How an 87-year-old pianist helped Ethan Hawke beat stage fright

Written By kom nampuldu on Sabtu, 07 Maret 2015 | 20.49

Ethan Hawke is nervous. I make him nervous, he tells me. Potentially being ridiculed makes him nervous. Even performing makes the four-time Oscar nominee nervous.

"I start thinking about what would happen if I lost my voice or if I forgot my lines [on stage]," he tells The Post. "My brain starts running away with all the bad things that will happen…"

A few years ago, it got especially bad. "I would tell people, 'I'm dying,' and they would laugh and say, 'Oh you can do this in your sleep,'" he recalls.

At a friend's party a few years ago, Hawke met someone who could empathize: Seymour Bernstein, an 87-year-old concert pianist turned piano teacher.

"He could speak to it in a way I had never been spoken to," Hawke says. The two hit it off so much that Hawke was inspired to make a documentary about him. "Seymour: An Introduction" opens Friday.

Talking with Bernstein, who radiates a joyous calm, Hawke learned to accept his anxiety.

"It's a sign of being responsible to your art," Bernstein says. "It makes for a better performance."

Hawke tells of an instance when he was performing writer Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" several years ago. He knew Stoppard and the director were in the audience and really wanted to do a good job.

"And there I was in the middle of a huge soliloquy, and I couldn't remember…I didn't know whether or not I'd already said a paragraph," he says. "I finally just screamed. And I started again."

Hawke was "was so humiliated and so embarrassed," he went backstage and punched a wall.

He needn't have been so upset. His colleagues gushed about the performance. "They were like 'brilliant,'" Hawke recalls.


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