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If you like Trevor Nunn's story, you might also like:
Julie Andrews,
Francis Coppola,
Olivia de Havilland,
Athol Fugard,
Jeremy Irons,
James Earl Jones,
Audra McDonald,
Lloyd Richards,
Harold Prince,
Bernie Taupin,
Julie Taymor,
Twyla Tharp and
Kiri Te Kanawa

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Trevor Nunn in the Achievement Curriculum section:
From Dance to Drama

Related Links:
National Theatre
NT Histories
Broadway Database
Royal Shakespeare Company

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Sir Trevor Nunn
Sir Trevor Nunn
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Sir Trevor Nunn Interview (page: 6 / 6)

Theatrical Director

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  Sir Trevor Nunn

Do you ever worry that you've gone too far? Do you find yourself concerned what critics will write about what you've done?

Sir Trevor Nunn: I guess the same applies to the decision to do Les Miserables. I knew that there would be a lot of people writing for the serious press, or representing the serious media in England who would say, "But, it's outrageous that one of our premier subsidized theater companies should be doing something that is appropriate to the commercial sphere." I believe that, on the contrary, it was entirely appropriate for a classical theater company to say, "We are going to take a great 19th century novel -- a complex 19th century novel -- about justice and about faith, and we are going to make a musical the like of which hasn't previously occurred. I mean, it's going to have a seriousness and a moral complexity, and a political message that hasn't previously been in the musical theater." But again, you know, just before we got started, I remember feeling extreme pangs of terror, you know. The kind of "Maybe I should call this off." Maybe I shouldn't give those people in the media the chance to say, "You see, we told you that this was disgraceful and it shouldn't happen." But in each case, you go through that cold terror and you come out strengthened by it. Therefore, when I was asked recently, "Would you consider going back into the subsidized spectrum? Would you become the next director of The National Theater?" I experienced two things. Unquestionably, I experienced that feeling of, "That's where I can be sure of maintaining my integrity, so I want to do it." The second feeling was of absolute terror because wonderful people have done the job up until now. Its reputation is unparalleled. The expectation is extremely high. Why put yourself on the line? So that, in the end people will say, "He did okay for a while, but then he did the National Theatre and completely screwed up."

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Do you have any thoughts on the future of theater?

Sir Trevor Nunn: I'm scared by this question. Live experiences are becoming increasingly a special occasion, or a treat, or a rarity. With the massive revolution in communication and entertainment that's taking place right now, it's time for everybody to emphasize that live things are vital.

Sir Trevor Nunn Interview Photo
That sense of being at a living event is so exciting in itself. "This is happening now!" It can be recorded, but by the time it's recorded, it's become something different." Our sense of smell, our sense of fear, of atmosphere, of tension, our sense of scale, and most important of all, our sense of danger, all of those things come into play in a living event. It's like going to the live sporting event and experiencing it. It's a completely different experience when you watch it on television. The sense of danger is missing. That extraordinary visceral connection that happens with the live event is absent.

A huge potential audience is saying, "The number of times I go to a really bad movie is far less than the number of times that I wind up at some live event that's terrible and I'm very bored with it and I have to leave." There's a large element of chance in theatrical entertainment. "It only costs this to take me to the movie house. It costs me only this to watch cable. It costs me very much more to watch live actors."

The conditions of theater, particularly of classical theater, should be improved to the point where it's the seat price that can be lowered, where the working conditions are such that the standards are higher, and therefore it lets you down less often. Because when it works, when it really works, then it can change your life for good and all. There are things that can happen to you in a theater, things which can be to do with performance, to do with understanding elements of the human condition, which can be to do with ideas, can be to do with uncomfortable ideas, abrasive ideas, revolutionary ideas. But, there are things that can change you more extremely and stay with you longer because of that live visceral contact. I worry that we are possibly, towards the end of something. Rather than still flourishing right in the middle of something. I sense that we needn't be near the end of something. I sense that there's a wonderful ecological balance to be achieved between live things and mechanical things, between the indelible visceral things and the library of things that you can go back to and check out many times over. There's a balance that will ultimately be the best thing for the species. Just this morning we were cheering to Nobel Prize winning chemists who had warned us all about what we were doing to the environment, what we were doing to the ozone layer. When we get too rarefied with scientific advance, when we rely upon scientific advance that takes us further and further away from our basic human condition and we get it wrong, we have to keep coming back to our basic human condition. The basic condition of the theater actually requires no technology. All it requires is that fire last night and those costumes and the human voice and people gathered together. That's all that's required for something to happen that is life changing. Of course, there are countless sophistications of it. Keeping the two things is what's going to make entertainment, and expression, and communication so much more rich in the next century, in the next millennium.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

It was wonderful to speak with you today. Thank you.

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This page last revised on Jul 15, 2015 11:42 EDT
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