Tales from the Vault: B. Iden Payne

Posted on Oct 4th, 2012 in OSF Archives

A Mentor for Angus

B. Iden Payne first inspired Angus Bowmer as a student at the University of Washington in 1930. In 1956 and 1961, Payne came to Ashland to both act and direct. In the intervening years, what Bowmer learned from Payne in Seattle lingered.

He gained an understanding of the meaning of words for the Elizabethan audience, a modern editor’s script must be read with knowledge of the earliest printed versions of the plays and with a firm rejection of all those stage and scene directions from 18th and 19th century productions. Also, a study of poetic structure and rhythm, the rapid pace of line delivery, a new scene overlapping with the exit line of the previous scene, and scripts were written to be played without intermission (which the Festival followed until after they both died). OSF also experienced an influx of Payne’s students from Carnegie Tech and Texas.

Then there was the matter of artistic independence from the board in selection of plays. As Angus related in As I remember, Adam, Payne suggested a production of Cymbeline at Stratford, England. Board member George Bernard Shaw inquired, “Why would you want to produce that play with the ridiculous fifth act?” Payne quietly responded, “Why don’t you write a more suitable fifth act, Mr. Shaw?” This prompted Shaw’s manuscript Cymbeline Refinished, but prompted Angus to press ahead with his own idea of a playbill when his board balked. Luckily, in 2005, we have a thoroughly modern board—and a splendid production of a Shaw play.

Written originally for The Company Call, September 2005, by Kit Leary.