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Joel Grey has worked as an actor, singer and dancer for over 65 years in a wide variety of roles on the stage and screen.  He is best known for[…]

The live performance that you see is unique. It’s yours. And sometimes a live performance can touch a nerve that both the actors and audience can share the experience of.

Question: What makes live performances so special?

Joel Grey: It’s more ephemeral.  I mean that performance that you see, no one else will see that.  It’s yours.  And the experience that the actor has on stage is, “Wow, something happened tonight.  Something extra.”  The extra doesn’t happen when it’s already a film or a television show.  The extra.

There’s always going to be a bunch of people who want to sit in a room and hear a story.  And also, see the humanity of hearing that story from a live person, that it’s gonna, you know...  No performance, live performance, is the same.  And if it hasn’t been filmed and you were there and it was great, it was just... it was only in your memory. It becomes something magical in that way.  That’s very appealing and compelling to me.  I love to go to the theater.

I saw Lee J. Cobb in “Death of a Salesman” when I was about 15 and I couldn’t get up from my seat in the theater I was so... I was weeping and I was upset.  And I find that people are still like that in a similar circumstance in a theater today, where they just can’t get up.  It’s too heartbreaking.  Or somehow you respond to it.  And it touches a nerve.  But that doesn’t happen in the same way when you’re sitting having a Big Mac in front of your television set and the popcorn going on and the kids are pulling at you.  And you know, it requires... the theater requires an audience that’s equally focus as the actor for it to really happen.

Recorded September 9, 2010

Interviewed by David Hirschman