Tuesday, June 5, 2012


There's something brave about the theater arts.

It's not the willingness of actors to stand up and pretend in front of strangers (though that is brave), but the knowledge that whatever you do - acting, costumes, sets, directing, lighting, props, or a hundred other aspects - is doomed.

Most artists write or paint or create in the hope of immortality.  They build their sandcastles hoping, knowing, that there's a faint chance it may last.  In a hundred years their novel may still be read or their music sung.  Playwrights share this hope.

But the rest of theater?  Nah.


The actor's performance dies as the echo in the theater fades.  The set ends in the trash.

A few important shows linger, faintly, as a couple photos, a few sketches, or a cast recording.  A show or performer's reputation may last.  But mostly it's only in the theater audience's memory that the work may linger a little while... if it effected them strongly.  I think it takes a certain strength of character to throw so much energy and talent and life into a short-lived art.  (Not that I'm biased, of course.)

Usually short-lived.

I was fascinated to read an article in Live Design recently (HERE) about the recreation of the famous set for Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, by Jo Melziner, the legendary Broadway scenic designer.  Modern-day NY designer Brian Webb has admired Melziner's work for years... and he and the production team saw the recent Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman as a chance to recreate this iconic scenery.

Believed public domain image

I'm impressed on several accounts: at the lasting legend, importance, and sheer strength of Melziner's work of course... but also by the knowledge and modesty of Brian Webb, who ceded this big opportunity to Melziner - to refresh that master's fame - instead of grabbing onto it to become more famous himself.

That's rare and memorable.

A great illustrated blog post of Melziner's work HERE at Theater-Words.com.

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