Theatre Quotes

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

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I can't expose a human weakness on the stage unless I know it through having it myself.

Tennessee Williams
Management, Volunteers

I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

Charles Schwab

I didn't like the play. But I saw it under unfavorable circumstances -- the curtains were up.

Groucho Marx

I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business.

Bette Davis

I don't care if people think I'm an overactor. People who think that would call Van Gogh an overpainter.

Jim Carey

I don't make mistakes, I have unintentional improvisations.


I don't possess a lot of self-confidence. I'm an actor so I simply act confident every time I hit the stage. I am consumed with the fear of failing. Reaching deep down and finding confidence has made all my dreams come true.

Arsenio Hall

Musical Theatre

I don't see that many plays, and for me, musicals are rarely pleasing. I feel the actors are being put through a kind of nightmarish labor. They're like animals being forced to pull heavy carts of vegetables at incredible speeds.

Wallace Shawn

I don't see why people want new plays all the time. What would happen to concerts if people wanted new music all the time?

Clive Barnes
General, Lighting

I find that kids who take conventional approaches whereby they study in theatre schools and then become assistants to established artists at various reputed institutions like Stratford and the National Arts Centre have a kind of fast-track to the knowledge process. Very often they become very useful to the institutions for their knowledge. At the same time they are often are denied the fundamental experiences that you get when you are actually producing your own theatre and making decisions yourself among your own peers. I think it's really important to place more emphasis on that than on getting a formal training. You can probably successfully, after you've gotten the buzz and you've become intoxicated if you want to enhance your knowledge in certain areas then it's worthwhile to go back to the institutions and find a niche. I found my niche though being a stagehand. You can be an assistant. You can be a production assistant. I think the key is to be around people who really, truly love what they are doing first, although they might not necessarily know what they are doing. [Lighting designer Jock Munro]

Jock Munro
Set Design

I have a large personal collection of pictures. For every project, I choose images. Usually I don't do this until I've done an extensive script breakdown and distilled the text down to poetic form. I have to plant enough seeds so that there will be vibration.

Christine Jones

I have always been pushed by the negative. The apparent failure of a play sends me back to my typewriter that very night, before the reviews are out. I am more compelled to get back to work than if I had a success.

Tennessee Williams

I have always been very fond of them . . . I think it is so frightfully clever of them to go night after night to the theatre and know so little about it.

Noel Coward

I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people, really.

Tennessee Williams

I have no intention of uttering my last words on the stage. Room service and a couple of depraved young women will do me quite nicely for an exit.

Peter O'Toole


I have to act to live.

Laurence Olivier

I haven't really written my plays and books -- I've heard them. The stories are there already, singing in your genes and in your blood.

Sebastian Barry
Musical Theatre

I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn't write anything without hope in it.

Oscar Hammerstein

I learned acting by doing it. And although I had never taken an acting class, it didn't take long to learn how to be on the stage. All you have to do is to be humiliated in front of an audience a few times. If you don't like being humiliated publicly, you learn how to act.

Ron Vawter The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

I love acting. It is so much more real than life.

Oscar Wilde


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