The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays with the People Who Make Them I've been a Studs Terkel fan ever since my high school production of Working, but it's reached a whole new level since my grandmother gave me a copy of The Spectator. A brilliant interviewer, Terkel was also an amateur actor and an avid theatre- and moviegoer. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the careers of his interviewees -- which resulted in the jogging of memories and the telling of stories almost never heard in a run-of-the-mill press junket.
I considered dog-earing the pages with inspiring quotes or funny bits to remember, but realized it was an exercise in futility since more pages would be marked than otherwise. Carol Channing talking about her energy, Tallulah Bankhead practicing makeup on her grandmother, the Chub Sherman story about a revolutionary Marc Blitzstein show shut down by the government (and the artists who marched to another empty theatre and performed it anyway in defiance).
Last night I was reading the Harold Clurman interview from 1978, discussing his experiences with the Group Theater during the depression. Clurman had the brilliant perspective of being a director and theater artist first, and then later a critic for The Nation. I made the mistake of reading his interview in bed, trying to wind down after my show. Instead I got a call to arms:
All education has to be resumed every day, anew, afresh. We are never completely educated. And if we lived a thousand years, we'd still have much to learn, much to investigate, and much to be extremely curious about. If I live to be a hundred, knock wood, I shall say, "Gee, I wish I had a little more time to know more, to see more, to experience more." I say most people are latent human beings. And to become a human being takes an awful lot of effort and determination throughout a long life, because you can die long before you're buried. We all must consider everything, every day of our lives, as prehistory. With a wonderful background of several million years, we're just at the beginning, not at the end as some people seem to believe. Every hundred years people think we're at the end, you know. Good Lord, we've done enough to destroy ourselves, many times over. And nature did things to destroy us: the Black Death in the thirteenth century. Shalom Aleichem said, "There are two possibilities. One positive and one negative. But there's always a third, which is neither the positive nor the negative. There's always another one." We have the possibilities to make ourselves better men in a better world and have a better time. And more fun! What I'm for is more fun! What I'm talking about is all fun. It has nothing to do with solemnity and sadness and fears. It has to do with the joy of life, which is constant even in its struggles, and I've found it especially in my struggles. I had a hell of a time in The Group Theater, and I was in debt twenty thousand dollars. And I came out saying, "This was one of the happiest periods of my life."
Amen to that.