Unlike film, live theater is an anti-naturalistic medium in which character is mainly illuminated through speech and movement.

All history, and most especially the history of the 20th century, argues against placing ideas in the saddle and allowing them to ride mankind. Too often, they end up riding individual men and women into mass graves.

Charles Ives was writing radically innovative music, but nobody performed it, and nobody knew about it.

Tom Stoppard, the English-speaking world's brainiest playwright, thinks that British audiences have grown too dumb to understand his plays.

Not only are most of our citizens fathomlessly ignorant of the glories of American literature, a fast-growing percentage of our students are no longer taught much about any works of American art, be they novels, paintings, symphonies or ballets.

It's certainly no secret that American students are taught less and less about the canonical literary masterpieces of the past, and there is no shortage of people who believe that what little they're required to learn in school is still too much.

Few of us boggle - though we should - at the fact that Louis Armstrong sang and played trumpet with similar panache, or that Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten were equally adept as composers, conductors and pianists.

Useful though they are, the vast majority of dictionaries and encyclopedias are poker-faced pieces of work that stick to the facts and present them as soberly - and unstylishly - as possible.

As late as the early '50s, jazz was still, for the most part, a genuinely popular music, a utilitarian, song-based idiom to which ordinary people could dance if they felt like it.

Unlike film and TV, theater is a luxury object, but one that ordinary middle-class people can still afford. Above all, it isn't a mass medium: Live theater is a small-scale, handmade art form. Intimacy is what makes it special.

Limitations, be they practical or arbitrary, force artists to dig more deeply instead of settling for easy answers.

The first play I ever saw - I was in junior high school - was a high school production of Noel Coward's 'Blithe Spirit,' which seemed to me absolutely magical.

The script of a play is not a finished product: It's a set of instructions.

Critics at their best are independent voices; people take seriously their responsibility to see as many things as they can see, put them in the widest possible perspective, educate their readers. I really do think of myself as a teacher.

In the early days of jazz, it was ensemble music: everybody playing all together. Nobody really stood out.

Copland was one of the first American composers to forge a truly modern style of American classical music while also making use of American popular music - including jazz.

Copland was the first important American classical composer to go to work for Hollywood.

Most 'Monty Python' fans are, of course, baby boomers, who have long been a nostalgic lot and are growing more so as they totter toward old age.

Whether they know it or not, most American playgoers owe an incalculably great debt to translators. Were it not for their work, comparatively few of us would be able to enjoy the plays of Chekhov, Ibsen or Moliere.

What's the funniest play ever written? I used to think it was 'Noises Off,' but now that I've seen 'The Liar,' I'm not so sure.

No translation can possibly be perfect. Every production and every performance is a different path up the mountain, and nobody ever makes it all the way to the summit.

Americans of all ages embraced TV unhesitatingly. They felt no loyalty to network radio, the medium that had entertained and informed them for a quarter-century. When something came along that they deemed superior, they switched off their radios without a second thought.

I believe deeply that jazz is still a very vital music that has much to say, not just to eggheads, or whatever the musical equivalent of an egghead is, but to ordinary people.

I feel quite confident that audiences on both sides of the Atlantic are growing 'dumber,' if what you really mean to say is 'less culturally literate.'

Nobody reads a reference book to be amused, much less charmed.

The digital apocalypse continues to blight the lives of television producers, music-industry executives and newspaper publishers, all of whom are scrambling to figure out how to reconfigure their business models in such a way as to allow them to make an honest buck.

Instrumental music is nonverbal and thus radically ambiguous. It doesn't lend itself to what might be called content-oriented analysis, though plenty of intellectuals have tried to analyze it in precisely that way.

I can remember - barely - when Elton John was still a good songwriter, or at least capable of writing good songs.

I loved music from earliest childhood - from as long as I can remember.

It may well be, of course, that America's pop culture is on balance better than our high art. I don't think so, but you can certainly make a case that the best of it aspires to a degree of aesthetic and emotional seriousness that is directly comparable to all but the very greatest works of high art.

Most of us remember Nat King Cole as a vocalist. His warm, grainy baritone is still so closely identified with such familiar ballads as 'Stardust' and 'The Christmas Song' that it's hard to imagine anyone else performing them.

A critic is not a creative artist, is a commenter, a midwife of creativity, but not creative himself.

Not surprisingly, my parents' generation did everything they could to make life easier for their own children. Was that good for us? I wonder. It certainly didn't do us any good from a cultural point of view. I'm struck by how few boomers have embraced adult culture in middle age.

Anna Deavere Smith's new one-woman show bills itself as being about health care, but the truth is that 'Let Me Down Easy' is mostly about the grimmer subject of death and dying.

Life usually tells the best stories - but sometimes it takes an artist to show us what they mean.

There's a playwright named S.M. Berryman, Sam Berryman, who wrote these kinds of social comedies. They are actually extremely sharp and still quite provocative.

In addition to giving comfort and joy, art also has the miraculous ability to let us live in other men's skins, to test our perceptions and beliefs against theirs, and perhaps to be changed as a result. It does this by portraying the world creatively, heightening our perception and enriching our understanding of things as they are.

Fred Astaire never let you see him sweat, but he sweetened his deceptively casual virtuosity with just enough charm to make it irresistible.

Everybody in America was talking about TV early in 1949, though comparatively few Americans owned a set of their own.

I became a professional musician and played all kinds of music. I played bluegrass, I played classical music, and for many years, I played jazz.

Samuel Beckett's estate will not license productions of his plays that are not performed as written.

The wonderful thing about theater as an art form is it's a purely empirical art form. It's all about what works. And every show, every production, is created anew right from the moment you go into the rehearsal hall.

I suspect that most playgoers don't understand how inexact a science literary translation is. Even the simplest of lines may lend itself to multiple renderings.

David Cromer, from Chicago, I think is the most gifted young director in America.

No cowboy songs, no hoedowns. It's a more serious piece. Yet every bar of 'Appalachian Spring' is clear, clean, tonal, intelligible - great music that anyone can grasp at first hearing.

The smaller newspapers probably won't have any critics at all. Maybe that's not such a bad thing because there's a certain level of seriousness that you can't get with a small newspaper for critics.

What is true of ballet is no less true of the other lively arts. Change is built into their natures. You watch a performance, and then... it's gone.

I am, as it happens, a baby boomer, but not one who feels any broad-gauge nostalgia for the '60s and '70s. My attitude resembles that of my parents, who were born in the '20s and lived through the Great Depression and World War II.

A play is not a play until it's performed, and unless it's a one-person play that is acted, directed and designed by the author, many other people will be deeply involved in the complicated process that leads to its performance.