Saturday, August 26, 2006

Writers and actors

From John Lahr's article "Petrified" in The New Yorker, August 28, 2006:

"The entertainer's journey through fear is the burden and the blessing of performance; it's what invests the enterprise with bravery, even a kind of nobility. "There was no other treatment than the well-worn practice of wearing it--the terror--out," (Sir Laurence) Olivier wrote. "The battle takes man strange and creative forms. Some performers drink to give themselves courage; some pop beta-blockers; some meditate or practice various other tension-reducing exercises; some play inspirational videos in their dressing rooms; some, like Charles Rosen, simply see stagefright as an inevitable and appropriate result of a virtuoso's perfectionism. "Stagefright is not merely symbolically but functionally necessary, like the dread of a candidate before an examination or a job interview, both designed as a test of courage," Rosen writes. "Stagefright, like epilepsy, is a divine ailment, a sacred madness . . . It is a grace that is sufficient in the old Jesuit sense--that is, insufficient by itself but a necessary condition for success."