Podcast #93: David Hare on Theater, Anticipation, & Hitchcock

By Tracy O'Neill, Social Media Curator
January 5, 2016

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Playwright, screenwriter, and director David Hare has been nominated for two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and three Tony Awards. The winner of a BAFTA in 1979 and a PEN/Pinter Award in 2011, Hare was knighted in 1988. For this week's New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present David Hare discussing theater, anticipation, and Alfred Hitchcock.

David Hare

Hare began his theater career with more interest in the political utility of plays than interest in aesthetics. He elaborated on his vision for his theater company, Portable Theater:

"I first got involved in the theater for purely political reasons. In other words, I had no interest in the theater when I started out. Theater, to us, was just in the late sixties a means of achieving political ends. And so I founded a theater company called Portable Theater, and it would go everywhere. It would go to prisons, it would go to army camps, it would go to open floors, it would go to student halls, it would go to canteens. The principle was we would take theater to people who never got it because we felt that if we took theater to those places, there was a chance they might listen to us, that they would actually listen to what the play was about. Theater-goers by and large don't listen to what the plays are about. They exercise themselves on the question of how well it was done. If you go to Hamlet, very few people go to Hamlet and come out saying, 'That's interesting. I wonder if I should kill myself or not.' By and large, they say, 'I think Ray Fiennes is a better Hamlet than Benedict Cumberbatch.' And so aesthetics tend to be the interest of theater-goers."

Hare described how anticipation can be built in an audience through the construction of rich imagery at the beginning of a play:

"It's painterly. I do think that the element of theater that no one can really prescribe for is anticipation. Anticipation is really important in the theater. Wow, this is gonna be great. This is gonna be exciting. Now how do you create that anticipation? The most obvious way is something painterly at the beginning which makes you feel this is a world in which I want to live. I'm going to be okay for the next couple of hours. Whereas if you see a dim room, a set with three walls and some furniture in the middle and it's angled so the principle actor can sit in the middle, you just go, 'Well this is going to be a boring evening.'"

As a young man, Hare invited Alfred Hitchcock to attend the Cambridge Film Society. He recalls Hitchcock as an impressive figure:

"Hitchcock was the first great artist with whom I ever got to spend any length of time. I had four hours. He arrived at twelve-thirty and said he didn't want to eat and then proceeded to eat, more or less, a side of cold beef and how ever many baked potatoes. And then he just talked, and as he said, because he'd been interviewed by Truffaut some years earlier, his talk was in this incredible orderly way, and he just was the most entertaining man to listen to. He's represented now in movies as having been creepy and misogynistic, and not at all. He was just someone who looked through you, and you knew you couldn't get away with anything because he could see everything."

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