Tuesday, May 14, 1974
Touch Of Miss Harris In *Old Times ^
Bv PRUDENCE MASON
li:s&ay Staff Reporter
There was a touch of Rosemary Harris
in the recent Dome production of Harold
Pinter’s play “Old Times.”
The English actress and wife of local
author John Ehle starred in the
Broadway production in 1971.
In a session with student actors and
Aaron l^vin, student director, she
answered questions about the play and
read sections of the script as a way of
explaining in detail what Pinter and
Peter Hall, the director of both the
original production in Ix>ndon and the
New York version, said about it.
It went a long way toward
demystifying the play which has a simple
plot but a number of possible meangings.
Levin said after the meeting.
The meeting of Miss Harris with Levin.
Sandra I^Vallee, Nancy Mette and
Shawn Nelson, cast members, was
arranged after William Dreyer, a drama
faculty member, had asked Miss Harris
to talk with students.
It was not the first meeting for
everyone though. Miss I.aVallee first met
Miss Harris when she was auditioning for
a role in the Broadway revival of “The
Women,” and I^evin met Miss Harris on a
plane flight shortly after he had seen her
in “Old Times” in New York.
The students and Miss Harris talked
over tea and cookies at the actress’
Penland, N.C., home.
The plot of “Old Times” begins when a
couple, married 20 years, Ls awaiting the
arrival of the wife’s former roommate
vi^m she has not seoi snce her
The visitor arrives and the three
reminisce about old times, hence the title
of the play. But there’s the rub. Exactly
what happened between the three in the
past? Were the two women lovers? Did
the roommate and husband know one
another previously? These questions go
Anna, the visitor ithe role played b>
Miss Harris), has a key line in the play:
•'There are some things wie remembers
even though they may never have
happened. ITiere are things I remember
which may never have happened, but as 1
recall them so they take place.”
I^evin asked Miss Harris how many
memories in the play she considered to
be true. She replied, “Just like all
memories, probably the first line.” To
illustrate her point she recalled a past
incident. She had met Pinter at a party
several years previous to her appearance
in the play. Pinter recalled meeting and
talking to her, but she was sure she had
never met him before.
Love, Not Sex
She stressed to the cast that “Old
Times” is a play about love, not sex. One
day she said she lunched with Pinter in a
restaurant and tried to pin him down
about the sexual innuendos in the play.
He became so furious with her he jumped
up and screamed, “It’s a play about love,
not about sex.”
Pinter’s plays have been the source of
great controversy centered around
meaning. At first widely criticized, most
of his major works such as “TTie
Birthday Party” and “The
Homecoming” are now considered
modem classics. Once when asked about
the meaning of his plays the usually
tight-lipped Pinter quipped, “The
weasel, under the cocktail table.”
Unfortunately much of the press took
him seriously and tried to decipher the
meaning of ^at remark as well.
Walter Kerr summed up the trouble
most audiences have with understanding
Pinter’s plays in a 1971 review for the
New York Times: “We are not
accustomed to the notion that personality
can never be known absolutely, that we
are one and all isolated, that reality slips
like sand through the fingers whenever
one tries to hold it possessively in a fist.”
l/evin and his cast had similar
problems understanding the play. Often
they tried to find hidden meanings where
Miss Harris told them Pinter said there
were none. “The play is not
metaphysical; it is actually quite
realistic,” l.«vin explained.
New York Production
This writer saw the 1971 production of
■‘Old Times” In New York and was
Essay Photo by Bill Wren
Mette, Nelson and LaVallee in “Old Times”
puzzled by what I considered to be a
strange piece of blocking. Kate and
Deeley, the wife and husband, have been
discu^ing Anna, the visitor. Instead of
entering through the door she suddenly
comes from upstage where she has bwn
throughout the action of the play and
launches into a reminiscence of
“quequeingaU night in the rain”. Miss
Harris explained that Pinter simply
couldn’t think of a way to get Anna on
stage without breaking the action, so he
placed her there from the b^inning.
Pinter is famous for writing pauses
into his plays. Their meaning has been
the subject of much controversy. I.«vin
explains that in life, pauses and silence
have as much meaning as what is
actually said. He says some are pauses of
embarrassment and sometimes people
pause when they are tiding to remember
or when they are trying to weigh their
words carefully. It’s up to the director
and cast to decipher the meaning of those
Levin said that he has adhered strictly
to the pauses and blocking in the original
script except when the structure of the
set required blocking changes. I’he
original production was on a proscenium
.stage; the Dome Theatre is three-quarter
Pinter writes succinctly. He wrote the
play in three days and made only two
ch£mges afterwards. He wrote one new
line for the original production and
changed a pause to a silence in New
At the end of the play there is a sharp,
abrupt rise in the intensity of the lighting
iuid then a quick blackout. Levin said at
first he had likened it to “throwing light
on the subject,” but now he has changed
Walter Kerr had exactly the opposite
thought when he saw the Broadway
production. “No, I thought”, he said in a
review, “the trick with the lights is
saying that people, when fully
illuminated, remain exactly as
ambiguous as they were in the half
dark.” I.«vin agrees.
Text Of Drama Department Survey
^ WiX 29 ..
— nRAMA f^jUIRy
P^fta©« take thr tisaa c«^ express ynu'^ vicw'» Qnr5i.fferen'**' r»ver brought
about ronstru.-tive changepl^as*» thir. oppnrtonityIn a real
X.f «vaiAtft and .»a^rov.» fjur .in our work wl'ch tb«
•a'lultj we ask that you complete this que«tionnari®. P’.eaae be frank^
hc’nesij ejid objective - To enroura.^e your honest reppon?*^ vf^ ask that
y?.u rf X 3lgn this fora Thank y-''
.Pl^a.'se feel ^ree V:> exp^a^n any an=!w»r^ that you give In the
tpace provided or use the bacic -.'f this sheex. ^)
X- yoa rw^r'«*end this present Drama Ttpt^ rn an Interested '^ttident
appi^ng here? TESQ KOQ
I aa^ High Q O n F:»3binenQ Srph Q Q Sr Q
3^ X: you feel the Drama Dep».• pri>feedt in a we'l o zed fa;?liiC'n? TESf^ NOO
1.* li t.why'’
(If you answered negatively to the abo\-«} 0*- y^iiu thl3 diar^rnanlzatlon
>';.'*ured before the M«lgnat,ion of memberi' of the fa-'uity? TEsQiiOO
Do jcju feel it will ^-ontinue? TESQHOO
5^Wh-'« of the below do you feel is *.nrr) your fovoriU- arting tearhe’(s)?
(if yv.i haven't liad any onv of thcae teacher'-, in a f Ja.^fi,. jndi«'aCc by
"ir'.lng his na®e'
Hotionp Jaegoj-D, n-..ne, Q.
11, (Itoo you feel that casting a faculty aember in a »cht»ol production is
. fair if there is a student here that could do that role? TESDNOQ
SDo ycu feel that casting a faculty nenber in a school production
is fair provided that i» student axtditioned for .tiiat particular
part or the part is far beyond the abi.lity of the stixients (agewlse)?
TES Q NO Q O (if you feel that there has bi^en casting of this
sort done in the past,please explain on the back«)
12» What do you see as the WlAMA DEFT«*s major problems:
S- Oi you feel tha^;
I p».--Just ar-ting teachers rhould direct major proc-’u^'tlona? *EsQnoQ
^....Jusw vl.nitSng director-9 ::ijould dir^’ naj.*rr pra*?urt.ions?
.-^-•visJting direct*rt dire^V a loajority of the major produrtions?
y'.o plan tn return next year ^appl**** cnly rr H S and nnn'«enJ )r fttixlents^?
If nr.t, i« it due t»^ the present department"' YKSONOD
Do yr-u pVon V* R' el^e-wh-fre to pt«aly? TES D NO D
8 Co y^u feel that the Di'aua I>i-: .Mii'ly r:onrjder:> the «t-iden?. 3n depirtmcntal
di.'isions and jr-lxcy'^ YllsD NOL.
I>> y u fee? "ha' they ;l.:'.en Lt xient c*pirions? TESQnoQ
9 7'^i fee!! the* pre-tem. DKj\N s? Draasa Js.
Lthe students ?..the_deto ^the faculyt i^ the poli»qr ^ ether;
13, Do you feel that angrthing will be done by the Dra»a Oept. tn iaprove
the departjwm. as a result of this inquiry?
IAp What do y»oa beive the basi* g>al and concept of this dept^ to be?
(brt as brief .'/r as .lengthy as you wiHh)
KJf^^y co^^pe^en^■. Q
D^ you '.ho a*»c}ri^
•d'j ti-'^ns ran * -i. fi:. vo:-?
•'urpift-^nt Q %’cak O in «ifiablc rf rmnlng Q
n' ;[npetoni. Q
r\T payln" r.‘CT>A Rra^jatc^ in aflool pro-
the back if nec'5iiary