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In the 1980s I was showing the silent film of BEN-HUR.

I introduce my programs so that the audience may better understand them.

I said, “This is a three hour film. I better keep this short.”

A fellow said, “I could listen to you for three hours.”

Surprised, I decided to do a program in which I spoke for the first time without showing a movie.

I decided that the first such program I did would be a dramatic piece as Buster Keaton.

Now the trick was that Buster never rehearsed.

He always improvised.

The only way to do this as Buster was to do it as Buster would do it.

I aimed for a straight 2 1/2 hour dramatic improvisation.

I asked a fellow in the front row wearing a watch to tell me when it was 8pm.

When he did I began.

I started with Buster’s birth.

I ended where Buster ended with his death.

People were in tears.

There was no applause.

There was that profound silence that is more exquisite than the applause of thousands.

I asked the man with the watch, “What time is it?”

He said, “10:30.”

I had nailed it.

I did that program for several weeks.

Each time I saw new ways to shape the material to make the piece stronger.

A fellow who did much public speaking said to me, “People don’t applaud when you finish.”

I said, “I don’t speak for their applause.”

Buster Keaton is one of the greatest teachers I have had.

–Reg Hartt 4/20/2019.

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