The Technique of Acting
The Technique of Acting
For me to claim that the material of this book is my own would be a presumption; and yet it is impossible for me to give credit where credit is due in an orderly and factual accounting. I cannot honestly say that I learned timing from Donald Meek, or Ina Claire, or Walter Connolly, or Leo G. Carroll; but I learned much about timing, especially in comedy, from all of them. These four come to mind at the moment because I vividly remember rehearsals of Broken Dishes when Donald Meek patiently explained to younger members of the company that a line should be read one way and not another; and I remember attending all the rehearsals and all eight performances of a stock production of Biography, fascinated by Miss Claire's performance and eager to discover exactly what she was doing and how she was doing it; and there was the week when we did Juno and the Paycock and Walter Connolly and Leo Carroll worked out the business of the breakfast scene, deciding who should spear a sausage and when.
It is my impression that I absorbed the most about the total design of an acting performance from Aline MacMahon, years ago when she played in The Royal Family for me, and more recently when she did The Madwoman of Chaillot at Stanford University with an all-student cast. It was never my privilege to direct Madame Nazimova, or to work with her in an actual production, but there was one winter in New York when she graciously consented to meet regularly once a week with a group of us, all young actors and actresses, to discuss many of the problems of acting. I then realized that she could never begin work on any part of a play until she had decided what the total effect should be and that, with her tremendous power to create or recreate an emotion, she needed to know the form and the design of the final performance before she could begin to work on the content.
Of all the actresses I have known, the late Cissie Loftus seemed the most aware of the methods by which she achieved a characterization. Others, such as Patricia Collinge, Laurette Taylor, and Margaret Wycherly, may have been equally aware of their own technical methods, but Miss Loftus was kind enough to spend several evenings with the apprentices of the company, giving a program of her famous impersonations . . .