Theatre Quotes | AACT

Theatre Quotes

Words to the Wise
Quotations from a wide range of theatrical perspectives

For use in newsletters, season or fundraising brochures or emails, presentations--you name it.

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7 tips to reduce stage fright: (1) Shift the focus from yourself and your fear to your true purpose: contributing something of value to your audience. (2) Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring. (3) Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence. (4) Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation. (5) Try to limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol as much as possible. (6) Visualize your success: Always focus on your strength and ability to handle challenging situations. (7) Give up trying to be perfect and know that it is OK to make mistakes. Keyword=stagefright

Janet Esposito


A cat actually thinks visibly. If you watch him jump on a shelf, the wish to jump and the action of jumping are one and the same thing... It's in exactly the same way that all Brook's exercises try to train the actor. The actor is trained to become so organically related within himself, he thinks completely with his body. He becomes one sensitive, responding whole... The whole of him is one.

John Heilpern

A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.

Kenneth Tynan New York Times Magazine, Jan 9. 1966

A dramatic experience concerned with the mundane may inform but it cannot release; and one concerned essentially with the aesthetic politics of its creators may divert or anger, but it cannot enlighten.

David Mamet

A dramatist is one who believes that the pure event, an action involving human beings, is more arresting than any comment that can be made upon it.

Thornton Wilder
General, Musical Theatre

A flop is often the result of the fact that each of the talents involved, while working on the same project, may in effect have been working on a different show from all the others. If all contributors do not share the same vision of the evening, the end product will not evince the harmony of diverse elements--the seeming inevitability of book, score, and staging--of a good musical.

Ethan Mordden Not Since Carrie

A fool cannot be an actor, though an actor may act a fool's part.


A good actor makes clear the meaning of the words. A better actor gives also the emotion of the part. The best actor adds emotion of which the character is unconscious.

Clare Eames The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation.

Ring Lardner The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A good play is a play which when acted upon the boards make an audience interested and pleased. A play that fails in this is a bad play.

Maurice Baring

A good play tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad play tells us the truth about its author.

G.K. Chesterton

A great actor is independent of the poet, because the supreme essence of feeling does not reside in prose or in verse, but in the accent with which it is delivered.

Lee Strasberg
Set Design

A ground plan is important in terms of its rigor. If your plan is soggy and weak, your production will be soggy and weak.

David Hays
Acting, Musical Theatre

A lot of the actresses who have had most impact in musicals have been character actresses. And character is an essential ingredient of the best shows. In Merrily We Roll Along, for instance, I got to play a character with such a marvellous span - from boozy, fat, cynical 45-year-old to an 18-year-old in love with life ... I'd rather see her [Dame Judi Dench] do a musical than anyone with 10 times the voice.

Samantha Spiro London Sunday Times Culture Magazine, 25.3.01

A lot of what acting is paying attention.

Robert Redford

A nation that does not support and encourage its theater is -- if not dead -- dying; just as a theater that does not capture with laughter and tears the social and historical pulse, the drama of its people, the genuine color of the spiritual and natural landscape, has no right to call itself theater; but only a place for amusement.

Federico Garcia Lorca

A nonprofessional theatre is, simply, one comprised of people who do not derive their income from it and do not spend most of their time engaged in it. There are two distinct categories: (1) nonprofessional groups that present plays with some regularity; and (2) nonprofessional groups that are organized on a one-time basis to present a play or a show for some special purpose. The former represents what is known as community theatre, and the latter falls under the heading of amateur theatre (though both types are amateur, or nonprofessional).

Stephen Langley Theatre Management & Production in America

A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute.

Terence Rattigan

Acting, Playwriting

A play has two authors, the playwright and the actor.

Eric Bentley In Search of Theater
Costumes, Lighting, Set Design

A play is a painting that moves. Instead of it holding still, and you are looking at it, you hold still and it scrolls by.

Patricia Zipprodt The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A play is a series of actions. A play is not about action, nor does it describe action. Is a fire about flames? Does it describe flames? No, a fire is flames. A play is action. Why do you think actors are called actors? And action in a play occurs when something happens that makes or permits something else to happen.

David Ball Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays

A playwright is someone who lets his guts hang out on the stage.

Edward Albee

A playwright is the litmus paper of the arts. He's got to be, because if he isn't working on the same wave length as the audience, no one would know what in hell he was talking about. He is a kind of psychic journalist, even when he's great.

Arthur Miller
Set Design

A stage set should not make a pretty picture of its own. The empty stage should look formal and pleasing, but should seem to be waiting for the action to complete it; it should not hold definite significance in itself.

G. Wilson Knight The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

A statement of vision is the overarching purpose, the big dream, the visionary concept--something presently out of reach--so stated that it excites the imagination and chlalenges people to work for something they do not yet know how to do.

Robert Greenleaf Servant Leadership

A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships.

Gore Vidal

Act in your pauses.

Ellen Terry Friendly Advice by Jon Winokur

Act well your part; there all the honor lies.

Alexander Pope Essay on Man, Epistle iv, line 193

Acted drama requires surrender of one's self, sympathetic absorption in the play as it develops.

George P. Baker

Acting expresses a part of the self otherwise hidden to the conscious mind.

Lisa M. O'Neill

Acting is a matter of giving away secrets.

Ellen Barkin

Acting is a very limited form of expression and those who take it seriously are very limited people. I take it seriously.

Judy Holliday

Acting is an everlasting search for truth.

Laurence Olivier

Acting is experience with something sweet behind it.

Humphrey Bogart

Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself.

John Gielgud The Audience Book of Theatre Quotations, by Louis Phillips

Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing.

Ralph Richardson

Acting is mostly about listening. If you just focus in on what the other person is saying, acting takes care of itself to quite a large extent.

Alan Rickman

Acting is not a state of being ... but a state of appearing to be. You can't be eight times a week without going stark staring mad. You've got to be in control.

Noel Coward

Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare. The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant.

Glenda Jackson

Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion.

Kate Reid


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