Personal Perspectives Paper about the most recent live performance I viewed
"Stories by Heart" Lincoln Center Theater, New York Photo: Nigel Parry/CPI Content: The Art and Impact of Storytelling May 18th, 2008 written & performed by John Lithgow directed by Jack O'Brien
Who I am Andrea Oberheiden graduate student at the CAU Kiel, Germany
From Al Jolson to John Lithgow, part 1 Besides my studies, I work on a film project about Al Jolson Al Jolson: 1885 - 1950 famous entertainer during the first half of the 20th century appeared in several successful Broadway extravaganzas between 1911 and 1940 Al Jolson:
From Al Jolson to John Lithgow, part 2 During research, my film team and I came across the actor John Lithgow His career on the American stage started in the second half of the 20th century That helped us to understand the cultural differences that had taken place since Al Jolson's era
Why I wanted to see this show I finally wanted to see John Lithgow live on stage I was extremely interested in the content of the show: storytelling as a family custom I wanted to hear something about growing up with theater and literature Why? - I did not have any theater influences during my childhood, but I started to love it as an adult
My seating position Photo Source: Sporre, D. J. (2006). Perceiving the arts: An introduction to the humanities (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Properties some old carpets a vintage arm chair Set props: a floor lamp a side table with a carafe and a glass of water on it Hand props: an old family-owned book of tales Photo: Joan Marcus a coat rack
"Some people love to listen to stories." "Others more enjoy to tell them."
Improvising, part 1 While reciting, John Lithgow spotted two empty seats in the auditorium. "If I were Al Jolson, I would instantly leave the stage!" => Rumour has it that Al Jolson did not continue with a show when there were unoccupied seats in the auditorium.
That remark came so unexpectedly that it touched me deeply on a personal level. I have been dealing with Al Jolson for more than 3 years now. Hearing his name in public is very unlikely today. Therefore, it was great to hear his name mentioned in a theater of today.
The fact that it was John Lithgow who mentioned Al Jolson supported our idea of an evolutional link between these two artists and their era. Photo: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.
The first story by heart: a satire on calvinism "The Deacon's Masterpiece or, the Wonderful 'One-Hoss Shay': a Logical Story" by Oliver Wendell-Holmes (1858) the shay is made out of the best materials and falls into pieces in its 100th year
Improvising, part 2 While reciting, a cell phone was ringing in the auditorium. "Yes, mother, another guy who didn't manage to switch off his cell phone. Yes, how annoying!" Lithgow immediately pulled his own cell phone out of his jacket and pretended to answer the call...
The personal meaning behind the poem Lithgow said that this poem might have given him an idea of death when he was little. Like this wonderful "one-hoss shay", his grandmother later died without warning. She had lived like this wonderful "one-hoss shay": perfectly functioning until the very last day. Lithgow's grandmother, Ida B. Lithgow, used to recite this poem to him when he was a child.
John Lithgow's father: Arthur Lithgow actor, writer, director, producer pioneer in the American regional theater movement founder of two major Shakespeare festivals Arthur Lithgow: 1915 - 2004
The second story by heart: John Lithgow said that he and his siblings loved it when their father read stories to them "Uncle Fred flits by" by P. G. Wodehouse (1935) Lithgow family: Robin, Arthur, John, David. Date: approx. 1950.
John Lithgow's father: Arthur Lithgow John Lithgow mentioned that his father got seriously ill in 2002 and had to undergo a difficult surgery. He then decided to move back in with his parents to help his mother to take care of her husband. Lithgow's father was lying in bed, enslaved by depressions. All energy and passion he once had was gone. Lithgow then decided to read Wodehouse's story to him, like his father had read stories to him when he was a child.
The second story by heart: "Uncle Fred flits by" by P. G. Wodehouse (1935) Lithgow played 11 characters, including a battle ax and a parrot. His facial expressions were hilarious. The New York Times called his acting "effortless". During this 45 minutes of recital, we were lost in a world of imagination. Our own reaction, evoked by Lithgows performance, gave us an idea of what was about to come.
For the first time since his father had gotten sick, he started to smile as he saw his son perform the story to him. John Lithgow said that he believes that it was during this story that his father decided to continue with his life.
John Lithgow's father: Arthur Lithgow Arthur Lithgow died 18 months later. Lithgow ended the play with: "Good night, mom! Good night, dad! I hope you are feeling better now!" John Lithgow painting his sick father. Photo: Bootsy Haller (2009)
The reasons for my response to the show The show was brilliantly written, staged, and performed It appealed to my own personal emotions, experiences, and longings all the time It had a perfect balance between funny and sad moments and between fiction and reality It personalized love, sorrow, and joy; it humanized the arts The most wonderful part of the play, the "healing" through the art of storytelling, had to be imagined