Friday, April 2, 2010
Robin Witt Director of Griffin Theatre's STAGE DOOR talks about the play, late at night after a work through of Act One, scene 1
I said “yes” to Bill. Yes that he was crazy and yes, that I would love to direct it.
Set in a boarding house for actresses in
Below is a roughly outlined list of what I considered some of the most important ideas/actions/themes of the play:
· Hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds
· Sharing of worldly goods—generosity in times of hardship
· Theatre as a higher art form than film—a noble life
· The draw of fame and money
· Artistic life worth living despite of rejection, poverty, and the bad rap being of the world’s 2nd oldest profession, etc
· Struggles of poverty
· Grasping for success
· How is success measured?
· The inequities of gender and class
· Dire acts committed by the desperate
· Insular nature of the boarding house that the women inhabit—a safe place
· Outside world—the theatre: impossible to penetrate and conquer
· Action within the boarding house—ceaseless, fluid, elegant, desperate, tedious, churning
· Stage-stuckedness (I made up this word)
· Music. Dance. Drama. SHOWTIME!
There is not a whole lot written about Stage Door (the play). Ferber/Kaufman’s other plays have garnered more attention and therefore more scholarly research as well. SD isn’t produced very often, except at Colleges and Universities. Why is that you ask? See the above list of elements needed for the production (elements=$$$$$). But there is also a very interesting tone issue in this play. SD is not pure comedy. It is not You Can’t Take it with You. SPOILER ALERT: skip to the next paragraph if you don’t know the play and want to come to the production without knowing key plot points. There is a suicide, and prostitution, and shattered dreams. SD also has elements of screwball comedy. Comedy and tragedy sit side by side and the switch between them can be razor sharp. How does one navigate through such ever-changing currents?
Brooks Atkinson, in his review of the 1936 production, puts it best. After praising the play’s “keen edge” of comedy and its “ebullient” nature, he ends with a lengthy discussion on how badly actors were treated by producers. Atkinson writes: “Stage Door would be funnier if the whole subject of acting were less painful.” He spends 3 paragraphs in the review naming all that is wrong with the current hierarchal system of 1930s Broadway. It’s amazing. He pretty much predicts what is going to happen in the 1960s with the birth of repertory companies in the U. S.
Ok. Now it’s really late at night. More later regarding tone…..xo and goodnight.