A Life in the Theatre Characters
by David Mamet

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A Life in the Theatre Characters

(Drama for Students)

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John is a young actor, relatively new to the theater. At the beginning of A Life in the Theatre, he is nervous about performing, so much so that he has not eaten in several days. In scene 1, he looks forward to dinner as his appetite has returned now that opening night is over. In these early stages, John is respectful of Robert’s opinions, knowledge, and pontificating about the theater. John compliments him on his performances and invites him to dinner.

John listens to Robert’s directions on acting until scene 8, when Robert asks him to do less with his performance. John is insulted by this advice. Thereafter, John replies in terse phrases and monosyllables to Robert’s musings and mentions his costar’s faltering lines. John himself improves as an actor over the course of A Life in the Theatre.

Robert is an older actor in the theater. From the first scene, he plays mentor to John, reveling in long-winded speeches about aspects of the theater, acting, and life. Robert appreciates John’s willingness to listen and the compliments he gives the elder performer. He is sensitive to every aspect of how life in the theater relates to life outside, though it seems for Robert that all of life is a performance.