SPECIAL ARTICLES

The Opening Of the Dramatic Season

William G. Colgate November 1 1909
SPECIAL ARTICLES

The Opening Of the Dramatic Season

William G. Colgate November 1 1909

The Opening Of the Dramatic Season

SPECIAL ARTICLES

William G. Colgate

An early forecast of the principal dramatic offerings announced indicates that playgoers may look forward to a season of good entertainment. Several important foreign dramatists will be represented upon the American stage this season, notably Edmond Rostand, who has not received much notice in the interval since the production of his “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Richard Mansfield. The plans of certain playwrights include dramatizations of several popular novels in which distinguished stars will assume the stellar roles. Eminent foreign players, including Forbes Robertson, Sir H. Beerbohm Tree and Sir Charles Wyndham, have announced their intention of coming to America this season. The opening of the season in Canada not particularly auspicious. £

WITH the summer well over and the last belated though happy and rested vacationist returned to town, the eyes of the public are turned once more to the myriad pleasures of the city of which the theatre receives by far the largest share of attention.

It is much too early yet to forecast the dramatic offerings which will likely be presented to Canadians this season. Recent reports from New York and London, the leading centres of theatrical activity, from which all good things dramatic are supposed to emanate, indicate that the season’s productions will be fairly comprehensive.

The first important offering of the New York season was “The Only Law,” the titular designation of which was evidently suggested by the wonderful success of “The Only Way.” It was produced at the Hackett Theatre on July 29. The play was the joint effort of Wilson Mizner and George Bronson-Howard. On August 16, “A Broken Idol” opened the season at the Herald Square. But that is about all it did do, for the play expired shortly after the initial performance. A French detective play, “Arsene Lupin,” closely akin to “Sherlock Holmes” in plot and characterization, appeared at the Lyceum on August 26 and was very favorably received

Edmond Rostand, the French dramatist, who has not been heard of much on this side since Richard Mansfield produced his “Cyrano de Bergerac,” will be represented by

his widely-talked-of drama of barnyard life, “Chantecler,” in which all the players impersonate animals. This will likely be produced by Charles Frohman in the early spring. Among the playwrights whose plays are promised an early production is Henry Bernstein, author of “The Thief,” whose “Israel ” is a racial drama in which an anti-semitic son challenges his fathefYö%duel. Then will come “Scandal,” Henri Bataille’s great Parisian success, which it is hoped will duplicate in America his famous dramatization of Tolstoi’s novel, “Resurrection.” Alfred Sutro, the English author, who wrote “The Walls of Jericho,” in which James K. Hackett starred last season, will be represented by two new plays, “The Builder of Bridges,” in which Kyrie Bellew is now touring, and another comedy, “Making a Gentleman,” which it is expected will be produced shortly. Ethel Barrymore will be seen in a new comedy by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero entitled “Mid-Channel” and Otis Skinner has a play by Booth Tarkington called “Your Humble Servant,” which title rather suggests the civil service. Another important production to be made early by Mr. Frohman will be Sir A. Conan Doyle’s “The Fires of Fate,” which has had almost a sensational success in London.

The plays of that prolific writer Clyde Fitch whose death occurred recently will share the place of honor with those of the greatest of living dramatists. No less than four or five of his plays are occupying the

stage at present and are likely to continue to do so indefinitely. Canadian playgoers were afforded an opportunity of seeing one of his latest efforts at the opening of the season when “The Bachelor” was taken on tour with a cast headed by Charles Cherry. It made a very favorable impression upon its presentation at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, in Toronto, although the local critics did not look upon it as being by any means representative of Fitch’s best work.

Shakespeare seems to have lived down in a measure his bad name consisting mainly of a reputation for ruin among theatrical producers. Wm. A. Brady seems willing to take chances at any rate. It may be that as his theatrical interests grow larger and more important he can afford to challenge public esteem. However that may be, Robert Manteli appeared in Toronto on October 4 which included “Macbeth,” “Romeo with a Shakespearian repertoire and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “King Lear,” and “Richard III.” Although there was plenty of room to be had in the Princess Theatre during the week’s engagement, there was still sufficiently large audiences present to indicate that the Shakespeare cult has no intention of visibly diminishing, at least not at present. Something of a mild sensation was created during the engagement, owing to the expression of philistinic opinions by the critics regarding Shakespeare’s fitness for the library rather than the stage. They claim that his works essentially fail to meet modern physical conditions, and that more is to be gained from a bookshelf acquaintance with him than from observation of more entertaining acting editions as seen from an orchestra chair. Without desiring to enter into the controversy which the point raises, it looks as if with the dropping of the final curtain on the

careers of our older actors, present acting editions of Shakespeare will be relegated to the library and left undisturbed save for an occasional revival such as other classic dramas periodically undergo. This conclusion naturally rises uppermost in the mind, not altogether because it is felt that public interest is waning in Shakespeare as a playwright, but rather because there are few of the present generation of players equipped with the experience necessary to properly interpret the composite characters of Shakespeare’s plays.

Manteli, however, will not have the Shakespearian field to himself this season. Maude Adams, Julia Marlowe and E. H. Sothern are other prominent players who have decided to pin their faith to William of Avon. The former will be seen as Viola in “Twelfth Night,” while the latter two in combination will open the New Theatre in November in “Antony and Cleopatra.”

That the popular novel affords possibilities of stage success to the dramatist which are seldom left undeveloped is to be inferred from the number of book plays announced for production. Viola Allen will be seen in the “White Sister,” a dramatization of the late F. Marion Crawford’s last novel. Harrison Grey Fiske, the versatile publisher of the Dramatic Mirror, will present a dramatization of W. J. Locke’s “Septimus.” This author’s “Morals of Marcus Ordeyne” was also dramatized and appeared in Canada two seasons ago with Aubrey Smith in the title role. The English actor, George Arliss, will appear as Septimus in the new play. A dramatization of Rex Beach’s novel, “The Barrier,” will be produced shortly with Guy Standing and Theodore Roberts in the principal roles. Dustin Farnum who played the titular part in “The Virginian” a dramatization of Owen Wister’s book, stars this season in “Cameo Kirby,”

written by Booth Tarkington and Harry Leon Wilson. These authors also collaborated in writing “Foreign Exchange,” which appeared with a notable cast, at the Royal Alexandra, Toronto, on October n. The play deals with international family complications, due to the marriage of an American girl with a French count. The usual results chronicled by the newspapers and divorce courts naturally follow. The finished work of the leading players, Percy Haswell, Byron Douglas and E. M. Holland, redeemed the play from its somewhat prosaic and disagreeable plot.

Mrs. Fiske will continue the season in “Salvation Nell.” Adeline Genee appeared in “The Dryad” in New York this month.

Fritzi Schefif, the operatic star, commenced her season with a week’s engagement at the Princess Theatre. Toronto, on October n, while Elsie Janis appeared at the same play house a couple of weeks previously in “The Fair Co-Ed,” a play which the public still continues to relish.

The Shuberts, who control the attractions for at least one theatre in Canada—the Royal Alexandra of Toronto—will have a lengthy list of attractions most of which are likely to be presented at that house. Mme. Nazimova, the Russian actress, will have a new play. Mme. Bertha Kalich will also appear in a new vehicle this season under these managers. Marietta Oily, the celebrated Viennese actress, will be added to the long list of Shubert stars. Florence Roberts is also a recent acquisition.

Among the number of distinguished foreign players who will likely visit Canadian cities this season are : Forbes Robertson and his wife, Gertrude Elliott, in their London success, “The Passing of the Third Floor Back,” by Jerome K. Jerome, Sir Charles Wyndham and Miss Mary Moore in repertoire, which

will likely include one or two of their old favorites, such as “David Garrick.” Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who was recently knighted, will appear in repertoire, which includes, “Hamlet,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and “The School for Scandal.” Lewis Waller a favorite emotional actor in London is also expected. Marie Tempest comes with her successful play “Penelope,” while Ellaline Terriss will be seen in “The Dashing Little Duke.” Fanny Ward who appeared in “Lady Bantock” last season will appear in “Van Allen’s Wife.”

Mabel Barrison, who was billed to appear in Toronto and Montreal and possibly other Canadian cities in “The Blue Mouse,” had her dates changed and was brought back to New York to fill in a gap at one of the houses there. It is not generally known that Miss Barrison is a Torontonian and still even less that she attended a Methodist Sunday School in her native city. Not that stage folks are not good, but one is apt to disassociate entirely religious influence from a racy play of the ultraFrench type as “The Blue Mouse.” Miss Barrison won her first stage success in Victor Herbert’s “Babes in Toyland.”

Another popular player who will likely be seen in Canada this season is Blanche Bates, whose excellent work in “The Darling of the Gods” and “The Girl of the Golden West” will be readily recalled by playgoers. Early last August Miss Bates began her second season in William J. Hurlbut’s drama of New York life, entitled “The Fighting Hope.” Her tour'will take her as far west as the Pacific coast. Like many another player of distinction, Miss Bates began her stage career under the management of Augustin Daly in New York.

Up to the present the plays which have appeared in Canada have not

together in infusing the element of originality into his treatment of hackneyed themes. “Madame X” the sensational French play in which Dorothy Donnelly appeared was natural in its plot and acting, although slightly overdrawn in characterization. It afforded a sharp contrast to the other plays presented which was not altogether due to the influence of its origin. The elongated De Wolf Hopper, he of “Casey at the Bat” fame, sonorous voice and Dutch-like physical proportions, appeared in “A Matinee Idol,” a loosely constructed musical comedy—with cheap music and still cheaper wit. Of course it was a failure. The funniest comedian alive couldn’t achieve success under a heavy handicap of a vehicle like that. Elsie Janis apparently thought it was better to be safe than sorry and appeared again in “The Fair Co-Ed.” It is a good play with some excellent entertaining features, but one can get too much of a good thing sometimes.

been possessed of any special brilliancy of construction. Nor has the American playwright succeeded al-

\Vhat the present season holds store for the Canadian playgoer, time alone will tell. The local mana ger proposes but the theatrical trust disposes. and owing to tile peculiar

exigencies governing the theatrical system, we must be content to take what they give us-whether it be good, bad or indifferent. Let us hope it vill be the first.