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UCLAlive presents David Mamet

By Paula Jessop

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The intellectual and versatile Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet spoke at UCLAlive on Jan 20.

Outspoken playwright, screenwriter, director, novelist and poet David Mamet was a participant in the widely acclaimed UCLAlive venue for extraordinary artists from diverse backgrounds. UCLAlive is at the vanguard of dance, music, spoken word, and experimental theater; the program is unrivaled in its breadth and uncommon mix of genres, presenting over 200 performances a year. If you haven't been to a presentation you owe it to yourself to experience this diverse and exciting program.

Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his play "Glengarry Glen Ross", which was later made into an acclaimed film and is currently being revised for a Broadway opening this spring.  He has been selected to receive the Writers Guild of Americas West's Screen Laurel Award on February 19th.

Mamet was born in Chicago and educated at Goddard College. He is a founding member of the Atlantic Theatre Company and is the author of such plays as "Sexual Perversity in Chicago", "The Duck Variations" and "American Buffalo". A few of his screenplays are "The Postman Always rings Twice", "The verdict", "The Untouchables" and "Wag the Dog". He has also written and directed "Oleanna", "Homicide" and  "State and Main" among many others.

A cool understatement, impeccable timing and scalpel like insight mark Mamet's work. He darkly explores the stories of characters corrupted or forsaken by the American dream.

Playful plots overturning conventions characterize his work, which typically features strong male characters and their tough posturings, rhythmically profane dialogue, and charged verbal confrontations.  Rhythm is a word that comes up a lot when people speak of Mamet's work. It has been reported that when he works with actors on a play he uses a metronome to rehearse with. But it isn't just the verbal rhythm for which he his famous. His work also has a distinct rhythm between the scenes and the movements of the characters.

As a drama practitioner, he argues in his book "True and False" against the practice of teaching drama students the "Method" of Constantine Stanislavski.  For Mamet, time spent searching for emotional memory or considering character's biographies is time wasted, and he suspects that it is an academic bluff working to keep actor's uncertain. He recommends a simple, honest style of acting, where the actor's job is to learn the lines, find their mark, and speak up simply. Work on character, he asserts, is the playwright's job.

At UCLAlive Mamet read an oratory he had prepared for the occasion. After which he read two acts from his new play "Romance" which will be opening March 1st off Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company. UCLAlive Director David Sefton then joined him onstage for a question and answer period.

This was the first visit to UCLAlive by Mamet and he had the audience captive and receptively hanging on his every word. Like any good showman he left them wanting more. I guess it must all be in the rhythm

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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