Shirley Baer of Annandale, a member of the Women's Committee of the National Symphony Orchestra, has been named chairwoman of the Young People's Concerts. More than 60,000 elementary and high school students in the metropolitan area attend the concerts, sponsored by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall.
Heavy lids sliding down over his enormous dark eyes, Raul Julia lolls back against a prison wall in a scene from one of this summer's most talked-about movies, "Kiss of the Spider Woman." The remains of the roast chicken and stewed peaches he has just consumed lie before him, and every cell in his tortured, poisoned body (from which the actor whittled 30 pounds for this role) melts into lethargic contentment.
It is a Raul Julia moment: sensual, funny and completely physical.
This is, after all, the man who led a herd of euphoric Greek goats through a mad dance to Liza Minnelli's "New York, New York" in Paul Mazursky's movie, "Tempest." The large, muscular man whom "Nine" costar Karen Akers remembers for "moving like a cat" the first time she saw him on stage in Joseph Papp's production of "The Threepenny Opera." The man who entertains friends with his mock-Schubert lieder, complete with spontaneously created pseudo-German lyrics and hand placed pretentiously close to his heart. The man who now -- with four Tony nominations and "Spider Woman" behind him, the comedy "Compromising Positions" opening in Washington theaters today, and an NBC mini-series on Mussolini on the way -- may be on the verge of replacing the label "New York Theatrical Institution" with "Hollywood Star."
But now, planted solidly in a worn orange chair in his Broadway dressing room an hour before a matinee, he speaks more passionately of why he has little respect for the movie business than of his next "project" or "deal."
"The money people, the big producers, forget about human beings once in a while," says Julia, 45, his voice deep, rich and concerned. "They forget that human beings are not dumb, and human beings want to see humanity, human feelings and profundity of emotions. They go to the movies and they take what they're given, but people really want to see themselves more.
"The people who control the movie business, generally -- there are exceptions, I hope -- see it as a product. It's more like salesmen packaging a product. They're not very much concerned with what the movie contributes to people. They're not very much concerned with the human values that can be exposed or explored in a film. They are shoe salesmen making films."
"Spider Woman," directed by Brazilian Hector Babenco, was anything but an easily marketable shoe. Rejected by producer after producer, the movie was made only after cast and crew, including Julia and costars William Hurt and Sonia Braga, agreed to work for expenses, or what Julia calls "nothing." Everyone involved with the movie now speaks of it with the pride and awe and seriousness of initiates in the rites of a small, secret religion.
"Of course now, with 'Spider Woman' being such a big hit, I bet you what will happen, all of a sudden, you're going to see 'Ahh, well, we need more . . .' and then there will be formulas," Julia says. "If they were smart, they would see that all that 'Spider Woman' has is a real human experience, a labor of love, people who have gotten together and done something with very little action, very little flashiness, but it's an unusual situation and a very human situation. Hopefully, this will awake a lot of big money people in the industry and they'll stop seeing more than the dollar signs, and they'll start seeing the beauty that film can be, and that people really want to see that.
"It doesn't need to be serious," he says. "It's like, you can have a light, not necessarily deep, profound thing with a quality, an artistic quality, a certain integrity that's not about selling."
His voice slows, stumbles, halts, starts again and once again stumbles as he searches for the words to convey the intensity of his feelings.
"You know what I mean?" he says. "I'm not very articulate. I want to be accurate, and it's hard to be accurate."
He is frustrated, silent. Within an hour, he will be on the stage of New York's Circle in the Square as Major Sergius Saranoff in George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man," and Saranoff's bluff words will be roaring out of him. But his own words are less compliant missiles. And this matters to Julia, who obviously values his ability to captivate, to persuade, whether on stage or in a dressing room.
When he was new to this city in the early '60s, a young man from San Juan struggling to make a start, he participated in a reading of Puerto Rican poetry.
"I was saying this very, very patriotic poem and I really got into it," he remembers. "You know, one of those moments . . . you really . . . I don't know how else to say it -- I got into it. When I finished the poem, everybody stood up. There were a lot of Hispanics in the audience. Everyone in the audience just stood up and started applauding, inspired by the ambition of the poem."
Inspired -- that was the way he was looking to say it. They were inspired. He smiles at the rightness of the word and says, "So was I."
Among the inspired listeners was New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp, who soon after cast Julia in "Titus Andronicus." Over the next 19 years, Julia became a familiar name to anyone who followed Papp, the festival or New York drama in general.
His eyes stared sexily, sinisterly, down upon the hundreds of thousands of aspiring actors and Upper West Side culturati who purchased the Public Theater's "Threepenny Opera" poster. He did Pinter and Coward, "Dracula" and "Charley's Aunt," "Othello" and Petruchio. He even did "Sesame Street," playing Rafael, the bilingual handyman, for one season.
His first play in New York was a production of a Renaissance Spanish play, "Life Is a Dream."
"That's how I got my union card," he says. "But of course, it's a Spanish play, so I had the advantage. It was in Spanish -- there wasn't that much competition."
But there was the danger of being typecast as a Hispanic actor who could only do Hispanic parts.
"I've always been worried about it," Julia says. "I'm still worried about it. It's still a problem. I just don't want to be typecast. The kind of acting I like to do is variety. So I just keep working and proving myself and working at proving myself."
Papp believes Julia's Latin looks and accent may have kept him from being considered for certain roles in film, but they were no detriment in the theater. "He has those marvelous cadences and a great command of the language," Papp says. "The problem American actors who don't have accents have with Shakespeare is they don't have a sense of the music of the language. He has no problem with that."
And if Joseph Papp thinks you have no problem, you're in good shape in the New York theater world.
"He was very affirmative about life," Papp says of his first meeting with Julia. "I knew he had talent, but after the second or third play, he showed he had the ability to play many different roles. He was always outrageous in his acting choices. He's larger than life all the time when he's on the stage. He doesn't mind falling flat on his face doing something dangerous -- George Scott had the same talent at the time."
Larger than life, however, does not always charm. Julia's style has been described as excessively broad, and he received less than exultant reviews for what New York Times theater critic Frank Rich called his "bombastic, burlesque turn" in "Arms and the Man." The restraint of his performance as a dogmatic South American revolutionary in "Spider Woman" surprised many.
"Very, very small, subtle," says Papp. "I think he gave a very subtle performance. I saw things about him I had never seen before, and I know him so well. I also think he's matured. I think he understands pain a little more effectively than he did before. He's been involved in many issues, particularly world hunger, and that I think has changed him."
Julia joined The Hunger Project when est progenitor Werner Erhard launched it in 1977. The project is an educational organization that publishes studies and runs seminars advancing its belief that if attitudes toward hunger are changed, global hunger could be eradicated by the end of the century. John Denver, Roy Scheider and Harvey Korman and more than three million others have "enrolled" in the project by signing "statements of personal commitment" to help end hunger.
"He, his wife Merel and son, Raul Sigmund, are enrolled in The Hunger Project, which gives all individuals the opportunity to make the end of starvation on our planet a reality within the next two decades," reads a passage in Julia's Playbill bio. The phone number and address for the project follow.
On this subject, Julia never stumbles. Like other members of the project, he talks reverently of the moment when he realized "that hunger could be ended on the planet by the end of the century. Before that, I thought it was something that was inevitable.
"We have the means, the technology, the resources. All that is needed is the will of the people, the will of people like you and me, the political will. Because of my position, I can talk to people."
Julia and his wife, an actress, do "top-level fund raising" as well as public speaking for the project. Of 2-year-old Raul Sigmund, his father says, "His contribution is incalculable. I cannot tell you how much. I look at him and think of watching him die of starvation, like it's happened before to thousands and thousands of fathers with children his age . . .
"Of course it's enriched my work. Everything is related, even though it doesn't seem related."
And perhaps that is what the audience sees, a certain seriousness of purpose and philosophy below the surface.
"He's got a wonderful seriocomic talent," says director Mazursky, remembering a scene in "Tempest" when Julia's character, a sexually frustrated Greek goatherd, must attempt to seduce a young woman while the goats he lives with bleat loudly from his bed. "He was very serious about it, and of course that's the best thing for humor. He's a good-looking guy, but there's a cleverness there that intrigues also. There are certain actors who resonate intelligence, and I think Raul's one of them. The eyelashes flutter, he gives you that funny look -- it says, 'You and I both know something funny is going on.'
"He also thinks that he's Errol Flynn. He's a real throwback to the actors of the old days when there was a certain style to them, a dash."
Or, as Circle in the Square artistic director Theodore Mann says of Julia, "He loves to act. For some people, they can be very good, but it's hard work. He loves being on the stage and he conveys that to the audience."
But is that what Hollywood is looking for now? People call Julia sexy, but he is certainly not the typical movie hunk. Would Harrison Ford stumble for words as he attempted to describe a poetry reading? Would Richard Gere dance with goats?
Perhaps the question should be rephrased. Is Hollywood what Julia is looking for now? Like Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, William Hurt, John Malkovich and a handful of other actors, Julia has shown no inclination to abandon Broadway, on or off, for the back lot.
"He never seemed to have a driving desire to work in the movies," says Papp. "There were many times when, if he really wanted to pursue his career in movies, he could have. He's very attractive. Women just love him and find him extremely attractive. There are very few actors -- I almost can't think of any -- who have commercial appeal who would not take advantage of it."
The New York audiences, according to Mann, "get to know him, they get to see the progress of his art. They feel they're in a privileged position. Every season there's been something new and extraordinary he's done."
But despite all the praise for his theatrical work, Julia says offers of movie roles are not exactly jamming his mailbox.
"I don't know why," he says. "I've been here in New York for quite a few years."
It is not the whining complaint of a rejected suitor of fame, but something closer to slightly bored speculation. In Raul Julia's world, it seems, this issue rates no more concern than the question of whether the average theatergoer prefers Junior Mints or Goobers.
And why should it? Within an hour, his long legs encased in boots that strike the ground with the arrogant force of some 19th-century mechanical wonder, Julia will strut onto the stage, transformed into Major Sergius Saranoff. The audience will convulse in the congratulatory and disruptive applause that must delight stars and give supporting actors migraines, and a young man in the audience will whisper "There he is!" so loudly he can be heard several seats down the aisle.
Who needs Hollywood?