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Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, 1946 My excitement about being in London was not marred by the fact that it is essentially a city of unrelieved gray-even on its brighter and sunnier days, few enough in number, it looks bleak. It does not feel bleak, however. The dead things are not really dead, the past is there as more than a memorial. London Bridge, Beefeaters, the Tower-you can drive on the bridge, talk to the beefeaters, smell the musty odor of the Tower, and be lectured by the guards. The Houses of Parliament are working institutions, Buckingham Palace is inhabited, and you can even tell whether or not the main inhabitant is at home-the flag flies when She's there. Actually, when I got to London it was a He, King George VI. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)was also a venerable institution. The rehearsal rooms were somewhat musty and antiquated . Some of them were quaint. Most of them were serviceable. The theatre, the central place where the students got to show their wares, ready or not, and where I was to have my trial at the audition, was well appointed. A decent production could be mounted with good sets and proper lights. The principal of RADA, Sir Kenneth Barnes, presided over the Academy in a sometimes bumbling, sometimes autocratic fashion. He prided himself on the fact that his sister, 38 • THEO Dame Irene Vanbrugh, was a noted actress. The box where he held court was placed in our little theatre in the same strategic place where the royal box would be in a big theatre. At times his huge dog, Masha, would sit beside him in the box, and you had the impression that your success or failure depended on Masha's ear-wiggling. Sir Kenneth was obviously knowledgeable in the ways of the theatre, but old-fashioned and not too accon1modating to experin1entation. "What's he doing that for?" he might grumble audibly in the middle of a performance. Then one of the teachers would whisper an explanation. "Oh," he would say, just as loudly as before, "oh, it's mime. Well, I s'ppose that's all right. Still-he could have used a real broom-" One of the pieces I was required to do at my audition for RADA was from Hamlet: "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines." I hoped that my interpretation would be looked upon for accuracy of pronunciation , passion of delivery, and the promise of a developing talent. What worried me was that they should fault me for not being a proper Hamlet. I knew that I was not exactly what I myself would have wanted in a Hamlet. I was sure that the etched profile, the posture, and the sense of style demanded for this foremost of classical roles were not attributes I possessed. I considered myself a character actor. I guess I still do. Little did I know, however, that such distinctions are at bottom meaningless and who said that Hamlet is not a character role' Labeling of this kind is somewhat demeaning. Talent is talent; in itself some talent may be limited in scope. But shove it into a pigeonhole and you confine and limit it even further. Of course, while an etched profile is not something you can acquire, style and posture were some of the things I had hoped to learn by coming to the breeding ground of classical actors in the English language. It would have been defeating if they turned me down for not possessing what I was intent on acquiring. As it was, I did have quite a lot to show that other would-be entrants to RADA did not: a respectable amount of experience as a professional. Still, I trembled a little as I did my audition pieces. There were three of them and I have forgotten what the other two were, only that one of them was from a modern play, by Priestley or some such. I had paid my entrance fee and filled out all the necessary papers prior to leaving Palestine, but this was the important event. At the audition, Sir Kenneth sat in his booth with a couple of faculty members and made notes. He did more than that; he had a habit of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299300531
Related ISBN
9780299300548
MARC Record
OCLC
1017608170
Pages
484
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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