Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nathan The Wise

Who says I don't like critics? Some I even admire. George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) was the leading American drama critic of his time. Active from 1905 to 1958, he published thirty-four books on the theatre, co-edited The Smart Set and The American Mercury with H. L. Mencken, and zealously practiced "destructive" theatre criticism. He  liked very little, but when he decided to champion a playwright--or a performer--there was nothing he would not do. He never hesitated to use his influence with producers to get plays put on, nor did he hesitate to give suggestions to authors or directors about revisions or casting before plays went into rehearsal. Nathan wrote during the most important period of our theatre's history and set critical standards that are still being followed. I love to quote his wonderful aper├žu that “an actor without a playwright is like a hole without a doughnut”. And I like his description of the theatre as "a place for the intelligent exercise of the emotions". 

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