Theatre Quotes

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

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7 tips to reduce stage fright: (1) Shift the focus from yourself and your fear to your true purpose: contributing something of value to your audience. (2) Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring. (3) Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence. (4) Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation. (5) Try to limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol as much as possible. (6) Visualize your success: Always focus on your strength and ability to handle challenging situations. (7) Give up trying to be perfect and know that it is OK to make mistakes. Keyword=stagefright

Janet Esposito


A cat actually thinks visibly. If you watch him jump on a shelf, the wish to jump and the action of jumping are one and the same thing... It's in exactly the same way that all Brook's exercises try to train the actor. The actor is trained to become so organically related within himself, he thinks completely with his body. He becomes one sensitive, responding whole... The whole of him is one.

John Heilpern

A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.

Kenneth Tynan New York Times Magazine, Jan 9. 1966

A dramatic experience concerned with the mundane may inform but it cannot release; and one concerned essentially with the aesthetic politics of its creators may divert or anger, but it cannot enlighten.

David Mamet

A dramatist is one who believes that the pure event, an action involving human beings, is more arresting than any comment that can be made upon it.

Thornton Wilder
General, Musical Theatre

A flop is often the result of the fact that each of the talents involved, while working on the same project, may in effect have been working on a different show from all the others. If all contributors do not share the same vision of the evening, the end product will not evince the harmony of diverse elements--the seeming inevitability of book, score, and staging--of a good musical.

Ethan Mordden Not Since Carrie

A fool cannot be an actor, though an actor may act a fool's part.


A good actor makes clear the meaning of the words. A better actor gives also the emotion of the part. The best actor adds emotion of which the character is unconscious.

Clare Eames The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation.

Ring Lardner The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A good play is a play which when acted upon the boards make an audience interested and pleased. A play that fails in this is a bad play.

Maurice Baring

A good play tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad play tells us the truth about its author.

G.K. Chesterton

A great actor is independent of the poet, because the supreme essence of feeling does not reside in prose or in verse, but in the accent with which it is delivered.

Lee Strasberg
Set Design

A ground plan is important in terms of its rigor. If your plan is soggy and weak, your production will be soggy and weak.

David Hays
Acting, Musical Theatre

A lot of the actresses who have had most impact in musicals have been character actresses. And character is an essential ingredient of the best shows. In Merrily We Roll Along, for instance, I got to play a character with such a marvellous span - from boozy, fat, cynical 45-year-old to an 18-year-old in love with life ... I'd rather see her [Dame Judi Dench] do a musical than anyone with 10 times the voice.

Samantha Spiro London Sunday Times Culture Magazine, 25.3.01

A lot of what acting is paying attention.

Robert Redford

A nation that does not support and encourage its theater is -- if not dead -- dying; just as a theater that does not capture with laughter and tears the social and historical pulse, the drama of its people, the genuine color of the spiritual and natural landscape, has no right to call itself theater; but only a place for amusement.

Federico Garcia Lorca

A nonprofessional theatre is, simply, one comprised of people who do not derive their income from it and do not spend most of their time engaged in it. There are two distinct categories: (1) nonprofessional groups that present plays with some regularity; and (2) nonprofessional groups that are organized on a one-time basis to present a play or a show for some special purpose. The former represents what is known as community theatre, and the latter falls under the heading of amateur theatre (though both types are amateur, or nonprofessional).

Stephen Langley Theatre Management & Production in America

A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute.

Terence Rattigan

Acting, Playwriting

A play has two authors, the playwright and the actor.

Eric Bentley In Search of Theater
Costumes, Lighting, Set Design

A play is a painting that moves. Instead of it holding still, and you are looking at it, you hold still and it scrolls by.

Patricia Zipprodt The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips


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