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:zorba The way his body and soul forn1ed one harn1onious whole, and all things-won1en, bread, water, n1eat, sleep-blended happily with his flesh and becan1e Zorba. I had never seen such a friendly accord between n1an and the universe. -N!K()S KAZANTZAKIS, ZORBA TJ-11: (;RL'EK As A RULE, AN ACTO!l BRINGS TO A ROLE whatever he can from the arsenal of knowledge and emotion he carries as his personal baggage . Whatever you don't have, you purloin from literature and from imagination. In lifting a role from the printed page you add those elements , in a sense subsuming parts of your own life for the enrichment of the character. Rarely does the character add elements to the actor. That is as it should be: Who needs to absorb into one's own life the shallowness of a fool, the villainy of an assassin, or the mannerism of nobility, merely because he has played a village idiot, a murderer, or a king on-stage? In my career, the rare exception was the role of Zorba. Having played him in the stage musical caused a distinct change in my own character and outlook. My professional curiosity about the man gave way to envy, almost, to a longing somehow to become more like him. I envied his being so unencumbered by physical possessions-whatever he carried in his knapsack was already too much for him, con- Zl!rba • 383 vinced as he was that the things he owned would end up owning him instead. None of us living in this modern urban world could hope to emulate such freedom successfully, but the awareness of its existence alone can ennoble your life. It did mine. What else makes Zorba so irrepressible' I think that it's his individualism in the face of the world's constant demand for conformity. Zorba tells us that it's okay not simply to express oneself, but to do so at precisely the n1on1ents when everyone expects you to sublin1ate that which is you. I've heard a lot of different explanations for Zorba's endearing-and enduring-nature. People have said that he is of an older generation, and thus more sure of what and who he is; others have said that he is an uncon1plicated 111an of nature who's not constrained by the necessities of social convention. Still others have said that he is just plain simple and charming, the kind of guy who would point out to the assembled populace that the emperor's not wearing any clothes. I have a different take on all of this. I believe that Zorba exists for Zorba, and in so doing, he makes a larger statement. We live in a world in which individualism is repressed as part of the process of getting business done. The world doesn't set out to repress anybody deliberately, just as there is no sentient malevolence behind the killer frost that literally explodes the last lingering tomatoes we've left on the vine at the end of October. But when you walk into your garden the next morning and see your hapless vegetables, you ask yourself, what monster could have done this' Just so does the social pressure of the world grind down individua1isn1 . Zorba, however, refuses to be ground down. He becon1es an irritant, a gadfly, a subversive almost, who undermines the political and moral fabric of society by the expression of his joie de vivre. That's why I like him so much. He, in his single-minded devotion to his own individualism, is certainly a braver person than I can claim to be. I merely tried to carry away from him at the end of the play the courage to be the individual with the resources I had to muster to play the role. And sometimes to use the force of Zorba's identity to convince other people to express their own individual identities in the face of the world's conventions. In the sixties, the great fear was the alienation of the young from their parents' world, their roots and background. Instead of merely joining the chorus of those who moaned in dread of such alienation, I decided then to take to the campuses, look at the phenomenon, and initiate a dialogue. When I spoke before groups ofJewish students, I stressed identity. I did not concern myself with Jewish identity alone; 384- • THEO when I spoke to Americans of Greek or Italian or...


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MARC Record
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