Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Words. Words. Words: 10 Beloved Quotations

I began collecting quotations during my high school days. These words are not all related to the theatre, but they’re all theatrical!  

1. “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately under-rehearsed.”  

Sean O’Casey  (March 30, 1880 – September 18, 1964) 

Sean O'Casey


2. “I got my start by giving myself a start.” Madame C.J. Walker

 Born Sarah Breedlove  (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919)

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker









3. “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place.”

Stella Adler (February 10, 1901 – December 21, 1992)

Stella Adler

Stella Adler










4. “A whisper can be stronger, as an atom is stronger, than a whole mountain.” 

Louise Nevelson (September 23, 1899 – April 17, 1988)

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson









5. “If you give an audience a chance they will do half your acting for you.” 

Katharine Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003)

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn









6. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” 

Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967)

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker










7. “Theatergoing is a communal act, movie going a solitary one.” 

Robert Brustein (Born April 21, 1927)

Robert Brustein

Robert Brustein









8. “Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston









9. “The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.” 

Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005)

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller









10.We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” 

George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) 

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw










Photo Credits:
O’Casey: The Irish News; Adler: John Chiasson-Liaison/Getty Images; Bernhardt: Paul Nadar; Nevelson: Pedro E. Guerrero; Hepburn: Hooked On Houses; Brustein: Berkshire Fine Arts; Hurston: The Poetry Foundation; Miller: Associated Press; Shaw: Magazin Gracija. 

On Mothers Day: A Letter From My Daughter

I received this beautiful letter today from my daughter, Abigail, who lives in Los Angeles. She asked my permission to share it on her acupuncture blog, MAMAFLOAT. Of course I agreed. I’m bursting with pride as I write this and forgive me, I asked her if I could post it here. Thankfully, she also agreed. (This post is not part of Theatrical Intelligence except by association with me.)

1981Dear Mom,

On this 39th Mother’s Day since you became a mother, I am writing you a love letter. You know I love lists.  So here’s a Love List!

I love you for patiently waiting 43 weeks for me to make my arrival, and for giving birth to me naturally, bravely ignoring the 12 men staring at your vagina in that teaching hospital.

I love you for rocking and nursing me in the Stickley Chair (which I now have in our living room), calmly convinced that it was normal for a baby to cry for 6 months straight. Colic. How did you survive?

I love you for introducing me to chocolate peanut butter cups.

I love you for loving lilacs.

I love you because of the way you always look me right in the eyes when I have something to say, your head perched between index finger and thumb.

I love you for saying about my spirited child: “he just has a hard time getting through his day. Like you did as a baby.”

I love you for saying “yes, and…” when everyone else said “no.”

I love you for making Fiesta Ware our everyday dishes.

I love you for raising me and Sam in Manhattan, where the nuts come from.

I love you for sending me to the Bank Street School.

I love you for flying 3,000 miles to meet my firstborn, arriving when he was a mere 20 hours old, and arranging fresh flowers in my bedroom every day.

I love you for taking G to the museum while I labored with L… and getting to meet her just a few hours later.  Her middle name is your first.

I love you for showing me what marriage can be: you and Dad, after 43 years, make it look easy.

I love you for introducing me to Shakespeare.

I love you for your curried chicken salad, which is totally delicious and just a little bit weird.

I love you for showing me the value of two simple beauty products: Yardley’s lavender soap and Keri lotion.

I love you for letting me fall asleep with your nightgown on the nights you and Dad left us a with a sitter.

I love you for my annual birthday gift of a trip to the Town Shop (for real or online) for new ladythings.

I love you for the cheesy way you always say “This is God’s country!” the moment we open the car windows on the drive into Keene Valley.

I love you for finding your writing voice as a Woman of the Fourteenth Moon.

I love you for suggesting I apply to Bard College.

I love you for inspiring me to become a woman business owner.

I love you for your many scarves; I always said I’d never wear them.  Now I have 14.

I love you for showing me that motherhood could be the most important job you (or I) would ever have.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!



Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved.  Photograph (1981) courtesy of Roger Morgan.  This post was inspired by a writing project I’m part of called 40 Love Letters in 40 Days.  Special shout-out to Stacy de la Rosa.


Woman Of Wisdom: A Ritual

In January my husband and I prepared to move for the first time in 37 years. We had to reduce the size of our library to fit into a smaller space, and deciding which books to keep became a crazy-making endeavor for me. There were hundreds of books I couldn’t bear to let go.

Day after day I thumbed through pages that once introduced me to worlds unknown. My gushing tears seemed disproportionate to the activity, as did my frantic scribbles of words I somehow had to hold close to me.

Just as I thought I might actually be losing my mind, it struck me that I was simply doing something I’d loved since I was a child: collecting meaningful quotes I never wanted to forget.

This simple act unintentionally launched a ritual that now brings joy to my daily routine: once a day I post a beloved quote on Twitter. Most of the quotes I collected were – no surprise to me – from women, so using the ubiquitous Twitter hashtag, I label each #WomanOfWisdom.

A sampler of wisdom selected from the past 30 days is listed below:

#WomanOfWisdom Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

#WomanOfWisdom Emily Dickinson: “They say that God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.” (1878)

#WomanOfWisdom Bella Abzug: “I prefer the word ‘homemaker’ because ‘housewife’ always implies that there may be a wife someplace else.”

#WomanOfWisdom Lena Horne: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

#WomanOfWisdom Madeleine l’Engle: “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

#WomanOfWisdom Rebecca West: “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that distinguish me from a doormat.” (1913)

#WomanOfWisdom Zora Neale Hurston: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

#WomanOfWisdom Ellen Parr: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

#WomanOfWisdom Emma Goldman: “Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.”

#WomanOfWisdom Wilma Mankiller: “I’ve run into more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.”

#WomanOfWisdom Shana Alexander: “The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.”

#WomanOfWisdom Sarah Bernhardt: “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”

#WomanOfWisdom Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

#WomanOfWisdom Indira Gandhi: “You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”

#WomanOfWisdom Abigail Adams: “We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.”

This ritual has eased the process of giving away my books. Over the past three months I’ve donated boxes and boxes to schools, libraries, bookshops, Materials for the Arts, and to my children and grandchildren of course.

A little piece of each book will be with me forever. And my hope is that the books will touch the hearts and minds and spirits of many who might not otherwise have been exposed to them. I love thinking about that.

How long do you suppose it will take to run out of wisdom?

Theatrical Lingo

Theatrical lingo, much like theatrical logic, works sort of like a secret code. “BREAK A LEG” in theatre jargon, for instance, means “Good Luck!” The term refers to the “break or bend of the leg” while taking a bow or curtsy. It’s as if the felicitation says “Great success tonight, with many curtain calls!”

A few favorite examples of this imaginative (sometimes loony) lingo are listed below:

Frank Rich and I share a laugh...

GHOST LIGHT: Theatrical superstition says that if an empty theatre is left completely dark, a ghost will take up residence. That’s the reason a single ghost light is left burning center stage in every theatre in America, after everyone has gone home. I’ve often wondered if the light is to keep the ghosts out, or to welcome them in. Probably both.

The light also serves as a practical safety measure in case someone wanders near the edge of the stage without knowing that an orchestra pit looms below, awaiting their potentially hazardous fall.

The fact that I cherish most about ghost lights, however, is that each one is carefully crafted by a stagehand. And like snowflakes, no two are alike. 

Frank Rich’s memoir, Ghost Light, is required reading for anyone serious about the theatre. (Is it necessary to disclose that Mr. Rich modeled the definitions of Writer and Critic for me decades ago? Well, anyway, he did. And he continues to inspire me with his Theatrical Intelligence in our changing world.)  He and I had a good laugh recently on the stage of Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre (see photo above): the usual clear filament bulb had been exchanged for a CFL – a compact fluorescent, or “green” bulb!  Less traditional perhaps, but a good superstition is hard to kill.

GEORGE SPELVIN: A fictitious theatrical name. Actors use this pseudonym to remain anonymous or to avoid their name appearing twice in the program if they’re playing more than one role. Sometimes the name is used when a character mentioned in the text never appears onstage; by crediting the role to “George (or Giorgio, Georgina, Georgette) Spelvin”, the audience isn’t tipped off that the character never shows up. Occasionally Actors Equity members working under a Non-Union contract (alas!) use the name to avoid penalties associated with Non-Union work.

VOMITORY: In a thrust or arena theatre, a vomitory is a ramped or stepped tunnel, giving performers access to the stage from beneath the seating area (see photo, right, of Arena Stage in Washington, DC). The term probably originated from the days of Roman amphitheatres, when those who were thrown to the lions managed to escape to tunnels under the arena, vomiting along the way. (Gross enough for you?)

Arena Stage's Fichandler © Nic Lehoux

Theatrical lingo includes hundreds of colorful terms, and just as many off-color ones. Please share your favorite in the Comment section above.

If you’re the first to come up with one I’ve never heard of, you’ll be my guest at a Broadway show!


Theatrical Logic

Imagined interior of London’s Fortune Theatre (1599). Sketch ©Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland.

Occasionally a colleague responds to the term Theatrical Intelligence with “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” and much as it irks me to hear it, I understand. Theatrical logic doesn’t make much sense to those who are not in the theatre.

The theatre ditty below reflects amusing contradictions in what some think of as our oxymoronic world

In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course
Right is left and left is right.
A drop shouldn’t
And a block and fall does neither.
A prop doesn’t
And a cove has no water.
Tripping is OK.
A running crew rarely gets anywhere
A purchase line will buy you nothing
A trap will not catch anything
And a gridiron has nothing to do with football.
A strike is work (in fact, a lot of work)
And a green room, thank God, usually isn’t.
Now that you’re fully versed
In theatrical terms…”Break a Leg”.
But not really.
Author Unknown
 The language is confusing but absolutely explainable.

In fact, there is a long history of theatrefolk being thought of as not quite normal or respectable: in the early 20th century, it was common to see  NO THEATRICALS signs on reputable hotels and eateries; women onstage were assumed to be prostitutes. Yes, the prejudice was rampant.

When Actors’ Equity was founded in 1913 as the first labor union in the performing arts industry, it paved the way for The Four A’s: the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.

These days there is a national hunger for creativity in the workplace. Corporations, governments, academic organizations and communities of all kinds are looking to artists for inspiration and answers to the lack of satisfaction of their workers. It’s the reason I’ve started leading Theatrical Intelligence Workshops, because it’s time to spread the word.

So,what is the answer to the question “Is Theatrical Intelligence An Oxymoron?”

YES, if you’re a skeptic.

NO, if you’re willing to challenge your assumptions and imagine a stage as the center of your world.

For those of us who work in the theatre, that’s what we’re lucky enough to do every day.

Skip to toolbar