Hayes and Olivier

Feb 9, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Your strange job as a performing artist—musician, actor, or dancer—is to immerse yourself completely in the work of art you’re performing—to lose yourself, in a sense—and yet at all times to remain aware of precisely what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It’s not easy, and sometimes the process—which is complicated to begin with—becomes downright mysterious. I once heard the actress Helen Hayes tell a story about Sir Laurence Olivier. She was performing in a play with Olivier, and one night he give a performance that was absolutely staggering—especially brilliant even for him. 


But after a slew of curtain calls Sir Laurence stormed off to his dressing room, slammed the door, and wouldn’t let anybody in. When he finally allowed Miss Hayes into the room, she said, “What’s the matter, Larry? You were magnificent tonight.” And Olivier, still in fury, replied, “Yes I Know. But that’s just the problem. I don’t know how I did it.”

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.