‘Revolt of the Ants’ Will Leave Readers Content

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Nathalie Donnet’s book “Revolt of The Ants: A Director’s Life Through Six Decades of Theater and Politics” tells of her love affair with the theater and politics and makes a hilarious, exhilarating and daring reading.

Back in time, New York newspapers heralded Donnet’s stork arrival in The Bronx.

“Doctor suffers heart attack running uphill for the birth of a baby.” She calls 1918 the Dark Ages when doctors climbed New York hills for a birth of a baby.

Donnet dedicates this book “to all young actors who love the craft and just for doing it.” She wrote it to encourage young people to follow their dreams by taking readers along on her journey in through theater and politics, from New York to Canada to Los Angeles.

While Donnet inherited her parents’ love for theater, she fondly recalls that when an acting agent offered her a part in a comedy series, they were so horrified, the family moved.

At age six, she created stories with other kids her age and began her adventures in the theater.

As an eighth grader when she turned 11, she wrote, danced in and directed plays and by the time she was in high school, she participated in assorted of drama groups in New York, and Philadelphia.

At 15, Donnet became a member of New York University’s drama department where she learned the “ham” style of 19th century actors’ Henry Irving and Junius Brutus Booth.

She explains in detail that the “ham” style is an exaggeration of life, broad in gesture, rolling eyes, artificially projected voice, mouth-prolonging vowel sounds in pear-shaped tones. And actors come to the very edge of the stage during soliloquy and “eye lock” with the eager watcher. It sounds silly, but obviously it worked for the audience and the actor.

But when “the method” a new technique to replace “ham,” arrived from the Moscow Arts Theater in Russia, it demanded an actor’s complete emersion into character. Donnet talks to her readers as if she is just sitting across the table over a cup of coffee, discussing her difficulties in discarding “ham,” for The Method, because it affected her profoundly.

“Let’s have a true reflection of life in our theater —life not only with its enmities and exploitations, but life with its hopes and joys,” she writes.

Donnet’s love for style in acting and elegant clothes is reflected in this book — which itself is stylish and elegantly written. “Style is a mere ability to recreate a period without mere imitation,” she writes. “Style is without duality; it is identifiable, something like class. Charlie Chaplin had it, so did Jackie Kennedy Onassis.”

Although Donnet does not always recall some specific names or events in her journey, her book brings life to a very long list of famous names, like for example, the world famous opera singer, Maria Callas, one of her best friends, and hundreds of plays she acted in or directed.
As a pioneer in casting black actors, Gordon Heath and Austin Brigg-Hall, in her Broadway plays, she created a political issue in those times, but she stood up to her belief that skin color should not make any difference in life or theater.

When 10,000 theater people were out of work in New York City, President Franklin Roosevelt initiated the Federal Theater Project. Donnet shares the chill and the perception of theater and the political life during the great depression and World War II, and her experience as a theater director of the 92nd St. YMHA in New York City.

From the theater and political battleground of New York to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; to Los Angeles, California, Donnet dared many “firsts,” that the readers will find fascinating.
Bravo! “A Revolt of the Ants” is a must read for everyone especially the theater enthusiasts.