shapes. The reaction was a comic one; I was trying to get a comedy reaction. and I got a laugh response, which would indicate a sort of alienation produced by shapes which we consider to be pop art shapes or comic strip shapes. And this is basically the underlying thing in A Man's A Man: this experiment which led me to believe that if I pushed the visual concept of Brecht into a pop art setting I could create the type of alienation effect that he created with he expressionism-so that in back of it there is this sort of experiment working in my mind. . . .

"For the spring I have planned an experiment to photograph actors' emotions. For example, you ask an actor to pottery fear for you, or you create in the actor a fear representation by a variety of methods, have him do a purely representational thing and take photographs of this. Then you expose subjects to them and see if they can identify their reactions; and in this way scientifically determine which is the most valid acting technique for the audience. In other words, if an actor is very deeply feeling fear, and yet to an audience it reads as anger, its validity as an acting style is not there. And maybe this is the sort of thing we can play around with."