“. . . one expects to find intelligence.” — Leopold Stokowski

November 26, 2009

ELIZABETH MOREHEAD "Noel"

When Elaine Benes broke up during a piano recital because Jerry Seinfeld had put a Pez dispenser on her knee, Noel the pianist played on. Oh, she was plenty upset, but she didn’t acknowledge the distraction and continued to play.

Not every artist has that kind of composure. About 45 years ago, I was at a concert at Seton Hall University at which Leopold Stokowski was conducting the American Symphony Orchestra. Some people came in after the concert had started. I guess we were all aware of the doors opening and closing and the latecomers making their way into the gymnasium, but — hey — it happens.

Well, tell that to Stokowski.

LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI

He stopped the orchestra in the middle of the first piece, turned around and glared into the darkened gym. When the place had settled down, he went to the microphone and said, “You have to excuse me. When one comes to a place of learning one expects to find intelligence.” Then he returned to his place and started the concert again.

Of course, that’s a reasonable expectation on both sides of the footlights, so to speak. But the principle apparently is lost on Ian Hart, who went to pieces during a performance of “Speaking in Tongues,” a play on London’s West End for which he has gotten good notices. And, according to an account in The Times of London, witnesses say Hart’s threatening verbal abuse of a patron in the theater was without any basis except in the actor’s imagination.

Gerald Earley — the target of Hart’s ranting — said that a certain point in the proceedings, the actor had become “pretty feral,” which I thought was a delightful choice of words. Hart brushed off the incident as silly, but he also admitted he doesn’t like acting in the theater because he doesn’t “enjoy the relationship between the audience and the actor,” and, may I say, there’s a simple solution to that.

For The Times’ account of Hart’s outburst, click HERE.

Ian Hart and John Simms in "Speaking in Tongues"

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