The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.
It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others;
and it is also a sign of genius,
since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception
of the similarity in dissimilars.

We believe that every man is his brother’s keeper.
We believe that those who are strong ought to help bear the burdens of the weak.
We believe that any society is measured by what it does for the aged,
the sick, the orphans and the less fortunate that live in our midst . . .
I believe that love is stronger than hate,
that the outstretched hand is more powerful than the clenched fist,
that in the long run feeding the hungry and clothing the naked
and lifting up the fallen
will do more to establish peace in the world
than all the bombs and guns we can ever make.
This is the policy of humanity first.
TOMMY DOUGLAS, Father of Canadian Social Medicine


All literature wavers between nature and paradise . . .
and loves to mistake one for the other.

You have to learn who to listen to. There are some people who will very eagerly try to tell you how to improve a work that in their heart of hearts they just don’t get. If you’re in that situation, you’ll constantly feel queasy and wary and puzzled by the remarks coming in. And if you re-write without some wisdom about what’s going on, you’ll ruin your play. There are other people who really get the play and have no perspective on it, or are useless because it’s just enthusiasm that’s going out. So you’ll have to be careful of these people too because they’ll relax you.


You need not leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait, just be quiet and still and solitary
and the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

If you’re going to tell people the truth,
you better make them laugh;
otherwise they’ll kill you!


There are only
Hints and guesses:
Hints followed by guesses;
The rest is prayer,
Observance and discipline,
Thought and action.
T. S. ELLIOT, The Four Quartets


It is as if the writer is always responding from her own centre, weighing the chances, taking in the whole picture. If the script is chosen, that’s fine. If not, there are new opportunities, new sources of inspiration, new stories to develop and share. The horizon is unbounded.


Does this path have heart?
If it does, it is good;
If it does not, it is of no use.
Both paths lead nowhere.
But one has heart,
The other doesn’t.
One makes a joyful journey;
As long as you follow it,
You are one with it.
The other will make you
Curse your life.
One makes you strong,
The other weakens you.
On Making a Choice.

An artist lets himself go. He enters eagerly into the life of men. He becomes all men in himself. The function of the artist is to disturb. His duty is to rouse the sleepers, to shake the complacent pillars of the world. He reminds the world of its dark ancestry, shows the world its present and points the way to its new birth. He is at once the product and the preceptor of his time. After his passage we are troubled and made unsure of our too-easily-accepted realities. He makes uneasy the static, the set and the still. In a world terrified of change, he preaches revolution – the principal of life. He is an agitator, a disturber of the peace – quick, impatient, positive, restless and disquieting. He is the creative spirit working in the soul of man.


Tragedy loves extremity.
It celebrates the vertiginous beauty of total destruction.
If tragedy were, as we sometimes like to think,
A theatre of the clash between Right and Wrong,
It wouldn’t be so gripping:
Its tension derives from something much more complex…
Which is the conflict between two rights.

I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn to love the world.


Story-tellers are valuable allies, and their testimony is to be rated high,
for they usually know many things between heaven and earth
that our academic wisdom does not even dream of.
In psychic knowledge, indeed, they are far ahead of us . . . because
they draw from sources that we have not yet made accessible for science.

In our generation, the present was made by the past – there was no present without a strong influence form the past. Now it seems like the past has been forgotten. According to St. Augustus, time comes from a future which does not yet exist, gets to a present which is in constant evolution, and ends with a past which no longer exists.


There is, perhaps, no more dangerous man in the world than the man with the sensibilities of an artist but without creative talent. With luck such men make wonderful theatrical impresarios and interior decorators, or else they become mass murderers or critics.


Comedy is the sparkle on the water, the gay surface, the glint of sunlight, not the depths underneath.

But note: the waters must run deep underneath . . .

Comedy must be founded on truth

and on an understanding of the real value of a character before it can pick out the high-lights.

It is only when one understands a person that one can laugh at him.

ATHENA SEYLER: The Craft of Comedy, 1944.

Theatre consists in this: in making live representations of reported or invented happenings between human beings and doing so with a view to entertainment. Theatre’s noblest function in to give entertainment. It needs no other passport than fun, but this it must have. Moral lessons are always welcome, but they must be made enjoyable, and enjoyable to the senses at that. The theatre must in fact remain something entirely superfluous, though this indeed means that it is the superfluous for which we live. Nothing needs less justification than pleasure.


This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.


The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.


Theatre is a collaborative art, but there is one creative artist and one interpretive artist

[the director] and the interpretive does not mess up the creative.

It clarifies and amplifies, perhaps, but there is no permission to mess with the text.

If I felt pessimistic, I wouldn’t bother to write.


It is generally thought that the liberal arts tend to soften our manners;

but they do more-they carry with them the power to mend our hearts.


The following set of quotes by DAVID MAMET on Play/Screen writing arose in an interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail, summer 1999:
∙ It’s all a mystery. At the end of the day, I can take very little credit. It’s a gift, and not to work at it would be the mark of an ungrateful fool.
∙ The stage is the place for the higher art form, which is tragedy… it can not only edify but cleanse. If my reading of Aristotle is correct, it’s not the characters that undergo catharsis, it’s the audience.
∙ Film is a visual medium. We see the picture and we can get it immediately — it by-passes the intellect. Every commercial you’ve seen does that… A playwright relies on speech rather than image and appeals to our powers of recognition.
∙ In what business do you not have to drive your chickens to the market? . . . quoting Sir Nigel Hawthorn re: self-promotion and publicity.
∙ The deep down dirty secret of dramatic writing is that it is poetry. That’s what makes a play work in addition to the plot.


Take care of the sounds and the sense will take care of itself.