John Malkovich’s message to the theater world on its special day

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What would you tell the theater world if you had its collective attention for a few minutes on a special occasion?

John Malkovich will get the chance in Paris on March 22, at a gala kicking off activities for the 50th annual World Theatre Day, which is March 27.


The stage and screen star (pictured at a 2008 rehearsal in Santa Monica) will deliver this year’s message at the headquarters of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and its theater wing, the International Theatre Institute.

Jean Cocteau delivered the first World Theatre Day message in 1962; Malkovich will be the first American to give the address since Edward Albee in 1993 (and the first American actor, period). The fact that the U.S. had withdrawn from the often-controversial UNESCO from 1984 to 2003 probably didn’t help -- the reasons given when the Reagan administration canceled our membership were corrupt management and an anti-Western bias. Great Britain exited the organization from 1985 to 1997.

The list of past World Theatre Day messengers also includes Judi Dench, Vaclav Havel, Peter Brook (twice), Wole Soyinka, Eugene Ionesco, Ellen Stewart, Richard Burton, Luchino Visconti, Pablo Neruda, Laurence Olivier and Arthur Miller.

Here’s Malkovich’s address, released Friday by New York-based Theatre Communications Group, the service organization for American nonprofit theaters (and home of the U.S. branch of the International Theatre Institute).

‘I’m honored to have been asked by the International Theatre Institute ITI at UNESCO to give this greeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day. I will address my brief remarks to my fellow theatre workers, peers and comrades. ‘May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do.

‘May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you - for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments - succeed in framing that most basic of questions, ‘how do we live?’ Godspeed.’

- John Malkovich

Culture Monster thinks there’s one important thing Malkovich neglected to wish for, perhaps believing it goes without saying: Whatever else theater people and their audiences achieve or experience, may they enjoy themselves and each other.


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-- Mike Boehm