Lucy the Lecturer
Lucy the Lecturer
TV Guide - October 31, 1959
With one semester under her belt, she's looking forward to conducting another class in comedy.
Lucille Ball, vice president of Desilu Productions and two-time Emmy winner, goes back to school this month in a rehearsal hall on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles. Assisted from time to time by Vivian Vance, her longtime cohort in I Love Lucy, she will again take up her self-imposed duties as lecturer on comedy at Ben-Ari's Actors and Directors Workshop.
Last winter Lucy gave 18 lectures before some 90 students in two nine-week semesters, her students ranging in age from the late teens to the late 50's and in experience from virtually none to quite a bit. How many classes she will be able to squeeze into her schedule this winter is still a matter to be worked out.
A visitor to one of these sessions is instantly impressed by the fact that very little laughing goes on during Miss Ball's lectures. Acting, be it comedy or drama, is serious business and no one is more serious about it than Lucy.
She receives no pay for her work. "I do it because it's fun and because it's always a good thing when there are people who are willing to work hard and learn and improve themselves in this industry."
Because Lucy considers comedy just an aspect of acting, she makes no attempt to teach her charges how to mug or take falls or time a laugh. Instead, she divides her two-hour sessions between informal lectures and workshop scenes staged by the students. Her criticism of their work is sharp, direct and straight to the point. "That," she said of an original comedy sketch that failed to come off, "was as bad as anything I have ever seen. It was in bed taste and there is never any excuse for bad taste."
She has little time for hurt feelings. "There is nothing personal in criticism," she says flatly. "People who spend weeks moping over a turndown or a harsh critical review are just wasting time being sorry for themselves."
Lucy lays her cards on the table right at the beginning. "All I have to offer," she tells her class, "are my own experiences and my reactions to them. I don't know what the heck you're going to learn about acting here, but I do hope you learn something about attitude."
Some of Lucy's own attitudes, culled from her lectures:
* "Learn the art of taking care of yourself, and remember that there is a very fine distinction between being selfish and taking care of yourself. If you take care of yourself, others won't have to."
* "Your first goal must be as diligently pursued as the later and bigger goals. The habit of having a goal is the important thing."
* "I loathe bitterness. It shows in everything you do and eats the liver right out of you."
* "It is so important to have what I like to call the enchanted sense of play. Many, many times you should think and react as a child in doing comedy. All the inhibitions and embarrassments disappear. We did some pretty crazy things in I Love Lucy, but we believed every minute of them. It's like getting drunk without taking a drink."
* "I think imagination is the most important thing an actor can have. But remember, there is a vast difference between losing yourself and getting lost."
Lucy readily admits that she gets more out of the classes than her students and that she uses what she learns to the advantage of her own group of 22 Desilu Workshop contract players.
"I am not a teacher," she shrugs, "but apparently I do have something to say that is helpful."
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