Reminiscences of Teresa Wright
New York, June 1959
On Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan directed Teresa Wright
in William Inge's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" which ran on Broadway from
December 1957 through January 1959.
There is absolutely no one who can come anywhere near Gadg (Kazan).
I felt, in a way, that I'd never been directed before. He's the first person
that ever really directed me. By directed, I don't mean he told me what
to do. Again, it's a question of bringing out something from you, but he
doesn't just sit back and wait for something, the right thing, to come
out of you -- as, for instance, Willie
Wyler does. He guides or talks or analyzes the character with you so
much that you begin to see insights into both yourself and the character
that you just weren't aware of. I have never known anyone who had the knowledge
of people that he has. I never knew anyone in my life who is as keenly
aware, as articulate in talking about it, and he's so spontaneous in his
talking. It isn't a set "this is what I've learned about people"
sort of thing. He approaches each character, and each situation that that
character might have to face, and sort of opens himself up to it completely --
and as he opens himself up to it, he shares with you this tremendous insight
and knowledge and compassion that he has for people, and excitement.
Q: I'd say this is a new watchword in the theatre today -- this way
of approaching acting.
I can't help feeling that there are an awful lot of people who tried
to copy the outward signs of Gadg's
approach -- they sort of go at each part, open it, examine it -- but always
you feel it's kind of studied. "This is what I'm going to say about
this part," or -- with Gadg
you don't feel that. You always feel that he is absolutely experiencing
his discovery with you, this knowledge. He really opens himself up, and
forces you to open yourself, which is his great gift. It isn't this coldly
sitting back and analyzing. I think the key is, it's done with that great
really caring. It makes a difference. Creatively, at the moment, experiencing
something with you.
You never once feel his theatrical knowledge imposed on you. You
never once feel that you're doing something for some theatrical effect,
and yet certainly he is the most effective theatrically. I heard nothing
but praise of Kazan, but
not what I saw. I used to sit and listen, as he told things to each character
in the play. Each little thing that came up, he'd explore it so, with such
enthusiasm. He is the most creative person I have ever met, ever worked
with, ever heard about.
© 1959 Columbia University and the Oral History Research Office