A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 03, 2013
“Treat new plays like classics and classics like new plays”

London’s Royal Court Theatre stages many new plays along with a few classics. It’s been said that the Royal Court “treats new plays like classics and classics like new plays.” Theatre director Lindsay Anderson (1923-1994) made the remark about fellow director William Gaskill, as Gaskill wrote in a 1988 book. A 2000 book said that “treat new plays like classics, and classics like new plays” was “George Devine’s maxim.” George Devine (1910-1966) was also a director at the Royal Court Theatre.

The saying has applied to other theatre companies. In 2013, the director of an Australian production of The Glass Menagerie said, “What’s the old adage? Treat new plays like classics and classics like new plays. I like that.”


Google Books
A Sense of Direction:
Life at the Royal Court

By William Gaskill
London: Faber and Faber
1988
Pg. 84:
Lindsay Anderson once said of me that I directed classics like new plays and new plays like classics. I can’t imagine anything more flattering.

Google Books
Cheek by Jowl:
Ten Years of Celebration

By Simon Reade
Bath: Absolute Classics
1991
Pg. 54:
One of the maxims at the Court has always been to direct new plays like classics and classics like new plays.

Google Books
Theatrical Directors:
A Biographical Dictionary

Edited by John W. Frick and Stephen M. Vallillo
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press
1994
Pg. 155:
Lindsay Anderson, a colleague at the Royal Court, described Gaskill’s directing approach, observing that Gaskill “directs new plays like classics and classics like new plays” (Lewis, 18).

The Telegraph (UK)
Miraculously new
Charles Spencer reviews the Dublin Carol at the Royal Court Theatre

Charles Spencer
12:00AM GMT 24 Feb 2000
(...)
It always used to be the Court’s policy “to stage new plays like classics, and classics like new plays”. The architectural renovation has been carried out in the same spirit, maintaining faith with tradition while leaving no doubt that this is now a theatre for the 21st century.

Google Books
Changing Stages:
A view of British and American theatre in the twentieth century

By Richard Eyre
New York, NY: Knopf
2000
Pg. 378:
We must remember George Devine’s maxim: ‘Treat new plays like classics, and classics like new plays’. The classics are our genetic link with the past and our means of decoding the present.

Google Books
Taking Stock:
The Theatre of Max Stafford-Clark

By Philip Robert and Max Stafford-Clark
London: Nick Hern Books Ltd.
2007
Pg. 219:
Lindsay Anderson’s famous dictum was that the Royal Court did new plays like classics and classics like new plays, but at the same time there has to be a compelling rationale for a ‘new writing’ theatre to displace a living writer from the schedule.

WBEZ91.5 (Chicago, IL)
Dueling Critics: Double Your Critics, Double Your Shakespeare
October 1, 2010
George Devine, a legendary leader of London’s Royal Court Theater, once said, “Treat new plays like classics, and classics like new plays.”

Q News (Australia)
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
July 29th 2013 1:30pm
(...)
Director David Berthold said that although the play is a classic ‘memory play’, it has surprising new resonance for modern audiences. (...) “What’s the old adage? Treat new plays like classics and classics like new plays. I like that. We’ve treated this as if it were a new play, and it has constantly surprised us.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Saturday, August 03, 2013 • Permalink