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Mamet to actors: Stay out of school

September 11, 2008
With David Mamet's latest play, "November," opening this week at the Phoenix Theatre, I was interested in reading the acclaimed playwright's latest words on his art.

What I found in his recent book "True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor" a gauntlet thrown in the face of acting schools and teachers.

Some specifics:

"...the life of the academy, the graduate school, the studio, while charming and comfortable, are as removed from the life (and the job) of the actor as aerobics are from boxing."

"Part of the requirement of a life in the theatre is to stay out of school."

"The Stanislavsky 'Method,' and the technique of the schools derived from it, is nonsense. It is not a technique out of the practice of which on deelops a skill--it is a cult."

"Preoccupation with effect is preoccupation with the self, and not only is it joyless, it's a waste of time."

"Students, of course, do need a place to develop. That place is upon the stage."

There are more specific comments in the book, of course. This is just a taste. (FYI: One of my favorite quote in the book comes in a blurb by Alec Baldwin: "I agee with almost nothing Mr. Mamet saysin this book and encourage you to devour every word.")

Mamet's comments raise tons of questions, including:

--Are we overloaded with acting schools--and with actors? Mamet suggests in the book that these schools are largely a way to keep non-working actors busy. Are they merely a waste of time and money?

--How important is acting training? Having seen plenty of cringe-worthy amateur work, my first thought is: the more training the better. Yet I truly have no idea how trained most actors I see actually are. Is the work itself the best educator?

--If the academy is such a bad place, why have some of the most compelling productions I've seen recently been on college stages?

I'd love to hear from actors, acting teachers, and the theatergoing audience on any or all of the above.

Your thoughts?
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