David Mamet on Glengarry and other matters

Playwrights have studied David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross as much, if not more, than any other contemporary work. Over the years Mamet has made several observations about his Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, 1984.

In 1969, he worked as office manager (like Williamson in the play) for a real estate firm in Chicago. "I sold worthless land in Arizona to elderly people."

"This play is very much about work and about how one is altered by one's job."

But aren't you dumping on real estate salesmen?

"I don't write plays to dump on people. I write plays about people whom I love and am fascinated by."

Even Williamson, the corporate flack?

"I felt he was doing his job...the job of a sales manager is not to empathize. Irrespective of whether or not it's a 'good' job, or whether he likes his job is not the point' his job is...do anything he can to increase sales."

James Lingk buys property he can't afford and is manipulated up and down. Where's his upside?

"He wants to believe in someone, that's all he wants. So, finally, at the end, even though he's been robbed, or almost robbed of his money, the important thing is that he won't even believe that because he wants to believe in someone, that he's found a friend.

"The only person who can get what he wants is the individual man. In the theater an individual has to come to terms with what he wants and how capable he is of getting it. Making peace with the gods - that's what drama's all about.

"The audience wants to be piqued, to be misled, to be disappointed at times, so that it can, finally, be fulfilled.

"We are all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world. If you're not willing to say that,what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.

"Performers who lack the ability to criticize themselves, who take no responsibility for understanding what it is that they do and the moral and mechanical precepts to which they must adhere, are not happy. Not one."

Aren't we getting off the...?

"So with the performer in the theater, and so with [critics]. if you do not learn your craft, the Theater, and its moral and practical precepts, if you do not make this your constant study, if you do not learn to judge yourselves against a standard of artistic perfection and amend your works day to day in light of that standard, you must be unhappy.

If you trust outside plaudits and support for your own work, you are being controlled. Your life is not your own. Just as is evidenced in that sick moment when you have a deadline to make and not a thing in the world to say, and you think not what I must say about that piece, but what would be acceptable or witty or nouveau.

"Learn your craft and be part of the theater, for, while you are learning and striving to write better and write more informedly you are as much a part of the theater as anyone else in it - not or in antiquity; and while you are not striving to improve and to write informedly and morally and to a purpose, you are a hack and a plaything of your advertisers."

Image by David Shankbone


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