Actor - Teacher
Dec. 2, 1913 - Sept. 24, 1985
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(Condensed from original poem in memorial booklet:  THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE published 1985.)

To Paul— who taught
Beyond the teaching
Of movement, of speech and accent,
Who pierced beyond the particulars of
Mental capacities, appearance,
Personality, instinct, natural gifts
Of whatever magnitude—
To stimulate connections and a wholeness.

Great teacher worked to orchestrate the
Deliciousness of the complexities behind
The marvelous subtleties, the
Extraordinary simplicities “because you are—
Even in the silences—
Forever resounding chords
Not single notes,” he said.

“This noble profession,” he called it—
This actors’ work—
 Interpreter, Instrument for sharper vision.
 Text, bible, commandments—
 The universe
 And all of life itself.
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New York Magazine, Article, November 2010:
Scorsese highlights Paul Mann as his choice in AMERICA, AMERICA.

Martin Scorcese Directors Cut Best Performance Paul Mann 2010 NEW YORK Magazine. Martin Scorcese
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Director, Writer
(From memorial booklet  THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE published 1985.)

“I judge teachers of acting by the work of their pupils.  There have been others who’ve become more famous than Paul, but he was one of the two best teachers from the point of view I’ve cited.  He was especially good at discovering talent in people usually neglected and in teaching them the fundamentals of acting without quieting their passion or leading them into more conventional channels of behavior.

He was particularly good in breaking down the inhibitions and restraints everyone in polite society, all school children who learn to obey teachers and stay out of trouble for instance, have.  Some of his pupils I’ve worked with reach intensities of emotion that other actors, taught by other teachers, do not reach.  His actors move freely on stage and respond fully to those they’re playing with rather than, as is the case with a more famous teacher, work with their own memories, and behave in a way that is essentially narcissistic.

I regret that he did not write a book on his methods and his aesthetic values.  Perhaps there are tapes that could be edited and issued to various schools.  They would be of genuine value.

He was also the teacher of them all who had a world view in politics and valued that devotion.  I admired him.  I was also grateful to him for providing me in AMERICA, AMERICA one of the very best performances I’ve seen in films.”

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(From memorial booklet: THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE 1985.)

In 1967 I heard Paul Mann speak to a group of—like myself—mainly out-of-work actors in Montreal.

His forthrightness, common-sense, and strength, more than inspired us, they invigorated us.

I had personally decided to pursue a career in music, and was due to enroll at a professional music school the following Fall. I spoke with him after the lecture and, at his suggestion, withdrew my application from the music school and applied to the Neighborhood Playhouse, a decision which changed my life completely.

He was the first person I had known who expressed and embodied love of the theatre as vigorous creative strength, rather than effete contemplation.

He made the idea of study attractive and vital, and I personally, owe him very much.

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Actress, The Arthur Foundation
(Condensed from a longer text (1985))

Paul was a giant in October of 1953. Powerful in physique, voice, will power, expressiveness, and energy.  Energy emanated from him almost tangibly—like an aura. He could make us tremble, weep— or exult— I don’t think I will ever again know a person with his persuasiveness.

I’ll never forget my first day in his class. There were only six of us.  He had begun the studio only recently, landing on his feet after the ordeal of blacklisting had deprived him of stage, film, and radio work.

“We perceive everything through the five senses,” he began.  It sounds incredible, but until that time, I had never thought of that.  He was marvelous at going back to the student’s level of understanding before proceeding to the next level.  He went on, “Acting is action, doing. Not being—you can’t help but be. Acting must be couched in actable, do-able words.”

He continued, using words I had never considered relevant to acting.  Involvement, concentration, relaxation.  He had each of us, one at a time, get up on the stage.  Nervous, ill at ease, inexperienced, awkward.  “Don’t do anything.  Just stand there.”  After an interminable minute: “What are you doing now?”  “Listening to the traffic on Sixth Avenue.”  His large face positively wreathed, beaming.  “You found something to concentrate on—and what happened?”  “Well, I felt a little more at ease.”  “Exactly!  That is the key to acting.  To do something, to concentrate, involve yourself.  You just saw how relaxation—and emotion—is the inevitable result.”  I sat down, trembling.  A whole new horizon was on the verge of opening up.

He was ahead of his time in breaking down entrapments—barriers of clothes, “niceness,” good manners. The physicality that eventually led to his downfall was evident even then, though under control. We knew he had enormous appetites.  A man of his zest and passion had to.

To me, what happened afterward was a Greek myth come to life “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”  Like a Greek hero, Paul had a tragic flaw that despite his gifts, ultimately led to disgrace. I regret this bitterly. I regret the obituary that had to bring it up, and I regret bringing it up here. It would serve no purpose to do so, unless to put into perspective the opposite side of the coin—the tremendous vital force for good which he exerted, which changed all our lives, and may prove to have influenced the whole standard of American acting.

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“To be an actor”, Paul frequently reminded us, “one must be just like everybody else—only more so”.

As a teacher of acting, it can be said that Paul Mann was immeasurably more than everybody else.  To be in his presence as he taught was to be in the presence of brilliance.

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I first started studying with Paul in the Fall of 1968. I remember thinking “He must be good, everyone seems afraid of him.” But I quickly came to know it wasn’t fear that caused the hush in the classroom—but respect. You didn’t fool around in Paul’s class, not for an instant. Oh, there was plenty of humor, but no gum-chewing, gossiping or back-biting; the girls wore skirts and the guys wore pants, and we were there to support one another as comrades. You felt privileged to be there, like you would unlock all the mysteries of acting and theatre and the one man knew it all. And, in truth, he did.

Paul had an extraordinary understanding and compassion for what made people tick. I think we all felt we deserved some of his tongue-lashing. It made us think deeper and more seriously about our work. To have the privilege of watching the actress, Barbara Loden, do the most compelling yet simple one-action, one-objective exercises and the most poignant monologues and scenes, and to know that Paul was singularly responsible for her technique was astonishing to me. I’d found a teacher who was the encyclopedia of the acting craft!

Other things come to mind when I think of Paul; he was a true sensualist. He was more in touch with his five senses than any human being I’ve met before or since. And he loved youth—the young—in us; we held the hope for the future and a better theatre.

Paul was not an easy man—the mention of his name to a one-time tax accountant of mine, brought the accountant to his feet fuming and sputtering. . . "That s.o.b. spat on me!  In The Inspector General at Arena Stage, I played a soldier and he really spat on me. I would have to stand there and it would run down my face. I hated that man. Did he have to spit real spit?”— Well, yes, he did, if you knew Paul, you didn’t fake anything, not if it could possibly be real!

That’s not to say Paul was always right; on the contrary he could be extremely intimidating. But as I came to understand him, I saw that under that often gruff exterior was a soft, big heart, a romantic nature and a true and abiding friend.

Above all, Paul was a great teacher and actor.  His energy was indefatigable.  His lust for life, for books, for travel, to know all he could about his craft and the life of theatre was inspirational to be around.

He taught me to separate ‘show-biz’ (which he detested) from serious theatre, about the disappointments actors must face and how to keep striving in spite of it; about truth, urgency, the immediacy of a moment, and . . . to THINK . . . striving always for the “3 E’s” in theatre . . . to Educate, to Enlighten and to Entertain.

Everything Paul did in his life, whether right or wrong, he did FULLY, as he worked.  There were opportunities that he certainly “mucked up,” but mostly because he was unwilling to compromise—he was demanding and exacting and in a world full of mediocrity, this was threatening to some. In many ways, Paul was “larger than life”; but then isn’t that what theatre is . . . heightened reality? Some people find such a big talent almost dangerous, and so to them, the loss of Paul Mann may not be felt.  But to me, there will always be a flash of light and a quickening of the heartbeat when I think of Paul.

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Copyright ©Estate of Paul Mann Actors Workshop