An Artistic Community of Kindness

Tenn, with Michael York, looking over notes for Out Cry (1973).


The corruption of the artist begins when we fail to honor, to notice, to support our fellow artists. It is vital that we craft a community around our efforts, and it is imperative that we be a witness to those around us. We must cultivate an artistic kindness.

Tennessee Williams/1982

 Some notes on artistic kindness, from various sources:

 Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan

He was, of course, absolutely correct. We are all, sadly, guilty of deficiencies in this area. It is the easiest thing in the world to care only for your small square in the world, for your moments, for the attention you feel your talent deserves. It takes time and age and the wisdom and the perception that failure brings to us to understand that we all succeed and grow when those around us do the same. Our energies toward our peers to  improve and to be noticed have to be every bit as strong as those directed toward our own efforts. It is that simple. It is that necessary. It is so easy to disregard.

Elia Kazan/1993

Irene Worth and Lynn Redgrave

What is that awful yet wonderful quote attributed to La Rochefoucauld? It is not enough that I should succeed; others must fail. Is that it? It's chilling. It is a very dominant strain of thought in the world, particularly in the arts. I have always maintained that I would be taken care of as long as I worked hard and well, which is to say I keep my instrument at its highest level of achievement. I always worked as a member of that community of which Tennessee spoke: We must be present for all of our peers--we have to let them know that we're here and we're watching and we can help if you want it. I'll look for you out there, too, of course. We have to be honest with each other, but we have to love each other. We have to love the desire in others, even if we cannot bring ourselves to love the contributions they make .

Irene Worth/1991

Julie Harris and Laurence Oliver, in rehearsal for The Power and the Glory (1961).

We must always be a witness. That is so true. No matter what the statistics tell us, there is work for all of us, all of the time. My work right now is to act in this play--to give all that I have to the part for as long as people wish to see it. In time my work will be to give myself, my attention, my passion, my interest, my intellect to the work of someone else. To watch and to wonder, to be there for them. I believe in prayer, too, and I think we have to ask that everyone in the world has a spiritual witness as well as an audience of curious witnesses. There have been so many people who were always there for me, and I will always be there for them. We are never alone as long as we take on this task. I consider it a holy one. It is not a career move, because I offer it to everyone I meet and know and live along with.

Julie Harris/1991

We manufacture lack in our work and our lives by withholding our love and affection for others. We think that we are reserving things if we hold on to them, harbor them, hoard them, but that is not true. We are enriched by sharing, by giving. There is always something I can be doing or giving, no matter how small I may think my contribution may be. We live in a large community of people, and then in smaller communities that surround us. We have to be active in all of them. No one gets what belongs to you. We have all that we need. We strengthen others by giving them our time and attention. The reward is in being there, in being a witness. No one ever put it in such words before I heard those from Tennessee, but we are a community, and its principle, its foundation, should be kindness.

Mildred Natwick/1990

Everything is easier when experienced with others: grief, joy, success, failure. If we are honest human beings, we know what others are going through, what others are feeling. It is sometimes enough to simply state that simple fact: I recognize your condition, your feeling. It is so important that we also stand by others--of all professions--and be a neighbor, a supporter. I do think we become corrupt when we fail to address the needs of those around us, and I think we all grow and improve when we stand together and say we'll get through this. 

Lois Smith/1997

Tenn and Anna Magnani

The theatre is an art form. Remember that. It is a vast undertaking, much bigger than all of us who work in it. Of course we are going to fail--we are taking on a huge task, an almost impossible one. I know that people--even people engaged in working within the theatre--look at us and wonder why we can't be better all the time. Why can't we succeed more often? Why did we fail to engage an audience? Why did we lose the award? Why are things so bad? If you ever look at an art form and there is always success, and there are always full houses, and the magazines crow about its value, you can know that no chances have been taken, easy roads have been constructed and utilized. Risk breeds failure, but risk also breeds brilliance. It is important that all of us get out of our artistic comfort zones and risk a few things--risk everything! Aim higher. Do some damage to yourself. Try something you never dreamed possible. Everyone improves when this risk is taken, and you can't be discouraged if the reviews are disdainful or confused; if the audiences don't come; if people wonder why you can't just give them that smooth cream that calms them and puts them to sleep. It takes one person to say YES--to giving you the money to write and produce a play; to taking a part and giving you everything they have; to buying a ticket and submitting to your experiment; to taking the baton you've handed them and agreeing to run with it, to try something similar. YES! YES! It only takes one person. Be the first person to say it. Say it often. Affirm people. Show up. Make things happen for everyone. Say YES.

Tennessee Williams/1982



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