Most of the Hollywood actors who attended Sir Peter Hall's recent Shakespeare workshops and auditions in Los Angeles will not be seen in his forthcoming productions of Measure for Measure and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Ahmanson Theatre. It is availability, not talent, that caused them to flunk out.
In an article written for the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times, Hall praised many of the actors who auditioned for him (they included such Hollywood names as Ed Harris, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Christopher Plummer, Dustin Hoffman, Kelly McGinnis and Gwyneth Paltrow, among others). "They have plenty of temperament," he said. "They have a great sense of rhythm and musicality. They can be superb in Shakespeare.... The enthusiasm of the actors is boundless. They are open, bold and perfectly willing to make fools of themselves. Many of them, after three days, are speaking the verse trippingly on the tongue, with as much delight as Judi Dench or Ian Holm."
They were all keen to work on Shakespeare, Hall added. "They were all indeed keen to get back to the stage. But most of them couldn't do it. They had to wait -- wait until their movie was `green-lighted' or their TV pilot was elevated into a series."
In Los Angeles, Hall went on to say, "Actors wait -- not because they are resting but because they are hoping.... Theatre cannot figure in their calculations except (briefly) on their way up, or perhaps, even more briefly, on the way down."
Some of the actors came up to him after the workshops and expressed surprise that he hadn't been told of their lack of availability. "Then why on earth did you come?" he asked them. "`I thought it would be interesting to meet you,' was the reply. "Hollywood is a state of mind that measures talent strictly by dollar potential," Hall wrote. "It can measure how hot you are to the last cent, and its audiences tend to be as sensitive to this as the agents and producers. L.A., it seems to me, is a town still searching to define itself as a city."
One of the few actors who proved the exception to the rule was Kelly McGillis. When she discovered Hall was keen to meet her, "she jumped on a plane to London and read Titania with wonderful abandon. Where she led, others followed...such as Richard Thomas, David Dukes and Brian Murray."
Many others told Hall they will come next year, if he does another season. "In a sense, this is my pilot," he said."
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent