Questions and Answers on Dramatic Art
10 April 1921, Dornach
My dear Friends,
This evening shall be devoted to analysis of questions which have been sent up by a number of dramatic artists, and the reason why I shall answer them this evening is that our arrangements did not allow any other time for the purpose. That is one reason, the other is that I think I may take for granted that at least something of what I am about to say in regard to these questions will be of interest to all here present. The first question is this: “What is the attitude of the spiritual investigator towards the development of consciousness in dramatic art, and what is the necessary mission in this respect of those connected with the stage and dramatic art in general?”
Much that might perhaps be expected in answer to this question will come out more clearly when taken in connection with later questions. I will ask you therefore to take what I have to say in connection with this question more as a whole. I should like to say first of all that dramatic art, in particular, will certainly have to play a part in every development of the stronger consciousness towards which we are bound to progress during this age. From many different sides the fact is emphasized, that the development of consciousness would take away from the man of artistic taste some of his simplicity and instinctive feeling and the like, it would make him less sure. If we approach these things from the point of view indicated by spiritual science we shall see that these fears are quite unjustifiable. Through what is usually called the contemplative capacity, the capacity of unbiased Judgment of one’s own actions and self-contemplation much is lost of ordinary consciousness, instinctive power and purely intellectual activity. It is also just through thoughtful intellectual activity that all that can be cited as partaking of an artistic nature is simply lost. What is artistic can in nowise be regulated by the intellect. This is certainly the truth, on the other hand it is also true that when knowledge such as is sought here, becomes force of consciousness, then the ability to see things as they are, the complete relation to reality will not be interfered with. Therefore we need have no fear that we shall become inartistic through the acquisition of consciousness, of the conscious mastery of the means and so on. Through Anthroposophical spiritual science which aims at the knowledge of man, what is usually summed up in rules, in abstract forms, extends to vision. One gets at last a true view of the physical, psychic and spiritual being of man. As little as a simple vision can prevent our creating something artistic, just as little does this higher vision do so. The mistake which becomes evident here is really due to the following. In the Anthroposophical Society, which actually came into being for reasons explained in the little pamphlet The Antagonism to the Goetheanum, and developed from a membership which formerly included many members of the Theosophical Society: Especially those who had grown out of the old Theosophy and many things have been done, and what might be called a dreary doctrine of symbols, a confused symbolism, grew up. I still think with horror of the year 1909 when we presented Schuré’s drama The Children of Lucifer (in the next number of the “drei” my lecture which followed on this performance will be reprinted). I am still shocked when I think how at that time a member of the Theosophical Society, who indeed still remained within it, enquired: “Is not Cleonis, the sentient soul?” and are not the other characters the Consciousness-soul and Manas”? In this way all was nicely proportioned. Various terms used in Theosophy, were assigned to different persons. I once read an interpretation of Hamlet in which the characters were also labelled with all the terms of the separate members of man’s being. Now, as I have already mentioned I have really endured a great deal through the symbolic interpretations of my own Mystery Plays, and I cannot tell you how pleased I was when for once a really artistic interpretation of the first drama was given by Herr Uehli. It may have been too flattering if taken personally, but the interpretation was really artistic; that is to say he spoke as one must in criticising anything of the nature of art, then symbolising is out of place; we must take as our starting point the immediate impression that is the point in question. This dreary symbolism would frighten one away if one desired consciousness, for such symbolism is not a sign of any increase of consciousness in this talking round the subject. It signifies a complete digression from the content and labelling vignettes on to it. It should therefore penetrate into what is really living from the aspect of spiritual science, then we shall find that this growth of the consciousness is necessary in every form of art if it is to march with the times. It would simply remain behind in evolution if it did not take part in the growth of consciousness. This is a necessity.
On the other hand it is not proposed that we should be on our guard against the growth of consciousness here intended as though it were a blight, though this warning is certainly necessary with respect to the ordinary intellectual aestheticism and symbolism. On the contrary we can observe how dramatic art is itself acquiring a certain growth of consciousness. I may perhaps be allowed to mention something further. You see, we can say that there is an extraordinary amount of mischief done by interpreters or biographers of Goethe in relation to what has been said about his artistic powers. They might really be said to be in advance of their time, and we can only say that those men—literary historians, aestheticists and so on—who always speak of Goethe’s unconscious power, of Goethe’s simplicity, really only convince us that they are themselves absolutely unconscious of the working of Goethe’s soul. They attribute their own lack of consciousness to him.
How did Goethe’s most wonderful lyrical productions come into being? They were inspired by life itself. It is rather dangerous to speak about Goethe’s love affairs for we may easily be misunderstood; but the psychologist must not shrink from this. Goethe’s relationship to the women he loved in his youth as well as those whom he loved in later years, was such that the most beautiful lyrics were the outcome. How could this be possible? Because Goethe had as it were a dual nature. In all his external experiences, even in the most intimate and soul-stirring experiences he was always a sort of dual personality. There was the Goethe who did not love less devotedly than any other man; and there was the Goethe who at other times could rise above this, who in a sense looked on as a third person at the objective Goethe beside him, as he developed these love affairs with some woman or other. Goethe was able in a sense—psychologically real—to withdraw out of and from himself, and contemplate his own experiences Through this, something very special was formed in his soul. One must indeed look intimately into Goethe’s soul if one wishes to examine this. It was formed because in the first place he was not so much engrossed in the reality, as people who pass through such an experience merely instinctively with their passions and impulses, being unable to withdraw their souls from it, but living blindly and unrestrainedly within it. In the outer world, of course this led to the result that his love affairs often became such as did not necessarily lead to the usual conclusions. In the form in which the question has been put I do not assert that misunderstandings are impossible; what I say is only meant as an interpretation of Goethe. On the other hand it leads to the result that what remained behind in Goethe’s soul and which might appear simultaneously with those outer life experiences, was sometimes not mere remembrance but a picture, a definite image. Thus were created in Goethe’s soul the wonderful pictures of Gretchen of Frankfurt, Friedcriche of Sesenheim about whom Frensicheimer has just written his Ahasuerus which has been considered worthy of a place in the history of German literature. Thus was originated those wonderful characters of “Lili of Frankfurt” that wonderful character we find in Werther. To these also belong “Kätchen of Leipzig” and even such characters as Marianer Willemer, Ulrike Lewitzow and so on, created in Goethe’s old age. We may say that the character of Frau von Stein alone does not belong to this category. This is due to the whole complexity of this relationship. For the very reason that these relationships led to the creation of such characters, which survived more as a residuum than mere remembrance, inspired the wonderful lyrical transformation of the pictures which lived within him. The consequence of this may even be that such a poem becomes dramatic, and in one instance indeed sublimely dramatic. I refer to the first part of Faust. You will find there that the designation “Gretchen” and “Margarita” are interchangeable. And this leads to something deeply connected with the whole psychic origin of the history of Faust. Everywhere you will find “Gretchen” as the designation of that character taken from the Gretchen of Frankfurt. You will find the name “Gretchen” wherever you have a finished picture such as “Gretchen at the Well”; “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” and so on, where the lyrical has gradually passed into the dramatic. On the other hand you will find “Margarita” wherever the character has been formed from the ordinary development of the drama. Everything that bears the name of “Gretchen” is a complete picture in itself that is poetically conceived and developed into a dramatic form. This shows how the poetic element can become intimately objective, so that it can be used for a dramatic combination. The dramatic is created in this way, for the dramatist can always stand above his conceptions. As soon as an author begins to put himself in the place of a character he can no longer make it dramatic. then Goethe created the first part of his Faust, he completely put himself into the personality of Faust and for that reason the character is vague, not definite not rounded off. Goethe did not make it quite distinct and objective, as he did the other characters. How a result of this objectivity is also that one can really enter into the characters, one can really behold them and become as it were, identical with them. That is indeed a gift which certainly was possessed by the author of the Shakespearean dramas. The power of presenting a character in a pictorial objective way as a personal experience in order to enter into it as it were, to draw out something from the character must in a sense pass over to the actor and it will become, when developed, part of his consciousness. Goethe's special form of consciousness enabled him to do this, to embody these picture images in a lyrical and dramatic fore, and this he did best of all in reproducing the Frankfurt Gretchen.
The actor must develop something similar, and there are instances of this. I will give you one such. I do not know how many of you have seen the actor Lewinski of the Vienna Burgtheater. Judging by his appearance and his voice he was really not in the least fitted to become an actor and when he described his connection in his own particular art he did so in somewhat the following way. He said: “Yes, I should of course not be able to act at all”—he was one of the chief actors for a long time at the Vienna Burgtheater, perhaps one of the most distinguished players of character parts—“I should not be able to do anything at all, if I were to depend on what I appear to be on the stage, the little hunchback with the squeaky voice and the dreadfully ugly face.” He could of course be nothing at all, but he said: “I have to come to my own aid, I am really always three people on the stage, first, I am the little hunchbacked croaking man who is so frightfully ugly; the second one who is quite outside the one who croaks, is a pure idealist, a quite spiritual being, I must always keep him before me; and then, then only am I the third, and, with the second, I play upon the first, the croaking hunchback.” This must of course be quite consciously done, it must be something which I might say, has become for me a question of management. Indeed the threefold division is extraordinarily important for the technique of theatrical art. It is even necessary, though this can be expressed otherwise—for the actor to learn to know his own body well, for his own corporeality is after all for the real actor the real instrument on which he plays. He must learn to know his own body as the violinist his violin; this he must know, he must to a certain extent be in the position of listening to his own voice. This can be done. He can gradually be able to hear his own voice as though it was flowing around him. He must practise this, however, while trying to recite dramatic, or lyrical verses, but living verses very strong in form, rhythm and time, as far as possible while adapting himself to the verse form. He will gradually feel, that the spoken word is entirely separated from the larynx, that it hums around in the air, and he will attain a sensible yet supersensible impression of his own speech. In a similar way one can then get a sensible-supersensible view of one’s own personality. Only one must not become too affected. You see, Lewinski did not give himself airs, he called himself a little hunchback, an extremely ugly man. One must certainly not become a prey to illusions. He who wishes to be always beautiful, who will concede nothing at all in this respect, will not so easily acquire a knowledge of his body as an instrument. This is, however, absolutely necessary for the actor, for he must be conscious of how he comes on to the stage, how he plants his foot, how he uses his hands, and so on. The actor must realise whether he has a soft tread or a quiet step in ordinary life. he must know how he bends his knees how he movers his hands etc. He must indeed make an attempt to look at himself while he is studying his part. That is what I should like to call “Throwing' oneself into the part”. Indirectly the speech will help very considerable here because through listening to one’s own voice, one’s own 'words, the contemplation of the human figure as a whole follows instinctively.
Question: How could we help usefully in the fieLd of our own immediate work by looking up and collecting theories of the dramatic art, historical documents, for spiritual investigation, writing biographies for actors and so on? (Question incomplete)
In this respect a society of actors could certainly accomplished, a very great deal, only it must be done in the right way. Histories and theories of the drama and biographies of actors will not help much, for I certainly believe that some very considerable objections would be raised against this. The actor, at any rate when he is in full work, should really have no time at all for studying histories of the theatre, dramatic art, and still less biographies of actors! On the other hand a great deal can be accomplished in regard to the direct perception of man and hie immediate characteristics. Here I can recommend something which may prove very useful for the actor.
There is a science of physiognomy by Aristotle. You will easily find everything sketched there? even to a red or pointed nose, the meaning of a smooth or hairy hand, or a fat or lean body, all peculiarities showing how the spirit and soul of man express themselves, how one has to look at them and so on—a very useful study which has only recently gone out of date. We cannot now observe people as Aristotle did his Greeks; we should get quite false results if we did. The actor has opportunities of observing such things because he must represent different people, and if he is wise he will never mention names when referring to these traits, he will not injure his career and his personal intercourse nor his social relationships, although he becomes thus observant. Mr or Mrs or Miss So-and-So must never in any way play a part when he makes his interesting communications of his observations, but always only when Mr. A Mrs B and Miss C, and so on. What refers to outer reality must of course be suppressed as much as possible. If you really study life in this way, if you really notice the curious expression of the nostrils when people make a joke and the importance of paying attention to such things—speaking generally of course in this way we can learn a great deal. The important thing is not so much the knowledge but the thinking and observing on these lines to help one to reach this point. If one thinks and observes in this way one is no longer using the ordinary observation of today. Our observation of the world nowadays is such that a man may perhaps have seen another 30 times and yet not even then know what sort of buttons he has on his waistcoat. Such want of observation is quite possible today.
I have even known people who have talked to a lady the whole afternoon and did not know what the colour of her dress was—a quite incomprehensible fact—but it does happen. Of course such people who do not even know the colour of a lady’s dress after a long interview with her, are not very fitted to direct their powers of observation in the way they must if they are to be used in action. I have even had the nice experience of people assuring me that they did not know whether the dress of the lady with whom they had spent the whole afternoon, was red or blue, if I may add something personal to that, I have even had the experience that people expected me in a similar case, not to know the colour of the lady’s dress either, after I had been speaking with her for a long time! One sees from this how little value is attached to many faculties of the soul. What we see before us must stand out clearly in its full contours; and if we see it thus, and not merely—I might say—as a sort of external nebulous covering, such a perception already passes over into the possibility of modelling and shaping.
So above all an actor must be a keen observer, and in this respect he must be distinguished by a certain humour. He must take these things from a humorous point of view. For, you see, if he had the experience of the professor who for some time left the concert because immediately in front of him sat a student whose top waistcoat button was torn off, so that the professor referred to was forced to concentrate on the absent button, that would not be the power of observation but of concentration. But now one day the torn off button was in its place, and behold the professor lost his power of concentration from that moment. This is a conception of the world without humour. The actor must not be like this, he must look at things humorously, he must always stand above them. He will then be able to give them form.
That is what must be thoroughly observed, and if we accustom ourselves to formulate such things, and really see certain inner connections in bodily perception, rising above it with a certain sense of humour so that we can give it fora but not in a sentimental way of course, we shall also develop in the handling of such a thing that lightness, which one must always have when one wishes to characterise in the world of appearances. But one must characterise in the world of Make-believe, otherwise one always remains a more imitative amateur. Thus in conversing with one another in this way upon social physiognomy, those who are engaged in dramatic art may collect a great deal of that which is of more value than dramatic theory; and especially more so than biographies of actors and historic accounts of the theatre, which can certainly be left to others. Out of that which can be observed and brought out in his art by the actor, (this would be a very interesting chapter on the art of observing man) he would be able to develop just that naive, conscious handling of dramatic art, in which that art specially consists.
Question. What value for our time has the representation of past epochs, e. g. the Greek dramas, the dramas of Shakespeare, and of recent authors such as Ibsen, Strindberg etc?
In regard to dramatic conception the man of today will of course have to make use of other forms, than those used in Greek dramatic art, but that does not hinder us from staging Greek dramas today, indeed it would be a sin if we did not do so. We should however, have better translations, than those of the pedantic Wilamowiz, who because of his extremely literal translations, loses the spirit of those dramas. It must be clear to us that we must introduce to the man of today an art which satisfies his eye and other perceptive faculties. For that purpose it is of course necessary, as regards Greek dramas, that one should live more deeply in them. I do not think, speaking paradoxically—that one can live in the Greek dramas of Aeschylus or Sophocles—though this might be easier with Euripides—without approaching them in the sense of Spiritual Science. The characters in the dramas of Aeschylus and Sophocles must really become living in this sense, for in spiritual science alone are the elements to be found which our feeling, and impulses of will can recreate in such a way, that we are able to make something of the personages in these dramas. Then, as soon as one can enter into these dramas through spiritual science, it will be possible to make their form live, for spiritual science reveals in a special way the origin of these dramas in the light of the Mysteries. Of course it would be an anachronism if one wished to present them as the Greeks did. This might be done once as a historical experiment, but one would have to be conscious that it was nothing more. The Greek dramas are really too good for that. They can positively live again in the man of today and it would even be a great gain first to re-create them in the sense of spiritual science, and then to transform them into performances.
On the other hand the man of today is able to enter into the particular style of Shakespeare without any special difficulty. That only needs the human feeling of today and absence of prejudice. The characters in Shakespeare should really be looked upon as Hermann Grimm saw them. lie expressed. a paradox which is however, very true; truer than many historical statements; It is really much more sensible to study Julius Caesar in Shakespeare than in a history book. As a matter of fact Shakespeare's imagination makes it possible to enter positively into the character so that it becomes alive, and is more real than any historical representation. It would of course be a pity if we did not desire to perform the Shakeepearean dramas today. It is a question of having the thing so much at heart that one can simply use the ordinary means one has assimilated in the way of technique etc, in impersonating the characters.
Now there certainly lies an abyss between Shakespeare and the French dramatists, whom Schiller and Goethe still took as their model, and the newest dramatists. In Ibsen we really have to do with problem plays and Ibsen should be performed in such a way that we become aware that his characters are really no characters at all. If one wished to make his characters alive in one’s imagination they would be continually hopping round and treading on their own toes! They are not human beings, but the plays are great problem plays, and the problems are such as will always be experienced by people of the time. It is extraordinarily interesting for the actor to try and model himself on Ibsen’s plays today, for if he should try to study the parts he will have to say to himself, “This is indeed no human being? I must create one.” He will have to proceed in an individual manner; he will have to become aware of the fact that when he represents a character of Ibsen’s it may become quite other than when someone else does so. One can bring very much of one’s own individuality into the characters, for they can stand the individual note and being performed in various ways; whereas in Shakespeare, and also in the Greek dramas one should really always have the feeling that there is only one possible conception and towards that one must strive. Certainly one will not always find it at once, but one must have the feeling that there is only one possible interpretation. In Ibsen or even in Strindberg that is not at all the case. These characters must be treated by bringing an individual note into them. It is difficult to express oneself in such matters but I should like to do so metaphorically, you see, with Shakespeare one has wholly the feeling that he is an artist who looks from all sides, that he can see all round, that he really beholds as a complete man and can see others with his whole being. Ibsen could not do that, he could only see superficially. Hence that remarkably drawn character in one of his plays. The hero plants himself behind a chair by the wall where he was separated from everyone, then he allowed his eyes to wander round in order to take a general view. In this way the stories of the world, the people that he sees, are seen superficially. One must first give them substance, and this rests with the individual actor. This is specially the case with Strindberg. I have nothing to say against his dramatic art, I esteem it, but one must look at everything in its own way. Such a play as the Damascus drama is something quite exceptional, yet we must say that the characters are not human, they are mere shapes crammed full of problems. Yes there one can do much, for one can really put one’s whole being into the part, as actor, one must personally add very much to the individual characters.
Question: How does a real work of art, speaking of dramatic art, appear in its effects when seen from the spiritual world, in contradistinction to other activities of man?
The other activities of man are such that one really never sees them as a complete whole. Really men particularly in our day, are formed in a way by their environment, and milieu. Hermann Bahr described this in a lecture in Berlin in a really striking way for he said: “In the nineties of the 19th century something very particular happened to humanity. If one entered a town, a strange town, and met people coming out of the factory in the evening they all looked exactly alike; so that one felt quite anxious. At last one no longer believed that one really saw so many people all alike, but the same one multiplied many times”. He said: "“Then we pass from the nineties into the 20th century”. He alluded coquetishly to the fact that he was very often invited when he came to any town—he said “When I was invited to dinner I always had a lady on my right and on my left, and the next day another lady on my right and left; but I could not tell whether I had a different one each time or not, I did not know if they were the came ladies as yesterday or not” Thus people are a kind of impression of their milieu. This has become particularly so at the present time.
This need not of course be carried so far, but there is something in it. Man in his ordinary activity stands before one in such a way that he must be judged in connection with his whole environment. What a strong impression we can obtain of a man, by knowing his environment! In dramatic art it is a question of really looking at what one sees as something separate, complete in itself. For this, many of the prejudices which play such a part in our inartistic ago must be overcome. To answer this question frankly I shall have to say something which may actually call forth a kind of horror in the aesthetist and carping critics of today.
When it is an artistic representation of persons, we must gradually study and observe that if we are to express passion, sorrow, cheerfulness, to convince or persuade a man, or to scold him, we always feel that it must be accompanied by a quite definite movement of the limbs, with special regard to rhythm. This is still a long way from Eurhythmy, but a quite definite movement of the limbs, a certain kind o slowness or quickness in speaking, is the result of this study. We acquire a feeling that language and movement are independent of each other, that there would be the same cadence, and measure in words, even if they had no meaning, that they have a separate life of their own. We must have the feeling, that the language would be able to flow even if we put together quite senseless words in a definite cadence or measure. We must also feel that we can express our meaning by definite movements. An actor must be able to see himself in his part, he must feel pleasure in making certain movements of his limbs, movements not made for any purpose but to follow a rhythm; for instance, clasping the left arm with the right hand and so on, and he must feel a certain pleasure and satisfaction in this. Further he must say to himself, in rehearsing; “Now as you say this, it takes a tone, a cadence, the movement must be of two kinds”. It must not be supposed that really artistic work would result by laboriously drawing from the poetical content the correct way of speaking, rather must we have the feeling: “The sort of cadence and measure which is appropriate here, you have known a long tine, as well as the movement of the limbs, all you have to do is to remember the right one.” Perhaps he may not have studied it, this signifies that he can certainly discover what he needs; but he must feel that it must be put together out of what he has already studied and he must attain his objective in another way. That is the point.
Question: What is the task of music in dramatic art?
Well, I think we have given the practical answer to that by the way in which we use music in Eurhythmy. I certainly think that it is not to be hastily rejected; atmosphere may be created—even in pure drama—by music before and after; and if the play offers the possibility of music, it should be used. This question is naturally not easy to answer when it is asked in such a general sense; for it is a question of doing the right thing at the right moment.
Question: Is talent a necessary foundation for an actor, or can the equivalent be developed through spiritual-scientific methods in anyone who has love and artistic feeling for dramatic art?
Well, we had a friend at the Weimar Theatre: There, all sorts of people appeared wishing to be tested in this way. Sometimes such aspirations were not encouraged. My friend, who was himself an actor, would very frequently say when asked: “Do you think that something can be made of that man? Well yes if he acquired talent!” There is a certain truth in that. It is indeed quite admissible, and not only admissible, but a deep truth, that one can learn everything if one applies to oneself what flows from spiritual science into the impulses of man. What can be learnt is something which may appear as talent. There is no denying that. But there is a little hitch; we must first live long enough to go through such a development. When by all sorts of means something like the creation of a talent is really acquired in this way, The following may occur. Someone has created a talent, let us say for playing the youthful hero. he may however have taken so long about it that he is now bald and grey. This which is absolutely possible, makes life very difficult. For this reason it is necessary that in regard to the choice of persons suitable for dramatic art—there should be two persons, the one who wishes to become an actor—(there are many of these) and the other, he who has to decide the question. The Latter must have a tremendously strong feeling of responsibility. He must, for instance, be aware that a superficial judgment in this respect may be very wrong, for it is easy to think that a man has no talent for something. It may only be concealed, and if there is any possibility of its coming out in some way, that which was not recognised, can sometimes be brought out comparatively soon, nevertheless, much will depend for practical purposes—life must indeed remain practical—on acquiring a certain capacity for discovering talent; and first of all we must limit ourselves to using what can be acquired through spiritual science—which must be a good deal—in order to make the talent more living and to develop it more quickly. All this is impossible. In the case of people who sometimes take themselves for great dramatic geniuses, it is often necessary to say, that God in his wrath allowed them to be actors; and one must really have the conscientiousness to tell them, kindly of course and without offending them, not to enter the dramatic profession, which after all is not for everyone, as it requires above all the possibility of an inner activity of soul and spirit so as to transfer that easily into the physical body. This is what has specially to be taken into account in this matter.
With regard to exercises for the development of one’s own sense of movement, these cannot be given so quickly. I will occupy myself however, with the matter, and it will also be possible in this direction gradually to approach those who wish to know something about it. These things, if they are to be of any use, must of course be worked out slowly and objectively, from the basis of spiritual science. In this direction I will note the question for a later answer.
Question. Could fundamental and direct limits be given which would lead more deeply into the comprehension and the way of entering into new parts, than can be worked out by practice and tradition? May we also ask for literature in which we can find answers to these and similar questions?
Well, as regards existing literature, I should not like to rely on it too much, for the reasons I have already pointed out in reference to the observation of mankind. You remember what I said before about the buttons and the lady’s dresses! Personal observation is a good preparation. But then well—I believe it is not necessary to say this to the person who asked the Question—but it is indeed rather necessary in regard to the way in which actors perform today. You see, things are such that one is obliged to say, “People who appear on the stage today do not at all want to study their parts”. They mostly just learn them without having any knowledge at all of the content of the whole play. They simply learn their part. This is really a dreadful thing. When I was on the executive committee of the dramatic Society in Berlin and we had to produce dramas such as Maeterlinck’s etc., we formerly bound the actors to listen first of all to a recital of the play, as well as an interpretation of it at a rehearsal. Otherwise the actors would have had to take their parts home, each one would have learnt only his own part, they would have come to the rehearsals, not one would have known what the others could do—it would have been terrible. And then in various other plays in the Burgensisternwal by Max Borcher and in a drama by Julius Gering, which was called, I think, The Seven Loan or Fat Kine, I took pains to introduce into the society at that time, what I called just now an interpretation of the drama, but an artistic interpretation, in which the character became living. We first of all met at a stage gathering, where we tried by all possible mean to make the characters living, through the actor’s own interpretation. When listening to the reciter, it is much easier than when studying by oneself, and all that must be effective if a company is formed from the beginning—namely, the ensemble. I believe this should be recommended in the study of every dramatic, artistic play; above all it should not only be read to the players but interpreted dramatically and artistically. It is absolutely necessary to develop a certain humour and a certain lightness of touch in such matters. Art nearly always needs humour. It must not become sentimental. The sentimental when it has to be represented, as of course it sometimes musty should be first conceived by the actor with humour; he roust always stand above it with full consciousness and not allow his own personality to slip into the sentimental, If the first stage-sittings are occupied in interpreting the play, people will soon cease to look upon the sittings as instructive; if this is done with a certain humour they will see that the time thus saved, and spent in such a way, is well employed, and they will develop a remarkable talent for imitation in the imaginative characters, which they will have to play. That is what I have to say about these things.
Of course speaking of such matters in this way, may seem rather blunt? but the worst point in theatrical representative art is really the desire for realism. Just consider, how could the actors of former times if they had wished to be realistic have represented rightly, let us say, a Lord Chamberlain, whom they had indeed never seen in his full Court dignity, for their social standing made that impossible. But even the precautionary measures customary in Court theatres are really of no assistance here. The various Princes, Grand Dukes, Kings, had perhaps selected a chief stage-manager, because they thought “the theatre people cannot of course know what is done at Court, so we must make some General or perhaps only a Captain who understands nothing of any sort; of art, Stage Manager” These people from precaution, were given the management of the court theatres and had to teach the people a kind of realistic treatment of things as done in Court Society, so that they should know how to conduct themselves, for the theatre people do not go to Court! All that achieves notice, for everything depends on catching the spirit, on the feeling for the bodily movements, for the cadence. One learns from the thing itself what is in question. Thus we can exercise the observance of what proceeds from inner sympathy with the artistic form, without wishing to imitate the exterior. That is what is to be taken into consideration in these things.
For my part I only hope that these indications will not be misunderstood in any way. It is indeed necessary, if one comes to speak on this topic, that it should be treated in such a way that one must take into account the fact that one is concerned with something which must be referred to the realm of balance. Certainly I must say that I shall never forget the great impression made upon me by the first lecture of my honoured old teacher and friend, Carl Julius Schröer, who said of the “aesthetic conscience” of one of these preliminary sittings—“this aesthetic conscience is a living thing”. It brings one to the recognition of the principle that art is not a mere luxury but a necessary adjunct of any existence worthy of man. When that is taken as the fundamental note, then, building upon this key-note one may develop humour and lightness; one can thus reflect as to how one can treat sentimentality humorously, how one can treat sadness by standing completely above it, and the like. This is what must be; otherwise dramatic art cannot fulfil in a satisfactory way the demands which the present age must some day make on man.
I am far from wanting to preach a sermon today on frivolity, not even on artistic frivolity, but I should like to emphasize again and again, that a humorous delicate manner of handling what one has before one, is indeed something which must play a great part in art, and especially in the handling of the technique of art.