SAN DIEGO -- In a scathing editorial in the current issue of Globe Upstage, the house organ of the Old Globe Theatre, artistic director Jack O'Brien lashes out at the theatrical press at large for the contempt it shows toward actors.
"The lack of professional respect for the actor, which I continually read in our and other reviews recently, simply appalls me," O'Brien writes. "Experienced and valued actors of international stature are huffily dismissed, as if they have no right to attempt a particular role. Rude and uninformed assumptions as to the viability of casting are printed as if they were gospel, and the result is that not only is the professional stung with humiliating and damaging references, but such lack of professional status hardly encourages actors from out of city or state to 'try again next time.' Why on earth should they?"
O'Brien's many productions include the Tony-nominated Broadway revivals of Damn Yankees and Porgy and Bess, and the critically savaged thriller, Getting Away With Murder by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. He has directed the premiere of A.R. Gurney's Labor Day, which opens Feb. 12 at Old Globe.
In the editorial, O'Brien recalls that the famed actress and teacher Uta Hagen chose Respect for Acting as the title of her acting textbook.
"I would gladly buy every copy extant and send it to all practicing reviewers for them to have on their desks where they can see it every day; not as a reference to the art of acting, although God knows they often demonstrate precious little knowledge of that mystery, but rather to remind them that simple professional respect should be accorded to the actor, as it might be to a lawyer, judge, doctor, or, heaven help us, a journalist." Acknowledging that these are fighting words, O'Brien concludes his polemic by stating, "To be respected and still to be constructively criticized is all a performer can truly hope for. But to be summarily dismissed and to be professionally belittled is just not an acceptable alternative. We all -- actors, reviewers and theatregoers -- deserve better."
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent