Saturday, April 2, 2011

Perhaps You Recall my Hamlet?

Back to the titanic theatrical influence in Tom Jones's life....

B. Iden Payne the internationally known Shakespearean actor and director arrived on the UT Austin campus in 1946 at the "moonlight" of his illustrious career with no less energy, spark, and eccentricity that he had demonstrated his entire life.

A native of Great Britain, he directed at the Abbey Players in Dublin, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford on Avon, and New York's Theate Guild Shakespeare Company and was one of the godfathers of The Goodman . He credits himself with giving John Barrymore his first serious role in Galworthy's Justice. He cast Helen Hayes at 14 in her first serious role. He was an authority on Elizabethan stage technique.

Today on campus his name is as prolific as Emmy, Oscar, and Thespie, with a theatre named after him and an annual theatre award given in his name.

"He was determined to root out the notion that complicated sets and scenery were necessary for theatre." For Payne, the text alone in all his richness was enough. "He was emphatic about this and pounded it into his students." This may not sound like a revolutionary idea today but in 1946 it was cutting edge and to many a little bizzare.

It was under Payne's tutelage that Tom Jones was inspired. He came to realize the kind of theatre he liked the most, that of "Shakespeare, Moliere, the Greeks, and Thorton Wilder." The kind of theatre that was presentational not realistic. It was so over the top, smaltzy, a bit of glittery fantasy."

Jones says, "I could believe anything. If you didn't ask me to believe anything, I could believe everything."

HENRY: Don't look at us like we are, sir. Please. Remove ten pounds of road dust from these aged wrinkled cheeks. See make-up caked in glowing powder pink! Imagine a beard , full blown and blowing like the whiskers of a bear! And hair! Imagine hair."
..."Try to see it under light. I assure you it's dazzling."

BTW...The role of The Old Actor/Henry was inspired by B. Iden Payne.

(much credit needs to go to The Fantasticks: How It All Began by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas.)

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