Over these past weeks I keep returning to Harold Clurman’s words from his book The Fervent Years. An extraordinary group of actors and artists – including Joanna Gleason, Donna Murphy, Kate Mulgrew, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Danny Glover, Stephen Adly Guirgis – have come together to speak these words and I want to share the video with you.
It’s amazing that these words, written by Harold Clurman in 1945, looking back to the winter of 1932-33, speak so vividly and with such relevance to our own troubled times. It’s equally amazing that Harold Clurman looked out at a world in 1929 of economic ruin, with millions of Americans out of work, and thought “this is the perfect time to build a theater company!”
We dedicate this video to the medical workers for whom we cheer every night at 7pm, who save lives while providing us all with an example of how to live a life and how to make art. May our theaters soon be filled with such life giving, life affirming work! We also dedicate it to all essential workers, the backbone of our country.
Finally I hope this video stimulates and inspires young people, by virtue of Harold’s words and the voices and example of the work and lives of the participating artists, to search, as the members of the Group Theater did way back when, for reasons to be! and ways to give!
We stand in solidarity with the heroic health care workers and essential workers and with each and every one of you.
“The strength I drew from this period of apparently aimless ambling through the dark of depressed areas in place and spirit was crystalized for me one day when I was struck as if by a miracle of conversion with the feeling that no matter how bitter things became for me, personally, professionally, economically I would never allow myself to be destroyed from within; it would never get me down; I would sustain all kinds of disappointment and distress without ceasing to believe, to hope, to love. I would never yield to the temptation of pessimism, to the ease of despair or withdrawal. It was as if I took an inner vow
never to allow, gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowing of the spirit.
I believed, as some ancient had said: ‘it is not within thy power to to finish the task, nor is it thy liberty to abandon it.’ From this inexorable maxim I drew an abiding joy. In this sense I swore fealty to myself.
Thus that historically cruel winter of 1932-33, which chilled so many of us like a world’s end, became for me a time of renewed faith, because I seemed to be withstanding a sort of test.”
HAROLD CLURMAN, The Fervent Years