Theatre Quotes

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

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Acting

I would like to be going all over the kingdom...and acting everywhere. There's nothing in the world equal to seeing the house rise at you, one sea of delightful faces, one hurrah of applause!

Charles DIckens www.angelfire.com/dc/musicthea/Quotes.html
Playwriting

I write plays for people who wouldn't be seen dead in the theatre.

Barrie Keefe http://izquotes.com/
Acting

I'm a bad liar; I don't know what to say backstage.

Uta Hagen
Acting

I'm a skilled professional actor. Whether or not I've any talent is beside the point.

Michael Caine Film Yearbook, 1985
Playwriting

I've always had great satisfaction out of writing the plays. I've not always had great satisfaction out of seeing them produced--although often I've had satisfaction there. When things go well in production, on opening there's no nicer feeling in the world--what could be nicer than watching an audience respond? You can't that from a book. It's a fine feeling to walk into the theater and see living people respond to something you've done.

Lillian Hellman Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers On Theater
Set Design

I've always tended to work with the set as another character in the play.

George Pinney http://www.iu.edu/~rcapub/v29n1/sets.shtml
General, Management

I've never quite understood the idea of a "season." Whenever an artistic director says to me, 'I have this slot,' I always start to feel we're parking cars or something.

David Henry Hwang The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

I've taught both screenwriting and playwriting, and playwriting is both much harder and much more rewarding. One can teach people how to tell a story in cinematic ways, but theater is a much more elusive craft.

David Ives http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/david_ives.html
Acting

If you cried a little less, the audience would cry more.

Edith Evans Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
General, Musical Theatre, Playwriting

If Hitler's still alive, I hope he's out of town with a musical. [variously attributed]

Larry Gelbart http://povonline.com/Hitler%20Line.htm
Lighting

If I am so insistent about the bright lights, both the stage and house lights, it is because I should in some way like both actors and audience to be caught up n the same illumination, and for there to be no place for them to hide, or even half-hide.

Jean Genet The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Backstage, Lighting, Set Design

If I wanted to have people tell me what to do, I would have become an actor.

Rob Hudd http://www.denagy.com/techiejokes/tjokes.html
Set Design

If I weren't a theatre designer, I wouldn't be any other kind of designer. Design is interesting to me as it relates to narrative: the design has to support the narrative. Storytelling is the most important thing.

Christine Jones http://www.amrep.org/articles/5_2b/creating.html
General

If no single reason can fully account for the lack of great work on Broadway these days, there is a factor in the discussion that is rarely mentioned but which has a bearing on what gets produced: the audience. . . It's not audience intelligence that has waned; it's audience passion -- the pro forma Broadway standing ovation now springs from duty not desire. . . If that passion exists more in the audience for The Lord of the Rings than for contemporary Broadway musicals, well, at least it is alive somewhere.

Brendan Lemon http://www.curtainup.com/timelyquotes.html
General

If no single reason can fully account for the lack of great work on Broadway these days, there is a factor in the discussion that is rarely mentioned but which has a bearing on what gets produced: the audience. . . It's not audience intelligence that has waned; it's audience passion -- the pro forma Broadway standing ovation now springs from duty not desire.... If that passion exists more in the audience for The Lord of the Rings than for contemporary Broadway musicals, well, at least it is alive somewhere. (2003)

Brendan Lemon http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
General

If politics is the art of the possible, theatre is the art of the impossible.

Herbert Blau The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

If the nature of human experience changes with the color of a man's skin, then the racists have been right all along.

Athol Fugard The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.

Tennessee Williams
Playwriting

If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.

Anton Chekhov http://www.ag.wastholm.net/category/art
Backstage

If we could read minds, we wouldn't need headsets.

Tommy Kendrick http://www.denagy.com/techiejokes/tjokes.html
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

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