Thomas Archives

Scene4 Readers Respond

To answer Nathan Thomas' question: I've been reading Scene4 for many years and I especially like Nathan's column because of his personal one-on-one style and off-beat insights. All of the columns and articles are good and follow a course of interesting, informative and enjoyable journalism.
Martin Moore, Producer
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Community Theater

Nathan Thomas article brought the words "community theater" into a more enlightened context than the one usually associated with the words "community" and "theater". His broadening of the scope of community, suggests a broader landscape for theater artists to work with. In the August, 2007 issue of Scene4, titled "Homeown Grown Theater", I wrote about the efforts of the 4TH Line Theater in a Canadian rural community, developing stories that frequently leap frog over parochial concerns, into a shared and cognizant sense of the overall human community. For the most part, Community theatre in the United States simply copies what has succeeded elsewhere in order to appear up to date and "professional" with the right kind of recipe. I am not talking about merely exploring the "experimental" aspects of theater; that has been done to death and has limited appeal. I am talking about rediscovering community theatre from the ground floor up, where the real demand for a fresh approach needs to succeed.
Ned Bobkoff
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Scene4 Readers Respond

I have been an avid reader of the magazine since its inception and I've always look forward to Nathan Thomas' commentary.
Anee S. Waterson, Writer, Director-UK

Tim Forman

Playwright and actor-US
Mary Scott-Raines

Theatre lover and community theatre participant
Pearl Berg

Actor and Poet-Denmark
Karl Mendik

I love the arts, especially theater and opera
Suzanne Seibring

Peter Johns

Producer, Director-US
Toro Sanchez

Just an arts lover and reader
Karen Moreland

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Who's in charge here?

Bravo, Mr. Thomas! Insightful commentary about our times (and theatre)! If only more people allowed live plays to wash over them rather than re-runs of Desperate Housewives.

Lia Beachy

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Ergo Nathan Thomas

Indeed the play is the thing and Nathan is the great purveyor of what remains good in theatre. Many, many thanks.

Burton Rubens

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Another Tramp

Tomorrow it will be called "Cacophony".


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One Tramp in Dirt Time

As a fellow writer for Scene4 Magazine I always found Nathan Thomas' articles pleasing and to the point. "One Tramp in Dirt Time" was especially direct and touchingly straightforward in its insights regarding big time corporation abuse of democracy. Thanks Nathan.

Ned Bobkoff

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Black Box Badness

I agree wholeheartedly with Nathan Thomas and his lament in "Thinking Outside the Box." But I am willing to go one step further and say I despise the Black Box. Not for it's origins or intentions, but for what it is now. There are rare, and I mean, rare exceptions, but in general, and especially in Los Angeles, the people who run and/or rent Black Boxes have no right to call them theaters and the productions they do in them theatre. Besides the lack of color and design, there is no thought to fixing all the small flaws such as dangling cords, crappy sound systems, faded paint, worn-out bathrooms or lobby carpeting. Too often actors are in the lobby talking to their friends right before the show starts. And the front of house staff is dressed in their worst just-rolled-out-of-bed duds and their best coat of apathy. There is no suspension of disbelief created for the patrons once they step through the front doors. And this is reflected in the fairly lame and not very daring productions themselves. I place much of the blame for this laid-back, amateur approach firmly at the worn-out, sad floors of the tiny black box. There is definitely crap being done in grander spaces, but more often than not, they require the people who use them to rise to the occasion. And at least they know how hide the loose cables.

Lia Beachy

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Two things about the May issue

First, I feel incredibly pleased and gratified by Renate Stendhal's kind and generous letter about my reviews. To receive such praise from a writer of her stature is an honor indeed. Second, I loved Nathan Thomas' appreciation of the great Sir Derek Jacobi. I hope Mr. Thomas enjoyed Sir Derek's performance as Lear (I can't imagine otherwise). I myself have been fortunate enough to see Sir Derek four times in the flesh: on stage in "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Breaking the Code," and "A Voyage Round My Father," and as himself at a speaking engagement at The National Press Club. Sir Derek was as charming, witty and self-deprecating as one could wish. He spoke of just barely losing the role of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" to Anthony Hopkins: "Tony was brilliant, damn him, but I should have liked to have a go at it!" He also told the tale of being approached meanicngly by an extremely intimidating U.S. Customs official. The official's demand? "Show us your limp!"

Miles David Moore

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Great Performances

Add to your list, Paul Muni in Inherit the Wind. Muni was a prime example of a major acting talent who was nurtured and developed by what is historically the oldest, most productive acting training "method" -- working in rehearsal and on stage with successful actors and directors. He had no formal training, never took a class nor set foot in a studio. He learned from anyone who would talk to him, show him, work with him. Beginning as a child-actor in New York's Yiddish Theatre, Muni went on to become a "star" on Broadway and in Hollywood. He earned many awards including an Oscar. He was admired for his self-developed discipline and detailed character preparation and a strong influence on many other actors including Marlon Brando, who had one of his earliest stage experiences with Muni. For a "star", Muni was incredibly introverted and shy. He rarely gave an interview and was reputed to have never seen his performances on the screen for fear that he would lose his internal acting p.o.v. Inherit the Wind was a culminating performance in Muni's theatrical career. After the play's successful launch in 1955, Muni was forced out because of a cancerous tumor in his eye. Melvyn Douglas replaced him. Muni's eye was removed and the cancer stopped, and later in 1955, he returned to the Broadway hit. That night, when he first appeared on stage, the audience rose in unison as if rehearsed in a chorus of applause and cheering. Muni stopped at his entrance, looked at the audience, turned away, and delivered his first line. It was a stunning moment. Never to be forgotten, since I had the good fortune to be in the audience on that night.

Arthur Meiselman

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Great Performances

Alan Bates in the title role of Simon Gray's BUTLEY turns in one of the greatest performances I've ever had the pleasure to view. I did not see Bates onstage in London or New York (where Clive Barnes called his 1972 performance "perhaps the single greatest he had ever seen on stage"). Fortunately, Ely Landau's American Film Theatre adapted it to film in 1974 (with Harold Pinter directing) and though unavailable for many years, it was released on DVD in 2003 and is now available on Netflix. I've watched it with awe a half dozen times. Bates, who said Ben Butley was a more demanding role than Hamlet, manages to play this charismatic English Professor, whose career, marriage, friendships are all crumbling, with wit, anger, pathos, and vindictiveness that one would think more appropriate to larger than life figures like Hamlet, Antony, or King Lear. I'm not sure how Gray's play would fare with any other actor; Bates brings it as close to tragedy as any 20th century drama I've seen.

David Alpaugh

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Great Performances

Arthur's story of the great Paul Muni reminded me of an important omission -- the Marx Brothers. They honed their skills out on the vaudeville circuit and then wowed audiences in "I'll Say She Is," The Cocoanuts," and "Animal Crackers." Evidently to see them live was far funnier than seeing them on the screen. And more than that, they took ethnic humor out of the tenement and into the mainstream that led to, among other folks, Woody Allen's films.

Nathan Thomas

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Why don't you speak better?

Thank you for this interesting article. I don't disagree with you at all, but surely there is also an issue about simply making our speech clear and understandable to an audience on stage. When characters in a play speak with a particular regional dialect, perhaps we need to "cheat" that dialect slightly in the direction of a "standard" speech ("generalized Iowan": is that how you put it?) in order to ensure that the whole audience can understand the speech; while hopefully retaining the quality and character of the dialect.

Michael Elliott

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Touring Tales

One point--you talk about touring as a "young person's game". It's truly an "actor's game" young and old. The bus&truck, the roving Band of Players, even the circus and carnivals--these marvelous adventures for both performers and audiences have been lost in the U.S. not just because of the swamp of mall-entertainment but also because of the overreach of unions and the tax-man. You should advise your young actors--if you want to tour and tour you should, go to Europe, go to Canada, even Australia. It's still there!

Michael Aptrow

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Feminism and the Method

I can't begin to tell you how important Nathan Thomas' words are regarding the gender-stricken "Method". Since acting and the creations of acting on the stage and on the screen have such a profound effect and influence on the behavior of persons and what they do with their lives and the lives of others,Thomas gets to the heart and core of it and opens it up. It needs to be dug into deeper and further.

Michael Aptrow

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Why Do They Muck Around With Shakespeare?

Do you really want to know why they muck around with Shakespeare? Just go see "The Hunger Games".

Michael Aptrow

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I Like the Quiet

It's amazing isn't it that after all these years there still is no good solution to one of an actor's great nightmares, laryngitis. Most of the time it's viral, some times it's psychological, and other times what? Metaphysical?

Natalie Rosen

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About King Lear

I did Lear twice, but not Lear. I played the Fool. It was a joyous experience as it obviously was for you. Thanks for sharing. I'll be more ready for the next time.

Tomas Boornin

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The Giving Lear

Nathan Thomas' insights to playing Lear as a "giving actor" awakened a sleepy part of the playwright within me. When we deal with art, whether it's on the page or on the stage, I'm delighted to be reminded that it is in the giving that we have the opportunity to make the work sing. When I return to my newest project, I will approach my characters and ultimately the audience with a more giving heart.

Elizabeth Appell

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Stanislavsky and the Avengers

Mr. Thomas has a special way of weaving his humanism into his views of theatre. I too am an actress and I too love comic books. If I were younger and more adventurous, I would go and study with him. As it is, I will have to settle with continuing to enjoy his personable and instructive articles.

Francine Bledsin

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Bettencourt and Thomas

Try as I may and try as I might, I can't get over the feeling that both Mr. Bettencourt and Mr. Thomas are 'sweet' cynics. Cynics after their years in the theater and sweet to be in Scene4. It's a refreshing encore but only when you're in the mood.

Stanley Bergas

read Michael Bettencourt's column
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Nathan Thomas' exploration of men in a women's world (April 2014) not only strikes a chord and a hurrah for bald men but for all men, and boys, who plumb the mysteries of how and why women costume themselves and the resentment they encounter when they affect an answer. I have yet to feel comfortable "shopping", "wandering" in a women's lingerie department. The silent accusations thrown at me by the darts of raised eyebrows loudly resonate as: "he's looking for an enticing gift for his girlfriend, but it's really to dress her up in his latest fantasy;" "he's a cross-dresser shopping for his latest affectation;" "he's a pervert looking for handjob gloves;" "he's his wife's mama's boy." Even if Mr. Thomas wore a large badge that proclaimed him as "Costumer for Such&Such Production" he'd never escape the little stabs in his back. Used to be a time when store detectives would usher a man out of women's lingerie unless he were accompanied by a woman and even then they watched for any deviant looks on his face. Today, women are liberated and men are too, I think, maybe.

Paul Kevlin

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Acting and its methods

Nathan Thomas is an articulate proponent of Stanislavsky and I have always enjoyed and appreciated his essays and analyses. He is obviously a successful teacher, so I wonder if he isn't distracted by the process in favor of the craft. I, for one, have left the emotional-truth psychological approach to acting and adhere strongly to this credo by director Joe Wright: "To me, naturalism is the death of drama. Lee Strasberg came along and the Method fucked everything up. I find people like Celia Johnson are my favorite actors. I was brought up on films like Brief Encounter (1945) and, for me, they expressed enormous truth. Marlon Brando does not have the monopoly on truth!"

Doug Henshall

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Pro-99 Status Quo supporters are misguided

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Salyers and other Pro-99 supporters who think theatre in LA will die if small theatres are required to pay minimum wage. One major issue not being brought up is the law. The California Labor Commission has turned a blind eye to the 99-Seat theatre world for decades but is now receiving pressure to enforce minimum wage because of the national outcry regarding labor practices in general.
Equity has to cover their butts. If the state enforces minimum wage requirements and Equity hasn't gotten in front of this mess, small theatre owners and producers could turn around and sue Equity for the monies claiming they followed what the union advised. Litigation will happen. Also, there are dozens of small theatres that have been using the 99-Seat plan for years. If your company can manage to produce plays regularly, then you should be making the effort to raise funds to pay everyone involved, not just tech directors, directors or writers. Vocal proponents of maintaining the status quo, such as Tim Robbins or Ed Asner, are the very people who should be trying to improve working conditions and helping setup funds and lobby wealthy LA patrons to support theatre.
You know why the Geffens and Ahmansons and all the other wealthy benefactors support large theatres, LA Opera, LA Master Chorale, LA Philharmonic and  LA Museums, but not 99-Seat theatres? Because most, not all, but most are a jumble of dilettantes throwing together mediocre fare at best.
The term "Los Angeles theatre scene" is an oxymoron. Yes, there is lightning in a bottle on a occasion being produced in these small venues, but most prove the adage, "You get what you pay for." Unfortunately too many actors over the years drank the Kool-Aid and believe that great art equals great sacrifice and that volunteering to work for nothing is honorable or a way to work the acting muscles. I call bullshit. Value artists' work and give them a wage. This isn't even a living wage, but it's a start. And maybe changing the plan will shut down a bunch of theatres or maybe those theatres will work smarter and harder to find the funds they need. Hollywood is full of rich people who throw their money away on countless things. No one can say that the money isn't around, they just haven't worked hard enough to acquire it. 

Lia Beachy

Nathan Thomas' column: "The Ninety and Nine Seats"

Hanging Out With Chekhov

It's amazing and wonderful how Chekov the man and his writing has endured for so long and is yet so influential. There are problems with translating some of his work, but isn't that true of many writers, great and small? Mr. Thomas gives us a thorough and resounding view of what that all entails. Thank you for that.

Pierre Benedette

Nathan Thomas' column: "Vanya"

Warfare Indeed

Nathan Thomas lays bare his inner and outer lives with honesty, temperance and courage.He speaks to all of us, all of our secret wishes and he invites us to join him in not only the good life, but the good life well lived. His essay in this issue of Scene4 should be posted and pasted in every classroom, everywhere.

Hans Stefner

Nathan Thomas' column: "Trench Warfare"

About Thomas

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to RECENT LETTERS in the Thomas category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sullwold is the previous category.

Walsh is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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