29 October 2008

On accuracy

Among the FSS (Frequently Said Stuff) at rehearsals is the reminder that the author chose those words for a reason and that we're not working from the first draft.*

We all try for accuracy, some more successfully than others. When I was Production Minion for the Stage's production of "Art," I rode book for the guys at rehearsals, took line notes, and would e-mail them the corrections. One e-mail, entitled "Towards Zero," contained exactly six corrections, and all of them were happy/glad-level** paraphrases.

Not every show is that close. Not by a long shot. And I know some actors who are so famous for their paraphrasing that I joke that the program should credit them as co-authors. And that they have masters degrees in MSU (Making Stuff Up).***

So I was interested to run across this interview with Ayre Gross as part of a critique of Donald Margulies' Brooklyn Boy. After all, the most recent show in which I tried to deliver the dialogue with any kind of accuracy was Margulies' Dinner with Friends. Nice to know that he would have appreciated our (not always 100% effective, but sincere) efforts to present the script as written.

“How interested was he in the actors being faithful to his dialogue?”

“Oh, it's not even a question. I think everyone in the room understands that the language the playwright uses is not just the broad ideas. That there can be as much meaning in the syntax, or in the rhythms the playwright has written, as in the broader meanings of the theme. There was never any kind of 'we’ll improvise something here.'”

On rare occasions Margulies would solicit advice from the actors.

“Did he accept your suggestions?”

“He definitely responded to, but it was not like anyone ever went in and said, 'Listen, Donald, this is what I want to say here.'”

*I'm pretty sure that the latter truism is mine. Just one of my many contributions to the American theater.

**When happy is substituted for glad, a word with roughly the same meaning. A very small change, in other words.

***I have a pretty wit. A pretty, pretty wit.


The Bejmeister said...

*** Not to mention modest and cute as a button, too !!

Leta said...

Oh, modest to a fault - that's me! :-)