The Play is the Stage and the World: Theater Director and Playwright Deloss Brown

Deloss Brown and Steve Acunto,
producer for Capolavori Productions
© Vito Catalano

Playwright, theater director, lyricist and librettist DELOSS BROWN has staged over fifty stage productions and has taught a private Shakespearean acting class in New York since 1993. A faculty member of the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University since 1988, he had also taught at the Juillard School. In 1994, he co-founded Cressid Theater Company, which produced Much Ado about Nothing and The Winter’s Tale at Lincoln Center, as well as his own translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. Most recently, he directed his off-Broadway play, The Red and The Black, based on the Stendhal classic, Le Rouge et le noir.

He lives in New York.

How did theater — and in particular, Shakespeare — come to take on such an integral role in your artistic life?

It’s going to be hard for me to say something new and interesting. Most writers accept his status as the best playwright in English as an axiom, and go on from there.

There are exceptions. Here are George Bernard Shaw’s views on Shakespeare:

… Shakespeare’s weakness lies in his complete deficiency in that highest sphere of thought, in which poetry embraces religion, philosophy, morality, and the bearing of these on communities, which is sociology. That his characters have no religion, no politics, no conscience, no hope, no convictions of any sort.

The Daily News, 1905

Shaw thought Shakespeare was incompetent because Shakespeare’s constructions were so different from Shaw’s own. But while he apparently despises Shakespeare’s work, he knew it was supremely effective in the theater, and he lashed out with even more vigor and rage at directors who had no idea what Shakespeare was doing, and substituted their own wretched and inferior notions. Shaw on Shakespeare, which Applause Books has brought back into print, is frequently hilarious.

As for me, I got interested in theater through my parents, who regularly visited New York and brought home programs and original cast albums, and played the songs over and over. By the time I was taken to see Kiss Me Kate at the age of eight or so, I could sing all the songs.

I wrote the class play when I was in eighth grade in Peoria public school, maybe because nobody else wanted to, and then I didn’t do anything at all in the theater for about seven years. I went to boarding school in Arizona and learned how to play polo and (almost) how to rope a calf, then I went to M.I.T. One of my fraternity brothers, Rob Lanchester, was directing Tech Show in 1962. Another fraternity brother, Fred Prahl, was composing music for the show. It’s like the Harvard Hasty Pudding Show, except ours had girls (borrowed from other schools; M.I.T. had only about a hundred women in the student body of six thousand at that point). They invited me to help out.

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