After various odysseys, taking him to Poland, the Sahara, and Tibet, as well as other, nongeographical precincts, Gregory teamed up with friend and playwright Wallace Shawn and director Louis Malle to make My Dinner With Andre - an intriguing and sensitive full-length film that is almost entirely a conversation between Gregory and Shawn at a New York restaurant. Because so many thoughtful new-old questions about life in the modern era are raised during the course of the conversation, the movie, like so much of Gregory's art, is considered a brilliant breakthrough in imaginative communication. It has been influential from one end of the United States to the other. Home Forum staff member Robert Marquand, Jr. recently spoke with Gregory - a friendly, open man with a finely featured, storybook face - as they sat on the floor of the spacious front room of his sunny Manhattan apartment.Skip to next paragraph
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Questioning the theater is one of your consistent themes. In Poland, for example, you wanted to work only with actors who were questioning the theater. What does questioning mean to you? And what does ''theater''?
The word theater means a place of seeingm. The real meaning of the word acting is not pretending - it's action. What is unique about the theater is that you see the human being alive. The job of the theater is to be able to constantly perceive reality as it is, which is a very hard thing in this world, because reality now changes so fast, and for the actor to embody the reality of the human being in this period of time in a play which reflects the period we live in demands every insight and prayer.
A danger in the theater, as with all art, is that art can very often start being only about art. The theater's about life. I've had to leave the theater because this hasn't been clear enough. I went on a prolonged search. Then I came back. Since then, I've done many things - coached a French rock star; danced for Twyla Tharp. Now I've made a movie.
So often to really make theater you have to leave the theater to come back reinformed.
You've written about ''My Dinner With Andre'' that when the idea was presented ''it immediately struck [you] that the most necessary and appropriate piece one could possibly do at this particular moment in history would be a piece about two friends sitting and talking to each other.'' Why necessary and appropriate? Why at this particular point?
One of the initial impulses for the movie is that Wally and I were struck by the fact that we found nobody talked about anything anymore that came from the heart, that was felt. We sensed that most conversation had become automatic, that people were simply living out their personam publicly. And that there was no real communication going on. As a result we were collectively going into a kind of psychological ice age - becoming so blocked that positive action was becoming impossible. Because in order to have positive action you have to communicate: you have to think and feel.
When social intercourse becomes deadly and boring and unlife-enhancing - as it is becoming - then what happens is that humanity starts to become atrophied.
With rare exceptions, theater hasn't asked itself the question, How are we affecting, unconsciously or consciously, the psyche of the human being? Today, when there is so much fear in the world - fear of economic collapse, global destruction, war - if you're contributing unconsciously to the panic, the fear, or the violence, or, if you're doing something that is completely arbitrary, you are then creating a kind of psychic pollution which makes people more desperate, confused, and lonely than they are already.
In other words, if the society is troubled or uncertain, and all you're doing is mirroring society, you're just reinforcing negativity? Is that the current trend?