Interview with Leland Moss Developing Direction at the Loeb

L.M.: Yes, because we do not have to succeed commercially, but also because I think it is more honest and certainly more exciting to experiment in a university than to attempt impossible and perhaps undesirable "Broadway" standards. I can go to the movies to see a production where the performance is meticulously the same every night.

S.H.: What do you understand Grotowski's term "the holiness of theatre" to mean? He does in fact perform in a church, doesn't he?

L.M.: Yes, and only in a church. Really, someone should invent a new word because both "religious" and "holy" are filled with so many old-fashioned and negative contexts today; to watch Grotowski's company is certainly a strenuous mystical and personal experience. It is a process of searching, and it demands an audience that is not a money clite nor a cultural clite, but an elite of people who are searching for ways to understand themselves and others.

You could say that this form of theatre is inherently involved with the Youth Movement and the "Aquarian Age." The total concentration of Grotowski's individual actors while becoming one with themselves and with their audiences is essentially a giving thing. The actors, by concentrating so completely on their own existence, end up by giving themselves to the observers.

S.H.: You have not tried to make Three Sisters so totally American as you did with the French play, The Empire Builders?


L.M.: Not consciously, no. But when you take a Russian (or, in fact, any) masterpiece out of its own background, it essentially loses 50 per cent of what, in this case, is Russian. Automatically, though, this is replaced by what is American, simply because the company is composed of Americans. And by this process, the audience and the actors can identify with the attitudes with which they are most familiar.

S.H.: You've mentioned cinema quite a lot; what relation does it have to your conception of theatre?

L.M.: Cinema has its own technical tricks which can be used to pick out for the audience what the director wishes them to see. In most theatres, if you can afford the twelve-dollar seats at the front, when watching any naturalistic play, you may be lucky enough to see the subtle changes in an actor's eyes, face, or body-but on the whole it will be more powerful in film or television where the close-up is available.

In film, an actor can do something without much physical projection and it can be compelling. On stage this is impossible, and a realization of this means going back to the original Greek idea of the actor's power, which in its turn is based on a certain dimension of ritual.

In fact, up till now every play I have done I would really have rather done as a film. It was therefore necessary for me to find out what the theatre's "tricks" were to compensate for thislack of close-up, distorted lens, etc.

S.H.: What have you discovered?

L.H.: To boil down the essence of each scene to its subtext acts as a close-up, a distortion, so that while you may lose the general reality you will gain a specific and different dimension.

I think that as long as the over-all intent is there, inconsistency of style does not matter. A Brillo pad stuck on the same canvas as oils acceptable in painting as long as the original intent is conscious and planned, but this idea is still new in theatre.

S.H.: Would you like to continue with the company you already have rather than beginning these processes all over again?

L.M.: Of course. I'd like to use many of the same actors in my next production, which is to be Ibsen's Peer Gyat. What we have developed will be quite useful, since the conception involves every actor in the company playing different aspects of Peer. while at the same time once more denying the usual trappings of the play.

From this I would like to continue with a company in Cambridge, but this unfortunately needs money, a theatre and the right audience. Attaining those three goals sometimes takes a lifetime.

S.H.: In England. almost all professional actors have at least a few years training before working for a living. How do you feel your group would gain or lose from this type of theatre training?

L.M.: The Loeb as it is now organized is basically run by students, which is good; however, the guidance that it offers, while quite helpful to beginning students, is not much in tune with "the new theatre." More importantly, the Loeb is too demanding as a theatre in that the expensive technical equipment which it houses cries out for use by the students. before they have begun to solve the more basic and fundamental questions of what theatre, acting, lighting, etc., really is.

By being under less glamorous conditions, the students would probably find our more about the basic elements of theatre, each for himself. Now, when you arrive as a freshman. it's like being handed a massive and complicated toy and being expected to accept it passively as a thing called Theatre.