Tony Award-winning actor Liev Schreiber DRA ’92 delivered the 20th annual Maynard Mack Lecture at Yale University Theater on York Street Monday.
Presented in the form of a conversation between the actor and Dean of the Yale School of Drama James Bundy, the event drew a crowd of 100 people and included his advice for aspiring thespians.
Schreiber won his Tony Award for his performance in the play “Glengarry Glen Ross” in 2005. He has also starred in mainstream films like “The Sum of All Fears,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Salt.” But it was his title roles in Shakespearean plays that remained the dominant subject of conversation.
“Why is Shakespeare such a home for you?” Bundy asked. “I realized very early on that I am never going to be an actor, but I admire the magnificent artistry you have represented in Shakespeare.”
Schreiber attributed his initial affinity for Shakespeare to his “general obsession with old things.” He said he felt it was an “honor” to be part of a continuing tradition. He also spoke humbly of his achievements and critical reception as an artist.
“I was talking to a class before, and I admitted that I have only had two good reviews,” he said. Meanwhile, he has been thrice nominated for Tony Awards and a Golden Globe Award.
He added that he attributes his success to rehearsals. Schreiber said he was initially intimidated by the ambiguous notion of success in theatre.
“In French, rehearsal is called repetition,” he emphasized. He added that it is important to repeat rehearsals until the actors know the verses “upside-down.”
Luckily, he said Shakespearean verses come much more easily to him than normal script.
“It’s like a nursery rhyme,” Schreiber said. “It’s so easy to just repeat and repeat and repeat.”
Schreiber also discussed the notion of “subliminal acting.” For him, he said it is a struggle to “leave his intellect backstage” and transform into a “primal creature” that controls him. At one point during the talk, he stood, bent over and slowly rose up, explaining that he does this exercise each time he takes the stage. As he returned to his initial stance, he said he could “feel the character slowly rising up in [his] feet, legs, thighs, groin, stomach and head.”
“The beast has been released,” he said in a deep rumbling voice. “It’s the feeling of danger. Something f—-d up is going to happen and then I walk on the stage.”
“It was like a backstage visit to meet the star after an amazing performance,” Dana Benedict said, who is a New Haven resident in her late 40s in the audience.
Jean Grimaldi, who teaches acting at a local school New Haven, added that Schreiber was very open to the audience.
“He definitely let us into his character,” Grimaldi said.
The lecture, which was free and open to the public, was sponsored by the Elizabethan Club and marked the literary society’s 100th anniversary.