Plays are intensely personal to the writers—when they write them, they’re imagining something that’s very vivid to them. You have to get into their head and try to find another vividness that’s truthful to the original. I’m all for the playwright; that’s where you go to study. — Robert Goldsby
On the show today is Robert Goldsby, a man of the theatre for over 60 years, working as an actor, director, professor, administrator, producer, translator, master teacher, scholar and author. He directed over 150 Equity and University theatre productions in both the US and France. Robert was on the faculty of Columbia, ACT, and USC, and is Chairman Emeritus for UC Berkeley’s Department for Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.
And how could I *not* use that 1940s glamour shot above!?
Now yes, Robert even by his own admission, worked more as a director than an actor, though I knew he’d be a wonderful guest on this show for a few reasons: he’s spent his life in the theatre wearing many different hats, he was married for decades to the amazing actress Angela Paton, he wrote a book about the performance of Molière’s plays, and after 60+ years, he is a wealth of information. I’m truly honored that for his FIRST podcast interview, he’s part of The Working Actor’s Journey.
Now when you talk about “back in the day,” Robert is the guy! Just check this out:
- Acting in the War and studied in Paris during the ‘40s
- Resident director of the Columbia Players and at UC Berkeley in the 50s
- Resident director and setting up the Conservatory Program at ACT in the 60s
- Founded Berkeley Stage Company and Chairman of UC Berkeley’s Theatre Department in the 70s
- Directing at regional theatres in the 80s
- Head of the MFA Directing program at USC in the 90s.
- Continuing to direct and wrote his book on Molière in the 2000s
Wow! And of course he did many other things during those years, along with acting roles along the way, including as Mark Twain, and even scenes opposite Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in The Candidate.
Just a bit of what we cover in this episode:
- Working with Walter Matthau and getting pinched by him
- The importance of studying both Literature and Performance
- Why directors need to really understand the text
- His introduction to the very alive work of Molière
- Creating the curriculum for the ACT program, which is still used
- Why plays were so thrilling when he was teaching
- What student actors had that professionals did not
The closest that Robert and I ever got to working together is that we were part of different one-acts for a production of Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8:30—and I still remember how much I enjoyed the piece he directed. And while I knew Robert had a long career, it wasn’t until I prepped for this interview and then talked with him that I really got a better sense of all he’s done—there is just so much and he has a wealth of information to share. Like that old saying, he’s probably forgotten more than many of us will ever know! Of course I wish I could have also chatted with his wife Angela Paton, who passed away a couple years ago, though I’m very happy Robert is here to share his story.
About the guest
Robert Goldsby started out acting during World War II, in a touring production for the troops in the Philippines. He earned a B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from Columbia and, along with directing studies, an M.F.A. in Acting from Yale. He was an actor, resident stage director and conservatory director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, running the first Training Congress.
For 30 years, he was professor of acting, dramatic literature and directing at the University of California at Berkeley, and he ultimately served as chair of this department. Robert was a founding director of the Berkeley Stage Company, which introduced many new plays and playwrights to America.
When he relocated to Los Angeles, he worked at many of the the major university and professional theatres of the region. He has translated works by Sardou, Molière, and Feydeau. Of the 150+ productions he directed, there were 11 plays by Molière, 46 classical plays from Aristophanes to Shakespeare to Giraudoux, and 98 plays from the modern repertory from Ibsen to Innaurato.
As both director and scholar, Robert has been particularly devoted to Molière. He published a book from his lifetime of experience and research, titled: Molière On Stage: What’s So Funny?
Please enjoy my chat with Robert Goldsby!
Total Running Time: 1:25:52
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Want to hear from one of ACT’s MFA students? Check out my talk with Nike Doukas!
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let us know in the comments.
Scroll below for links mentioned in today’s episode and additional show notes…
Are you looking for more info from industry insiders and great teachers about being an actor?
And do you want this as something you can listen to on the go? Well you’re in luck.
As a listener of The Working Actor’s Journey podcast, Audible is offering you a free audiobook and a free 30-day trial. Whether it’s one hour or 15 hours, it doesn’t matter—whatever you want, that first book is totally free. To download your audiobook today go to workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Here are a few recommendations:
- The Actors Life by Jenna Fischer (from The Office), read by the author and others, including our guest Reed Birney
- Secrets of Screen Acting by Patrick Tucker (a TV and film director), read by David Lawrence XVII
- Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen, read by Angele Masters
Get one of these or anything else at workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Robert Goldsby around the web
- Interview/Profile of his Career
- On directing The Learned Ladies
- On directing Don Juan with Marin Shakespeare
- An audio interview with Robert and Angela on their time at ACT, including Long Day’s Journey into Night
- Growing up in Maplewood, NJ during the Depression
- His two first experiences with theatre as a kid
- Growing up with Southern parents and a servant
- Studying abroad in Paris
- His introduction to the very alive work of Molière
- The extraordinary and emotional life of Molière
- What actors need to know about working on Molière
- Working very slowly with the text, based on Jean Renoir
- Knowing how to stand onstage, and the power behind different positions
- His criteria for doing different plays
- Working with a Norwegian actor to direct Ghosts by Ibsen
- How he got into translating French plays
- Working on the early days of ACT and the Summer Congress
- The two big parts of being a director
- His methods of directing and other exercises for acting
- How he found himself doing so many different kinds of theatre-related jobs
- Why he wrote a book on Molière
- Angela Paton, the magic “if” and transformation
- Being a coach for other actors
- His artistic partnership with his wife Angela
- Being blissfully happy and not doubting himself
- Why he knew he didn’t want to work on Broadway or in film
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- Robert’s wife, the actress Angela Paton (many might know her as the B&B owner in Groundhog’s Day)
- Memoir from Beyond the Tomb by François-René de Chateaubriand
- Asymmetry novel by Lisa Halliday
- Geraldine Page, another great actress Robert knew
- The Lone Ranger radio show (listen to several episodes here)
- Walter Matthau, actor
- Columbia Players at Columbia University
- UC Berkeley Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
- Dark of the Moon, a play by Richardson and Berney
- On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco by Anton Chekhov
- Comédie-Française, state theatre of France and one of the oldest in the world
- Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known onstage as Molière
- Pensionnaires in the Comédie-Française (the Swiss woman Robert knew)
- Richard Wilbur, translator of Molière’s works
- Jean Renoir, playwright
- Albert Innaurato, playwright of Earthworms
- Victorien Sardou, playwright of Let’s Get a Divorce
- Eric Bentley, theatre critic, translator, and playwright
- Fenella Fielding, actress in London’s production of Let’s Get a Divorce
- Eleonora Duse, an Italian actress, regarded as one of the greatest of all time
- Joseph Wood Krutch, writer and critic
- Maurice Valency, playwright, author, and critic
- William Ball, founder of ACT
- Stanislavsky’s Chart/System, diagraming the inner technique and outer technique
- Michael Chekhov, actor, nephew to Anton, student of Stanislavsky, and author of To the Actor
- The Alexander Technique, training for movement and posture
- What Happens in Hamlet by John Dover Wilson
- Edith Skinner, voice teacher
- Stacy Keach, Award-winning actor from UC Berkeley
- The Actor’s Workshop, with Herbert Blau and Jules Irving
- Michael O’Sullivan, the greatest actor Robert knew
Production Photos of Robert
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