[arcadia_group] Re: The game plan- READ

  • From: R NOEMER <kevinnoemer@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <arcadia_group@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 3 May 2009 15:37:32 -0400

Okay, I might not have my slides at the meeting. I have all of my information, 
minus a few exact references from the script that I have to write out, but I 
have a very solid amount of information typed up in a Word document to look at 
when I put my slides together. But if I don't get my slides done before the 
meeting, I can easily finish them afterwards when I get home and then email 
them to Tom. I figure so long as we figure out the order and everything, 
putting my slides in afterwards is as easy as copy and pasting. I'll try to get 
them done, but yeah, this weekend hasn't gone exactly as I had planned it.


Date: Fri, 1 May 2009 20:30:56 -0400
Subject: [arcadia_group] Re: The game plan- READ
From: tbarro1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To: arcadia_group@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

hey guys i was thinking bring your slides on a thumbdrive or email it to 
yourself and when we get together on sunday we can put them together with all 
of us there.T

On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 5:03 PM, R NOEMER <kevinnoemer@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Hey, sorry guys. I didn't get around to checking my email in the last two days. 
I was lucky enough to get mono from God knows where. Hooray! Anyways, I should 
have my slides done by Sunday. I've got a couple more articles to read through, 
but this is more or less the only work I have, so I'm not really too stressed 
about it. Also, Dan you seem to know a good deal about the math in the play, so 
if you have any thoughts you'd like to share with me, that'd be awesome. While 
I find all the iterations and naturalistic geometry interesting, math certainly 
is not my forte. I'll let you guys take a look at what I've come up with before 
we present in case anyone with a better grasp on the concepts has some thoughts.


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 2009 18:48:34 -0400
Subject: [arcadia_group] Re: The game plan- READ
From: dsince1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To: arcadia_group@xxxxxxxxxxxxx


Dan here.  Tom and Will - I am attaching a few documents I found most are 
either interviews or biographical content, and I am also including the Stage as 
Hyperspace paper and another dealing with the music titled Waltzing in Arcadia. 

Also, I have a little more work to do on my presentation slides, but will get 
those out soon.

Thanks for meeting today, guys, I think things are going to be fine.


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EBSCO Publishing   Citation Format:
                        MLA (Modern Language Assoc.):

NOTE: Review the instructions at 
and make any necessary corrections before using. Pay special attention
to personal names, capitalization, and dates. Always consult your
library resources for the exact formatting and punctuation guidelines. 

Works CitedZoglin, Richard. "Elitist, Moi?." Time 170.19 (05 Nov. 2007): 69-71. 
International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text.
EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 26 Apr. 2009
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Section: Art

Elitist, Moi? 

 Tom Stoppard isn't trying to be highbrow. To prove it, his new play is about 
rock music … and revolution 

When his interviewer arrives, Tom Stoppard is
standing outside the Broadway theater where his latest play, Rock 'n'
Roll, is about to begin previews. Sporting an open white shirt with the
sleeves partly rolled up and tousled (if graying) hair that still gives
him the look of an overage college student, he's enjoying a cigarette
in a circle of warm spring sunshine that has managed to find a hole in
the Manhattan skyline. But he really should be off his feet. A few days
earlier, in the rush to catch a plane to New York City, Stoppard
stubbed his toe hard in his London apartment. He has just come back
from the doctor, who told him the toe is broken and ordered him to stay
off it as much as possible--after which, Stoppard walked 13 blocks to
the theater.

The spectacle of Tom Stoppard hoofing it
through the theater district on a bum foot would be disconcerting to
people who think of the playwright as something of an élitist. Ever
since his sensational stage debut in 1967 with Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead--his absurdist riff on a pair of minor characters
in Hamlet--Stoppard has become almost a genre unto himself, taking
intellectual, often abstruse subject matter and turning it into
challenging yet playful drama. His game, frequently, is the oddball
juxtaposition: moral philosophy and gymnastics (Jumpers); Fermat's last
theorem and Byron's love poetry (Arcadia); James Joyce and Vladimir
Lenin (Travesties). "Tom said to me once that he decides on one play,
and then shortly after decides on a different one," says Trevor Nunn,
director of Rock 'n' Roll and several other Stoppard plays. "And then
he lets them crash into each other." The Coast of Utopia, his nearly
nine-hour trilogy about Russia's radical political thinkers of the 19th
century, was a relatively straight-ahead historical journey (which is
why this critic, at least, didn't rank it among his best), but it was
an unexpectedly huge hit, playing to sold-out crowds during its run at
New York City's Lincoln Center last season and winning seven Tony
Awards, a record for a straight play. And that gives him the right to
hobble into any Broadway theater with a play on just about any subject
he wants.

With Rock 'n' Roll, which took London by
storm last year and opens on Broadway Nov. 4, Stoppard is exploring two
more of his passions, one old and one relatively new. The play spans a
couple of decades in the lives of a group of Czech political activists
and British academics and shuttles back and forth between Cambridge and
Prague in the years between the 1968 Soviet invasion and the "velvet
revolution" of 1989. It's an exploration of political repression and
commitment (with a typically Stoppardian digression into Sappho's
poetry), but also a celebration of the rebel rock music that, in
Stoppard's view, was as potent a force for revolution as Vaclav Havel's
speeches. Scenes are punctuated with the sounds of groups like the
Rolling Stones and the Plastic People of the Universe, a Czech band
imprisoned during the Soviet crackdown--with a special nod to Syd
Barrett, a founding member of Pink Floyd, who was ousted by his band
over his erratic, drug-fueled, near psychotic behavior.

Rock 'n' Roll is the first stage work
Stoppard has written explicitly about Czechoslovakia, where he was born
in 1937 but which he left as a baby when his parents fled the Nazis,
moving to Singapore and then India before landing in Bristol, England.

Until the fall of communism, he returned only
once to the country, in 1977. "I began to have more identity as a Czech
comparatively recently," he says. "To tell you the truth, I think it
was my mother dying about 10 years ago that gave me permission to be
Czech. Because my mother's whole attitude was to leave the past behind.
So I tended to kind of just respect her attitude." A pause. "That's not
the whole truth. The fact is, I loved being English. I was very happy
to be turned into an English schoolboy."

Those schoolboy days ended at age 17, when
Stoppard went to work for a newspaper in Bristol. He covered the police
beat and routine local news, but he also got to interview visiting
celebrities--New Orleans jazz musicians, British movie-glamour queen
Diana Dors. "I was so thrilled being a reporter," he says, "because it
gave you the kind of access to people that you wouldn't ever get to
meet." After a few years, he moved to London, where he continued to
write reviews and celebrity profiles. In 1960 he talked his way into a
trip to New York with a group of architects visiting the city's
buildings and did a story for the Yorkshire Post on Lenny Bruce, whom
he saw at the Village Vanguard and corralled outside for a 10-minute
interview. Stoppard was taken by the irreverent comic (he even recalls
some of his jokes, like Bruce's plea for world peace, urging all the
nations of the world to get together and "kick the s___ out of the
Polacks"). "His act was very scatological by English standards," he
says. "But I was amazed by him."

Stoppard's passion for rock music dates from
his days in Bristol, where he would see most of the touring music acts
that came to town--among them Frank Sinatra (who played the Bristol
Hippodrome in the early '50s and didn't sell out), the Everly Brothers
and Eddie Cochran, the rockabilly singer whose British tour ended when
he was killed in a car crash in 1960. Like everyone else, Stoppard
embraced the Beatles and Rolling Stones when they came along, but he
admits to being a late bloomer when it came to Pink Floyd. "I ignored
them completely at first," he says. "When Dark Side of the Moon came
out, a friend of mine, a photographer, came over with the record and
said, 'Please, listen to this. There's a play in this album.' I put it
on top of this big wooden filing cabinet, and it stayed there for a

The twice-divorced Stoppard, who turned 70
this year, is a grandfather now, but he keeps up with groups like
Arcade Fire and the Arctic Monkeys. "I listen to what shows up, really
out of curiosity more than anything else," he says. "It's not often
that something really gets to me." He goes to concerts only rarely--for
the Stones when they tour and an occasional experiment like Oasis (a
"brilliant songwriting band"). "I'm a very boring person," he insists.
He doesn't go to movies, he says (though he writes plenty of them; see
box), and spends most of his spare time reading--most recently Janet
Malcolm's biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. His chief
recreational passion is trout fishing, which he does four or five times
a year, usually in Hampshire, England, but with periodic ventures to
more exotic climes like New Mexico and Wyoming.

Stoppard, who rolls his r's with a
Continental flourish that somehow manages not to seem affected,
bristles at the notion that his work is too highbrow or élitist for an
ordinary audience--never mind that the New York Times felt the need to
print a reading list for theatergoers who wanted to bone up before
seeing The Coast of Utopia. He notes that his intellectual obsessions
are hardly unique or rarefied. "The market for books about science and
philosophy on the level on which I deal with things is a best-seller
market," he says, pointing to authors like Steven Pinker, Richard
Dawkins and Richard Feynman. It tickles him when he gets good reviews
for his scientific accuracy in specialist publications. Yet he insists
his goal is not to lift the audience's brow but simply to explore fresh
subjects that engage him. "I've got no interest in educating or
instructing people. It's entirely about my getting interested in
something because of its dramatic possibilities. I'm not there to do
Op-Ed on Broadway."

Indeed, Stoppard has always stood apart from
many other British playwrights of his generation, like David Hare, for
avoiding an overtly political (usually left-wing) point of view. He
describes his politics as "timid libertarian." Yet he can rev up a
pretty bold rant on Britain's "highly regulated society," which he
thinks is "betraying the principle of parliamentary democracy." There
was the garden party he threw recently, for example, where because
there was a pond on the property, he was required to hire two
lifeguards. "The whole notion that we're all responsible for ourselves
and we don't actually have to have nannies busybodying all around us,
that's all going now. And I don't even know in whose interest it's
supposed to be or who wishes it to be so. It seems to be like a lava
flow, which nobody ordered up. Of course, one does know in whose
interest it is. It's in the interests of battalions of civil servants
in jobs that never existed 10 years ago."

Don't call Tom Stoppard a snob. But try finding a political rant in America as 
polished as that.

PHOTO (COLOR): Radical band Brian Cox and Nicole Ansari in Rock 'n' Roll


By Richard Zoglin

 Script Doctor 
 How Hollywood has used (or not used) Stoppard 

Film writing is "exciting and agreeable in
the first half of the process," says Stoppard. "And then you get
reminded that it's a movie and it's not yours."

 Screenplays He Wrote 
"The playhouse is for dreamers," says the
Bard (Joseph Fiennes) to Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Stoppard and Marc
Norman's Oscar winner

Stoppard added jokes to Terry Gilliam and
Charles McKeown's futuristic sci-fi script, which earned an Oscar
nomination and cult status

Stoppard and Menno Meyjes streamlined J.G. Ballard's novel for Steven Spielberg 
and a 12-year-old Christian Bale

 Screenplays He Helped Rewrite 
Director Tim Burton tapped Stoppard to add humor to the more somber early draft 
of the Washington Irving story

Stoppard played Jedi master with the dialogue
on George Lucas' last Star Wars film; he did not, however, tamper with
Yoda's syntax

 Drafts He Wrote 
Director Paul Greengrass didn't end up using Stoppard's take on Matt Damon's 
taciturn spy

His crack at the first film adaptation of
Philip Pullman's fantasy novel was rejected in favor of a draft by
director Chris Weitz



© Time Inc., 2007. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be
duplicated or redisseminated without permission.


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Works CitedGussow, Mel. "Happiness, chaos and Tom Stoppard." American Theatre 
12.10 (Dec. 1995): 22. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full 
EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 26 Apr. 2009
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In Tom Stoppard's radio play, Where Are They
Now?, the author's surrogate looks back nostalgically on his school
days, and defines happiness as "a passing change of emphasis." A dozen
years later, the protagonist of The Real Thing reiterates the statement
with his observation, "Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight."
For Stoppard, equilibrium had become a credo, as he repositioned
himself to suit the shifts in the world. Call it a Stop-pardian sense
of gravity. The playwright provides his own ballast, as he tries to
remain in the moral center of his own universe. If one needs a symbol
of Stoppard's own inner balance, consider the pronunciation of his
name. It is STOP-PARD, with the syllables evenly accented. 

His life and his work are crowded with
apparent contradictions. Although he was born in Zlin, Czechoslovakia
(as Tomas Straussler) and spent his early years in Singapore and India,
he has become one of the most English of Englishmen. He currently lives
in both Chelsea, London and Iver, Bucks, where he is a country squire
with an English garden, a lawn for cricket, a tennis court and his
neighbor's cows peeping through the windows of his house. His idea of
Arcadia, of an idyllic environment, is the English countryside. Yet he
spends most of his time in cities, is frequently flying from one to
another, and has a very cosmopolitan nature 

Stoppard is one of the wittiest and most
literate writers of the English language, but he left school at an
early age and found his education working on a provincial English
newspaper. (Coincidentally, none of England's pre-eminent living
playwrights--Harold Pinter, Alan Ayckbourn and Stoppard went to
university.) Although he has a gift for inventing epigrams, metaphors
and circumlocutions, in his own reading he has great admiration for the
understatement of Ernest Hemingway. Stoppard has no background in
philosophy, philology, physics, metaphysics, mathematics or circus
acrobatics, but his plays are filled with knowledgeable references to
these and other specialized fields. In contrast to Pinter and
Ayckbourn, he is untutored in the techniques of theatre, except for
what he learned during his years as a drama critic and from working
with and watching his directors. Yet his plays have a brilliant
theatricality. He is, in fact, an exemplary autodidact, and a very
quick study. 

In the plays, things are never quite what
they seem to be. There are plays within plays, and in The Real Thing, a
play outside the one we are watching. The image is that of an endless
series of Chinese boxes or an exercise in recursion. Time plays tricks,
as past and present coexist and sometimes brush against each other on
the same stage. In many of his plays, there are echoes of his previous
writings. The subject matter may shift from moral philosophy to quantum
physics, but the voice is that of the author caught in the act of
badinage, arguing himself in and out of a quandary. 

Most of his plays are inspired by a single
central image (philosophy as gymnastics, a madman who thinks he has a
symphony orchestra in his head). But, as the plays evolve, they become
prisms, reflecting and refracting the author's ingenuity. Is Stoppard
too clever by half, an intellectual rather than an emotional
playwright? He confronts this and related questions during our

When I talked to Stoppard in December 1994 in
New York, he was on the brink of a very busy season. Hapgood, in its
new version, was opening the following evening in Lincoln Center
Theater's intimate Mitzi Newhouse Theater in a production starring
Stockard Channing. That was to be followed several months later by
Arcadia at Lincoln Center's large Vivian Beaumont Theater. Arcadia was
a continuing success in London, and in February Indian Ink, his stage
version of his radio play, In the Native State, was scheduled to open
in the West End. 

Arcadia is one of his most ambitious and
satisfying plays, a prismatic exploration of English history,
horticulture, the chaos theory and the difference between the classical
and romantic traditions. In the subtext are such issues as the pursuit
of epiphany and the nature of genius. Along the way, people keep
leaping to the wrong conclusions, which heightens the hilarity and the
complexity. One of the many mysteries is who did what to whom in the
game room or, rather, the game book, where Lord Byron, as a guest in
this elegant country house, is recorded as having shot a hare. At the
center of the play is an historian, Hannah Jarvis, but she is only one
of a houseful of kaleidoscopic characters that emerge from the
playwright's fervid imagination. 

In contrast to Arcadia, Hapgood had not been
a critical success in its original production in London (in 1988).
Since then, Stoppard had revised the play and clarified the plot. This
devious comedy-mystery equates the wave-particle theory of light with
the doubledealing world of espionage. The new version is 20 minutes
shorter and clues the audience earlier that the spy named Ridley might
have a double. In this Rubik's cube of a play, there are triple,
perhaps even quadruple agents and a multiplidty of secret identities. 

After sudden shifts in his busy schedule, the
peripatetic playwright was in a suite in a New York hotel, prepared for
a long conversation. He lit the first of many cigarettes. His body was
reasonably at rest, his mind restlessly in motion. 

MEL GUSSOW: You've said, "If there's a
central idea in Hapgood, it is the proposition that in each of our
characters is the working majority of a dual personality, part of which
is always there in a submerged state." 

TOM STOPPARD: That was the hypothesis which
generated the play itself--that the dual nature of light: works for
people as .well: as things, and the one you meet in public is simply
the working majority of that person. It's a conceit. It may have some
truth to it. 

And the dual personality doesn't refer simply to counter-spies, but to Hapgood 
herself and others. 

It's not really dual personality. It's just
that one chooses to "be" one part of oneself, and not another part of
oneself. One has a public self and a submerged self. It's that sort of

Is one real, the other false? 

No, they're both part of the whole person. 

And it's something other than multiple personalities. 

It's not multiple personalities. It's a complex personality only part of which 
runs the show. 

Is that true in your life as well? 

Well, I wouldn't have the presumption to exempt myself [laughs] from this 
general rule. 

When you were a journalist, you operated both as a critic and as an 
interviewer, and you used different names. 

I did, only because it seemed a bit
second-rate to write too many things on the same page. It wasn't that I
was trying to conceal half of myself. But the thesis is really to do
with people's temperaments. Their personal histories, like my personal
history, is not central to the idea at all--the fact that I was born
into one language, and grew up in another, and so on. That doesn't
sound irrelevant by any means, but ifs not supposed to be a comment
about that kind of life, about my kind of life. 

Do all your plays have an element of autobiography? 

I wonder. Perhaps it's something which it's
impossible to escape, and one shouldn't protest against it, though I
wouldn't have thought Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [Are Dead] had
anything autobiographical in it. I'm not really the right kind of
writer to oblige such a speculation because the area in which I feed
off myself is really much more to do with thoughts I have had rather
than days I have lived. 

A number of misconceptions have sprung up
about you and your work, that your plays are divorced from your own
life; also that you're very intellectual and unemotional. One certainly
doesn't feel that in the scene in which Hapgood is so moved that she

That particular duality has become a bit of a
cliche about me. It's rather a high-tech production of Hapgood, so it
does encourage that view of the work. 

But there is a heart there. 

I don't think you would bother to write about it if it was about robots. It's 
only interesting because they're human beings. 

In searching for the arc of your career, I
made a list of the principal subjects in the plays: Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, theatre-philosophy; The Real Inspector Hound,
theatre-journalism; Traveslies, lit-phil; Jumpers, phil-gym; Dirty
Linen, pol-sex; Night and Day, journ-pol; Every Good Boy Deserves
Favor, music-pol; Cahoot's Macbeth, theatre-pol; The Real Thing,
theatre-love; Hapgood, sci-spy; Arcadia, lit-math-hortarch; Indian Ink,
lit-art-pol-soc. It seems that the plays are becoming more inclusive or

And yet Indian Ink is actually a very
intimate play. It's a play of intimate scenes. There's something
working against the notion that the plays are expanding in them
horizons. There is a lot of lit in the plays and a lot of phil, which I
think is a fair comment on what I'm made up of. 

A lot of lit and phil and more and more sci and phys. 

I've got a funny feeling the sci and phys are a phase, like delinquency, which 
one goes through. 

It's lasted two plays. 

Exactly, it's two plays. Two suggests purpose, misleadingly. 

One is singular, two is a coincidence, three is a trend. 

In the case of those two plays, they began
because I stubbed my toe against two pieces of information or two areas
of science which I found really interested me. It didn't seem to be a
release of some scientist within me. On the contrary, it seemed to be
going against what really interests me, what I choose to read, and so
on. I thought that quantum mechanics and chaos mathematics suggested
themselves as quite interesting and powerful metaphors for human
behavior--not just behavior, but about the way, in the latter case, in
which it suggested a determined life, a life ruled by determinism, and
a life which is subject simply to random causes and effects. Those two
ideas about life were not irreconcilable. Chaos mathematics is
precisely to do with the unpredictability of determinism. Hifalutin'
words, but it's actually a very fascinating door, a view through a
cracked-open door. Pinning myself down to your question: I have no
sense of looking for a third such fascinating scientific metaphor, and
I have no reason to suppose that I'll stub my toe on a third one. 

How did you stub your toe against those two? 


Books in an airport? 

I joke like that, but it's not one book on
one day. My life is sectioned off into hot flushes, pursuits of this or
that. Rather in the same way as a year ago or more, a fairly quiescent
interest in or sympathy towards Roman poetry and literature of
antiquity suddenly had its turn. I think it turned into something more
obsessive through reading about A. E. Housman, again somebody whom I
had read for years on and off. That was another quiescent interest. 

Do you read Latin? 

I can't say I read Latin. I studied Latin up
to what we call in England A level. So it's not gibberish to me. But I
read it with cribs. What I enjoy is reading a particular poem or a poet
in numerous translations, to see how different translators try to find
the original. There's a play to be written about translation, I think. 

For your own translations, do you always work from a literal version? 

Yes. I've done two Schnitzlers, a Nestroy and
a Molnar, and I worked on a Lorca. It doesn't feel like much over 30
years. Years and years ago, one of my resolutions--now a failed
resolution was to learn a language well enough, Russian by choice, not
simply for purposes of translation but so that I could read things the
way they were meant to be understood. 

And what have you done about that? 

Nothing. I postponed reading War and Peace
until I could read Russian. The result is now I cannot read Russian and
I have not read War and Peace. 

Perhaps you need a long sabbatical. 

I don't know about these sabbaticals. My
ambition is to retire, and has been for ages. When I say retire I mean
just pladdly writing at my own speed without owing anything to anybody,
without anybody waiting for what I'm writing. I never seem to manage to
do that. I think it's a temperamental defect. That's pretty clear by

To return to Arcadia, where did it begin? With James Gleick's book, Chaos? 

I think so. At the same time, I was thinking
about Classicism and Romanticism as opposites in style, taste,
temperament, art. I remember talking to a friend of mine, looking at
his bookshelves, saying there's a play, isn't there, about the way that
retrospectively one looks at poetry, painting, gardening, and speaks of
classical periods and the romantic revolution, and so on. Particularly
when one starts dividing people up into classical temperaments and
romantic temperaments--and I suppose it's not that far from Hapgood in
a way. The romantic temperament has a classical person wildly
signalling, and vice versa. 

You and I tend to talk about all this as if
it really works like that, as if there's this acorn that you find
somewhere and put manure around, and water, and hope it grows into some
kind of sapling, and so on and so forth. It doesn't seem to me to be
that kind of orderly natural development. 

No single acorn? 

It's more than that. I have the feeling that
you throw the acorn away at some point. You encourage me to talk about
a book or a thought which generates everything that follows. It's true
in a limited sense, but an alternative way of making a picture of the
process would be to say that it's something that starts you up, like a
motor gets started up, like a cranking handle. Then you throw the
handle away, and drive off down the road somewhere and see where the
road goes. 

What's an acorn that you've discarded? 

When it comes to it, I don't think Arcadia
says very much about these two sides of the human personality or
temperament. I don't think it's in the play. It's by no means in the
foreground. And yet, it's firing all around the target, making a
pattern around the target. 

Where does the texture start? Suddenly
horticulture enters, and then Lord Byron. You didn't set out to write a
play about horticulture and Byron? 

No, I didn't, but I had read one or two books
about Byron over the years, and I was reading them with a faint sense
of undisclosed purpose. [ suppose if you're my kind of writer you're
always working. One's leisure reading is subconsciously purposeful. 

You still write in longhand and then dictate it into a tape recorder? 

Yes. I do exactly that with new work, but
when I'm rewriting or changing things, I now prefer to give my
secretary lots and lots of pages with longhand and squiggles, "insert
here." I love working on a typescript. I love the power of the blue
pencil. "This is rubbish, take it out. Put this in. Turn it around." 

Is it a canard that you're a conservative? 

Would it be one? I always thought of myself
as a conservative, not in a sort of ideological way. I'm really a bit
of a failure talking about politics because I never get into the
subject or issues in the manner in which a responsible citizen really
ought to. I respond in some other way aesthetically even, certainly
emotionally. Emotionally I like to conserve. I don't like impulsive
change. But what I like and don't like certainly doesn't divide up into
things that the Conservative Party or the Labor Party does. 

I was very pleased with Mrs. Thatcher at the
beginning. I thought of her as being a subversive influence, which I
found very welcome. The Wilson-Callaghan pre-Thatcher years in English
politics I thought were nauseating. I thought politicians had become
people one didn't bother to listen to because they seemed desperately
anxious not to expose their flanks to any side. There were very few
unqualified statements of intent. I loved the way she came in. I was
very personally interested in the whole saga of print unions, for
example, a huge corrupt scandal which government after government
wouldn't tackle. 

Which brings us to [Rupert] Murdoch as well.
I think he's a very had influence on English, or indeed global,
cultural life. Ten years ago, he was a sort of hero for me, for sending
the printers packing. The printers were making newspapers into an
impossible economic proposition, and I love newspapers. I was excited
when Murdoch came in his Australian underhanded way with a lot of money
behind him and just destroyed them. It was well overdue. 

You've been so strong on human rights. What about human rights for printers? 

I don't think you have a human right to cheat
and steal. There were printers signing on as Mickey Mouse. I just think
they pushed their luck. Murdoch said, it's not a union, it's a
protection racket. I think that was probably quite fair. 

But then you turned against Murdoch. 

That's part of a shift of feeling about the
press as a whole. Night and Day contains statements which are still
flourished. I read one last week by people who want to leave the press
completely untrammelled. I don't know what I want now. I've arrived at
a kind of defensive position, which is not entirely where I stand
intellectually. I've decided that getting cross about the press is like
getting cross about the Flat Earth Society. It's become an awful joke.
What I find upsetting about the notorious end of the British press is
what it says about the readership. I think the tabloid press treat
their readers almost as if they are morons. And it's awful the way the
readers don't seem to mind. 

You've said, "Journalism is the last line of defense in this country." 

I think that's still true. I think people
would be getting away with much more, were it not for newspapers
blowing the whistle, or just being there to observe. 

Could you imagine having stayed in journalism and not being a playwright? 

No. Looking at it now, I would think of that
as an unhappy outcome, not because I love the theatre, in quotes, but
because it was wonderful to work for myself and not have to be
accountable to somebody. I have a formulation about the luck we've had,
which is that people like myself appear to have promoted a recreation
into a career. We're getting away with it, and it's the getting away
with it part which I don't want to lose. It seems quite capricious, the
way one profession is rewarded over another one. There's an evolution
in every kind of society, particularly now in what we call the
free-market society, where certain pursuits are amazingly
over-rewarded. Being a popular singer, or in a band. There's no logic
in it. 

For you, having chosen playwriting, it's a kind of super freelance. You're not 
beholden to anyone. 

No. I'm one of the people who fall into the
over-rewarded category, I suppose. I don't coast on it. I work harder
than I used to when I was a reporter. But it feels different. I do it
for myself. 

You've talked about writing a play about your growing up in India. Is Indian 
Ink the play? 

No. I had talked about writing about the
ethos of empire, and I suppose that's a very good example of what we
were speaking about earlier: the acorn hasn't been thrown away. But
it's not really just that. It's much more an intimate play than a
polemical play. One kids oneself along that every little shred of
reference to the larger subject resonates through the whole piece, and
enlarges the play. That's just a kind of sweet thought by the

Does it surprise you that you've dealt with so many different subjects? 

No. I'm a bit of a gadfly. Different things
catch my interest for a while, and I have a hot flush about it, and
something else catches my interest. Of course, a gadfly is not the
ultimate compliment. 

It borders on the dilettante. 

Precisely. What we're leaving out: The cake
is upside down. Theatre is a popular art form, it's part of the world
of relief and release, of entertainment. That's what it's for. The
other bit of the cake which is to do with formulating and promulgating
and examining and revealing issues, life that's a program that can be
continued through other means: journalism, television, essays. There's
a case for the view that if you've chosen to work for the theatre, your
fundamental objective is to be part of an art form that diverts,
entertains and instructs rather than that you're engaged in teaching
your fellow citizens certain lessons. 

You said that if you wanted to change the world, the last thing you would do is 
write a play. 

What I really meant was that if there is a
local concrete problem which you want to change, yes. I said that, but
I'm not sure that it's entirely watertight. Maybe the way to continue
our conversation about newspapers would be to write a play. 

Is plot still difficult for you? 

Can't you tell? [Laughs.] With Arcadia I got
lucky. I didn't know it would work out like that. Like most writers
like most people-- if I could live a slightly different kind of life,
it would make an enormous amount of difference to how much I wrote, and
the quality of what I wrote. Occasionally you get into a period where
mentally you're living with this play, nothing is interrupting you, and
all the possibilities the neurons or nerve ends you're aware of them
all and, consciously or subconsciously, you make the best possible use
of them. If you have enough solitude and concentration, you can make
the best of the opportunity. But a lot of the time I'm writing in a
kind of harassed, interrupted way. I came to the conclusion the other
day that the information is being fed in the wrong order in the second
act of Indian Ink. I came back from Hapgood and looked at it for an
hour and a half before I fell asleep. It's all done in the space of an
hour here, an hour there. That's not how to do these things. 

You might say from the evidence that you thrive on that process. 

Well, no. With Arcadia, I had a really good
period of time, where somehow I could keep it all in view and look
further down the road and see where things were heading, and manipulate
the material so I could intersect properly. The more I got into it, the
more I realized that this was going to work as a piece of storytelling.
Hapgood was a kind of struggle from the word go, and I was still
dealing with it at Lincoln Center, trying to explain, simplify. We
started off by referring to it as a melodrama. The way you label
something is very helpful; it gets you out of the corner. Once I began
to think of Hapgood as a melodrama, I felt much more comfortable with
it, because it is melodramatic. It's not satiric about the spy
business. It operates on a heightened, slightly implausible level of
life. It's probably the only play I've written, as far as I can
remember offhand, in which somebody shoots somebody else on stage. 

It has to work on that level for the audience to accept it. 

It absolutely does. The thing about melodrama
is that if the audience makes the right decision about it, they accept
everything. If they make the wrong decision about it early on, then the
drama actually becomes silly. 

How would you categorize Arcadia? 

Because I was happy with it anyway, I didn't need to label it. I didn't need to 
get myself off the hook. 

Some people think it's your best play. 

I know they do. I think that's what they're talking about: the story works 

But you know some of your plays are better than others. 

Of course. And in spite of defects I'm aware
of and would like to correct on all of them, I also think that some of
them actually are good, better than good sometimes. I'm now
contradicting myself. If I have to talk about them at all, which I
never volunteer to do, I'd rather use a phrase like "madcap comedy," to
dissemble. In a much simpler sense, there's a modest person hiding a
proud person, I suppose. I never thought I would manage to write a play
at all. It was something I wanted to do, but I was astonished when I
managed to do it. Just seemed to be something that would be too
difficult for me to do when I was starting out. 

You used to say, and I never entirely believed it, that all your characters 
sounded like you. 

I used to say it because I used to think it
was true, and maybe it was true in those days. i think everybody in
Night and Day, sounds like me, for example. It's less true now. This
was literally true of Night and Day in one isolated case: I took a
speech away from one character and gave it to another, and it made no
difference. I just needed somebody to say something at that point. In
that sense, they were all speaking with my voice. In a limited way, you
might say that they were interchangeable. So I meant it when I said it,
but I wouldn't say it nowadays. 

It's not true of Arcadia, and it's not true of Indian Ink. 

No, it's not. 

Years ago, at the time of The Real Thing,
Mike Nichols said you were one of the few happy people he knew. When I
mentioned that to you, you were offended by the word happy, you said
that you were as unhappy as the next man. 

Boasting about my unhappiness! 

Are you a happy man? 

Yes. I'm just looking at the word happy for a
moment. Mike was always tremendously pleased by the definition of
happiness in that play. "Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight."
Attaining your happiness, if you're talking about me, is learning that
lesson. You try not to stand in the way of the onrushing train, to
change the metaphor. But in fact I suppose what you're remembering is
that happiness seems to imply a turning away from whatever might
compromise your happiness. One is exposed naked in the winds of the
world, and everybody around you has got problems. Some are acute, some
are less serious than others. You live in the little world of your
family and the larger world of your colleagues and the huge world of
newspaper and television news. So happiness is not really a very
adequate word. When I said I felt blessed by good fortune, that's
generally the truth. Clearly your life and everyone's life is full of
things that make you unhappy from time to time. You just deal with

That reminds me again of the boy in your play, Where Are They Now? 

That indeed is the play where that character
says happiness is a passing shift of emphasis. I do have an idyllic
vision of life. Whether one has a right to live it is another matter.
It's to do with self-reliance. It's cultivating your garden without
being pulled, without having one's sleeve tugged by what's happening
outside the wall. 

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Tom Stoppard 

PHOTOS (BLACK & WHITE): Classical or
romantic? You be the judge in Stoppard's Arcadia, seen here in two
productions directed by Trevor Nunn. At right, Felicity Kendal and
Samuel West appeared at Britain's National Theatre. Below, Billy Crudup
and Jennifer Dundas at New York's Lincoln Center Theater. 

PHOTOS (BLACK & WHITE): "Hapgood is not
satiric about the spy businesszz It operates on a heightened, slightly
implausible level of life." Above, Jo Ann Carney, Dan LaMorte and Gus
Bustinice, left to right, in a production directed by Mary Zimmerman at
Chicago's Center Theatre Ensemble. Below, David Lansbury and Stockard
Channing in Jack O'Brien's Lincoln Center Theater staging. 

PHOTOS (BLACK & WHITE): "I'm a bit of a
gadfly." Above, a scene from Rosencranz and Gaildenstern Are Dead, in a
production at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival; which featured, from
left, Davis Hall, Bub Ari, Eric Tavaris, Eduardo Patino and John
Nichols. Above right, Michael Gross and Linda Purl in The Real Thing at
the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood. Below right, lsiah Whitlock Jr. and
DeAnn Meats in Night and Day at San Francisco's American Conservatory


Mel Gussow, who writes about theatre for
the New York Times, is the author of Conversations with Pinter and
Conversations with Stoppard (both Limelight Editions). This article is
excerpted by permission from the latter, which was published last

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