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"But nothing can compare with the real magic of the occasion, which to me is the true glory of the ephemeral art of the theater-the living actor appearing before the living audience; the silence, the tension, the entrances and exits, the laughs and applause, the subtle changes between one nights' performance and another's."

Harold Clurman


"No artist is normal; if he were, he wouldn't be an artist. Normal men don't create works of art. They eat, sleep, hold down routine jobs, and die. You are hypersensitive to life and nature; that's why you are able to interpret for the rest of us. But if you are not careful, that very hypersensitivitiness will lead you to your destruction. The strain of it breaks every artist in time."

Irving Stone, Lust for Life


"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Letter from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille


"I will take my rightful place on the stage
And I will be myself.
I am not a cosmic orphan
I have no reason to be timid.
I will respond as I feel; awkwardly, vulgarly,
But respond.
I will have my throat open.
I will have my heart open.
I will be vulnerable.
I may have anything or everything the world
Has to offer, but the thing
I need most, and want most, is to be myself.
I will admit rejection, admit pain, admit
Frustration, admit even pettiness, admit
Shame, admit outrage, admit anything and
Everything that happens to me.
The best and most human parts of me are
Those I have inhabited and hidden from
The world.
I will work on it.
I will raise my voice.
I will be heard.

The Actor’s Vow by Elia Kazan


"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, you will then gradually without noticing it live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and sure way of living.

Train yourself to it – but take whatever comes out of your being, out of your own will, out of some need of your inmost being; take it upon yourself and hate nothing."

R.M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


"The truth is like castor oil. It’s difficult to take and hard to swallow, so we get them to laugh and while their mouths are open, we pour a little in."

Harold Clurman


"But nothing can compare with the real magic of the occasion, which to me is the true glory of the ephemeral art of the theater – the living actor appearing before the living audience; the silence, the tension, the entrances and exits, the laughs and applause, the subtle changes between one nights’ performance and another’s. The thrill of success, the dread of monotony, the pride of discipline, the impatient drudgery of repetition, the bitterness of failure, the sense of eternal imperfection, with its occasional reward in a moment or two of thrilling contact with a particularly responsive audience. This is the actor’s unique personal achievement, rewarding him, for just a few short minutes for all the experiments and labours and disappointments of many years."

John Gielgud


"Listen, my dear," the late actress Ruth Gordon said to her Harold and Maude co-star Bud Cort, "You never make it. I’m on that phone twelve hours a day. I make it happen for myself, you’re gonna make it happen for yourself. No one makes it." An actor never relaxes, because an actor, even a star, is always out of work, always looking for the next job."

Ruth Gordon


"You can’t hang onto your laurels. Actors do not have claims, just because they are considered stars. I’m a troubadour, going from castle to castle looking for a door through which to walk and sing for my supper. That’s the way it is. It never changes."

James Earl Jones


"Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure"

William Saroyan


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not in just some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Nelson Mandela, Inaugural speech 1994


"Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamed would come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’"

W.H. Murray, in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition


"To change one’s life:
-Start immediately
-Do it flamboyantly.
-No exceptions.

William James


"If I had my life to live over. I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments. One after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I've been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair (age 85), Louisville, KY


"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer die."

Mel Brooks


"The essential nourishment for the actor is himself. To demand an actor or an actress to confront him or herself, to dare to descend into their own souls, into their hearts, into their subconscious, into their past, into their unknown, into their repressions, and to hold on to the two reins of the team; maximum interiority and maximum exteriority…that finally seems to me to be the work of every artist: to be a deep-sea diver into the human soul. Unfortunately, when he comes up to the surface it is not enough to bring back the treasures or the precious stones that he has found at the bottom; he still has to fashion them so that one can see that they are precious. I believe that that is exactly what an actor does. Of course he is helped by the text, but he must have made that journey; descend, move about, navigate, discover, surface, discard, remake, so that it can be transmitted.

Ariane Mnouchkine


"Seven of the Provincetown Players are in the army or working for it in France, and more are going. Not lightheartedly now, when civilization itself is threatened with destruction, we who remain have determined to go on next season with the work of our little theatre. It is often said that theatrical entertainment in general is socially justified in this dark time as a means of relaxing the strain of reality, and thus helping to keep us sane.

This may be true, but more were not true – if we felt no deeper value in dramatic art than entertainment – we would hardly have the heart for it now. One faculty, we know, is going to be of vast importance to the half-destroyed world—indispensable for its rebuilding—the faculty of creative imagination. That spark of it which has given this group of ours such life and meaning as we have is not so insignificant that we should now let it die. The social justification that we feel to be valid now for makers and players of plays is that they shall help keep alive in the world the light of imagination. Without it the wreck of the world that was cannot be cleared away and the new world shaped."

George Cram Cook, founder (with his wife Susan Glaspell) of the Provincetown Playhouse, drafted the following, probably for subscribers to the 1918-19 season of the Provicetown Players, much of which resonates for us today.


"Fun has a sacred dimension."

Adriana Diaz


"Creative breakthroughs are experiential. They don't come from intellectual analysis ."

Lucia Capacchione


"Only a mediocre writer is always at his best."

Somerset Maugham


"What sort of God would it be who only pushed from without?"



"There are wildernesses to be tamed within, and hostile beings we may encounter, but even those respond better to a touch of the silk glove than to the slap of the gauntlet."

Stephen Larson


"The film business is a shallow money trench. A long, plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs."

Hunter S. Thompson


"As a movie actor, what you're doing is giving people little tiny pieces of time they never forget. And this is what they remember. Often, it isn't the movie itself or even a whole scene. They're just short pieces -- a look, a reaction, the way you said something.

I know this is true and not some theoretical notion, because it's happened to me a number of times. People will come up to me and say, 'YOU know, there was this movie you were in, and I can't remember it's name, but you're in this bar, and you're very depressed and everything's been going wrong for you, and then you look up and start saying this little prayer. I'll always remember that.'

People remember these little moments as vividly as is they were part of their own lives. It's all connected somehow -- their lives and these movie moments. I know I remember movies that way, too, mostly as short moments. But these moments have had a life-long impact on me. They were often simple, but they were all built along some sort of bigger idea, like in Frank Capra's 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington', for instance, where the idea was that you were not born to be a failure. Or, in 'It's a Wonderful Life', which shows that one man can make a difference. The fact that people remember these tiny moments when they don't necessarily remember the name of the picture or the plot just shows that people remember the abstract idea through the human moment in film. They don't remember it abstractly; they remember it because it had some sort of emotional impact on them."

Jimmy Stewart (1995)


"Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that's dynamic and expressive -- that's what's good for you if you're at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having 'In the time of your life -- live!" That time is short and it doesn't return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss unless you devote your heart to its opposition."

Tennessee Williams, The Catastrophe of Success


"The paintings, poetry and music are all merely water drawn from the well of mankind and must be returned to him in a cup of beauty so that he may drink and in drinking, come to know himself.



"This is the true joy in life … being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy … I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations."

George Bernard Shaw