an actor’s perspective 

I recently watched a pair of episodes from Dick Cavett’s PBS series in 1981 in which he interviewed Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It was a real delight.

One thing Matthau said caught my attention. He said that he refused to do theater where there was sound amplification. He said that he and Lemmon turned down an offer to do a play at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in the Los Angeles Music Center because it had sound amplification. Instead they did the same play at the nearby Mark Taper Forum for one-tenth the money because there was no amplification.

Theater DistrictWhen I was attending Pitzer College in Claremont I would come home to Hemet to see plays performed by the Hemet High theater class. They put on some good shows, and, as I recall there was no amplification. I remember a great performance of Stop the World I want to Get Off. The lack of amplification was also true for the Four College Players in Claremont and the Pomona College theater department.

Theater today is a much different animal. Terry and I have seen Phantom of the Opera in both San Francisco and San Jose. We saw the original Chorus Line on the San Francisco Peninsula and the wonderful revival in San Francisco. We saw Rent and Wicked in San Jose.

All of those shows relied on a complex array of wireless microphone. The theater community has been unhappy because the FCC has been considering changing the regulations around wireless microphones, and they say the changes would require heavier, more unwieldy microphones. I hope that doesn’t happen.

The bottom line is this: I admire Matthau’s integrity in 1981, but Terry and I loved all of the theater experiences I have mentioned.

Live theater is a mode of entertainment to be respected, enjoyed, and savored. Sound amplification does not diminish the experience.


One Comment on “an actor’s perspective ”

  1. Alison Morgan says:

    Saw a wonderful blues musical last year in a tiny theater in town. The youngest cast member, 30 something couldn’t project at all, and I missed many of her words despite sitting fewer than 20 feet from her “room” on the stage… Older performers, loud and clear despite being at the far side of the stage.


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