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Walt Witcover: A Bathtub

Walt Witcover story by Jennifer Blaine

I was an actress studying in NYC. I did research to see with whom I should study. Many folks I knew studied with whomever was most popular and whose students went on to star on tv shows. I chose Walt Witcover, whose students ranged from Jane Alexander to John Leguizamo. No one outside of the theatre world has ever known who I am talking about when I drop his name in Philadelphia, but Walt was the real deal. He studied with Lee Strasberg, won three Obie’s for directing and he was so adorable. There were only 5 students in his class. He was about 70 when I studied with him. He’d bring his teacup into class. He’d wax poetic about what it takes to be an artist, what it was like to teach Ernest Borgnine, Jerry Stiller or Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior on the Sopranos, with whom I actually worked years later.)

But here’s the thing I want to tell you that I learned from Walt. For class we gathered in the studio. Each week we were working on something: sense memory, the vocal quality of our character, a costume piece.

One day, I performed a monologue. I looked up at him, waiting to hear his pronouncement. Walt stirred his tea.

“Is it the first drop of water or the last drop of water that makes the bathtub overflow?” I leaned towards saying it was the last, but I knew better than to make a hasty reply and I waited to hear what Walt would say.

After several moments he put his spoon down. “All of them! It takes all of them!” He enthused.

Sometimes I am searching for the right thing to say or do. I want things to work artistically or just in my life and I think of Walt and how he trained me to be an artist that fills a whole bathtub. We don’t always know why we are filling it, or when it will be full, but knowing that all these moments and pieces add up has given me the impetus to keep going, especially in uncertain times.

Thank you so much Walt!

Walt Witcover (August 24, 1924/November 15, 2013)