Monday, November 9, 2009

Bob Flynn on Late Dramatist Paul Baker

"Irritating, arrogant, nuts ─ and a genius."

That's how actor Charles Laughton once described Paul Baker, the Texas dramatist whose stage productions of Othello, Hamlet, and A Cloud of Witnesses drew renowned critics to the likes of Waco, Texas.

Baker, who went on to serve as founding artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center and teacher and mentor in the arts, recently passed away at the age of 98.

Here's what Bob Flynn, co-author of Paul Baker and the Integration of Abilities (Texas Christian University Press, 2003) had to say about his experience working with Baker:
"To work or study with Prof was to have your vision lifted above the campus and beyond America to Europe and Asia and ideas from centuries past and all over the world. His legacy lives on in his students and their students and the vision beyond The Integration of Abilities."

In his book, Flynn tells how a summer in Paris gave Baker a new way of looking at theater. Co-author Eugene McKinney describes Baker's development of writers, and Glenn Allen Smith demonstrates the use of the elements in creating a play.

Flynn continues:


"For some, working with Prof Baker was the most exciting, creative, and productive time of their lives. Prof's projects involved everyone, and everyone was required to think through the project or problem at hand and have their own ideas for resolving a problem or creating a dream.

In play productions he assigned scenes to groups of students and they were to work on the scene alone and together and so share their ideas. Then all the student gropus
presented their scene and all the faculty observed.

Actor Charles Laughton "discovered" the Baylor Theater on one of his national reading tours, was stunned by its revolutionary design, and became a fervent supporter of Baker's productions.

The groups were shifted to different scenes, different actors reading different parts until everyone began to see the same vision. Prof's vision in which everyone: cast,
crew, box office, publicity had a share and an investment.

Students also worked with architects, writers, directors, actors, dancers including Frank Lloyd Wright, Zero Mostel, Burgess Meredith, Charles Laughton, Henry Hewes, drama critic for Saturday Review of Literature; Eliot Elisoften, photographer for Life Magazine who spent a month working on the lighting for Prof's production of Thomas Wolfe's 'Of Time and the River'; Burl Ives, Michael Medoff whose first play was given a staged reading by Baker's students; Cornelia Otis Skinner, and the father of modern mime, Etienne Decroux whose students included Jean-Louis Barrault and Marcel Marceua. . ."

Paul Baker

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