Theatre Quotes

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

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Acting

Once in awhile, there's stuff that makes me say, That's what theatre's about. It has to be a human event on the stage, and that doesn't happen very often.

Uta Hagen
Playwriting

One begins with two people on a stage, and one of them had better say something pretty quick.

Moss Hart The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

One mustn't allow acting to be like stockbroker -- you must not take it just as a means of earning a living, to go down every day to do a job of work. The big thing is to combine punctuality, efficiency, good nature, obedience, intelligence, and concentration with an unawareness of what is going to happen next, thus keeping yourself available for excitement.

John Gielgud
Directing

One of the issues peculiar to community theater is dealing with inexperienced or outright bad actors who are so unimaginative, so lacking in energy, that no matter what devices you use, you just don't seem to be helping them that much. They will improve. It is your rseponsibility that the actor should ever feel that he or she has failed.

Ann Jellicoe Stage Directions Guide to Directing
Acting

One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price. I've never been one of those actors who has touted myself as a fascinating human being. I had to decide early on whether I was to be an actor or a personality.

Robert De Niro
Acting

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

Elaine Stritch It Happened On Broadway
Acting

Onstage, you just have to tell the absolute truth about the character you are playing. You hope you communicate it, and you hope it comes back like a tennis ball. If you're listening to the sound of your own voice, nobody else is. The audience knows, and they freeze on you.

Carol Channing It Happened On Broadway
Acting, Directing, General

Opening Night: The night before the play is ready to open.

George Jean Nathan The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Critics

People have pointed out evidences of personal feeling in my notices as if they were accusing me of a misdemeanor, not knowing that criticism written without personal feeling is not worth reading. It is the capacity for making good or bad art a personal matter that makes a man a critic.

George Bernard Shaw http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
Playwriting

People often ask me how long it takes me to write a play, and I tell them 'all of my life.'

Edward Albee http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
Backstage

Perhaps, therefore, ideal stage managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds.

Peter Hall
Acting

Play well, or play badly, but play truly.

Konstantin Stanislavsky Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting, Shakespeare

Playing Shakespeare is very tiring. You never get to sit down, unless you're a king.

Josephine Hull The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting, Shakespeare

Playing Shakespeare requires technique. You don't play a Bach toccata by getting in the mood.

Kevin Kline The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Playwriting

Playwrights must be allowed to be at less than their best sometimes, without meeting an all-out critical assault.

Peter Hall http://www.curtainup.com/quotepro.html
Playwriting

Playwriting isn't a calling so much as it is a hazing process.

Paula Vogel The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

Pray to God and say the lines.

Bette Davis Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting

Preparing a character is the opposite of building--it is a demolishing, removing brick by brick everything in the actor's muscles, ideas and inhibitions that stands between him and the part, until one day, with a great rush of air, the character invades his every pore.

Peter Brook
Playwriting

Remember! the word is playwright --W-R-I-G-H-T -- like wheelwright. A play is not so much written as wrought. it's designed and built and shaped; it's carved out.

Garson Kanin
Critics

Reviewers must normally function as huff-and-puff artists blowing laggard theatergoers stageward.

Walter Kerr http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/walter_kerr.html
Directing, Musical Theatre

Seen from the point of view of the composer, the most nonsensical practice is that of casting people in musicals who are unable to sing. No one would cast a dancing part with someone who cannot dance sufficiently to come up to professional standards. The same is true of acting. But when it comes to singing, more often than not it is amateur night. . . . Either musicals should be written for specified performers in the first place, or they should be cast with people who are adequate to its dancing, acting and singing demands.

Ernest Gold Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers On Theater
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

She stopped the show--but then the show wasn't traveling very fast.

Noel Coward www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm
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
Playwriting

Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own character to himself.

Tennessee Williams
General, Management

Someone once said that being an artistic director is the intelligent exercise of one's own taste. And that is what I believe with all my heart and soul. If you start second-guessing yourself in advance, I think you're done for.

Andre Bishop The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Lighting

Stage lighting is no longer a matter of simple illumination as it was less than 100 years ago. Today, the lighting designer is expected to be a master of art, science, history, psychology, communications, politics and sometimes even mind reading.

Bill Williams http://www.mts.net/%7Ewilliam5/sld/sld-100.htm
Lighting

Stage lighting is no longer a matter of simple illumination as it was less than 100 years ago. Today, the lighting designer is expected to be a master of art, science, history, psychology, communications, politics, and sometimes even mind reading.

Bill Williams http://www.mts.net/%7Ewilliam5/sld/sld-100.htm
Acting

Talent is an amalgam of high sensitivity; easy vulnerability; high sensory equipment (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting intensely); a vivid imagination as well as a grip on reality; the desire to communicate one's own experience and sensations, to make one's self heard and seen.

Uta Hagen
Acting

Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much.

John Wayne Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Backstage, Management

Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand.

Chinese Proverb
Acting

The "magic if" is a tool invented by Stanislavski, the father of acting craft, is to help an actor make appropriate choices. Essentially, the "magic if" refers to the answer to the question, "What would I do if I were this character in this situation?" Note that the question is not "What would I do if I were in this situation?" What you would do may be very different from what the character would do. Your job, based on your analysis of the script, the scene, and the given circumstances regarding the who of your character, is to decide what he or she would do.

Bruce Miller Acting on the Script (2014)
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

The Actor should make you forget the existence of author and director, and even forget the actor.

Paul Scofield The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Aristotle The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

The appearance and retirement of actors are the great events of the theatrical world; and their first performances fill the pit with conjecture and prognostication, as the first actions of a new monarch agitate nations with hope and fear.

Samuel Johnson

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

General, Management

The artistic director gratifies his special need to relate to people in a highly accentuated paternalistic and maternalistic fashion.

Philip Weissman The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
General

The arts are at the very center of community development in this time of change...change for the better. The frontier and all that it once meant in economic development and in the sheer necessity of building a nation is being replaced by the frontier of the arts. In no other way can Americans so well express the core and blood of their democracy; for in the communities lies the final text of the acceptance of the arts as a necessity of everyday life. In terms of American democracy, the arts are for everyone. They are not reserved for the wealthy, or for the well-endowed museum, the gallery, or the ever-subsidized regional professional theater. As America emerges into a different understanding of her strength, it becomes clear that her strength is in the people and the places where the people live. The people, if shown the way, can create art in and of themselves.

Robert Gard
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

The basic essential of a great actor is that he loves himself in acting.

Charles Chaplin
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
General

The Civic Theater idea, as a distinctive issue, implies the conscious awakening of a people to self-government in the activities of its leisure. To this end, organization of the arts of the theater, participation by the people in these arts not mere spectatorship, a new resulting technique, leadership by means of a permanent staff of artists (not of merchants in art), elimination of private profit by endowment and public support, dedication in the service to the whole community: these are chief among its essentials, and these imply a new and nobler scope for the art of the theater itself. [1912]

Percy McKaye
Management

The core challenge for us as arts managers is to deal with change: changing external environmental conditions, evolving styles and approaches to the arts by our artists, advancements iin how we present and distribute our art to our ever-changing audiences, and the shifting competition for resources and attention.

William J. Byrnes Management and the Arts (Fifth Edition)
Playwriting

The critics suppose that it is easy to write a play. They aren't aware that writing a good play is difficult and writing a bad one is twice as hard.

Anton Chekhov The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Fundraising

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

William James http://www.museummarketingtips.com/quotes/giving.html
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
General

The drama may be called that part of theatrical art which lends itself most readily to intellectual discussion: what is left is theater.

Robertson Davies

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

Playwriting

The dramatist's function is (1) to earn a living for his family and himself and (2) to try to entertain people for a few hours.

Lee Adams Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists on Theater
Lighting

The first rule of stage lighting is...there aren't any.

Bill Williams Lighting Mechanics, by Bill Williams
Acting

The fun for me is knowing what the other person is saying and what my character would be thinking at that time. On the stage you get the chance to do all that, to analyze and build a part, to react, to contribute something no one else can--not the author, not even the director.

Barry Nelson It Happened On Broadway
Acting

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

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

The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is close to the center of a nation's purpose -- and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization.

John F Kennedy
Lighting

The lighting designer will never stop learning. Every production or project will present new challenges, new obstacles, new human dynamics and new problems to solve. There can and should be many failures along the way. This is part of the artistic process. The lighting designer shouldn't hesitate to make as many mistakes as possible - just don't make the same mistake twice.

Bill Williams http://www.mts.net/%7Ewilliam5/sld/sld-100.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
Playwriting

The mission of the playwright is to look in his heart and write, to write whatever concerns him at the moment; to write with passion and conviction. Of course the measure of the man will be the measure of the play.

Robert Anderson Theatre Arts Mar 58
Costumes

The moment an actor walks on stage, an impression is made. The audience immediately gains crucial information, both about the production as a whole and the character. A costume is a transformation garment, one that assists an actor to beomce, for a time, someone else.

Kaoime Malloy The Art of Theatrical Design
Playwriting

The more acute the experience, the less articulate its expression.

Harold Pinter The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

The most important thing in acting is honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

George Burns Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur
Acting, Directing

The most important thing you can teach actors is to understand plays.

Stella Adler The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips
Acting

The most precious things in speech are pauses.

Ralph Richardson The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

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