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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tennessee Williams and James Grissom

James Grissom has made an enormous contribution with his book, Follies of God - Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog.  To me, it seems a "must read" for actors, directors, writers.

Since this is a blog about acting technique, here's a quote from the book:

     "Tenn had believed that actors were incapable of thought in their acting, that perhaps they were discouraged from displaying this action in their work.  American actors, he felt, demonstrated, indicated, spoke, moved, and all intentions, all motivations, all desires had been worked out prior to performance -- in study with an acting coach, perhaps, or in discussions with a therapist.  Nothing, however, appeared to Tenn to happen in real time in that shared space.  This began to change for him with [Laurette] Taylor in The Glass Menagerie, where one saw a woman range from deliquescence to giddiness to machination to panicked improvisation in a matter of minutes.  It happened again with Brando in Streetcar -- a human being caught in all the gaudy abundance of his being. 'Marlon never did anything physical twice,' Tenn told me.  'He let his body sweat and move as nature chose on that stage, and he hitched or removed his shirt accordingly.  He scratched where it itched, in that time, in that moment.  He wiped real sweat off of his brow in real time, regardless of where he was in the script.  He dragged life and thought onto that stage.'
     No one, however, in Tenn's estimation, brought the process of thought and intention to the stage as Geraldine Page did."

The impression Page made on Tennessee Williams and later on James Grissom creates, along with her work, a portrait of Geraldine Page that is for the reader and viewer to absorb.  

Here's my anecdotal addition:  When I met Ms. Page, in wanting to connect with her somehow, I said, "What you and I have in common is Uta Hagen."  To which she replied, "Ahh, Uta!  I took everything she taught me and turned it into cash!"  I don't remember her putting her hand to her mouth as Mr. Grissom has described, although I'm familiar with that characteristic gesture, but it seems to me that I can still hear her high-pitched giggle after she said that.

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