Theatre Quotes

Words to the Wise
Quotations from a wide range of theatrical perspectives

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Acting

If you achieve success, you will get applause. Enjoy it--but never quite believe it.

Robert Montgomery Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Directing

If you cast wrong, you are in a lot of trouble.

Paul Mazursky Friendly Advice (book)
Costumes

If you do a certain amount of work on your own before consulting with the director then the process starts with the script. I tend to do a certain amount of my own work before I go into a first meeting. It is important to be open minded in your first meeting with a director but I like to be well-prepared for that meeting because sometimes that time with your director can be limited. At the time of that first meeting, I will have read the play several times and from different points of view. I might read the play once to just check how many costume changes there are. I will read it again to make a prop list. I will read it again to analyse where the entrances and exits are and also to imagine where the furniture will be. It's difficult to concentrate on all of these things in one reading so I go through these processes in separate readings. Once you have that under your belt, depending on the period of the production, I guess I start to do visual research based on my response to the text. Depending on where and when I might choose to look at photography of the period or I might choose to look at painting or I might just look at history books and look for thematic influences. That's the start and having done that you team up with your director and see what their response is to those ideas you have and then you start to form a stronger direction. [Christina Poddubiuk, Set and Costume designer]

Christina Poddubiuk http://www.artsalive.ca
Acting

If you have the emotion, it infects you and the audience. If you don't have it don't bother; just say your lines as truthfully as you are capable of doing. You can't fake emotion.

Sanford Meisner http://www.aldersonstudio.com/quotes/index.html
Fundraising

If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them.

Jeff Brooks
Acting

If you want to help the American theatre, don't be an actress, be an audience.

Tallulah Bankhead Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Imagination! Imagination! I put it first years ago, when I was asked what qualities I thought necessary for success upon the stage. And I am still of the same opinion. Imagination, industry [hard work], and intelligence--the three I's--are all indispensable to the actor, but of these three the greatest is, without any doubt, imagination.

Ellen Terry The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Lighting

In a circle of light on the stage in the midst of darkness, you have the sensation of being entirely alone. . . . This is called solitude in public. . . . You can always enclose yourself in this circle, like a snail in its shell.

Konstantin Stanislavsky The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

In a good play every speech should be as fully flavored as a nut or apple.

J.M. Synge http://www.brainyquote.com/
Directing

In comedy, beware the split focus. The audience should focus on the face of the actor. The audience must see the setup. If there is action elsewhere on the stage, the comic line can be lost.

James Carver Stage Directions Guide to Directing
Management

In community theatres, "doers" seem to do the following: act, direct, choreograph, accompany, design, build, find, sew, sell, or usher. "Managers" plan, organize, staff, supervise and evaluate. Doers, like directors and crew chiefs, also "manage," and managers like stage managers also sometimes "do"--find props, paint sets, or hang lights. Leaders can also be managers and/or doers, but in their leadership capacity their activities include these: dreaming, pushing, causing to grow, problem-solving and inspiring. Their qualities of intelligence, imagination, commitment, perseverance, and passion are the very qualities that invite the rest of us to say "Yes!"

Twink Lynch Boards In the Spotlight, p. 95
Acting, Directing, General

In creating and performing in a play, there is a sense of common purpose, of living something outside of yourself, of hauling to one common goal. All these different artistic disciplines are corralled into one purpose, and in the process, incredibly strong bonds are created.

Eric Stern It Happened On Broadway
Fundraising

In good times and bad, we know that people give because you meet needs, not because you have needs.

Kay Grace http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html
Fundraising

In his book, Managing the Non-Profit, Peter Drucker noted that most non-profits are woefully ignorant about “market knowledge.” Passionate non-profit leaders firmly believe that what they are doing merits support, but many are unable to articulate to others the importance of the project and why donors should contribute to it. If you can articulate quickly, passionately, and convincingly why your project should be done, you will have much more success.

Bill DeWalt

http://www.artsconsulting.com/pdf_arts_insights/insights_sept_2013.pdf

General

In is down, down is front. Out is up, up is back. Off is out, on is in. And of course, left is right and right is left. A drop shouldn't and a 'block and fall' does neither. A prop doesn't and a cove has no water. Tripping is okay. A running crew rarely gets anywhere . A purchase line buys you nothing. A trap will not catch anything. A gridiron has nothing to do with football. Strike is work (in fact, a lot of work). And a green room, thank God, usually isn't. Now that you're fully versed in theatrical terms, break a leg.

But not really.

Kerry Chafin https://suite.io/kerry-chafin/2nhw2w1
Musical Theatre

In musical theater you have to be very big and very animated, while film and television are more toned down.

Kevin Richardson http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/kevinricha292397.html
Playwriting

In my plays I want to look at life -- at the commonplace of existence -- as if we had just turned a corner and run into it for the first time.

Christopher Fry http://www.satheatre.com/quotes.htm
Acting, Shakespeare

In Shakespeare, keep it simple. Don't over-inflect. The speech needs to be naturalistic and simple and accessible as much as possible.

Ralph Fiennes http://www.ifc.com/fix/2011/12/ralph-fiennes-coriolanus-interview
Acting

In the first act, you get the audience's attention - once you have it, they will repay you in the second. Play through the laughs if you have to. It will only make the audience believe there are so many of them that they missed a few.

Noel Coward www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm
Directing

In the most basic terms, the director is a production's primary storyteller. A play has only one plot (including subplots), but it contains many potential stories. The interpretation of the primary characters largely determines the story, so in effect, every production of the same play will inevitably tell a different tale. One of the most important functions a director fulfills is determining, with the actors and designers, which story to tell and how to tell it coherently.

Michael Bloom Thinking Like a Director: A Practical Handbook
Acting

In the theatre, the actor is in total control. The director wasn't in the house last night, the designer wasn't there, the author's dead. It's just us and the audience.

Ian McKellen The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General

It hath evermore been the notorious badge of prostituted Strumpets and the lewdest Harlots, to ramble abroad to Plays, to Playhouses; whither no honest, chaste or sober Girls or Women, but only branded Whores and infamous Adulteresses, did usually resort in ancient times.

William Prynne http://izquotes.com/
Acting

It is a great help for a man to be in love with himself. For an actor, however, it is absolutely essential.

Robert Morley Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting, Directing, General

It is not theatre that is indispensable, but something quite different. To cross the frontiers between you and me.

Jerzy Grotowski
General

It is the characteristic of the most stringent censorships that they give credibility to the opinions they attack.

Voltaire
Acting, Playwriting

It is the writer's job to make the play interesting. It is the actor's job to make the performance truthful.

David Mamet The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Directing

It is very hard to cast a number of plays adequately from the same company of actors without several parts being miscast.

John Gielgud The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

It is widely acknowledged to be the toughest job to get any two acting teachers to agree about anything.

Robert Lewis The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

It isn't what I do, but how I do it. It isn't what I say but how I say it - and how I look when I do and say it.

Mae West
Playwriting

It's hard enough for me to write what I want to write without me trying to write what you say they want me to write which I don't want to write.

Tennessee Williams The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

It's no use to go and take courses in playwriting any more than it's much use taking courses in acting. Better play to a bad matinee in Hull - it will teach you much more than a year of careful instruction. Come to think of it, I never did play to a good matinee in Hull . . .

Noel Coward www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm
Acting

It's not enough to have talent, you have to have a talent for your talent.

Stella Adler
Acting

It's one of the tragic ironies of the theatre that only one man in it can count on steady work -- the night watchman.

Tallulah Bankhead Tallulah: My Autobiography
General

January, month of empty pockets! Let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead.

Sidonie Gabrielle

http://en.thinkexist.com/keyword/theatrical

Acting

Know your lines and don't bump into the furniture.

Spencer Tracy Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Lead the audience by the nose to the thought.

Laurence Olivier Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Lighting

Lighting design is ultimately not about numbers and calculations. It is about feelings and spontaneous reactions. Although the designer can calculate how 'big and bright' a fixture will be at any distance, from the manufacturer's data sheet, eventually he must just instinctively 'know', how a specific fixture will perform at any distance. This comes from both practice and experience.

Bill Williams Lighting Mechanics, by Bill Williams
Lighting

Lighting is not about function. It's much more about the mood and the emotion that the playwright and the director are trying to create. Our job is to support their poetic direction.

Jules Fisher It Happened On Broadway
Lighting

Lighting paperwork is a living thing, continually evolving throughout the production process until opening night.

Anne E. McMills The Assistant Light Designer's Toolkit
Lighting

Lights are to drama what music is to the lyrics of a song. The greatest part of my success in the theatre I attribute to my feeling for colors, translated into effects of light.

David Belasco The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

Like the Bible, Stanislavsky's basic texts on acting can be quoted to any purpose.

Lee Strasberg The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Critics, Playwriting

Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don't like - then cultivate it. That's the only part of your work that's individual and worth keeping.

Jean Cocteau

http://www.quotegarden.com/critics.html

Musical Theatre

Look, I'm over 40, I'm single, and I work in musical theater - you do the math!

Nathan Lane http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/musical_theater
Acting

Many years ago I remember a famous actress explaining to me with perfect seriousness that before making an entrance she always stood aside to allow God to go on first. I can also remember that on that particular occasion He gave a singularly uninspired performance.

Noel Coward www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm
Directing

Most directors work from inside out and from the outside in. They concentrate not only on the life of the characters but also on the play's structrual or external elements, including its central conflict, function, event, architecture, and suspense.

Michael Bloom Thinking Like a Director: A Practical Handbook
Fundraising

Most giving is 80% emotion and 20 % rational. And the best way to get to someone's emotions is to tell a story.

Unknown
Playwriting

Most playwrights go wrong on the fifth word. When you start a play and you type 'Act one, scene one,' your writing is every bit as good as Arthur Miller or Eugene O'Neill or anyone. It's that fifth word where amateurs start to go wrong.

Meredith Willson
Acting, Shakespeare

Much of the day I have busied myself making notes on the small parts in Shakespeare, often nameless, which are rewarding to the actor if only he'll not dismiss them as beneath his dignity. If I can work it up into a talk I might call it, 'Only a cough and a spit ' ---the phrase so often used by actors to explain away a lack of opportunity.

Alec Guinness My Name Escapes Me, 1996
Acting

My playground was the theatre. I'd sit and watch my mother pretend for a living. As a young girl, that's pretty seductive.

Gwyneth Paltrow http://www.worldofquotes.com
Acting

Never get caught acting.

Lillian Gish Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Never not dare to hang yourself. That's the only way you grow in your profession. You must continually attempt things that you think are beyond you, or you get into a complete rut.

Charles Laughton Wikipedia (under Bette Davis)
Costumes

Next to a tenor, a wardrobe woman is the touchiest thing in show business. [Birdie, in All About Eve]

Joseph Mankiewicz The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

No one makes you write plays; the world could sort of get along without me turning out a play every year, so I do this because I enjoy it enormously. It gives me great pleasure, and working in the theatre is, I think its own reward.

Terrence McNally
General

No theater could sanely flourish until there was an umbilical connection between what was happening on the stage and what was happening in the world.

Kenneth Tynan http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/kenneth_tynan.html
Acting

Nobody "becomes" a character. You can't act unless you are who you are.

Marlon Brando Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Of course, the age-old tradition that a star must appear even if he or she is practically dying is an excellent one, but it can be carried too far. I one played a performance of The Knight of the Burning Pestle with a temperature of 103 and gave sixteen members of the company mumps, thereby closing the play and throwing everybody out of work. There may be a moral lurking somewhere in this, but I cannot for the life of me discover what it is.

Noel Coward www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm
Lighting

Oftentimes the quality of the light tells the story: the time of day, the weather, whether sun is streaming through the window. It can also help you appreciate what the actor is feeling, what the playwright wants you to feel. Any engineer can put a spot on someone.

Jules Fisher It Happened On Broadway
Acting

On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting;/ 'Twas only that when he was off he was acting.

Oliver Goldsmith http://theatre.usc.edu/whatistheatre
Playwriting

Once after Barefoot In the Park had been playing for about a week I went back to see it, watching the audience, which was just falling over laughing except for one guy sitting the aisle. I was transfixed. I said to myself, there seems to be no way to get to him. No one else would I watch except this one man. My wife joined me about 20 minutes later and asked me how it was going, and I said, terrible. I really meant it. There was no way to get to this man. It destroyed me.

Neil Simon Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers On Theater
Acting

Once in awhile, there's stuff that makes me say, That's what theatre's about. It has to be a human event on the stage, and that doesn't happen very often.

Uta Hagen http://www.brainyquote.com

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