Saturday, September 4, 2010

All People are Famous


This is what I want to do when I get around to writing my own autobiography, to write it about all the people who have influenced me to do things the way I did them.  This is what Harold Clurman did.

The book reads as a who's-who of the drama field in the 1930-1950. Clurman's close friends range from Alfred Stieglitz to Pablo Picasso to Jacqueline Kennedy and Arthur Miller to Andre Gide and Clifford Odets and Stella Adler (his wife). Apparently his crowd was the right crowd to hang out in-- well until people started naming names for HUAC. Can all my friends be that famous, when I am as established and successful as HAROLD CLURMAN? I'll take all that to-go, please, but hold the Great Depression and Communism please.
Harold Clurman, second from right, talks with actresses Ellen Burstyn, left, Kim Stanley, second from left, and Maureen Stapleton in 1979. Courtesy of The Wall Street Journa

There are many life lessons and great quotes throughout this book....

- "I felt that the 'good life' should be achieved only through an understanding of the greatest books"- Clurman on his father

- "Heavy drinking is not the only vice common among artists, who are of course just like other people"- Clurman

- "We not only forget our lesser talents but neglect many of our masters"- Clurman

- "'La vie est une lutte'- life is a struggle- it is not particularly original thought"- Clurman on Carlos Chavez

- "Getting to know people, whoever they may be, is what's important; life, after all, is just one person and another"- Clurman

- "For me, the blessing of life is living it.  Life's sorrows are not accidents, they are part of the process and texture of existence. It is natural to fear pain, through it is not always good to avoid it"- Clurman

"'Harold has turned his every weakness into an asset.' It's true: I was lazy, so I forced myself to become active; I was very shy, so I taught myself to be bold"- Clurman on Clifford Odet's idea of him


Harold Clurman standing in front
of the theatre named in his honor, 1980.
Photo: Jack Mitchell
- "I rarely heard him talk of 'art'- only of the heart, blood, and brain that went into the making of it" -Clurman on his father

- "I am a consumer... I consume art"- Clurman's friend Sonny

- "He was committed to the artists, not simply as individual talents, but as representatives of something astir int he country, something bigger than the art world- life in America itself"- Clurman on Alfred Stieglitz

- "Asked after his first Martha Graham recital why he refused to attend a second, he was capable of replying, 'I'm afraid she's going to give birth to a cube"- Clurman on Stark Young's response to Martha Graham

- "Theatre folk are generally innocents: unpretentious ,sentimental, credulous, enthusiastic, and, where their immediate professional interests are not threatened, generous and kind-hearted"- Clurman

- "He is in a quest of a God he cannot find. If he did not write, which he never ceases to do, he would go mad"- Clurman on Tennessee Williams

- "'The problem in theatre is to find good plays.' 'The problem in the theatre', I rejoined, 'is to create a Theatre"- Clurman and Andre Gide

Clifford Odets' iconic 1935 play Waiting for Lefty was first produced for The Group Theatre in New York City, pictured above. Lefty, a play about a taxi drivers' strike, sought to engage the audience with the production and meld leftwing labor politics and artistic forms. Seattle's production of Lefty, in 1936, proved to be contentious because of the long history of labor radicalism in the state.
- "America sis not need to import Dadaism or to imitate it, though some sophomoric intellectuals thought it the ting to do- American was Dada: flighty, vulgar, impudent, crazy, brash. At the same time it was desperate and eager in its quest for sound values. This chaos made the twenties a period of generative ferment"

- "It is difficult to know what periods or social conditions foster creativity. Rose was ridden with beggary, starvation, murder, rape, and pillage when Michelangelo was at work there and numerous architectural masterpieces emblematic of the glorious eventide of the Renaissance were being built"

Because there was so much politics swarming about the arts world, it was very hard, not to get swept up in the upheaval. I wonder what kind of great art all this political fuss today is creating??

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