My Life in Stanislavsky

Authored by: Austin Pendleton

The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415535649
eBook ISBN: 9780203112304
Adobe ISBN: 9781136281853


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Stanislavsky entered my life when I was 10 years old. My mother, who had been a professional theatre actress and director and settled in Warren, Ohio, with my father before World War II, had been approached after the war by members of the Warren community who were starting a community theatre and wanted her advice. They got a lot more than advice. She hosted several fundraisers for them, and then, as they were underway, gave over our living room some evenings for rehearsals, and, in their first two productions, even for performances. She started acting and directing with them extensively. What talented actors came to join them. And what talented directors. One of the directors was an English war bride named Dorothy Gmucs, and, after the theatre had been running for several years in several different venues, Dorothy directed a production of an old melodrama by J. Frank Davis called Gold in the Hills. The theatre did several of these plays in those early years: outrageous melodramas written many years before to be taken seriously, but now of course played parodistically. The audience loved them. The parodying was taken very far in the productions they did, but the thing that always struck me was that somehow, particularly in the productions that Dorothy or my mother directed, there was a sense of raw believability in all the kidding around, and, unheard of in plays like this, a sense of life being urgently lived by real people, while losing none of the fun of the parody. I'm not sure how they did this. I've rarely seen it since, anywhere; usually the playing goes straight to Camp.

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