A Lesson from Peter Shaffer

Peter Shaffer, the playwright best known for his Tony and Oscar Award-Winning Amadeus died this week.

I was lucky enough to be in the audience at a talkback about the play that he presented in the mid-nineties at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. They had mounted a truly outstanding production, featuring Brian Bedford and Stephen Ouimette. I had seen it the night before and my dad and I left the rest of our family at the hotel and hiked over to the Avon Theatre to hear him speak.

The lesson I have carried from that talk, above all else, is that art isn’t finished: there isn’t one right answer. He revealed that the play we had just seen had the third ending he had written. “I wrote one for the original play, and another for the movie. This is the third, and I think the right one,” he said.

What an insight! The first ending won a Tony! The second ending won an Oscar! How could those have been the wrong endings?

I’ve never forgotten that his masterpiece was a work in progress, even after all those successes. He was still experimenting, still making it better.

We should all be so searching with our art.

Rest in peace.