Marian Seldes on Teaching

Interview with Marian Seldes
Conducted by James Grissom

I am no different, really, when I am teaching or when I am acting. I am always engaged in loving my partners; learning about them, sharing with them; and learning as much as I can about myself and others. We change all the time, I think. The world and its people and its history will do that to you, if you are awake and sensitive and proactive. Our basic natures might remain the same, but we change shape a lot: We just come to realize that we were wrong about certain things. We come alive with what a particular writer or actor or musician does to us. I find this very exciting--this changing and waking up and coming alive.

Teaching was perfect for me, in that it allowed me to be involved in helping people I loved wake up and come alive. Those students were my children, of course, but also my peers. When a student discovers Sheridan or Shakespeare or Albee or Williams, I rediscover it, and I see it in an entirely new way: I see it through the young eyes of my beloved students. I would become jaded about plays and playwrights: I might have thought that their time had passed. But then the play comes to me through these passionate children of mine, and I'm in love all over again.

I was devastated when I was asked to teach. I thought it meant I was no longer viable as an actress. I thought I was moving into my older years, cast aside. I was so wrong. It changed my life completely, and I am more in love with life and people and the theatre than I ever thought I could be.

You love a student, then you teach the student to love and take care of himself. You have to be kind to yourself, husband yourself.  We can never let anyone we love devalue himself. We have to lift them up; we have to let them know how valuable they are. I also try to impart to students that they should stop thinking of things too much and feeling things a bit more. If something moves you, as Tennessee [Williams] told you--as Harold Clurman believed--own it. Stand up for it. Make it yours. It may not be as powerful to you in ten or twenty years, but you still love it. It taught you something, gave you something. It is a part of you.

Anyone I teach or work with becomes a part of my life, and I am such a rich woman because of this. I have changed so much and received so much because of all the gifts people have placed at my feet.

 ©  2016  James Grissom


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