Speaker I met Jerome Robbins throughout the suckler, and my wife was dancing with Ana and I was also doing some projects with Ana and walking around with a tape recorder.

Speaker And and Ana sent me to Jerry and I auditioned for our dad, poor dad in the Bohemian Hall.

Speaker And he said, that’s the worst audition I’ve ever heard. The absolute worst audition I’ve ever seen. I would be ashamed of yourself. And then he said, but of Sokoloff sent me here.

Speaker So you’re either very talented, in which case I didn’t get it in some way or an idiot.

Speaker Now I’m going to put you in this play and we’re going to give you a small role and we’re going to figure that out. So you’re hired. And that’s why that’s why I first met Jerry.

Speaker Right. You just tell me for those who don’t know who anticyclone was and did she influence Jerry A..

Speaker I think it was a..

Speaker Zócalo was a a I mean, a giant in modern dance and one of the pioneers of modern dance who worked with Graham and was probably the fiercest little character in the world.

Speaker I think she joined Graham’s company when she was 15 and they went to Bennington together and she was very wild. I know that Marc Graham kept telling her can’t, you know, have things with every guy up here. You know, during the summer, she was a wild, wonderful, intuitive, very visceral dancer and choreographer. And Jerry thought she was wonderful. He used to say she’s the real thing. She’s great. And when we were at the American Lab Lab theater, she was our teacher is either her or it was Jerry. And it was also Jimmy Mitchell for a while.

Speaker But Anna was it was not dance dance.

Speaker It was it was tremendously inor motivated movement. And she’s done some great, great works.

Speaker Great work. Tell me about that. For Dad, this was some strange little what was it, a comedy?

Speaker I don’t know. It was a kind of a farce, wasn’t it? I don’t I don’t know.

Speaker I guess it was a farce, a story of a dysfunctional kid, you know, and his and his crazy mother with the father sitting in a closet dead. And we did it.

Speaker There are Pyramus that come out, these parent Paran appliance for an appliance. They come out and grow and threaten everybody.

Speaker And it was a you know, Jerry did it in a very magical and unique environment.

Speaker The whole environment was very, very unique about it and precise and was done with another play that was cut before the opening call saying to me through open windows, it was it was fun and horrifying at the same time, you know, and the acting was superb.

Speaker And Jerry worked wonderfully with the actors, not like Barbara Harris, who was a kind of comic genius in Austin Pendleton. They were great.

Speaker Yeah, sure. I ever tell you what attracted him to this material?

Speaker Oh, Dad, no, I don’t think so.

Speaker I don’t think so.

Speaker I know a little about Jerry and reading things about him and knowing about him. It probably the relationship between the boy and his mother, the overpowering mother and the I mean, there is something of Gypsie about it.

Speaker You know, there is something of that same theme coming up of the overpowering parental figure and the and the boy was dysfunctional and trying to keep balance, you know, and find his own life.

Speaker One critic wrote the book was in a way choreographed like a dance.

Speaker Yes, it was. Well, we were a bunch of bellboys and I was a bellboy for a while. Then I played the the the dad in the closet, which was choreographed. You had to fall a certain way. And then I understudied Austin and. It had a certain precision to it, the way we came on as bellboys was, you know, a clock like precision about it. You know, everything about it had a precise quality except the acting, which made it very interesting. The acting was very improvised improvisatory and the actors were very organic and real subtle was sort of one music going against the other and set itself had a kind of jewel like quality about it.

Speaker It was kind of like a little hand cut piece. Handmade piece. Very. Know, not quite realistic, not quite realistic compared to other directors you’ve worked with.

Speaker What was Jerry like as a director of actors, director of actors?

Speaker Well, I worked with him in unique circumstances where he was doing very non realistic material.

Speaker But in old dad, poor dad, Jerry, Jerry was very interested in the person that he was working with.

Speaker I don’t think it’s any different than what I know about its ballets. He really worked with you as he choreographed ballets. I think for individuals like Nora Kaye and people like that, he really used their quirks and their things.

Speaker And my experiences with Jerry is that as an actor were that he was had a certain conflict about it in the sense that he had a very strong form in mind and unique behavior, memorable behavior and memorable memorable observations. But he also had a very strong form in mind. And there was a tension between allowing the actors the freedom to get that in their own ways and going right towards it comes of working with Jerry.

Speaker Was anybody like Jerry ever, ever in my life? And I worked with a lot of wonderful people.

Speaker He was he was like a he’s like the angel of art, you know, he was he was he was superbly and he was so inspired and inspiring.

Speaker He always spoke in active terms. It must have come partly from instinct and partly from his method background.

Speaker He had studied with the people at the group theater and had been in the Yiddish theater and studied the Actor’s Studio. He and whatever he said was highly active. Even if it was abstract, there was something terribly organic about the abstraction. He always gave you some story, whether it was the story, the body or the story, the music or the story of between people.

Speaker And in fact, he spoke of music as what is he once said to me, what is the behavior of that music?

Speaker I don’t think there’s any direct that that’s that had a more active I everything was so and also as much fun as it could be. Terrifically terrific fun. I found him a joy, absolute joy.

Speaker But the years I spent with Jerry were the best years I ever had in the theater, mostly because of we weren’t producing, particularly in the circumstances I was in, to create anything, to show anything. We were we were very free to experiment and let things go as they went.

Speaker And one exercise spun out after another. And and Jerry kept going for things that were a total process and totally creative and come back to make sure to leave.

Speaker Done quite yet, because I want to ask you if he encouraged actors who had ideas of their own to try them out?

Speaker I think he I think he could. Yes. Yes. I think he he he would do that. Yes, I think he would do that.

Speaker But he did have a very strong imagination, and he and he also had very strong results in mind. So I’m not sure whether in all circumstances, I think with Austin and with Barbara Harris, he encouraged them to talk off of themselves and to bring in to bring things.

Speaker And but the man had extraordinary ideas. And you almost always find yourself wanting to go for those results.

Speaker The conflict sometimes was how do I make that result? Mine and and having the time to really do that. So I found the few times that I had when I said to Jerry, even even in a, you know, somewhat upset, I can’t do this like this.

Speaker I can’t work quite that fast or whatever it is, he would step back.

Speaker I often hear that Jerry was hard to work with and I’ve seen that. But if you were very open and direct with Jerry and told him exactly how you worked and what you wanted, and he could see how ambitious you were to do the work, I found him very, very open and very giving and respectful.

Speaker Would you like to take a little break?

Speaker I would love to take a drink. Here’s to you.

Speaker Mm hmm. While you do that, didn’t you have an incident with Jerry where you were trying something that I did?

Speaker Oh, no, Dad, poor dad. Yes, I did. Tell me about that.

Speaker I know, Dad. Poor Dad. I didn’t know Jerry very well.

Speaker And we all had to come home and have hatboxes, all kinds of hatboxes and carry them around. And so I was off stage and everyone was told to go a certain direction in a certain way. And I thought, well, you know, if I carry more boxes than I can see, then I can’t see. Then I’ll be able to kind of wander around and it’ll be funny or it’ll be, you know, I’ll be off my thing and I’ll be the one guy who’s sort of like that. So I put lots and lots of boxes on top high up. And I came out and instead of going on the line, I flanner floated around in the this. And all of a sudden I heard Jerry yell from the back of the house, What are you doing?

Speaker Who is that and what are you doing, why are you doing that or what are you doing.

Speaker He yelled at me and I froze and yelled back because I wasn’t thinking and I just was caught unawares. I yelled back, I’m trying something, damn it, I’m trying something here. And it was quiet for a moment and said, Aha.

Speaker And I think it was the next day, Betty Wohlberg, his great assistant, wonderful assistant who helped Jerry so much in P.A., came to me and said, Jerry mentioned you at lunch.

Speaker And he says, I think that boy has something that was an interesting idea he had. And that was the first time that I find that I that was the first part of the first time I really made a relationship with Jerry. So, yes, he was open to ideas. Yeah.

Speaker Well, sort of.

Speaker Well, I don’t know, you know.

Speaker Do you think he sent Betty to. I’m sorry, do you think he sent Betty to you or do you think that was a casual conversation?

Speaker While she was standing by the piano and she said that to me, Jerry says that, you know, you have something, that boy has something.

Speaker I’m not sure I’m not I’m not sure.

Speaker Maybe he was trying to figure out if a.. Y.A. knucklehead sent me to him because he had said, we’ll figure out if you’re an idiot.

Speaker Were very good. You know, I’m not his. I kind of I did have the most beautiful eyes in the world.

Speaker First of all, incredible ever. Isn’t anybody I’m sure you haven’t talked to him and told you that thing you noticed about Jerry Worthy’s eyes. He saw he looked at everything and.

Speaker He looked at everything, I remember him walking down the street, he used to live on the same street as the theater near the 17th Street Theater.

Speaker It was the same street and all walking behind him and watching him and how he took me and everything. And then he stopped by a garbage can and looked at something. And then he went on and and I was behind him. And I thought, what possibly could that man have looked at in the garbage so thoughtfully? And it turned out to be the back of a radio with the wires had been pulled out. And you know how that you can see that there’s a design in the back of the radio and he’d been looking at this kind of this design.

Speaker Yeah, you know, I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know with its eyes or it’s incredible what I felt about Jerry was that like great like gurus, like people who are really the work or really what they say or what they do. He was that in totality and he was in the consciousness of something. There was a he was in the waters floating in the consciousness of that work, and he spoke out of that.

Speaker So I don’t call it his eyes. I felt he was totally I thought he was connected to things. It was a total, total response came to see me to play in a problem I had had for months and months and months.

Speaker F. Murray Abraham and I were in a play called Heibel and a Demon. We could not solve the first scene. And it was just it was my partly my fault. I could not get Murray to pay attention to me. And I kept banging on him and banging him.

Speaker And I played a Polish peddler and I was trying to get Murray to come to a whorehouse with me on Friday night in this little shtetl. And he had his own and that we could not make that scene work. No matter what I did, I thought was the writing.

Speaker And Jerry came to the play and he came and we were sitting in Joe Allans and he said, what’s with that first scene? I said, Well, I try to get them to Murray to pay attention to me, you know, and really enjoy me and this and that. And he was having soup. And he said and listen for a while he said, But Barry, he’s your pet.

Speaker I said what he said, you he’s your pet. They went back eating a soup and I said that we solved the problem for months and months, I’ve been at that problem.

Speaker I mouth a lot because I realize how you solved it. Now, of course, I went on stage and when Murray did something, I. I laughed and then he walked away and I thought, what a charming little cat you are. What a funny little cat. I’ll treat you to come out. And as soon as I gave up or Murray gave up and the scene became totally self, Jerry had a unique way of somehow just putting himself inside the consciousness of the work and and responding to it.

Speaker So, yeah, amazing to see somebody who shied away from making difficult decisions that they would upset people. Or did you just go for.

Speaker I don’t know that, but, you know, I’ve seen him be pretty difficult.

Speaker I’ve seen him be you know, I was in England when he went when they went in a ballerina, when a ballerina, a prima ballerina was they were doing the Chopin piece, a dance of gathering.

Speaker And and she wasn’t she wasn’t using enough weight, you know, I think sort of design rather than really organically moving. And he grabbed her and said, push me across the stage, push me across the stage in front of this core, you know, which was, you know, classic kind of drama. And he she kept pushing, which I saying, that’s not hard enough.

Speaker Push me, push me, push me. So, you know, and then he came back and he stood in the corner with me and devilishly kind of laughed and said, that was pretty terrible. And I said, oh, pretty bad. Pretty bad. So I.

Speaker I don’t know, I think it’s overdone, this thing about Jerry being I mean, of course, there are people who really felt that they were really hurt and so many things about Jerry and I met people like that. My own experience is, is that he woke up in the morning, he went up to the studio. There was a mirror. He worked on things with or without music.

Speaker He brought it in. He had to bring it in with his body. He had to create ideas and he needed energy and he needed to access his emotion. It was not cool, a cool cucumber who just saw things. He had to access that and he was willing to do things to access that. And also, if you did not cooperate, if you just if you did if you were flaccid in front of him, it destroyed him. He needed that buoyancy.

Speaker Now, you know, great artists are not great saints. There’s two jobs. And I found it thrilling because it meant that we were going to do something.

Speaker I work with Elia Kazan right before that.

Speaker And Kazan also made you feel you were going to change the world. We were conspiratorial in rehearsal.

Speaker We were going to change the world.

Speaker And I found that.

Speaker Very thrilling, the cherry going for it like that. A.

Speaker I understand that he at some point decided that he’s going to join the the groups. What game? The group’s poker game.

Speaker He did. He did. He was a big poker player with us was a disastrous poker game. Totally, totally. Bianco’s was up, was a great player. And there were some other great players down there.

Speaker I just my salary, salary regularly.

Speaker Down there, but the bellboys were on off for long stretches of time, us guys and Cherrywood devilishly come down and up and play with us.

Speaker He like to come down and kind of. No, just.

Speaker I mean, kind of terrorize us that he’d been lurking around watching, you know, fooling with us, you know, digging at us. I was once well, so he also he like he liked. But he liked the play. He liked. He liked to play. He was a charming companion.

Speaker I mean, the most enchanting companion. In terms of, you know, sense of humor and his jokes, as little as little, little things, he also lurked around the theater, maybe had nothing to do. But I know he used to look around. I remember once Joe Van Fleet, who was wonderful in the play, decided that she would have to have very, very long speech.

Speaker She would go off stage and for some reason there was no applause and something had happened to the applause that had dwindled down after her long monologue. So she used to stand off and do a little bit of that and then it would all start.

Speaker I’ll never forget as long as I believe Jerry was standing at one end of the stage and she was there on the other. And she did that. And she looked up and I looked up and there was Jerry.

Speaker Standing in the corner.

Speaker And he looked at her and he went. No, no, no, we she went, you know, like that I mean, she she was great in the play, but I guess Jerry really was he would just be a presence that that would have suddenly, you know, suddenly arrive and be one of the boys for a time.

Speaker Of course, it’s difficult when one is, you know, one of the boys and not one of the boys, you know, kind of like in and out.

Speaker But that nice group used to come down when we were at the lab theater, come downstairs to the bar where all of us were dancing to the Supremes.

Speaker And Jerry would sit at the table and watch us and occasionally join in and. Very active watching.

Speaker You knew that he was gobbling it up and finding aspects of us and aspects of that of that music, he loved to see people have a good time loving it.

Speaker What was the response to your dad for dad like?

Speaker It was very, very good, it was a big hit, they did it all over just like, oh, dad, poor dad was was a big hit. Yeah, big off Broadway hit. And then he did it on Broadway and.

Speaker You know, I didn’t get that. Oh, dad, oh, dad, poor dad was a big hit.

Speaker Oh, something can happen. No, it’s fine if you can just.

Speaker OK, on that point, there was a big hit, it was done off Broadway and it was done on Broadway and.

Speaker The audience, you know, was delighted, and I remember the big moment of that thing was when the father was in this closet falls out.

Speaker On to the bed where they about to make love, I think falls on them and people in the audience would just. You know, scream and yell. The timing was just so, you know, impeccable, you know, about that.

Speaker You know, that was a it was a it was a pickup. Yeah.

Speaker Well, before we leave our dad or dad, is there anything else you’d like to say to that experience?

Speaker Well, for me. Well, personally, I was fine, I mean, we used to go out to the bars that we used to go up to bar all of us, and I used to go with Jerry up there and we would talk about stuff and Jerry would that’s when he was mostly free.

Speaker And I can remember a couple of us getting together and doing West Side Story down the block for him. He was down one end of the block. We were down the other and it was the evening. And I said, Jerry, I yelled at him. He was going up the street and two or three of us got together and did West Side all the way down the block. Jerry was very nice to me there because I had a job in a movie for about it.

Speaker Three weekends or something, and he went out of his way.

Speaker You know, to help me do it, and he said, well, if you’ll learn from it, you should do it.

Speaker And he that’s not the first time he said things like that. If it’s good for you, then we should try to make it happen. I was really touched by the fact he took an interest not only in me probably and other people, too, but he said some things that were very important to me, like, you know, we have something good about you. If you work hard, you can make something of yourself. He told me. And that movie we went to a lot of trouble to get someone to cover me and to do this whole intricate thing and rehearse them.

Speaker And I thought it was very, very, extremely generous of him.

Speaker Tell me about the American theater. What was it paid for it?

Speaker Well, I know, but was it to take a drink?

Speaker And then it was the American theater lab.

Speaker The American theater. There was American theater lab was paid for, I believe, by by a grant from Roger Stevens.

Speaker And let me just stop you, because my impression is it’s the National Endowment for the Arts.

Speaker And Roger Stevens was the guy, I think. But but you may be right. I don’t know that. Or you can skip that, OK? I think it was I think he was.

Speaker But the American the American theater lab, I think Jerry had this idea that he would like to experiment freely without the terrible pressures of doing things he had just done.

Speaker Brecht. I don’t think he felt entirely happy with that. And he had just done the office and it didn’t feel happy about that.

Speaker He wanted for once to have a time when he could really explore things without the time pressure. And he wanted to see if it was it was possible to create works as he had created ballets and create happenings. This was the time of the 60s of Peter Brook and Geocache in the Open Theater, the living theatre Grotowski. And I think Jerry wanted also to have a group.

Speaker And he wanted to see if he could.

Speaker He his first interest, I think, were to well, he he had had several interests, he wanted to experiment and then on top of that, he wanted to see if he could have the foundations of a theatre, the foundations of a new kind of performance theatre, much like he had had in Ballet USA.

Speaker He wanted to have a small chamber theatre that would do non realistic plays with actors, singers and dancers. And he wanted that all to be incorporated together.

Speaker I think is.

Speaker He had a tremendous interest at that time in the North Theater, that was one of the big influences he was trying to find a new way of telling stories that were more essential, more monumental.

Speaker And he wanted to know theater. He used the no theater as a as a way of as he wanted to use the theater as a technique.

Speaker The first things we started with Weibrecht, the measures taken and and then we went to a parts of Hamlet.

Speaker My feeling is, is that he wanted to work on the measures taken because and the exception, the rule and these plays of Brecht and Hamlet, because these were projects that he had in mind.

Speaker Still, he had he wasn’t satisfied with what he had done in mother courage and he was thinking of doing at the National Theatre the bad guy. And he wanted to use we wanted to use us to experiment with the ideas of that. Further complicated, what what happened is, is that one thing we worked on, spun on another thing became a series of what truly was a very open time for a series of experiments and a series of exercises, one that gave birth to another exercise.

Speaker You know, your typical day like.

Speaker Well, we started at 10:00 and we had dance class with Anna and sometimes with Jerry, and then we would come together in a circle. Usually this was the fun, fun, fun part of the day, really. And we would improvise and we somebody would make a movement and somebody else would copy that movement.

Speaker And Jerry was always in the circle.

Speaker Jerry was unique in that his movements were always so simple and usually off of us.

Speaker Like if you did that with your hair, Jerry would pick it up and he’d start by doing that. We all would do that. And then that exercise slowly moved to space. He would tape the floor. We that was one of the common things to do was to reshape the floor in different structures and it would fill the space. He would tell us to fill the space with different textures, would fill the space with gas, with light gas, with colors, with iron wine particles. And then he would put on music or perhaps somebody play music for us and we would move to the different areas within the tape that had these different textures.

Speaker That was one of the things we we did in the afternoon. We usually worked on on one of the pieces that we were working on from the Brecht pieces. We went on to do a piece on the Kennedy assassination.

Speaker The text was the Warren Commission, and this was done in no style, where Leonard Fry played Jacqueline Kennedy in the car, but. But in the no style, what we did first was to. To understand that, actually, as it was on a real and realistic terms then in Vibert and in minimalize it, so the best way to describe it would be once that we did a shoveling snow and we all and we started I think it was with me alone, we were sure I was shoveling snow and shoveling snow when I was doing it and my hands hurt. You would ask, but what hurts? What part of the body you’re using? What is a day like, you know, how cold are you? Where are you cold. So I did it realistically. I would say that’s great. Now let’s do just with the arm. Here you are. You come out and you’re cold. This part is cold. This is your head. So it’s just the arms suddenly doing the shoveling of the snow. Then we would do it with maybe just just just standing in minimalizing that or just the leg.

Speaker And finally, which is wonderful and crazy, we just did it by thinking it.

Speaker What Jerry wanted, which was so touching and we did this in several occasions, was to see something for all time. That would be the play. What is it to shovel snow as a person? What does it mean? It was always thinking of the phrase a thousand years from today when an archaeologist finds a shovel and they tell him that is shovel snow. Can’t we make a statement about that for all time? The only way we can do that when he would read Sesame, I think it is, was that great. No actor. He had read a lot of essays about him, and in the no drama, he had realized they had taken real things and compressed them into really kind of spiritual thought, you know, and like all the great things about sharing all great directors like Jerry, he started the very root of things. So how did you find the root of of the no drama that we used in in in the Brechtian in this and in these exercises, but having to start a day and in the afternoon with the tea ceremony because he felt that. This would somehow essentially make us no longer strangers to the world that we were borrowing from one of those to become intimate with the very source of of of this work. So did the tea ceremony also brought in no dancers?

Speaker I remember that because Jerry was in the back with me and we were both in Playaz for an hour and a half. And Jerry turned me, said, easy for them. They’re so small, you know, and he ran away and got some water and came back and try to throw me off my my balance and, you know, would be a bad boy and kind of kicked me so I would go off in the Senate.

Speaker But this thing of shoveling snow, this or once I lit a cigarette, if said, let us maybe I would think I was my idea, I would light a cigarette. And so I would start with a cigarette and where I was and what it was. And then finally we moved to masks, but not masks this way, masks just using our hands. We hadn’t ever arrived really using a mask. But, for instance, you know, he wanted us to finally light a cigarette and see things in the room by throwing our attention onto it. What was so amazing and so wonderful for an actor was that it was organic, it was not designed. You had to really still act. The sensory elements of the scene, you sort of feel the cold. You still had to want the cigarette, but you transposed it to your to your hand.

Speaker You know, I did a piece for him that he liked a lot about a king living room and.

Speaker P.S., he talked about a lot and that was, you know, I was a king and I came into the room and I I looked around and I saw my I saw my my my throne for the last time. And you know that I walked up to the throne, I remember, and I and I just walked along with my hand and as I did it, I narrated it. That was another thing we did. We were we used to narrate our own actions. So the act was split into it was filled with, you know, wanting to carry on the experiments of a 60s, I think, in a more exact, precise way and. To bring that kind of specialist that dance brings to theater to do away with casualties completely, you know?

Speaker Highly, highly poetic vision of I found absolutely we did things, for instance, where we would wake up in the morning, what was our morning like, and so we’d all be there and we’d all be there getting ready for breakfast and taking our showers, and then we would slow it down.

Speaker You know, well, I assisted during the last year, and occasionally I’d walk out and look at it fantastic, the song timing, you know, and then he would play with it, say, why don’t you start a little later once you start a little earlier, you know, but it is this period was not him controlling a lot.

Speaker It was him setting up fascinating problems.

Speaker Fascinating problems and working, and you had to work your way out of them and that and, you know, that’s how he I found that’s how he worked.

Speaker We did. You know, I was on the floor once with Skipper Damon and we were under a chair after a dance class. And Jerry said, can you get out from under that chair? And I tried to skip it, tried to in the Senate. And and we tumbled and this and that. And he said, we’ll try to do this now. Try it. It was always what became Watermill. I actually that that that that beginning of Watermill, OK, an exercise that I that I, I think is kind of an essential exercise of the lab theater.

Speaker Was Jerry’s using this phrase of wanting things to be remembered forever and ever, wanting the essential, the very core of things, not the personality of things, but the very essence of them to be presented, the very unique vision, partly because he was reading Greek plays and partly because of no drama, which is all about the compression of of life and the formalization. He was fascinated by ritual. Ritual was the underlying thing or everything that he was after. And he used no drama to get there. It was is that he he said, would say to us if there was an object and it was found by an archaeologist thousands of years from today, what would you bring in that could be found then?

Speaker He would look at the space, which is one of the most fascinating to ask about his eyes. He would sit and look at space. He would say this space, when you walk on it, has never been touched.

Speaker Everybody that walks upon this space leaves a mark forever. Forever.

Speaker My God. And then one by one would enter the space with such a. Responsibility and touch the space and leave a mark on and we could see the mark, we could feel, we could see the mark and then we all would go back against the wall and bring in an object that we thought we would like to leave to be found a thousand years from today, carrying it on our shoulders, carrying it in our pockets. Something of ourselves. It could be our talent. It could be a fork from something because we love food and put it on the floor in a certain way, and then Jerry would have somebody play music.

Speaker And.

Speaker Or and we would then, after putting it down, sit in the ground and stare at it.

Speaker And I think Jerry had tremendous sensitivity to the energy that that that that set off, and I can tell you that.

Speaker It was thrilling theater, just thrilling to watch what it was. That’s your energy. It takes the energy, of course. OK, thank you. But it’s all you got.

Speaker That, anyway, is very important. And and another one, you can get these things. This is one of the most beautiful exercises we did, was a phrase that came out. We worked on Oswald and Oswald’s diaries. Well, it was my thing. I brought it in from Life magazine as spelt, we did Oswald’s diaries and and I said of October 25th would be our 25th or his misspelling we would use. And one of the phrases was, my fondest dreams are realized. And that phrase, Jerry came in one day and said, my fondest dreams are realized. What are our founders dreams? And we set up a thing where each person would come in and narrate what their funding streams was to another actor. And I remember Barbara Montay baking and eating her sister. That was what her fondest dream. I remember back, I was a shocking and fantastic. I remember somebody who wanted to win a boxing match. Now, narrating that I didn’t mountain climbing. I would I came into the kitchen and there was a note from my mother when I was pregnant that that said, you know, make your own dinner. And then I sat and began to muse about climbing a mountain. And another actor came on and followed my instructions out as I now read it again.

Speaker Again, taking something ordinary. And elevating it, elevating it. Like into something extraordinary, making the bridge between, like, prayers, making the bridge between things.

Speaker That just are into things that, you know, are much more than that, and I think when you were with a person like Jerry that I was with him once in a pine forest at my house, and I had seen that pine forest many, many times. But he got me to see the pine forest in another way. People like that make you see that there’s more to life than meets the eye, you know.

Speaker So how did you do? How do you do that? How did he do?

Speaker Talent, talent, lots of talent, talent that is coming from a very deep, grounded source. It’s a kind of love, I guess, deep, you know, grounded source where, you know, you feel like they’re part of something which is religious, which is spiritual there, and they’re in touch with something.

Speaker You know, I once heard him say about a wonderful choreographer that his work wasn’t worth much because he lacked love. And I think with all these observations have within them a longing and a love in Jerry. And they were unique. They were unique takes on things.

Speaker That’s a mystery to him, it seems as if almost anything could be fodder for juries creativity, that seems to be what it was, just the whole a whole person, an artist.

Speaker And there was no stopping that. You know, I just that’s why having lunch with him or walking with him or being with him. You got it. You get it. When you’re with people like that, they are it um. It’s not just the skill, of course.

Speaker There’s a lot of terrific skill, but there’s there’s an intent and you get the intent. You know, you get the real. Intent, it’s very hard to communicate that the people, you know, it’s thrilling to watch Gerri’s work and maybe people can get an idea of how thrilling then it is.

Speaker To see the process of that work. Which was even more thrilling, more thrilling.

Speaker You are closer to the actual explosion of the original thought and that somehow was absolutely thrilling.

Speaker And the performers are really geared for the most part, as much as you might like, process their to performance. So what was that like for you to just go on endlessly in a kind of it was hard for some people.

Speaker It was difficult. And, you know, they wanted to produce something. And I think Jerry was a little was torn between should we produce something or should we experiment? And he was he seemed at times torn. But I think people were to a certain degree discouraged because every time Jerry put something together, he tore it apart.

Speaker It was amazing.

Speaker And I don’t know whether it was I you know, perfectionism without limitations, you know, can be very dangerous.

Speaker And so what sometimes was discouraging.

Speaker I know there were as an actor who quit, I remember seeing Jerry very, very vulnerable to, you know, he had a commitment to this group and he somehow and part of him wanted to be liked and be and please them. And he wasn’t sure which way to go, whether he should produce something or not produce something.

Speaker So it was hard, it was hard for them. I wish if we had produced something, I think we might have come into existence. We can’t. We were invited to Spilotro and in that summer that we didn’t do it. I think that was probably very, very critical in the life of that of that company. But he wanted what he got out of it to see that many, many things out of that that was seen afterwards.

Speaker He was able to come up with lots of ideas for ballets and things, and he wanted to experiment and he did so.

Speaker If you could just go back, the one thing you didn’t tell us is actually what it was, what he what the one thing you didn’t tell us is what at all was, if you could just in a sentence or two, explain what was including the idea, no obligation to produce any more.

Speaker Well, it was a group of actors that I shouldn’t have said at all.

Speaker If you can use the words American theater.

Speaker Well, American the American Theater Lab was a group of actors, singers and dancers that Jerry organized a small group to come together and experiment on non unrealistic plays.

Speaker And I think I wouldn’t say them plays a come together and experiment in the hopes that maybe he would also put together pieces that could be shown. But the real basis but I think was was his desire to experiment, experiment very freely and fully and to be out of the reaches of the pressure of Broadway, which have been very difficult on him.

Speaker Could you talk you touched on this before, but if you could talk a little bit, is that all right?

Speaker A little bit more about how the group you could relate the group to the atmosphere of the 60s and what was going on in general in the culture?

Speaker Well, it was the American theater lab was, you know, was in the 60s and all around us. Things were changing.

Speaker There was tremendous experimentation going on at Judson Church and an open theater, the living theater geocache in the Becs, Richard Shecter and Grotowski, all these people, Peter Brook, were were experimenting.

Speaker And looking for new ways of working as a collective that was one thing and looking for new ways to present theater, it was kind of it’s also a commercial revulsion, revulsion against commercialism, the idea of bringing theater back to an importance. Again, what was highly, highly Jerry gave us off one afternoon to go to see the beard in Sheep’s Meadow, a huge being where people burnt their draft cards. And later on, Jerry Ragone, who was in the group, you know, did hair and he used to be in, you know, and in that Jerry, I think, was very cognizant that things were changing and moving on.

Speaker And he wanted to find new ways to tell stories, you know, tell me about.

Speaker I’m not sure I have this right. But didn’t you do a piece called My Name is Rabinowitz?

Speaker Yeah, I don’t know, I my name is Rabinowitz.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah, I think I did that. Yeah.

Speaker I don’t know what it was called that at that time, but I did do, I did do the actor that Jerry wrote and I did do I believe my name is Rabinowitz. I don’t know if it was called out of that, that I was part of. Was Papa where’s Papa was first started at the American Theater Lab..

Speaker Yeah, yeah.

Speaker The Papa piece. I don’t think he’d yet been formed form had Jerry had formulated it into yet a full play. But the first writings I believe came out of that. I remember Jerry coming in with scenarios and we would do them as far as with masks or hands or or narrate them.

Speaker And I did do a piece on I on one call to the act, and I believe I did also a piece about called My Name is Rabinowitz.

Speaker OK, the one thing you didn’t say is that it was autobiographical.

Speaker Yeah, well I don’t remember.

Speaker I don’t remember now. I don’t remember. I don’t.

Speaker How did your work there at the lab eventually end and what was Jerry’s attitude about that?

Speaker I came to the end after two years in the American theater lab to market to the American theater lab, came to an end at the end of two years. We decided to disband it and. I think Jerry felt very, very seemed very, very upset about it. I don’t think he was clear whether he wanted to go on and formalize a company. He had said that it was the hardest work he had ever done in his life. Those two years. He was constantly having to come up with stuff and then having no deadline. He was constantly changing things. It was very, very hard on him. He was the only real source and was all coming out of him. You know, we did reams and reams of most beautiful stuff I’ve ever seen on the stage. And but it was all coming from Jerry and he seemed very. He’s very, very vulnerable at the end of it, very I think he was also attached to the group, too, and not sure quite what he wanted to do with after that.

Speaker It occurs to me that before when I asked you what your typical day was like, yeah, we should record something about Jerry’s sense of discipline because he didn’t have to produce anything. And yet your work was fairly stringent. So could you talk about how many days a week and how many hours a day? And that’s why the discipline that he brought to the exercise.

Speaker Well, our day at the American Theater Club was started at 10:00 and went till 6:00 a.m. to go out and have drinks and dance in the bar or something.

Speaker Joe would come a lot of times we start with dance class and then improvisations the morning and we’d work on a piece of.

Speaker Jerry was Jerry was was not difficult to work with and there was an easiness about it.

Speaker I didn’t feel that because it was not time constraint the way other pieces were like working on Broadway.

Speaker I didn’t feel a great deal of pressure about about doing it.

Speaker I felt that he was restless to to go somewhere with it. Can’t constantly go somewhere. But no, I didn’t I didn’t feel an iron hand of discipline. I didn’t feel that. I felt that he had somehow talked himself into this was a great gift.

Speaker And I’m going to enjoy it.

Speaker I’m going to really experiment. I’m going to see where things go.

Speaker So, you know, it was very, very enjoyable work, very enjoyable, conflicting reports about whether or not you were sworn to secrecy about the work that you did.

Speaker And, you know, we were never I don’t we didn’t sign any anything about about secrecy. No, but of course, I think Jerry did. Yeah. Jerry did say we’d prefer not to tell anybody anything or anybody about it, you know, and we didn’t have anybody really come.

Speaker We had a few people come up.

Speaker Leonard Bernstein came and played the piano for us and Jonquiere and Joe Papp. But very few people ever came to, uh, to, uh, to see us. It’s a strange atmosphere and where eight or 12 people are constantly performing for each other. But no, we weren’t sworn to secrecy.

Speaker I remember once there was someone who want to write a book and Jerry said, don’t tell that person and anything at all. But we were sworn to secrecy.

Speaker Um, do you think it was to his advantage or not that he didn’t have to produce anything?

Speaker Why, it was very difficult on him not to produce something because it’s hard for anybody with that kind of that kind of compulsion of invention to not have any limitation at all.

Speaker On one hand, that that’s very, very true.

Speaker But I think it took its toll on him to keep coming up with stuff.

Speaker I remember once he said a very interesting thing to me. I said I can do this with this script. I was showing him a script of mine or I can do that with the script, but I don’t know what to do, Jerry.

Speaker And he said, you know, I have to say don’t spend so much time on choices. It’s really leave yourself the time to fulfill those choices. That’s what you have to remember.

Speaker And I thought, OK, you know, and I and I think in this situation, Jerry had many, many, many had lots and lots of time to make to make choices. He wasn’t functioning, but he was a man capable of doing, you know, high button shoes like that in a couple of weeks or West Side Story in a few weeks. You know, I think he wanted to do this and luxuriated and then he did, you know.

Speaker How do you think his work at affected his ballet choreography? You mentioned the water. Maybe you can talk more.

Speaker Well, Watermill is a direct, complete direct, in my opinion, piece that came directly out of of the work, the butterflies, the orchestra that that sits on the ground know the no feeling about it all.

Speaker The set, the. Close to what of autobiographical material that the performance aspect of it, the happening aspect of it, rather than the full on balletic aspects of it.

Speaker How it how else it.

Speaker I don’t know, I I’m not sure how it affected his other ballets.

Speaker One of the things we didn’t talk about was the fact that Jerry wanted to change speech on the stage. And we worked a lot of that.

Speaker There were texts that we worked out to see if we could bring the words also to an elemental and memorable place where there would be a lack of casualness and yet they’d be organic, not just this kind of fufu business of the chorus that that you hear, but to try to find some real way in which words could be both symbolic and musical and yet have within them meaning real meaning, I guess maybe going back to the roots of what a Greek chorus must have really sounded like. So he wanted to add that and we did. And he used a lot of no ideas about that, about sound.

Speaker And we brought in speech teachers and things like that. We did Hamlet, for instance, with 12 of us, played Hamlet or eight of us played Hamlet same time using the words and trying to see if we could would play with things. You know, I think that was frustrating for Jerry, that he never.

Speaker Came to a conclusion of got to use, that he had a chance to go with Oliviers company to do the backI, and I was there in England when he was thinking of doing it, and there he would have incorporated some of these ideas. There’s no question in my mind that part of the American theater lab was to prepare him for that experience. Also that experience and the experience that he hadn’t done.

Speaker Brecht, I think he totally wanted to.

Speaker At some point, I understand that Jerry told you about a conversation his father had until now that his father had related to Jerry, had asked him, I think he was concerned about him becoming a dancer, you know what I mean?

Speaker Yeah, well, I was in Steensland with Jerry, and Jerry had just came back from, uh, from Miami Beach, Miami. It was Miami, Miami or a city nearby. And he said, no, God, it’s terrible. I go down there and there, the older people and I come and they all say, oh, yeah, I was Mr. Fiddler, Mr. Fiddler, I had to be known as Mr. Fiddler on the Roof.

Speaker So he came back to and he said, you know, I had amazing conversation with my with my father. He said, you know, I said, Dad, how come you never worry about me? I can’t understand why you never worried about was a dancer and said, you know, how come you never worry about me? His father said, well, you know, we were back in Newark and you did you did your first recital. And John Martin, I think I think that was beyond Martin. He told me the critic was there. Jerry said, yeah. He said, well, you know, during intermission I went over to him and Jerry said, you didn’t. He said, I went over to my house. He said and I said to him, What do you think of that little boy over there? This is my son, Jerry. He’s the one in the tights or whatever it is, the red one and so on. Martin said that you saw him said he said OK. He said, yeah, doing fine. I wouldn’t worry about that. Jerry said, can you imagine? He said, that’s what my father said. He didn’t worry about me. It’s a revelation to me. All these years I’ve been thinking he didn’t care or he just trusted St. Martin’s opinion about me. You know, it was a kind of, I think, a relief to him that I really believed him was funny.

Speaker Until I talk to you about why he left the theater.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah. He said he didn’t like to be. And he said, well, in the rehearsal of Fiddler on the Roof, he said I said, yeah, you know, it’s great. It’s great. The revival of I was watching rehearsal. He said, why don’t you do more? You got to do more. He got the mojo. He said, no. I said, I really don’t like to do it because it’s so hard for me to get other people to do what I need.

Speaker And they end up hating me and it doesn’t feel good. You know, they just keep pushing people and pushing people to get there. It’s just so difficult. And in ballet, I don’t have that particular problem. I can go right at it.

Speaker You know, I was talking about how hard it was, you know, great story in that we are so sure my staff was doing something that just drove Jerry crazy and he kept doing it and he kept doing it, you know, and finally said, zero, please, come on.

Speaker Let’s, you know, let’s get real. Let’s stop this. Now, with this thing that you do with a fish, it doesn’t belong there. And it’s not that funny all about blah, blah, blah, and it’s OK. And it came to agreement and he did he did it again. And Jerry Jerry Ducktown down. I was sitting in this chair like that and he said, isn’t it great? He said, stop that zero real wonderful appreciation for the two sides of Jerry. You know, it’s great.

Speaker Um, somebody told me that you had a dream about Jared.

Speaker Uh, I want to tell a story story, but I didn’t really know what want to tell that story.

Speaker I mean, it’s just that Jerry died. It’s it’s too personal. It’s just such a personal story.

Speaker And it’s just I go, I don’t know, maybe I can use it. It’s just shows the serendipity, serendipitous ness of Jerry’s whole uncanny tuning in to people.

Speaker I had a dream and he gave all his stuff away as a kind of a dream of vanity. I had a dream. I read the paper, gave his stuff to the American, to the to the library, like I said. And I and I had a dream that night. And Jerry came after he died, you know, and gave me a book.

Speaker When I said that you might don’t want to book what’s with the book and something, and then now for a long time, I see Jerry in the street or out at the Hamptons.

Speaker He would have his beautiful bag with him and was old bag. And I’ve seen him with 100 years a leather bag. And I used to say, Rabinowitz, how come you know, you’re a rich man? Why don’t you buy yourself a new bag?

Speaker He said, I like this bag. I said, Why don’t you go get my bag? And so after the dream, I said, I want that book. I think two days later, I got a call from his office telling me that the jury had willed me his dirty old bag as is, and I could just see it at the last laugh is on me, you know, Jerry sitting in his giving away all these important things to people.

Speaker And then he said, Oh, yeah, and Barry, my old dirty bag that way, or ever be able to give it away.

Speaker Little little wonderful sense of humor. And somehow it so tuned in to my affection for his work and inspiring gift that that’s the story.

Speaker I understand you visited him one day in his office, the office that he shared with you.

Speaker That’s right. I did. Yeah, I came in. He had was amazing. He had there were two pianos in Balanchine’s room and Jerry side was his CELAC hat and his coat hung up.

Speaker Peasant Kappen is going up and his music stacked up on the piano and balancing side was with his music falling on the floor and his coat was just lying on the couch. And and there was like a shawl or something that was just draped over something and to some kind of lyrical and messy. And Jerry said, see that?

Speaker He said. Look, pointing to his side, looking at balancing side, he said, I wish I could be him, it could be like that. It’s a lovely story.

Speaker But you also saw Jerry think I did see that he had a real appreciation for nature.

Speaker I wanted to get some real appreciation for what you know. Yeah, well, yeah, it’s just, you know, I think he had a particular affinity for water and sand, the, you know, the stillness of it and the fact that it was unmarked.

Speaker I see things through Jerry’s eyes sometimes. And one of the places I always see it through Jerry’s ice is the beach. And I know that something that’s that untouched and that clean is something that that that Jerry saw very, very clearly.

Speaker The goodness of that potential, that that’s what I told you. I had a pine forest and where I lived. And he came and was never the same for me after he left.

Speaker You know, so, yeah, we’re very, very, very beautiful things with nature and people. I mean, the things he said about people was so dead on, you know that on, you know.

Speaker Well, you know, about his relationship with dogs.

Speaker Oh, well, you know, he loved dogs. He loved dogs. Last time I was with Jerry, we went out to Jackson Pollock. Says he had never been there. And I was out in the Hamptons. I said when we got to Jackson Pollock south and we went there and we walked around and we walked around and afterwards we came back and we said, I don’t like the site too much. You know, I said, sure, if I said something after the guy was killing themselves, the show was everything said crazy about hard. But we came back and and the last moment that I ever saw Jerry, he was on the street and we we just bought me lunch. We were walking in EASTHAMPTON And somebody had a dog, a little dog.

Speaker And, you know, he walked away from me and, you know, I was just so, you know.

Speaker So with it. So with. So with the dog, you know, and children still very, very, very much the children.

Speaker What did you learn from Jerry? I’m sorry? What did you learn from Jack? From him?

Speaker That’s a hard one. I mean, there’s a lot about.

Speaker I don’t know, it’s it’s a. You know.

Speaker You know, I guess I I didn’t know whether I’m sure I learned many skills from him and many ideas, and I when I work, I kind of channel, you know, parts of him. You know, we do we work with wonderful people like you bring him up as a mentor when you need him. You know, when you’re working, it comes to you and you do things.

Speaker I wish I had an experience that I can bring back the experience of being with somebody who is very connected to some source of life that I the wanting to have that, wanting to bring that into my own life and.

Speaker And on a personal level.

Speaker I felt a certain understanding of me, and I think he had an understanding, a certain understanding of me he had and a certain kind of affection that meant a great deal to me.

Speaker It means a great deal to me because of who he was. So it’s on a very highly personal level more than anything, probably. That’s the truth.

Speaker OK, is there anything about Jerry that you would like to tell me that I haven’t asked? Well, I’m sure you know everything for sure.

Speaker Oh. Oh.

Speaker No, except that, you know, it’s obvious that and wonderful and thrilling.

Speaker The jury wanted the world to know him, there was nothing he wanted more than to communicate with the world, his love of things and who he was and to be accepted for that.

Speaker Like all of us, we have shame. And Jerry had his quotient of shame, I’m sure.

Speaker And now he left his diaries behind.

Speaker Why did he leave them? But to be known and there their what they are. And he’s what he is. All the dark and all the light and all these different things. And now he is being known and through your through to this documentary will be further known and.

Speaker You know, I think that’s wonderful and final release of that great spirit.

Barry Primus
Judy Kinberg
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
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"Barry Primus , Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). July 24, 2007 ,
(1 , 1). Barry Primus , Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Barry Primus , Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). July 24, 2007 . Accessed March 31, 2023


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