David Bruce: Be a Work of Art — Advice, Alcohol, Animals

Advice

• Very often, an actor would have trouble with part of his role, whether it was speaking a line or performing some piece of business, and he would go to theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie for help. Often, Mr. Guthrie would have the answer at hand, but if he did not, he would tell the actor, “Go home, think about it, come back, and astonish us in the morning.” Mr. Guthrie also uttered another characteristic quote whenever problems arose in the theater — he would tell the cast and crew, “Rise above.”

Alcohol

• Tenor Jussi Bjoerling and conductor Nils Grevilius enjoyed having a drink together — and another drink, and another, and on and on. During one debauch, they traveled together to Stockholm, where to take a break from their drinking, they decided to go to the opera house and see whatever was being performed. They got to their seats and waited and waited, and were about to leave and get some more drinks when the opera house general manager came on stage and announced that that evening’s performance was being canceled because “tenor Jussi Bjoerling and conductor Nils Grevilius are missing.” A very surprised Mr. Bjoerling and Mr. Grevilius stood up and announced, “We’re here! We’re here!”

• George Washington once signed a mock contract with his gardener. The contract provided money for the gardener to get drunk and specified for how long the gardener could remain drunk. According to the contract, the gardener was to receive “four Dollars at Christmas, with which he may be drunk 4 days and 4 nights; two Dollars at Easter to effect the same purpose; two Dollars also at Whitsontide, to be drunk two days; A Dram in the morning, and a drink of Grog at Dinner or at Noon.”

• Irish playwright Brendan Behan enjoyed drinking to excess. He once said, “As regards the drink, I can only say that when I was growing up drunkenness was not regarded as a social disgrace. To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement. To get drunk was a victory.” By the way, Mr. Behan once met an acquaintance in a pub and asked, “I hear there’s someone dead belonging to you — it’s not yourself by any chance?”

• Richard Brinsley Sheridan had a financial interest in the Drury Lane Theatre, which caught on fire on February 24, 1809. Mr. Sheridan heard about the fire, then went to the theater and watched it burn as he drank in the Piazza Coffee-House. A friend was amazed at Mr. Sheridan’s calmness as he watched his theater burn, but Mr. Sheridan said, “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine at his own fireside.”

Animals

• In October 2011 in Wasau, Wisconsin, fire broke out at the home of Kim Carlson and her fiancé, Todd Borchardt. Ms. Carlson said that when she discovered that Koda, the family’s seven-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, was still in the burning house, “My first reaction was to go upstairs and check upstairs, but it was just entirely too smoky. It was so black that you couldn’t see anything in front of you. My first reaction was that I wanted to cover myself in water and cover my face and mouth and go up and get him myself, knowing that’s not the right thing to do.” Firefighter Jamie Giese said that the firefighters “found Koda in the very last room they searched, which happened to be the room that was actually on fire.” Koda was carried unconscious out of the house. Mr. Giese said, “I told [fellow firefighter] Jared [Thompson] that we’ve got to work this dog. [We] laid him down in the front yard, and we started assisting breathing.” Mr. Giese revived the pet dog with mouth-to-snout resuscitation. Mr. Giese said, “I have never been trained in that. I’ve seen it on TV and pictures in the newspapers and things like that. We thought [the dog] was dead. We could tell he was trying to breathe, and our training for humans is airway, breathing, circulation. We had no tools handy, so it was mouth-to-snout.” After Koda started breathing again, he was given oxygen and other treatment. He recovered fully. Koda had been a member of the Giese family for only four days before the fire. The Gieses said that they saw his photograph in an advertisement and they fell in love with him.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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