Press for “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion”
“I am very blessed and grateful to have represented the United States of America performing as Harold Clurman in my solo play, "LET IT BE ART! in the 8th Theatre Olympics to standing ovations in New Delhi's Kamani Auditorium on February 25, 2018, and then in Thiruvananthapuram's Tagore Hall in Kerala on February 27, 2018 - taught master workshops at the National School of Drama during my time in New Delhi - then traveled to Russia, performing to a standing ovation in the CHELoVEK Theatre Festival in Chelyabinsk, Russia on March 5, 2018 - and also taught master workshops at different academies of Culture and Arts, and at The Chelyabinsk State Academy of Culture and Arts! Sharing Art and Culture is an important bridge of friendship and understanding. I'm very blessed to have made many new friends around the world.”
Theatre Olympics 2018:
American actor Ronald Rand talks about his play “Let It Be Art!”
— how he prepares for the role
March 2, 2018
by Phalguni Rao
Before the concept of method acting was popularised by Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty in the 40s and 50s, it was an individual named Harold Clurman who breathed new life into modern American theatre. He, along with Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, founded The Group Theatre in 1931 to focus on developing a “system” of acting and creating theatre that was rooted in reality. Today, Clurman, a noted drama critic and director, is considered one of the fathers of modern American theatre.
So influential was Clurman’s role in modern theatre, that American actor Ronald Rand decided to create a one-man play based on his life called “Let It Be Art! Harold Clurman’s Life of Passion.” Rand was one of Clurman’s students for a brief period of time. He also studied acting under actress and teacher Stella Adler for six years.
Inspired from Russian dramaturg Constantin Stanislavsky’s work, Clurman heralded a radical change in American theatre which was earlier dominated by vaudeville and dancing girls (“Ziegfeld Follies”), and introduced realism and naturalism into plays. Some of The Group Theatre members included Stella Adler, (who was married to Clurman for nearly 20 years), Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner and Clifford Odets.
“Let It Be Art!” enters its 18th year of performance this year. Rand, who essays the role of Harold Clurman in the play, has performed the show across 23 countries and 20 states in USA. He recently staged the production at the ongoing Theatre Olympics in New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram, where he also taught his two-hour long workshop ‘Art of Transformation’.
Speaking to Firstpost, Rand says it is his fifth time he is returning to perform the play in India. He has previously performed at Bengaluru, Jaipur, Mysore, Thrissur, Mumbai and Puducherry. He talks about why he chose Clurman as his subject and the process he undergoes to bring him alive on stage in his New York apartment in the 1980s.
Here are edited excerpts from the interview:
“Let It Be Art!” has been around for several years. What do you think makes the play relevant and enticing even today?
“Harold Clurman, whom I bring to life in my solo play Let It Be Art!, was one of the most passionate individuals you could ever meet. Not only does he take the audience on the journey of his life, but you also meet unforgettable individuals including Stella Adler, Constantin Stanislavsky, Lee Strasberg, Clifford Odets, and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Most of all, the ideas that Clurman shares in my play speak to us about how to grow as human beings, how to think — to look at life in a whole new way. To live life to the fullest every moment! I also believe the transformation the audiences experience before their eyes of “actually meeting” Harold Clurman in his apartment in 1980 in New York City makes for an exciting time at the theatre, travelling with him to Paris, to Russia, and all over New York City.
American actor Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in his play Let It Be Art!
When and why did you choose Harold Clurman as your subject for the play?
I think he chose me. I studied with Harold Clurman when I was 17 years old, right out of high school, and the impression he made on me was life-changing. I had no idea I would ever write a play about his life and bring him to life. But I realised his contribution as the “elder Statesman of the American Theatre,” and the theatrical conscience of his time was something everyone needed to know. Not only was he one of the co-founders of the greatest acting company in America — The Group Theatre — but he went on to become one of America’s great directors of the 20th century, the country's foremost drama critic, a renowned acting teacher and author. His books, ‘On Directing’ and ‘The Fervent Years’ are must-reads for everyone who loves acting, directing, the theatre, and life.”
What is your process to transform yourself from Ronald Rand to Harold Clurman?
“My transformation begins the night before, in the dreams I have. It continues all day long before the performance, in what I read, in how I prepare before I go to the theatre. I always try to arrive over two hours before a performance. When I begin the transformation, I begin by applying make-up, as I have to become his age which is close to 80 years old. It is necessary I allow Harold Clurman to “arrive” as I slip into his clothing. Because I have been an actor constantly working on my craft for over 30 years or more, it has become more second-nature by now, and as the great actress/acting teacher, Uta Hagen once said: “It takes twenty years to learn how to act, and another ten or twenty to learn how 'not' to act.”
You’ve worked with and studied with the greatest of the greats in modern theatre. What did you learn the most during that period?
I was fortunate to study with Stella Adler for almost six years, and with Harold Clurman, Robert Lewis, Joseph Chaikin, and Jerzy Grotowski. Adler brought to us the deep understanding of the nobility of the actor as a creative partner with the playwright. To act you must understand the playwright, the given circumstances of the play, the social situation of what’s occurring in the play. She was greatly demanding and greatly caring, an extraordinary actress in her own right — and she never stopped demanding that we give our best in service to the playwright. The only time I “worked” with Adler was in a scene from Edward Albee’s important one-act play, The Zoo Story, when I played Peter and she decided to be Jerry, and all of a sudden, I was acting with Stella Adler in the scene.”
“Harold Clurman, now recognised by many as the most influential individual in the history of 20th century American theatre, opened our eyes to see the great humanity in the poet-playwright, to appreciate the heroic qualities of the great actors and artists who bring great art into being. He kept reminding us that we are connected to one another and to all of life. His dynamic passion awoke everyone who came in contact with him to appreciate the life-changing power of the theatre.”
Ronald Rand's show is running into its 18th year this year. A student of Harold Clurman, he began devising the play nearly 20 years ago
How do you embody Clurman’s voice, body language, speech for the play?
‘In the “creation” room — I do not refer to it as a “dressing room” — at some point, during my applying make-up and getting into Harold Clurman’s clothing, he “arrives” — my body changes, my breathing, how I see, how I move, and when Clurman enters his apartment, there is no stage; he is there to live, to talk to his students, and then he leaves and goes off to the theatre. I never know whether he will say the “lines in the play.” For him, there is no play. He is living in his apartment. At the beginning when I started to work on the play over 20 years ago, I began to explore how he moved, what his motivations were, what his day was like before he arrives back at his apartment. Now that I have brought him to life in many, many performances over these past 18 years, I am merely a vessel for his creative life as he lives in his apartment, and I allow him to live and say what he must say. Because I had studied with him, I remember how he was, and I would also would meet him from time-to-time at the theatre in New York City.”
Could you describe the journey of Let It Be Art from the time you conceived it to its present form? Has it evolved over time?
“The first time I thought of the possibility of creating a play about Harold Clurman was after I had read Stella Adler’s foreword to Clurman’s book, ‘The Fervent Years.’ She wrote that she feared his legacy might be lost. For her, he was the greatest American theatre individual of the 20th century. When I read that, I thought that it would be a great injustice to everything he had accomplished. So I wrote to Adler and told her I was considering writing a solo play to bring Clurman to life. She said: “Oh no, no one can play Harold.” But then she wrote: “If you have to — go ahead!” So I began, and I have to say, the play came from my “listening to Harold Clurman” — writing down what he wanted to say.”
“There’s no doubt the play has evolved from the numerous performances I have given as a performer, whether it was in a cave theatre in Tbilisi, under the stars in Kerala, in a 2,000 seat auditorium in Minsk’s Palace of Culture, or in Tangier’s Dar el-Majzen Palace in the Casbah. Every audience and space has allowed the play to change. But no matter where its done, Harold Clurman in always in his apartment in New York City in 1980.”
How and why did you choose to pursue theatre? In your opinion, what is it about theatre that separates it from other forms of art?
‘I think, theatre chose me. We are all born for a purpose. It is up to us to use our God-given talents to fulfill our potential in the best way possible to help others. It has become my destiny to continue sharing Harold Clurman’s great passion and ideas through this play. Theatre is not separate from any of the other arts. Everything we do every day has elements of theatre in it. We’re constantly telling stories to others, or telling stories to ourselves about our lives. All arts are related to one another because they ask us to see and feel with our hearts, not only our minds — to experience more of being alive. This is what keeps us human.”
Who or what are your biggest inspirations?
I am constantly inspired everyday by everything and everyone I come in contact with. I marvel at the universe we’ve been given. I’m inspired as much by holding a flower as listening to a great symphony by Mozart, or read a poem by Tagore or watch a performance in the Theatre Olympics or on Broadway. I’m inspired by watching a child build a sand castle or simply looking at a dragonfly sitting next to me.
Do you have a particularly cherished memory of Clurman? Something he said or did, perhaps?
At one point, Harold Clurman literally jumped up on a chair, raised his voice as loud as he could, and screamed with such forceful passion imploring us: “Go out and change the world! It's up to you! Go out and make the theatre you want to see!”
In a seemingly divisive and polarised world, what do you think should be theatre’s role?
I don’t think of the world in that way. We are all one people. We can bring love and beauty into this world with every thought we think, in everything we do or do not. It’s up to each one of us. Theatre has always existed to tell us stories about ourselves. To uplift and entertain, to make us more aware, to awaken us. Vijay Tendulkar, who was one of the greatest Indian playwrights was a friend, and I also had the privilege to get to know him. He certainly chose to use the theatre to make people more aware. I hope when audiences experience Harold Clurman in my play that they will be encouraged to have greater hope for this world, to get excited to live life in the most passionate way possible.”
Rand conceived Let It Be Art! after reading Stella Adler's foreword to Harold Clurman's book, The Fervent Years
Theatre Olympics: Portrait of an Artist
American performer Ronald Rand on creating a play on his teacher, the great theatre director Harold Clurman
Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in his one man show, “LET IT BE ART!”
Harold Clurman is one of the most influential people of 20th century theatre of America, and his ideas continue to influence performers and groups across the world. “In India, Alyque Padamsee, is among those who read Clurman’s book, On Directing, and he went into theatre,” says American performer and writer Ronald Rand . From his bag, he extracts Clurman’s books, The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre And The Thirties, and talks about training under the legend who inspires his play, Let it be Art, which will be performed as part of the Theatre Olympics at Kamani on Sunday.
At the beginning
I had no idea 20-plus years ago that I would create a play with Harold Clurman but there was a great need in my country as their still is because, as Harold says, “We are a country that has no memory. We don’t even remember what we did yesterday…” Harold Clurman straddles the past, present and furture. What he is saying to the young people is that, “You have responsibility to understand not only where you come from and who you are today but also your humanness. The only thing that makes us human is how we are connected to art and nature. You have to speak with integrity, understanding and using your mind.”
Life Less Extraordinary
The play starts in Harold Clurman’s apartment in New York in the 1980s, where he is talking to his students, and he takes them and the audience on a journey of his life. His is a passion that never stops. The mechanism inside our soul drives us to keep doing what we are doing. His challenge was that he was a very shy as a young person. He had to overcome himself. He had to come to terms with How do I get all this passion out of me and make it articulate.
As I say, “Theatre picked me. I was born in Florida but I have spent the last 35 years in New York City. I started acting when I was about four years old. My father was a critic who wanted to act when he was young but he became a lawyer. I started going with him to the theatre when I was very young, seeing maybe 30-40 shows a year. I was fascinated by make-belief. You leap over what reality is and go someplace that is even further than what you could have dreamed of. Theatre was also fun. As Harold Clurman says in the play, “Did I get into theatre because of noble thoughts? No. I probably want to meet girls.”
These Russian reviews have been translated into English.
"STANISLAVSKY FROM AMERICA" "LET IT BE ART!" by Ronald Rand of USA in CHEVoLEK Theatre Festival by Anna Kurolesova
“There is a special breed of people who have the talent to fill any space with light. Around such a person the atmosphere of a holiday, of love, of unity is created by itself. American guest Ronald Rand drew attention to theatrical parties from the first day of the festival. Still not knowing who he was and where from, I somehow immediately drew attention to this open look and the kind charm that comes from him. And only then I heard a lively overseas speech. I regretted that I was not strong in English. And wanted to get acquainted. However, he did not stop it, go to us and, smiling affably, give the program of his play. Even without translation, those kind words with which he turned to us were understood.
The translation was not even needed at the play. Broadcast on the screen text, I barely ran my eyes, hurrying back to the actor. I was afraid to miss the new stroke, the detail, the character. He was not alone on the stage. There were several. It was different. Changed every second. The man-orchestra. A man with a kaleidoscope. It was not even a game, but some attraction of acting. Even the famous Clurman's pause was sustained for a long time, in detail and artistically convincing. His hands were playing. Thin long fingers. The variety of their movements and the accuracy of the gesture constituted a rich palette of means of expressiveness. Everything in moderation, with taste, is extremely clear without translation. Countless times the artist sat at the table, unbuttoning the jacket at the same time, and immediately jumped up, went out to the viewer, while fastening his jacket with a light movement of his fingers. I do not know why, but I, as enchanted, watched these manipulations with buttons. Even in this seemingly prosaic gesture there was some special artistry!
His eyebrows played. Alive, mobile, they seemed to activate the whole mechanism of facial muscles. The richness of mimicry is incredible. Changing masks and characters, leading a dialogue, Ronald Rand knows how to instantly change sex, age, emotional coloring, mood - bravo!
His eyes played. Sparkling, expressive, radiating energy and conviction, they were directed at once to everyone and to each individually. The fourth wall arose and immediately disappeared by the wave of "magic wand" - the will of the artist. We were all caught in the network of this charming man through his attractive look, easily, in American, at ease, but with a purely Russian workshop - "in Stanislavsky."
His whole performance is a hymn to Konstantin Sergeyevich. Ronald Rand himself is surprisingly similar to the great Russian master. As if newsreels came down those years where the living Stanislavsky conducts rehearsals, on a bench with colleagues, walks along the alley ... Humor, kindness, uniting energy and faith in the great, timeless art of the Artist.”
"THE MAGIC NAME IS STANISLAVSKY..." "LET IT BE ART!" by Ronald Rand of the USA Festival "CHELoVEK Theater 2018 by Andrey Vaganov
“The actor from New York, Ronald Rand, presented to the festival audience his performance under the title, “LET IT BE ART!" A supporter and propagandist of the Stanislavsky system, Rand showed us a living example of reincarnation — for a few minutes our contemporary, who arrived in Chelyabinsk, disappeared, and instead Harold Clurman — the legendary actor and director from the very thirties who, in words from the play: "Have been in immemorial times.
A strict double-breasted suit, a hairstyle in the fashion of those years ... The actor does not get out of this image for a second — everything that Ronald Rand says and does on the stage is said and done on behalf of Harold Clurman.
Thanks to this technique, the public is plunged into an era when the American theater was going through a turning point. Near the entertainment shows on the stage began to appear performances that were staged according to plays by contemporary playwrights, devoted to topical issues — for example, a taxi strike. Actors studied the techniques of the famous Russian director, they partly imitated the Moscow Art Theater, partly looking for their own way.
Of course, the play mentions the names of such "Founding Fathers" of the modern American theater as Lee Strasberg (the founder of the famous acting school, whose graduates included James Dean, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, and others), Cheryl Crawford, Clifford Odets, and Stella Adler. These are people who created the famous Group Theater, which became the outpost of the Stanislavsky system in America. Rand masterfully shows the manner of pronouncing words, typical for Lee Strasberg or ceremonious and full of old-fashioned gestures of Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky ... But all this is nothing more than an actor's sketches - the main thing for the hero of the play is the story of what is important to him in the theater. Strangely enough, the main thing is not the method. Stanislavsky himself in a conversation with American actors advises - if my system you do not like, forget about it. Look for what is close to you, what works, allowing you to truly exist on the stage and to influence the mind and feelings of the viewer.
And this is a good lesson for many modern theaters, which, alas, have become "approximate" - again, according to the apt expression of the hero of the play.”
THE TIMES OF INDIA, Mysore
February 19, 2015
Capturing Persona of Clurman Solo Performance Offers Insight into American Drama Artiste
Mysore: The life and times of Harold Clurman, the American theatre director and drama critic, will come alive at Rangayana on Friday. The theatre repertory is hosting “Let It Be Art!,” the solo play by Ronald Rand revolving around Harold Clurman, one of America’s most visionary theatre personalities. The play at Bhoomigeetha will enacted by celebrated artiste Ronald Rand, one of Clurman’s students. The solo performance is running in its 15th year across the globe.
“It is my guru’s passion and love for life that inspired me to bring him to life as the subject of my play,” said Ronald Rand. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” he believed in the motto and used theatre for that end. He was a man of great wit, and had a great sense of humor,” Rand said recollecting his association with Clurman.
“While I was acting in New York City, I thought it would be important to portray his life and bring him alive in a solo performance and thus began the journey which has taken me to different parts of the world,” Rand told reporters.
The one-hour play will start at 6:30pm followed by interaction with the audience. Clurman was co-founder of New York City’s Group Theatre and directed over 40 plays in his career, which were among some of the most influential plays of the 20th century.
Rand is touring India for the fourth time visiting universities and theaters. He said he has performed the play some 400 times, a dozen times in India. This is his first time he is in Mysore, thanks to the Center for Proficiency Development and Placement Services of the University of Mysore. Director of the Centre Niranjan Vanalli approached the Centre to stage the play. “We got in touch with Rangayana and it worked.”
“On February 21, we will have a discussion with Rand and we have invited amateur theatre troupes and those interested. The interaction will start at 10:30am and Rand will present his “Art of Transformation” Workshop taught all around the world,” said Rangayana director H. Janardham.
May 9, 2003
“LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion"
by Elias Stimac
Like a master class with an accomplished teacher, "LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion" offers
indelible insights both into a theatrical legend and the mysteries of
the theatre itself. Ronald Rand has written a heartfelt tribute to the
late director-author-critic Harold Clurman, and portrays him at age 78
as he looks back on his roller-coaster career in the arts.
Speaking to his unseen assistant and a few visiting students, Clurman
settles down behind the cluttered desk in his New York apartment in June
1980, humorously recounting his personal and professional experiences.
But soon the spry septuagenarian is up and about, energetically and eloquently
advocating his philosophy on the significance of theatre in society.
He recalls stumbling into show business; helping to form the Group Theatre;
writing his seminal book, "The Fervent Years," and staging
classic plays in the U.S. and abroad. But mostly he imparts his love
of life and the endless possibilities it offers.
While strolling and sidestepping down his own personal memory lane,
Clurman comes into contact with some formidable colleagues, including
Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Sandy Meisner, Katharine
Hepburn, and Marlon Brando. Rand not only gives a convincing and colorful
portrayal of the title character, but also imitates many of the celebrities
he encounters with impressive vocal dexterity.
Director Gregory Abels is in sync with Rand every step of the way, keeping
the memories magical and the mood merry. He stages each scene with grace
and wit, expertly utilizing Rand's dramatic and comedic abilities.
The Ballroom Theatre at Century Center provides a perfectly elegant
backdrop for the play, and Graham Kindred lights the proceedings with
a warm, embracing glow. Rand's Clurman, despite his age, is as youthful
and excitable as a kid in a candy store.
“LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion” brings director/critic to life
by Jody Crossman
Register Staff Writer
While his name may not be as recognizable as Henrik- Ibsen, Clifford
Odets or even Arthur Miller, Harold Clurman's ardor for the theater and
his contribution to the craft of acting remains an inspiration for actors,
directors and theater lovers.
His story is told in "LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion," presented by the Interstate
Theater Exchange at the Vaudeville Mews Thursday night. The play casts
the spotlight on the former drama critic, director and renowned co-founder
of The Group Theatre with an emphasis on his intense passion for the
Written and performed solely by New York actor Ronald Rand, the production
is a snapshot of Clurman's life as told to his students (the audience)
late one afternoon in the confines of his cluttered apartment.
Clurman, who saw his first show in 1907 at age 6, confides in this audience
tales of his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris; of the years he courted
and wed actress Stella Adler; of the sometimes fledgling Group Theatre
company; and of actors like Marlon Brando, Kathryn Hepburn and Roy Scheider,
whom he directed during his career.
Throughout the stories, Clurman lets loose his parade of philosophies
on everything from life and love to acting, theater and its patrons.
"I think everybody should go to the theater at least once a month," he
said. Those who didn't, he believed, were uncivilized and should be put
Rand, who studied under Clurman in the late 1970s, wholly embodies this
character with his thick, but refined, New York accent and graceful,
It's obvious he has closely studied Clurman's technique on acting, but
also his mannerisms, voice and habits, for he displays them marvelously
on stage in a way that will make audiences feel as if they've come face-to-face
with C lurman.
The set, comprised of an oriental rug and a collection of wooden tables,
chairs and a desk, lends an intimacy to the stage, making the audience
feel as if they're sitting in Clurman's living room. It's a small detail,
but one that lends a sense of comfort and realism.
If you're unfamiliar with Harold Clurman, no matter. Thanks to Rand's
unending devotion to his former teacher, "Clurman" comes to
life again in vivid, inspiring detail that's a history lesson for all.
Reporter Jody Crossman can he reached -8t (515) 2848266 or Jcrossman@dmreg.com
THEATRE LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion
Written and performed by Ronald Rand
Directed by Gregory Abels. Through April 26
at the Century Center Theatre, 111 East
by Jerry Tallmer
A lot of people who never met Harold Clurman, and even some who did,
have cause at the moment to rub their eyes and ears. Harold – Mr.
Clurman to you and me – has been reborn in the person of Ronald
Rand at the Century Theatre on East 15th Street.
“For some reason,” says Rand, who replicates Clurman complete
with fedora, gloves, walking stick, and French Legion of Honor ribbon
in the left lapel, “doing this show, I don’t have to act.
I’m sort of a vessel for Harold, an embodiment, and he lets me
Who was Harold Clurman? A case could be made that he was perhaps the
most essential man (or woman) of the American theatre from the 1930’s
until his death 50 years later.
He was the fire and brains of the founding triumvirate (Lee Strasberg,
Cheryl Crawford, Harold Clurman) of the Group Theatre, that Depression-hungry
body of committed actors-playwrights-directors who by main strength and
purpose yanked the theater of this nation into the grit and reality of
the 20th century.
He was the author of “The Fervent Years,” a personal history
of the Group and of that era that is as thrilling to read today as the
day it came out in 1945. Also of a half-dozen other seminal books, including “Lies
Like Truth,” (Clurman’s definition of acting) and “All
People Are Famous (Instead of a Autobiography).”
The more than 40 plays that bowed in New York under Clurman’s
direction range from “Awake and Sing” and “Golden Boy” (Clifford
Odets), to “Truckline Odets” (Maxwell Anderson; Brando’s
debut), to “Member of the Wedding” (Carson McCuller’s;
Julie Harris’s breakout), to “The Autumn Garden” (Lillian
Hellman), “The Time of the Cuckoo” (Arthur Laurents), “Bus
Stop” (William Inge), “The Waltz of the Toreadors” (Jean
Anouilh), “Orpheus Descending” (Tennessee Williams), “A
Touch of the Poet” (Eugene O’Neill), “Incident at Vichy” (Arthur
From 1955 until his death, Harold Clurman was drama critic and weathervane
of intelligent sensitivity at “The Nation” magazine. He was
in on the beginnings of Lincoln Center. He was a teacher, a lecturer,
a bon vivant, a man about town, a first nighter always with a young woman
on his arm (to go with that Legion of Honor), an inspiration to the young
of every age, the theatre aspirant of any age, and when he was taken
from us in 1980, we were (I wrote) left with a hole at the Russian Tea
Room, first booth on the left, that would never be filled. Then again,
the Russian Tea Room is now itself a hole in space.
He was also the husband, first of Stella Adler, blazing actress and
teacher of acting in her own right; then of Juleen Compton, actress turned
creator/owner of the Century Center Theatre complex.
“Even when I was in junior high school in Coral Gables, Florida,” says Ronald Rand, I knew I had to study with Stella Adler. So I came up to New York to do that, and was with her, when she was at the peak of her form, for over five years."
“She talked about Harold all the time. He was then teaching at
Hunter College, Columbia and at the 92nd Street Y, so I began studying
with him, and it was like everyone said: “You walked out of his
classes floating on air. I even took classes with Jerzy Grotowski, so
between those three teachers…
“But,” says Rand, “I had absolutely no idea that I
would ever do a play about Harold. Until Stella wrote an introduction
to a new edition of “The Fervent Years” in which she said
she thought Harold’s legacy would be lost because he had no heir.
This really touched me, so I wrote her and said I was considering writing
a play about Harold. She wrote back: “I’m afraid you shouldn’t
do this” – because who could play Harold”? – “but
if you have to, then go ahead.”
At which point Rand set to reading everything Clurman ever wrote, and
doing a lot of research in the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.
“It was when I was reading about the Group that I started hearing
Harold and Lee (Strasberg) talking, and then Stella and Harold, and Stella
and Lee, and even Cheryl Crawford and (actor/director/teacher) Bobby
Lewis. So I wrote a play, “The Group!” This was in 1985.
It’s had about a dozen staged readings, was in the New Playwrights’ Festival
at the Cherry Lane two years ago, and is soon to be produced at Northern
“Then, about a year and a half ago, out of the blue, I said: ‘I
have to write a play about Harold.’ And I didn’t have to
write it. I just listened to Harold, and the play wrote itself.”
Ronald Rand is also the one-man-band creator/publisher/editor of a marvelous
newspaper called “The Soul of the American Actor,” a quarterly
compendium of essays and other writings by mortals and immortals of theatre,
plus interviews (with, in one recent issue, Harold Prince, Peter Stone,
Robert Brustein, Bob Balaban, Charlotte Moore, Romulus Linney, and a
“It started out at eight pages, now it’s 28. Whatever I
make as an actor, I put into it.” The publications’ staff
artist was/is the late Al Hirschfeld. “When I began the paper,
I asked him could I have one drawing. He said: “Yes.”
Eli Wallach used to call Harold Clurman “the Knute Rockne of the
theatre.” The kind of Knute Rockne who would come into a classroom,
stamp on the floor, and then proclaim to the assembled drama students: “This
is real. Don’t give me any of your arty-farty ideas.”
Or so Ronald Rand tells us. Give that doppelganger the Legion of Honor.
If you're thinking that a one-man show called "Let It Be Art!" sounds a bit highfalutin, think again.
Harold Clurman, the focus of actor Ronald Rand's re-creation opening Thursday at the Invisible Theatre, is a man whom renowned method actor Eli Wallach once called "the Knute Rockne of the theater." Not just a drama coach, in other words, but a hard-charging trainer who could inspire his students by stomping on the floor and yelling: "This is real! Don't give me any of your arty-farty ideas!"
As Mr. Rand explained in a phone interview from New York, the key to his approach is revealed by the show's subtitle: "Harold Clurman's Life of Passion."
Born in 1901 on New York's Lower East Side, Harold Clurman was no anti-intellectual — he had a degree in letters from the Sorbonne. But what made him special was his unquenchable enthusiasm for every aspect of human activity.
Mr. Rand became involved with Clurman almost by chance. Mr. Rand, who grew up in Florida, began acting early, eventually appearing in more than 250 plays with a professional children's theater. But his greatest dream was to go to New York and study with acting teacher Stella Adler, the only American actor to be instructed by Konstantin Stanislavski himself.
Mr. Rand finally made it to the Big Apple in the '70s and was accepted as a student by Stella Adler, with whom he studied for five years. As Mr. Rand remembers it, she was then at the peak of her form and eager to share everything she had learned from Stanislavski. But Harold Clurman seemed almost as important to her.
"She talked about Harold all the time," Mr. Rand recalls. Finally, he took one of Clurman's classes to see for himself.
"He was a whirlwind of passion," Mr. Rand recalls. "You came out of his class walking on air, imbued with his terrific belief in human goodness and his zeal for the theater."
A director with more than 40 great Broadway plays to his credit, from Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy" through "Member of the Wedding" and "Bus Stop" to Arthur Miller's "Incident at Vichy," Harold Clurman was also a prominent critic, teacher and writer, a bon vivant and a recipient of the French Legion of Honor.
When Clurman's memoirs of the Group Theatre were reissued in 1982, Stella Adler wrote in her introduction that she was afraid Clurman's legacy would be lost because he had no heir. It was a challenge Mr. Rand couldn't resist — he wrote to Stella Adler and said he wanted to bring Mr. Clurman to life in a play. Stella Adler gave her blessing a little uneasily, because — as she wrote back — "Who could play Harold?"
The answer was supplied by Mr. Rand himself, an actor whose credits span a distinguished range of stage, TV and movie roles.
Harold Clurman's words and Mr. Rand's playwriting skills have combined to make, fittingly, a "Life of Passion" a theatrical event.
by PHYLLIS BRAUN
AJP Executive Editor
October 27, 2006
Let It Be Art! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, a one-man show written and performed by Ronald Rand, will be presented next month by the Invisible Theatre.
Clurman co-founded the Group Theatre in the 1930s with Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford. He directed more than 40 important plays of the 20th century, including A Member of the Wedding with Julie Harris; Bus Stop with Kim Stanley; and Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing and Golden Boy. He was also drama critic for The Nation and The New Republic and author of several books, including The Fervent Years.
In Let It Be Art, Clurman talks to "his students" (the audience) as he looks back on his career of more than 50 years in the theatre.
Rand, who studied with Clurman and Stella Adler — whom Clurman eventually married — has performed Let It Be Art! at venues across the United States and around the world (including Athens, Greece, and Tbilisi, Georgia) for the past five years.
In a telephone interview, Rand said that Clurman had not only "extraordinary passion, but this great sense of humor and humanity and idealism. You became intoxicated by his love of art, Of life.",
Born on New York's Lower East Side, Clurman was only 6 when his father took him to see Yiddish theatre legend Jacob Adler in Uriel Acosta. He later saw Adler as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, which made a great impression on him, said Rand.
Jacob Adler is one of the people Rand embodies during the play, which also encompasses Clurman's relationships with Stella Adler, Alfred Stieglitz, Marlon Brando and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, among others.
The Invisible Theatre production is directed by Gregory Abels. Performances will be Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25, with group discounts available. For reservations, call 882-9721.
"All around me the painters and composers groped for ways to express contemporary society in their work.
Where, I wondered, was this parallel activity in theater?"
Those are words spoken by Harold Clurman. To theatre historians, the name Clurman is synonymous with Group Theatre, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Stella Adler, Kurt Weill, William Inge, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lillian Hellman, GB Shaw, Carson McCullers and, perhaps in answer to the question he posed above, Clifford Odets.
All these names are just a small sampling of the majestic theatrical creators that Clurman worked with. He directed almost 60 Broadway plays from 1925 to 1966, many of them "household names", i.e., The Member of the Wedding Bus Stop Waiting For Lefty Awake 4 Sing!, Golden Boy All My Sons, Orpheus Descending, After the Fall and A Shot in The Dark. He was, along with Elia Kazan, a proponent of the "new" American drama that came from the pens of Odets and the later great playwrights mentioned above. He was , involved with the historic producing company The Group Theatre and the famous theatrical Adler family (married to Stella Adler, herself a famous director, actress and teacher from 1943 to 1960.) The world renowned The Actor's Studio was formed as a direct result of The Group Theatre's directors and teachers.
Clurman also authored seven books, and from 1953 until his death in 1980 he was a drama critic for The Nation. As the passionate and talented leader of the Group Theatre. Clurman invigorated American theater with his political and artistic idealism.
Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1901, Clurman had his first exposure to theater at the age of six, when his parents took him to see the great Yiddish actor and father of Stella, Jacob Adler. Although the young boy knew no Yiddish, he later said of this first play, "...it was a transforming experience. I immediately had a passionate inclination toward the theater."
The vitality of the Yiddish Theater and the community of actors who made it up would long influence Clurman. After leaving home, he attended Columbia and later the University of Paris, where he wrote his thesis on the history of French drama from 1890 to 1914. It was then that Clurman first began to formulate his vision of a new American theater.
On his return to New York the following year, without any formal training, he made his stage debut as an extra at the Greenwich Village Theater. While acting he also worked as a play reader and involved himself in every aspect of theater. He said, "I was interested in what the theater was going to say...The theater must say something. It must relate to society. It must relate to the world we live in." He believed that the new American theater would not simply be a place of entertainment, but an opportunity for artists to express their political and spiritual visions.
The dramatic community had reached a point of desperation, after the stock market crash of 1929; with the number of new productions in decline and theaters closing by the dozens. Clurman suggested a theater with a permanent acting company. After seeing the Moscow Arts Theater, Clurman knew that if theater was going to succeed it must make radical changes in the acting process. Using Constantin Stanislaysky's ensemble approach, the actors of the Moscow Arts Theater had presented a play more emotional and realistic than anything that had been on Broadway. Beginning in late 1930, Clurman gave weekly lectures on the benefits of a permanent acting company. He believed that once actors knew and trusted each other they could truly work together to create great theater. This new theater promised to exchange the opportunity of stardom and wealth for a lasting and meaningful community.
By 1931, together with Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford, Clurman had gathered 28 others to form the Group Theatre. Among the, young troupe's members were such greats as Stella Adler, Morris Carnovsky, Phoebe Brand, Elia Kazan, Clifford Odets, and Sanford Meisner. The success of the Group Theatre prompted many other companies to embrace the ideas of Stanislaysky. The most successful: of the Group Theatre's plays were those written by Clifford Odets, such as Awake and Sing!, Golden Boy, and Waiting for Lefty. Though the Group Theatre lasted only ten years, it produced twenty plays and brought an excitement to the American stage that still remains.
After the closing of the Group Theatre, Clurman brought his vision to Broadway, where he was instrumental in teaching some of the most skilled and successful actors of the time. He worked to insure the theater's growth by elevating its productions to the level of any other of the great arts. Working with great writers he created theater that was at once serious and popular, arid uniquely American in recognition of his great influence and commitment to the arts, he was awarded the rare honor of having a Broadway theater named after him. Today, twenty years after his death, Harold Clurman is considered one of the most respected and influential members of the American theater.
‘If This Be Magic, Let It Be Art! If this Be Art, Let It Be Magic!’
by Mari Kintsurashvili
What exactly do these words mean to us all? Why is this phrase so important for contemporary art? Ask yourself these questions after hearing this simple phrase from a very interesting person who came to Georgia at the invitation of Keti Dolidze for the 9 th Annual Georgian International Festival of Art ‘Gift’. His name is Ronald Rand , and he is well known throughout the United States and all over the world.
Ronald Rand , actor, playwright and publisher of the only American newspaper dedicated to art and theatre, The Soul of the American Actor , began his acting career as a child, appearing in over 250 plays with a professional children’s theatre in Florida . His Off-Broadway debut in Julius Caesar at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Richard Dreyfuss and George Rose was followed by numerous New York appearances, including his performance as Hamm in Endgame, directed by Joseph Chaikin; the lead in Goldoni's The Liar; as the First Gravedigger in Hamlet; leads in several of Bernard Shaw's plays; and a! ll three male roles in Perfect Crime for two years. Mr. Rand also toured for five months throughout 35 European cities as the Fool in King Lear.
He has appeared on more than 30 television programs. His film appearances include: the upcoming Palace Thief with Kevin Kline; as Richard Nixon opposite Eric Roberts in Rude Awakening; In & Out; Jerky Boys; and Robert Redford’s Quiz Show. Rand was fortunate enough to study with Harold Clurman and Stella Adler, and also with Jerzy Grotowski, Bobby Lewis, Joseph Chaikin, and at New York University ’s School of Arts , and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
As a playwright, he penned The Group!, about the life of the famed Group Theatre. His new solo play, LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, which had a special engagement at The Gift Festival in Georgia , was directed by Gregory Abels, and was recently seen in an acclaimed 3-week run Off-Broadway in New York City .
I met Mr. Rand after his performance of LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion at the Little Theatre in Tbilisi . This play immediately thrusts the audience into a world of boundless passion for the theatre, taking them on an inspiring journey through Clurman’s fascinating creative world. So inspired by the enormous artistic energy put into the play itself, and into the bright, lively and very ‘human’ personage, I went up to Mr. Rand. When I looked in his eyes and started talking with him, I realised that he was completely different from the man who had stood before me on the stage several minutes earlier. From that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about how surprising the transformation was that brilliant Stanislavsky and Vakhtangov taught their students almost a century ago.
When the actor took questions from the audience together with Ms. Dolidze, the Artistic Director of the festival, I kept hearing just one phrase from Mr. Rand that deeply touched my heart: ‘Speaking of the phrase I’ve mentioned: “If This Be Magic, Let It Be Art! If this Be Art, Let It Be Magic!” He said in his remarks: “I always remember that Stella Adler would say: “When you take the stage, you represent 2,000 years of theatre, so you’d better be very sure about what you have to say.” And also, Harold used to tell us: “Have fun – make magic!” And I think that ultimately this is the ritual of the theatre, as it should be’.”
And I realized: this is exactly what Mr. Rand meant. An half an hour earlier he had made everyone see a miracle - the great miracle of transformation and art, and he made us believe.
I was fortunate to communicate with Mr. Rand for a couple of days, during and after other performances of the festival, and simply walking the streets of Tbilisi . I also had an opportunity to attend his master class at the Tbilisi State Theatre Institute.
Ronald Rand also publishes The Soul of American Actor newspaper, which he founded in 1998, and serves as editor-in-chief. I became extremely interested in this because it is the only free newspaper in America celebrating the art and craft of the actor and the art of the theatre. We managed to interview this outstanding playwright and actor, a man who has studied his art with the best representatives of the US theatrical culture.
Q: Do you think it is important for traditional theatre to exist in the 21st century in its primary form, or should completely new standards be created?
A: I think thisis actually like Harold Clurman said in my play: it’s up to each person to do what they can to touch human values. And we see great artists and directors – like Grotowski, for instance, whom I studied with. He knew where Stanislavsky had taken us, and then he wanted to go a little further. But he always believed in Stanislavsky’s work. The important thing is that you never forget your traditions, because they give you the strength to go further, and there is no limit to what you can do. Seeing actresses li! ke Keti (Dolidze), Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Harris – They understand what tradition means, and they go further to wake us up and show us our potential.
Q: You told one of our colleagues from Georgian TV that even though you have performed in numerous musicals, TV projects and films, your desire is to embody different ideas. What are they?
A: The ideas that, in a sense, Harold and Stella stood for: love of art, compassion for mankind, reason, and love of life. Harold said to live life to the fullest. There are so many amazing things in this world: so many thrilling books to read, performances to go to, that every day is full of wonder. And he said we should fill ourselves with all that excitement. When I was with him, I would leave his classes floating on air because I couldn’t believe he had so much passion at 80 years old. That’s what we really stand for – it is love – love for one another through art, always inspiring yourself through art, through great books, great plays and great movies. We should remember that there is always something to give.
Q: You put these wonderful ideas into the articles of your newspaper, don’t you? What is The Soul of American Actor like?
A: I started the newspaper eight yeas ago in New York City , because I felt there was such an emphasis on the commercial side and business. People weren’t talking about the art of the theatre or the craft of the actor. There was no other newspaper about this art in the country, so I thought this would be something very exciting to do. However, I really didn’t know how to make a paper. I was actually approached by the artistic director of a small theatre. This woman had her ow! n newsletter and some extra money that she didn’t know what to do with. So I thought perhaps I might use it to begin a newspaper. I went to a graphic designer and we made the paper looked that way I wanted it to. Then I called some of the greatest actors in America : Julie Harris, Anne Jackson, Marian Seldes, and many other outstanding people, and they all agreed to be in my paper. And that’s how it was born, and ever since, I’ve had amazing artists in the Newspaper, like Arthur Miller, Jacques D’Amboise, Elie Wiesel, James Earl Jones, among other, many other of America ’s most important artists. So, in a sense, what it does is to share with the community all about the art and crafts. For me this is the most important thing.
Q: How has your paper evolved?
A: When I began it was only 8 pages long, and now it is 28 pages. Many people support us. Arthur Miller, before he died, gave us permission to publish part of his works in the paper. I’ve also had permission to publish excerpts from Grotowski’s books. I have many things written by avante-garde artists in America . Another thing I do in the paper is interview artists. They talk about the craft: how they build cha! racter, why they care so much about art and theatre. I’ve had articles about the past, such as a piece by Isadora Duncan and those kinds of artists from years ago. Young students need such education, especially in the USA , especially when we don’t even have a national theatre in America .
Q: What’s your opinion of the state of art and theatre in Georgia ?
A: I was very pleased to learn that you have so many theatres in Georgia . However, I know that the conditions for actors are not good enough. The same is true in our country. It is extremely important that the government care for its artists. What does history preserve? The great masterpieces of the past.
Harold Clurman, who was so articulate and a great speaker about art and culture, used to tell us: ‘You have to get people excited and convince them that this is important because you have a responsibility.” That’s what I learned from Stella Adler and Clurman. We have the responsibility as artists to improve life. Their motto was: Change the World! Many people thought, ‘How can theatre change the world?’ If you change people, you change the world, right? Because any one person can ultimately change the world.
Yes, the government should support actors and other artists, but we should all fight for our rights, for our responsibility. When we had dinner with Georgian President Saakashvili, I was very happy to hear how he repeated the words ‘culture’ and ‘art’ several times. I was very glad, because we should fight for art and art theatre!
I am also very grateful to Keti and Anna, and her mother who is a professor there, for inviting me to attend the exams at the Georgian Theatre Institute of Theatre. The students were amazing. So talented. Oh, it is just wonderful!
Q: Will you return to Georgia ?
A: Oh, I’d love to! I love this country and the people’s warmth. The audience is wonderful – so receptive, so caring, so loving. I feel the warmth and hospitality in everyone. So it is really so special to be here. The country has so much to give to the world, and when I am back in the United States I am going to write a big article about the whole festival to let Americans know how wonderful it is.
Ronald Rand’s “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion”
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Living in New York provides endless possibilities to an artist – it
is a city where anything both can and frequently does happen. “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion,” a
one-man show written/acted by Ronald Rand and directed by Gregory Abels,
tells the story of the legendary director, Harold Clurman, a “right” man
who was in the right place at the right time. And oh the thing he saw
and the people he met.
There are many reasons to go to the theatre and one is to learn. “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion,” the
play, is chockfull of theatrical history and intimate stories about theatrical
icons. Ronald Rand recounts Harold Clurman’s life from his beginnings
on the Lower East Side, through his school years at the Sorbonne in Paris
(where he was Aaron Copland’s roommate) onto his legendary success
as a director. Some of the fascinating anecdotes in the play came from
Mr. Clurman’s association with the Group Theatre, where he worked
with Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford, Franchot Tone, Stella Adler, Clifford
Odets, and later with Marlon Brando.
“LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion,” the play is obviously a work of love for Mr.
Rand. He has done extensive research into Mr. Clurman’s life and
produced a theatrical evening that is not to be missed for the history
lesson alone. Even the program is filled with details of Mr. Clurman’s
life. Mr. Rand is very comfortable with the character and moves well
on the stage. He has written a very funny script and Mr. Abels did a
fine job directing the show.
"LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion"
New York Solo Play Festival - Where Eagles Dare Theatre
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh
Harold Clurman was one of the most influential 'men in the 30's through
the 80's. He was co-founder of the Group Theatre, an innovative ensemble
art theatre. He was a critic. He was a teacher. He was an author. And
he has been brought back to life by writer and star, Ronald Rand.
"LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion" started with some of Copland's music, which is fitting,
because, as is soon learned, Clurman roomed with him in Paris. Then Harold
Clurman entered the stage. Clurman talks to his assistant and his students
in the front row. They and the audience have come to absorb his wisdom
and listen to his past adventures with many famed stars of yesteryear.
Thus the show consists of many anecdotes and noteworthy quotes. It ran
a fitting length, 85 minutes, and ends with a poignant message about
the theatre: "If this be magic, let it be art; if this be art, let
it be magic." It delves into questions about theater's existence,
purpose, past and future.
Rand was very animated as Clurman. Clurman seem be reincarnated. Rand
did a superb job of staying in character and of playing many other characters
through Clurman's impersonations. His inflections and tics were perfected
to a T. His charm and charisma shone throughout the evening.
The theatre was transformed into an office - there was a desk cluttered
with period props, chairs surrounding the desk, and a coat rack with
Clurman's signature cape. Rand donned this majestic cape at the end of
the show, bringing Clurman back to life one final time.
Clurman is biography on stage. It provides for a digressional, stream
of consciousness view of Clurman's life. Anyone who wishes to increase
his/her knowledge of major influences on the American Theatre should
see this show.
ACTOR, PLAYWRIGHT, DIRECTOR, JOURNALIST
by Mario Fratti
Ronald Rand is very active in the New York world of theatre. He is amazing
in his monologue play, “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion,” (with passion anything is possible).
Well directed by Gregory Abels at the New York University TIPA Theatre,
he kept the audience enthralled by re-creating the passionate personality
of the great director, Harold Clurman, and his struggle, his love, his
persistence in looking for significant drama.
The life of Harold Clurman is an example for all of us.
Students should see and study this play. Teachers and drama coaches
should invite Ronald Rand to perform for their students by the thousands.
– Mario Fratti, (plawright of the musical, Nine”
published in the Italian newspaper, Oggi, August 25, 2002.
Press Release of “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion”
New York City:
The moment Ronald Rand takes the stage as Harold
Clurman in his solo performance, LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, embodying Harold Clurman,
through voice, gesture and size, we are immediately thrust into a world
of boundless passion for the theatre, and taken on a inspiring journey
that lingers within our consciousness for a very long time.
Mr. Rand as writer and performer captures the essence
of who Harold Clurman was and what he stood for. His creation instills
in the audience an unforgettable experience of passion, courage and inspiration.
We follow Harold Clurman from his beginnings on the
Lower East Side, through his education at the Sorbonne in Paris with
Aaron Copland as his roommate, his initiation into the theatre through
The Provincetown Players and The Theatre Guild, his friendship with Lee
Strasberg, and their decision with Cheryl Crawford, to found The Group
Theatre, as well as his relationships with Stella Adler, Alfred Stieglitz,
Marlon Brando and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, among several others.
LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion, starring Ronald Rand is a dramatic
journey of humor, boldness and fervor, of the man heralded as "the elder
statesman of the American Theatre." An experience you don't want to miss!