My Favorite Mistake

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Kingsley

Ben Kingsley on the horror of being called 'absolutely suburban.'

MY PHILOSOPHY IN LIFE is that everything happens for a reason. There are very few things I'd categorize as a mistake. I just have one story. There was a world-famous production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a massive event that went from Stratford-upon-Avon to London to Broadway. This was in 1970, when I was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was working with the world's greatest theater director, Peter Brook. We were rehearsing the section called "the lovers' quarrel."

I was playing Demetrius. Frances de la Tour was playing Helena. Peter said, "OK, let's run the scene." We did, and I thought I'd impressed him with some funny, charming, witty acting. I saw Peter Brook, the great director, advancing slowly across the rehearsal room with a twinkle in his eye. I thought mistakenly that he was about to say, "My dears, that was absolutely wonderful!" I stood up mistakenly waiting for the praise to fill my actor's begging bowl.

He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, "Dear Ben, that was absolutely suburban." There was a long pause after the word "suburban." And he said, "If we want to watch suburban, we'll stick our heads over our neighbor's fence."

He then put us back together by bringing us to the text, and saying, look at the words you just skimmed over. Give them their weight. Give them their value. …