Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Patrick Stewart on the teacher who spotted his talent (theguardian.com)
138 points by Bud 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments





What I found interesting about this was that Patrick Stewart is 81, and his highly-influential teacher who just passed was 96.

It's funny how, as a student, your teacher seems like a real adult person from a completely different generation. But I guess after you fast-forward a few decades, the difference becomes pretty trivial.


I don't know how many kids have a 15 year old for a teacher.

EDIT: I misspoke & meant "I don't know how many kids have just a 15 year age gap with their teacher". Not sure why this was flagged though.

The point I was trying to make is that it's generally rarer in the US/Canada for a teacher and student to only have a 15 year gap. Tenure rules for unions & generally increasing class sizes means there's comparatively few new teachers entering the profession straight from college. Younger teachers also have a high attrition rate because of pay, the difficulty of the job, lack of support across the board, dealing with parents, etc. Having just a 15 year age difference with a teacher that continues to be a teacher and mentor in your life throughout for an extended period of time from then on seems extremely rare these days. So I was trying to provide color why the statement "It's funny how, as a student, your teacher seems like a real adult person from a completely different generation. But I guess after you fast-forward a few decades, the difference becomes pretty trivial." may be overlooking differences from when this relationship was formed.


Eh. I'd say it's not at all uncommon. I seem to remember most of my elementary school teachers being in their 20's and a few teachers after that too. Plus, there's student teachers and subs, etc.

I'd stay it's probably a pretty low ratio somewhere around 1:10 or 1:20, but yeah a lot of them don't stay teachers for a long time, but that's still more than enough time to make impressions on students. And I'd bet there's a very high correlation to making an impression on a student (in your first few years teaching) and staying in the profession.


0-year-old kids?

Also known as babies.

If you ever want to waste a few hours of your life, travel to YouTube and watch the many different renditions of MacBeth's soliloquy "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow."

Many of them are downright awful. Some of them have not stood up to the test of time. Stewart's is especially contemplative, and sits close to the top in my opinion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZnaXDRwu84

Ian McKellen spends about 20 minutes discussing this specific soliloquy (it's a bit pretentious, but only a bit):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGbZCgHQ9m8


It's funny the disproportionate effect one good teacher can have on someone's life (and also the negative effect of a bad one). It's worth reaching out to them and sending emails to the good ones - I've found they appreciate it.

I had a fantastic experience recently... I was on vacation, driving up the Columbia river with my gf. One night we wandered into a small town bar where there was a band onstage. And up front was my music teacher from 8th grade, who had changed my life and my way of thinking about music. Just wailing away on a guitar, 70 years old. I couldn't believe it. I got up front to the stage and when he saw me, the guitar fell out of his hands for a second. He had moved out to this tiny place and had a band there. We ended up closing out the bar, and we've been in regular touch since then.

After 40 years, I ran into my 6th grade science teacher about five years ago. We now have lunch a few times per year (more often when there are no pandemics) and regularly exchange email.

He was an inspiration to me and was probably the best teacher I ever had. He confided to me a few years ago that he had very little STEM education. He reads fiction, and enjoys painting and sculpting. As he approaches age 80, he stays sharp with trivia challenges, and is on several bar trivia teams.


> It's worth reaching out to them and sending emails to the good ones - I've found they appreciate it.

I have found the same. So many of them have said to me that those letters are priceless to them.


Wonderful essay.

Tangentially, I found this interesting:

> There were 100 or more people in the audience, which should have been unnerving and intimidating, but I felt fearless and entirely at home. I felt safe on stage and I always have since.

I've played music my whole life, but have always suffered from stage fright. Every trumpet solo assigned to me in band was a panic-inducing punishment. My best friend commented to me after one performance for the whole school: "Hey, this time it wasn't so bad!" (my shaking). Even now, as an adult, I recently dove back into the fray pre-pandemic and played with some people at work in front of co-workers... and after the performance I packed up my instrument and left without looking any of my bandmates in the eye. The shakes grabbed hold about 30 seconds into the performance, and stayed till the end.

All this to say: the concept of feeling "safe" on stage, is just inconceivable to me. The stage is probably where I feel least safe in all the world.

and, these days, going before executive reviews at work is my recurring stage :-(


> I've played music my whole life, but have always suffered from stage fright.

The article seems to be tying the young Patrick Stewart's ease on stage to escaping his abusive home life. He is open about this painful topic (1)

> I loved to escape into the world of fiction and out of my dull, uncomfortable and sometimes scary home life, living with an abusive father.

> Perhaps it was because I wasn’t being Patrick Stewart (on stage)

i.e. His benchmark for "feeling "safe" on stage" was probably very different to yours, as he was not "safe" at home. It's sad but he worked with it.

1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPzVUGE3dds


I've played piano and guitar in rock bands on and off for decades, and honestly, some level of nervousness never goes away unless you're drunk enough not to have the false certainty that you won't screw up -- which is exactly when you screw up (but don't care as much, because you realize most people don't notice).

I've also had some experience with acting, and can affirm that it's far less anxiety inducing than playing music, if you know your lines. When you're onstage as a musician, you are yourself. If you're an actor, assuming you know your lines, you can get lost in the character and a lot of the anxiety of being judged goes away.


There's a difference between acting and public speaking/music!

I've just finished reading Impro: Improvisations and the Theatre from Keith Johnstone, one of the pioneers of impro theatre, and he delves deep into how actors literally become their role or the mask they wear, close to old religious trance state. Stewart alludes to this state: on stage he isn't Stewart, he was Hopcroft Minor, literally.

Playing an instrument or speaking publicly is a bit different, you're still you.


For me it's safe because it's just me,my preparation and the time I have. There is nothing more you can do at that point, the outcome is more or less decided and I can be there. Just there and no where else.

It's like the top of a roller coaster. You may hate what's about to come next but your strapped in for the ride no matter what. Except on stage you are not just a passenger. There's a sense of being totally in control and of things being out of your control.


You have to feel confident in your playing. Practice until it feels as natural as walking down the street. Never perform on stage anything that is at the peak of your abilities, always perform what is safely within your comfort zone.

If I had to read Shakespeare on stage I would be terrified too. But when I pick up my instrument I get a sense of calm that washes away any fear. That only comes from practice.


> You have to feel confident in your playing. Practice until it feels as natural as walking down the street. Never perform on stage anything that is at the peak of your abilities, always perform what is safely within your comfort zone.

There must be different types of stage fright... this ain't that. What I'm describing is uncorrelated with comfort/confidence in the piece. It's just a very strong physical response to the spotlight.

The advice that comes up often to control the physical effects (shaking, tight breathing): propanolol. Haven't tried it yet.


I recommend Effortless Mastery to help with performance anxiety. It really resonated with me.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effortless_Mastery


Adrenaline rushes are addictive, and free. Enjoy them! Being terrified on stage is what makes me want to do it. Once you lose this feeling, being on stage loses its appeal. Trust me, it happened to me. It sucks.

Please don't let Richard Branson send Patrick Stewart to space. Or Mark Hamill for that matter.

Many people seem to mistake Stewart for a great actor due to his diction, accent, projection, etc. I find this early video of him fascinating because it compares him directly to another talented actor, both performing the same role, and you can clearly see how he’s all sizzle and no meat. https://youtu.be/MwRj8B1dXfk

Of course, despite his reputation today, and his continual mentioning of it in every interview, he never got famous for playing Shakespeare: he got famous entirely for playing Picard, and that’s the one role he did superbly because he based it on his father whom he passionately hated. You can see how when he was given authorial control to remake it into someone he himself liked (and based on himself?) in the recent reboot he completely butchered the essence of the character.

If you want advice on playing authoritarian star ship captains and on being in the right place at the right time then he’s not a bad person to ask, but he should be really be avoided on other topics. In fact for writing it might be best to ask his advice and then do the direct opposite.


First off, basically nobody gets famous playing Shakespeare. So that has zero value as a metric.

Second, Stewart was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for 16 years well before any Star Trek stuff, so I'm sorry, but at least for those paying attention to Shakespeare, he was doing quite well.

Third, calling Picard an "authoritarian" is, well, silly. Are you trolling with all of this?


I think you're being a bit unfair. He did win an Olivier, after all... twice.

> Many people seem to mistake Stewart for a great actor due to his diction, accent,

Stewart: "my home town of Mirfield in West Yorkshire"

So, the Picard voice is _not_ his "born with it" diction and accent. They did not talk like that in West Yorkshire in the 1940s


I'm now trying to imagine an episode of Star Trek where the whole crew have Yorkshire accents.

"We had it tough. When I were a lad, there weren't no replicators. Our dad had to fight t'Klingons barehanded without spacesuit. Tell the crew of today, they won't believe you."

Aren't "diction, accent, projection, etc." some of the most important qualities for the job?

I'll agree about the Picard series though. You can tell Roddenberry wasn't there.

The thing which stands out for me was the swearing. I'm not _fucking_ averse to expletives, at all. Star Trek may have moved on from JTK's values, but since it "woke" it has been a bastion of "family entertainment" WRT themes and language.

Also... Why has nobody pointed out that he's now Sir Patrick Stewart?


Do you have a source on your claim Stewart based Picard on his father?

Wow. Thank you for sharing that RSC video—illuminating. Really no comparison between Stewart’s histrionics and Suchet’s, well, acting.

Imagine what it must do to a person to be famous for "being" someone you passionately hate.

IDK, for Graham Chapman (Monty Python) most of his best bits were mercilessly lampooning authoritarian men like his policeman father, and others of their generation who fought in the war. He amplified these traits to make them look absurd. e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Colonel_(Monty_Python)

Graham Chapman was also an alcoholic.

Sir Patrick Stewart played Captain Picard as a better man, compassionate, fair and sincere, only stern when necessary, and not a reflexively violent authoritarian. And he seems to be doing fine. Maybe moving to California and getting therapy was the right move for him.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: