Theatre Quotes

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

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Acting

An actor is a sculptor who carves in snow.

Lawrence Barrett http://www.satheatre.com/quotes.htm
Acting

An actor is at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents

Alec Guinness http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
Acting, Backstage, Directing

An actor without techies is a naked person standing in the dark trying to emote. A techie without actors is a person with marketable skills.

Mark Leslie http://www.denagy.com/techiejokes/tjokes.html
Lighting

An effective lighting design is like a beautiful painting. Your medium is bringing someone to an emotional state he or she would not achieve at that moment without your art. This does not and can not happen by accident.

Glen Cunningham Stage Lighting Revealed
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
Fundraising

Appreciation can make a day--even change a life, Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.

Margaret Cousins http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html
Playwriting

As a writer you're holding a dog. You let the dog run about. But you finally can pull him back. Finally, I'm in control. But the great excitement is to see what happens if you let the whole thing go. And the dog or the character really runs about, bites everyone in sight, jumps up trees, falls into lakes, gets wet, and you let that happen. That's the excitement of writing plays--to allow the thing to be free but still hold the final leash.

Harold Pinter http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
Acting

As an actor, you can't play the tragedy. You can only play the choices, the intentions of your character.

Christine Andreas Notes for CD "The Garland Variations"
Management

As nearly everyone knows, a manager has practically nothing to do except to decide what is to be done; to tell somebody to do it; to listen to reasons why it should not be done, why it should be done by someone else, or why it should be done in a different way; to follow up to see if the thing has been done; to discover that it has not; to inquire why; to listen to excuses from the person who should have done it; to follow up again to see if the thing has been done, only to discover that it has been done incorrectly; to point out how it should have been done; to conclude that as long as it has been done, it may as well be left where it is; to wonder if it is not time to get rid of a person who cannot do a thing right; to reflect that he or she probably has a family, and that certainly any successor would be just as bad, and maybe worse; to consider how much simpler and better the thing would have been done if one had done it oneself in the first place; to reflect sadly that one could have done it right in 20 minutes, and, as things turned out, one had to spend two days to find out why it has taken three weeks for somebody else to do it wrong.

Unknown
Critics

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.

John Osborne Time, 31 October 1977
Acting

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

Elaine Stritch
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
Acting

Bad acting, like bad writing, has a remarkable uniformity, whether seen on the French, German, or English stages; it all seems modeled after two or three types, and those the least like types of good acting. The fault generally lies less in the bad imitation of a good model, than in the successful imitation of a bad model.

George Lewes The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Costumes, Set Design

Be daring, be different, be impractical; be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. Routines have their purposes, but the merely routine is the hidden enemy of high art. [Advice to theatrical designers,]

Cecil Beaton The Secret of How to Startle Theatre Arts May 57
Fundraising

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html
Backstage

Beat to fit, paint to match.

Kate Bolgrien http://www.denagy.com/techiejokes/tjokes.html
Costumes

Before a character even speaks, we 'read' their appearance through their costume.

Peter Ruthven Hall http://www.theatredesign.org.uk/events.htm
Playwriting

Before I write down one word, I have to have the character in my mind through and through. I must penetrate into the last wrinkle of his soul.

Henrik Ibsen http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/playwriting_quotes.html
Acting

Being another character is more interesting than being yourself.

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

Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow

Cole Porter Kiss Me, Kate (musical)
Playwriting

But when I got to SMU and decided to take a playwriting class, I said this isn't a bad idea. If I write characters, they could be as dumb as me, and I don't have to be very smart.

Beth Henley http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/beth_henley.html
Playwriting

By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man and men, and between men and Man. Drama is akin to the other inventions of man in that it ought to help us to know more, and not merely to spend our feelings.

Arthur Miller http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Arthur_Miller
Directing

Casting is instrumental in helping you understand the play. If you cast it right, as soon as the actor steps on the stage, you get certain impressions that help you understand what the play is about.

Howard Kissel It Happened On Broadway
General

Charity in the theater begins and ends with those who have a play opening within a week of one's own.

Moss Hart
Critics, General

Coughing in the theater is not a respiratory ailment. It is a criticism.

Alan Jay Lerner http://www.worldofquotes.com
Backstage

Definition of Stage Manager: The person who rarely gets credit when everything goes right.

Anonymous
Set Design

Designers play with scale and proportion, making the ordinary extraordinary by taking an object out of context and changing its scale in relation to the characters' size and appearance.

Peter Ruthven Hall http://www.theatredesign.org.uk/events.htm
Directing

Directing takes such a big lump out of your life.

Alan Rickman http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alanrickma251372.html
Directing

Don't let a single comic moment pass you by; then help the audience get the laughs. Give them permission to laugh by holding for laughter and by letting them know early on what they're in for. In the first few moments, the audience is gathering information, looking at the scenery and costumes. Create a comic moment as soon as you can.

James Carver Stage Directions Guide to Directing
Acting

Don't think you're funny. It'll never work if you think you're funny.

George Abbott Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Don't use your conscious past, use your creative imagination to create a past that belongs to your character. I don't want you to be stuck with your own life. It's too little.

Stella Adler Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Playwriting

Don't write stage directions. If it is not apparent what the character is trying to accomplish by saying the line, tell us how the character said it or whether or not she moved to the couch isn't going to aid the case.

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

Donors don't give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.

G.T. Smith http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html
General, Playwriting

Drama - what literature does at night.

George Jean Nathan
Playwriting

Drama assumes an order. If only so that it might have -- by disrupting that order -- a way of surprising.

Vaclav Havel
Playwriting

Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.

W.H. Auden
Playwriting

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Alfred Hitchcock
Playwriting

Drama should not present new stories but new relationships.

Frederick Hessel The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Set Design

Eugene Lee is a set designer who's famously said that he hates scenery. The reason it's such a joy to work with him is he's never designing the scenery, he's designing the room in which theater is going to take place. It makes for a much more vibrant conversation about what we're going to work on together. [Oskar Eustis , artistic director of the Public Theater, Boston]

Oskar Eustis http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2007/01/21/the_joy_of_sets
Acting

Every now and then, when you're on stage, you hear the best sound a player can hear. It's a sound you can't get in movies or in television. It is the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you've hit them where they live.

Shelley Winters
Acting

Every performer has moments of self doubt. The great ones, however,overcome every obstacle to reach their full artistic potential. It takes talent, to be sure, but it also takes a personality that simply will not settle for second best. That's what makes us respect the effort and admire the results.

Unknown www.angelfire.com/dc/musicthea/Quotes.html
Playwriting

Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.

Rod Serling http://www.brainyquote.com
Set Design

Everything placed in the performance space, with the characters, creates a context for their story.
What is the shape of the space?
How do the shapes and colours within the space relate to the characters?
How do they 'frame' them?
What comments do the frames make about the characters and their worlds?

Peter Ruthven Hall http://www.theatredesign.org.uk/events.htm
Playwriting

Failure in the theatre is more dramatic and uglier than in any other form of writing. It costs so much, you feel so guilty.

Lillian Hellman The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General, Playwriting

Farce is tragedy played at a thousand revolutions per minute.

John Mortimer
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

First of all, I choose the great roles, and if none of these come, I choose the mediocre ones, and if they don't come, I choose the ones that pay the rent.

Michael Caine
Acting

For an actress to be a success she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

Ethel Barrymore George Jean Nathan: The Theatre in the Fifties
Fundraising

Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.

Hank Russo

http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html

Acting, General

God comes to us in theater [in] the way we communicate with each other, whether it be a symphony orchestra, or a wonderful ballet, or a beautiful painting, or a play. It's a way of expressing our humanity.

Julie Harris Christian Science Monitor 15 May 79
Acting

Good actors are good because of the things they can tell us without talking. When they are talking they are the slaves of the dramatist. It is what they can show the audience when they are not talking that reveals the fine actor.

Cedric Hardwicke The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

Good drama must be drastic.

Friedrich Schlegel
General, Playwriting

Good plays drive bad playgoers crazy.

Brooks Atkinson Theatre Arts Aug 56
General

Good theater anywhere is good for theater everywhere.

Frank Schneeberger www.angelfire.com/dc/musicthea/Quotes.html
Critics

Has anybody ever seen a dramatic critic in the daytime? Of course not. They come out after dark, up to no good.

P.G. Wodehouse New York Mirror, 27th May 1955
Acting, Shakespeare

Has anyone understood that the basic thing about Elizabethan theatre is that it was played in daylight? The actor saw the eyes of the audience.

Peter Hall The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

Have a very good reason for everything you do.

Laurence Olivier Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Having talent is like having blue eyes. You don't admire a man for the colour of his eyes. I admire a man for what he does with his talent.

Anthony Quinn Sunday Express, 1960
General

How do you teach someone that a theatre comes about first as an idea, from an individual who has a philosophy and a passion? That a theatre's idea is its heart and individual soul? That the person who creates it must have the desire not only to create work, but also to create the conditions in which that work can live--and in which others can do it as well? How do you teach someone to want to be a midwife as well as a mother.

Robert Kalfin The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General

I am so used to seeing the sort of play which deals with one man and two women. They do not leave me with the feeling I have made a full theatrical meal they do not give me the experience of the multiplicity of life.

E.M. Forster

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

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