The Soul of the American Actor

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BEN VEREEN

JEANINE TESORI

PSALMAYENE 24

SYLVIA MCNAIR

MICHAEL McELROY

DEIDRE KINAHAN

BOB ARI

PAUL TAZEWELL

PATRICIA ROZARIO

NANCY RHODES

MAIA DANZIGER

EARL “PEANUTT” MONTGOMERY

WILLIE RUFF

DENNIS D’AMICO

GRACE CACHOCHA

KAREN SAILLANT

JENNIFER HORNE

JEANIE THOMPSON

ROBERT PERRY

WAYNE SIDES

JAMIE LEE McMAHAN

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“The life of the arts in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.”
- President John F. Kennedy

 


Essays

LIFE AND ACTING: Techniques for the Actor

Let These New Plays Happen to You

Celebrating Uta Hagen Centennial at the HB Studio

Taking the Business of Acting Online

Mary Overlie: Original Dance Anarchist and Post-Modern Evangelist: A Tribute to Mary Overlie 1946-2020

The “Real” Illusion of Mime

Art is the Means by which We Make Ourselves Visible

Theater - A Celebration of All Life

To Think the Thought

Yat Malmgren and the Drama Centre, London

Directions for Directing: Theatre and Method

Writing for Life

Our Theatrical Mission

Strolling Player: The Life and Career of Albert Finney

A Great Reminder for Us All

by David Amram

H20 – Paintings of and About Water

A New Way of Professional Theater

“Let Thousand Flowers Blossom”

A Double Life: My Exciting Years in Theatre and Advertising

 

“Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Above all things, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.” – John Singer Sargent

“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music is some living form will accompany and sustain it.” – Aaron Copland

“Art became the first teacher of nations.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“What is done in love is done well.”
- Vincent Van Gogh

“You must not write because you think it’s going to be a hit or because it’s expedient. The only reason to write is from love.”
- Stephen Sondheim

A Great Reminder for Us All

(a reply to a letter)

Dear Ronald –

I  just got the wonderful information you sent about your new opera “IBSEN”about Henrik Ibsen, and your gracious invitation to be on the Honorary Committee.

I would be happy and honored to join so many other people who have devoted their live to excellence and are committed to ‘making a contribution to the world.’ Ibsen, of course, was all about that, and seeing so many of my artist friends on the Committee, who also cared about what they felt they were put here to do, is very inspiring.

In 1958, (sixty-one years ago!!!) I wrote the music for “JB” on Broadway, and a young Christopher Plummer (who was in the cast with Raymond Massey) became a friend for life.

Lee Grant, Jack Garfein and I did a panel together at Lincoln Center and Jack had me as a witness at his marriage to Natalia just before he passed away. I hope I am not on the road when the preview of “IBSEN” is shown in New York City!! BRAVO in advance!!

After two of non-stop years of completing and premiering three new classical works, plus playing all kinds of gigs with my quartet, appearing at jazz, folk and spoken word festivals, I have assembled materials to finally put together my fourth book David Amram: The Next 80 Years!!

All my recent 89th birthday blasts now seem like a prelude to a new senior-bopper milestone since 2020 will include 90th birthday celebrations starting next November 17th, and there are plans for celebrations.

And in addition to working at the moment on a new film score and three new classical concert pieces, I’ve also decided to put together another new book, drawn from ten years of experiences since my previous one, Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat, and I’m still planning to get back to playing with my quartet, as well as with many young musicians of all genres, which remains inspiring and keeps me in touch with an amazing group of today's new generation of musicians, composers and audiences, all of whom actually listen to one another when the music is playing and continue to do so when they are off-duty.

(L. to R.) Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso (with back to camera)

This sense of awareness of a new generation and their ability to pay attention makes me feel that they are rediscovering the wisdom set by the old signs that used to be at all the old train crossings in the late 1930’s, when I was growing up on our farm in Feasterville, Pennsylvania.

In the days of yore, i,e, back in the day, the signs at all the train crossings said “Stop. Look and Listen.”

Living on a farm as a kid without the deluge of information (and misinformation) being jammed down the throats of today’s kids made it easier to pay attention. These signs reminded us to pay attention and to stop, look and listen all the time.

So, in order to function in today's madhouse of hi-tech frenzy and stay focused on everything I am supposed to be doing, I am now eating extra vitamins and trying to get at least one good night’s sleep each week in order to be ready for whatever I am supposed to do. As well as possible and continue to compose new pieces, and do it all better than ever! And encourage others who feel they have a calling to pursue that no matter what, even if they have to find another way to pay their rent.

I know today how often someone twenty-four years old is told by their career counselor that they are too old at twenty-four, and should give up because, in addition to their advanced age in a shrinking market, demographics prove that there is no future for jazz, folk, symphonic, operatic or global roots music, or for the theater, visual arts, literature and dance.

I just hope that when they receive this advice, telling them to give up because they are totally irrelevant in today’s marketplace, when they see someone approaching ninety who is grateful to be doing what they love to do, that, even with all the respect due to the expertise of their career counselors, they will say to themselves, “If that old guy is still doing it, and seems to be happy doing it, even though he is almost ninety, maybe I'll give it another two years anyway.”

If this happens for even one person whom I can encourage or inspire to hang in there, I will have made a contribution.

When Leonard Bernstein chose me as the New York Philharmonic’s first-ever composer-in-residence for the 1966-67 season, he said, “Your job as a composer is not just to please yourself. You are supposed to contribute something to the repertoire. And be an ambassador to young people for classical music and all sincere forms of music built to last.”

And in 1987, Dizzy Gillespie told me, “I knew you when you were a kid and a hick hayseed. Now you're getting grey hair. It’s time to put something back into the pot.”

That's what I am trying to do every day. We were all put here to do something!

I hope you have a great new year and keep doing what you feel you were put here do. That's certainly what Ibsen himself did. I’m still trying to do that myself. It is medicine for the soul to do so!

Best  with “IBSEN”!  Opera is still magical wherever it is presented!!

Until our paths cross…….David

DAVID AMRAM started his professional life in music as a French Hornist in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. in 1951. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1952-54, he moved to New York City in 1955 and played French horn in the legendary jazz bands of Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Oscar Pettiford. In 1957, he created and performed in the first ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York City with novelist Jack Kerouac, a close friend with whom Amram collaborated artistically for over twelve years. Since the early 1950’s, he has traveled the world extensively, working as a musician and a conductor in over thirty-five countries including Cuba, Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan, Israel, Latvia and China. He also regularly crisscrosses the United States and Canada. He composed the scores for many films including “Pull My Daisy,” “Splendor in the Grass,” and the original “Manchurian Candidate.” He composed the scores for Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park from 1956 to 1967 and premiered his comic opera “Twelfth Night” with Papp's libretto in 1968. He also wrote a second opera, “The Final Ingredient, An Opera of the Holocaust” for ABC Television in 1965. From 1964-66, Amram was the Composer and Music Director for the Lincoln Center Theatre and wrote the score for the original productions of Arthur Miller´s “After the Fall” and “Incident at Vichy.” Leonard Bernstein appointed Mr. Amram as the first Composer in Residence for the New York Philharmonic in 1966. Mr. Amram’s symphonic compositions include “This Land, Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie,” “Giants of the Night” commissioned and premiered by flutist Sir James Galway, “Kokopeli, A Symphony in Three Movements” premiered by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra,” “Three Songs, A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” “Greenwich Village Portraits for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra,” and “Partners: A Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra.” He has collaborated as a composer with Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ormandy, Sir James Galway, Langston Hughes, and Jacques D´Amboise. As a musician with Thelonious Monk, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Dizzy Gillespie, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Betty Carter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Paquito D´Rivera, Tito Puente and Jerry Jeff Walker. Mr. Amram was the subject of the prize-winning full-length feature documentary, “David Amram: The First Eighty Years.” He is the author of three memoirs, Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical CatOffbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac, and Vibrations. Mr. Amram is in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, and has received the Pete and Toshi Seeger Annual Power of Song Award, Harold Clurman Spirit Award. Brooklyn College Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Theater for a New City’s Love & Courage Award, Folk Music International’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was made a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio. In 2018, he composed the score for Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple´s new documentary feature film, “New Homeland” about Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Canada. In 2019, he conducted his “Elegy for Violin and Orchestra” at Carnegie Hall, and he is currently composing “Global Suite for Winds, Brass and Percussion” for the Harvard Wind Orchestra, and three new chamber works, and completed his fourth book, David Amram: The Next 80 Years, celebrating his 90th birthday.

 

 


"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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