Last Saturday, I sat in a theatre watching two old pros — James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson — in “The Gin Game.” It’s not what anyone would call a great play, but it is, as is often said, “good theatre” — an opportunity for actors to give compelling performances all the same. And that is exactly what they did, drawing on something like 175 years of life experience between them.
Two things particularly struck me that day.
One, this brought back my memories of having seen Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy perform in the same play in the late 1970s. In New York and all cities rich with culture, what’s old is always new again someday. The history of a place is integral to its present.
Two, enjoying the performance by these two legends, I realize I’ve been fortunate to have seen many great actors on stage — Henry Fonda, John Guilgud, Helen Hayes, Lawrence Olivier, Lynn Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, among others. There’s no thrill like the thrill of sitting twenty feet away from one of the greatest actors of any era.
This, then, is one of the great gifts that we offer students in New York (and in all our world cities) — the same opportunity to experience culture not in the classroom but out in the world!