Leland Moss, director of Chekhov's The Three Sister, which opened last night at the Locb, is a last-term senior at Harvard. He and his company have been rehearsing the play for two months, in an attempt to discover new conceptions of theatre on a university level. Sarah Hyde, who was acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company for the past two years, attended many of these rehearsals and has interviewed the director in the hope that those who see the production will be more informed as to its basic aims.
Leland Moss's production of The Three Sisters Will be reviewed in tomorrow's CRIMSON.
SARAH HYDE: You have been directing plays at Harvard for four years. Looking back, can you detect any ways in which you have developed?
LELAND Moss: When I first came to Harvard, the standard of success generally depended upon a polished, finished production. There was great emphasis on everything being "set," that is, completely established by opening night- claborate costumes, lighting and all sorts of peripheral, so called theatrical effects were deemed essential for a show to succeed.
My first production of Toys In the Attic was indeed successful along these lines, and at that time I was flattered when people told me the show had Broadway finish. Rehearsals were built around improvisations which I had learned from Lee Grant, an Actors' Studio alumna whose classes I had attended in Los Angeles one summer.
With my second production, The Empire Builders, I made use of all the physical aids which were available at the Loeb, trying to incorporate as much of the technical aspects as possible to inject the highest degree of mod Americana into the production. Relevancy was to me then the most important criterion.
After that, I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London for a condensed course on eighteenth century English drama, then returned to Harvard to use this training for She Stoops to Conquer. The problem with this show was that our experience with style and manners was extremely limited-Americans have no manners, we have Emily Post instead-and I was faced with the problem of either aiming for the external style or working first on the internal lives of the characters.
At this stage in my development, I had very little sense of experiment within rehearsal and felt obliged to make conventional decisions in directions. During the run of the show. I changed the blocking of one of the scenes and to me this was a big move.
S.H: What made your whole conception of theatre and your way of working with actors change so radically with Three Sisters?
L.M: This summer I was acting with the Harvard Summer School Repertory Theatre, and the director of Death of a Salesman (William Kinsolving) brought in a copy of jerzy Grotowski's book, Towards a Poor Theatre. I read it and a whole new world opened up.
The ideas of theatre as a medium unto itself, theatre as a confrontation between actor and audience, props and costume being relatively unimportant-all these had never really occurred to me.
One of the most important ideas for me in the book was the dictum that every day the actor and director must ask himself why he is in the theatre; I examined my own motives (really for the first time) and began to see that the theatre ideally should be a place of giving to people (an audience) who can come to commune with each other in an emotionally active way, where the actor does something in place of, and yet for, the spectator.
S.H: What do you think were the problems facing your cast when you presented them with these ideas?
L.M: On the applications for auditions, I added a note demanding total commitment to the production for ten weeks. I also told the cast at the first meeting that they would have few props, no scenery as such, no make-up, generally implying that they themselves would have to create any and all effects they might want, using their own bodies and voices. I also said that I, probably as much as they, had no idea how the production would end up.
From this basic premise I tried not to enforce anything but hoped that the production would grow out of the actors; had I worked with a different cast, it would have been an entirely different production.