by Mark Chmiel
Friday night, I sent the following message to Katie Consamus:
Isn’t acting one of the most demanding practices you could ever imagine?!
Do you ever stand back in awe at what you all do?
Do you even think of it as a kind of religion (that which deals with the ultimates)?
I read a book this week on improv. A seed has been planted.
When I was 24, I thought crazily: I want to act in a play, which was surprising because I thought I was such an introvert.
Katie sent me this last night in response:
People are my religion, and the theatre is my house of worship.
“The actor is the bravest soul I know. My god, it’s hard to be an actor. I know of no greater act of courage than to walk out on an empty stage, seeing the silhouettes of four ominous figures sitting in the darkened theater, with your mouth drying and your fingers trembling, trying to keep the pages in hand from rattling and trying to focus your eyes on the lines so you don’t automatically skip the two most important speeches in the scene, and all the while trying to give a performance worthy of an opening night… and then to finally get through it, only to hear from the voice in the darkened theatre, ‘Thank you.’
And to do it time after time, year after year, even after you’ve proven yourself in show after show, requires more than courage and fearlessness. It requires such dedication to your craft and to the work you’ve chosen for your life.
I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for your courage, your dedication, your talents.”
–Neil Simon, Equity News, November 1983
“A letter came to me a few years ago from a long-retired actress who had, as a youngster, been taken to see Edwin Booth play King Lear. It seems that towards the end of the play, when the mad Lear was brought face to face with his daughter Cordelia, there was a sharp pause, then- for a second that couldn’t quite be caught or measured- a startled, desperate, longing flicker of near-recognition stirred somewhere behind the old man’s eyes, and then- nothing. The entire audience rose, without thinking, to its feet. It didn’t cheer. It simply stood up. It was as though a single electrical discharge had passed from one body on the stage, instantaneously, through a thousand bodies in the auditorium. Something had been plugged into a socket; two forces had met.
This meeting is what the theatre is all about; it is its greatest power… The theatre gains its natural-and unique-effect not from the mere presence of live actors, or the happy accident of an occasional lively audience, but from the existence of a live relationship between these two indispensable conspirators, signaling to one another through space.”
–Walter Kerr, The Theatre in Spite of Itself