Theatre Quotes

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

For use in newsletters, season or fundraising brochures or emails, presentations--you name it.

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Category Quote First Last Source
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
Directing

This ain't Chekhov, you know! [comment to cast during a rehearsal for "H.M.S. Pinafore"]

Alan Stambusky
Acting

There are no small parts, there are only small actors.

Konstantin Stanislavksy The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting, Directing

All action in theatre must have inner justification, be logical, coherent, and real.

Constantin Stanislavski
Acting

Play well, or play badly, but play truly.

Konstantin Stanislavsky Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
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
Acting

Young actors, fear your admirers! Learn in time, from your first steps, to hear, understand and love the cruel truth about yourselves. Find out who can tell you that truth and talk of your art only with those who can tell you the truth.

Konstantin Stanislavsky http://www.giga-usa.com/quotes/topics/acting_t004.htm
Acting

The main difference between the art of the actor and all other arts is that every other [non-performing] artist may create whenever he is in the mood of inspiration. But the artist of the stage must be the master of his own inspiration, and must know how to call it forth at the hour announced on the posters of the theatre. This is the chief secret of our art.

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

The important talent is the talent to develop one's talent.

Howard Stein The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
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
General

The cast, staff, and crew of a live theater work together toward a common goal: a good performance. Thus, theater is necessarily a group effort. However, it is never a group effort of vague fellow committee members, but of associated autocrats--a playwright, a producer, a director, a stage manager, designers, and, above all, actors. Each accommodates the others, and may overlap others in function when necessary. But each autocrat assumes distinct responsibilities and accepts them completely.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
Backstage

There is no definitive list of the duties of a stage manager that is applicable to all theaters and staging environments. Regardless of specific duties, however, the stage manager is the individual who accepts responsibility for the smooth running of rehearsals and performances, on stage and backstage.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
Acting, Directing, General

You can't make theater happen without actors. The actor is the central ingredient in making theater happen. Audiences may come to theaters to see the work of stage managers, directors and producers, but the only people who can communicate theater magic to audiences, through ideas and emotions, are the actors. They are the only ones who can communicate this by themselves, and if necessary, they can get along without you. But you can't make theater without the actor.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
Acting, Backstage, Directing, General

The director is responsible for interpreting the playwright's work through the cast with the help of the staff. It is the director's artistic concept of the play that the cast, staff, and crew work to obtain.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
Backstage

An interesting difference between new and experienced stage managers is that the new stage manager thinks of running the show as the most difficult and most demanding part of the job, whereas the experienced stage manager thinks of it as the most relaxing part. Perhaps the reason is that experienced stage managers have built up work habits that make then so thoroughly prepared for the production phase that they [can] sit back during performances to watch that preparation pay off.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
General

Festivals promote the improvement of theater. They give theater people the opportunity to meet, to present their dramatic skills and see what their fellow theater workers are doing (and how well). They offer opportunities for exchange of ideas, competition, and social contact. Participants get a chance to go on the road, to play in an unfamiliar environment. They have an opportunity to evaluate themselves by the reactions of judges and a new audience. Participants may also measure themselves by comparison to the other groups entered. Festivals often result in joyful, stimulating, exciting, and rewarding experiences.

Lawrence Stern Stage Management
Acting, Directing

Audiences know what to expect. . . and that is all they are prepared to believe in.

Tom Stoppard www.angelfire.com/dc/musicthea/Quotes.html
Playwriting

The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means. [A take-off on Oscar Wilde's "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means."]

Tom Stoppard http://theatre.usc.edu/whatistheatre
Acting

Acting isn't something you do. Instead of doing it, it occurs. If you're going to start with logic, you might as well give up. You can have conscious preparation, but you have unconscious results.

Lee Strasberg
Acting

Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The make-up of a human being - his physical, mental and emotional habits - influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized.

Lee Strasberg
Acting

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
Acting

The actor creates with his own flesh and blood all those things which all the arts try in some way to describe.

Lee Strasberg
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
Playwriting

I see the playwright as a lay preacher peddling the ideas of his time in popular form.

August Strindberg
Acting

You can't be funny unless you're tragic, and you can't be tragic unless you're funny.

Elaine Stritch
Acting

You cannot tell an audience a lie. They know it before you do; before it's out of your mouth, they know it's a lie.

Elaine Stritch
Acting

Onstage, nothing is as important as truth, nothing. As soon as you lie, they know it.

Elaine Stritch It Happened On Broadway
Acting

Audiences are not strangers to me. They're the best friends I've got in my life.

Elaine Stritch
Acting

These performers that go on about their technique and craft - oh, puleeze! How boring! I don't know what 'technique' means. But I do know what experience is.

Elaine Stritch
Playwriting

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

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

Act in your pauses.

Ellen Terry 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
Playwriting, Shakespeare

Shakespeare's plays are bad enough, but yours are even worse. [Tolstoy to Chekov]

Leo Tolstoy Partial Payments: Essays on Writers and Their Lives, by Joseph Epstein
Acting

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

Spencer Tracy Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Critics

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

Kenneth Tynan New York Times Magazine, Jan 9. 1966
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
Critics, Playwriting

The sheer complexity of writing a play always had dazzled me. In an effort to understand it, I became a critic.

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

Show me a congenital eavesdropper with the instincts of a Peeping Tom and I will show you the making of a dramatist.

Kenneth Tynan The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General

Theater is life, film is art, television is furniture.

Unknown
General

All the world's a stage. Some of us just have better seats.

Unknown

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