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Elliot Norton Reviews; John Houseman


Leadership Dubbing - 8/98

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Elliot Norton Reviews
John Houseman
Series Description

Boston theatre critic Elliot Norton interviews prominent actors, directors and producers on their craft. (Aired from October, 1958 to 1982. Winner of both Peabody and Tony Awards.) Series release date: 1958

Program Description

Elliot Norton interviews John Houseman about his career as a theater producer, director, and artistic director. Among other accomplishments, Houseman is known for directing Virgil Thompson’s opera Four Saints in Three Acts in 1933 and collaborating with Orson Welles to run the Works Progress Administration funded Federal Theater Project’s Negro Theater Unit and then co-found the Mercury Theatre in New York City in 1937. Norton also mentions him memoir, Run-Through, referring to it as “one of the best theatre books.”

Houseman goes into detail about his relationship with Orson Welles, which began when he was impressed by his stature and voice as Tybalt in a Cornell Company production of Romeo and Juliet. Houseman cast him as the lead in Archibald MacLeish’s play Panic at the Imperial Theatre and although Welles was 12 or 13 years younger than him, Houseman says that he felt like the disciple and Welles was the theater. He comments that Welles had all the talents of an actor built right into him. Houseman talks about the Negro Theater Project and his choice to ask Welles to direct Macbeth in what became a legendary production.

Houseman and Norton discuss the health of regional theaters and how the State Arts Council and Endowments are beginning to provide funding for these theaters that are facing a great financial crisis. Houseman thinks that regional theaters are starting to pull themselves out of their rut and functioning decently. He is spending time traveling around the country and visiting regional theaters. From working at the Federal Theatre, he learned that it is important to do surveys and find out what the audience wants. He warns, “If you do not take into account the existence and the tastes and the potential of the audience, you are in serious trouble.” Norton says that regional theaters are doing shows that the director feels are good and imposes that onto the audience.

Director: Peter Downey

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Talk Show
Performing Arts
Chicago: “Elliot Norton Reviews; John Houseman,” 03/23/1972, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 23, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4321F7C2A3C4742841245CC0FA01798.
MLA: “Elliot Norton Reviews; John Houseman.” 03/23/1972. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 23, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4321F7C2A3C4742841245CC0FA01798>.
APA: Elliot Norton Reviews; John Houseman. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4321F7C2A3C4742841245CC0FA01798
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