Copyright 1909 by Margaret Anglin
In the Field of Drama
J. J. DINGWALL
IT is a fact worthy of note that at the present writing the most distinctive and important feature of the dramatic season is that the chief niche of popularity and theatrical excellence is occupied by a Canadian actress in a dramatized novel, all of the success of which is entirely due to feminine ingenuity and skill. The actress is Miss Margaret Anglin, of Ottawa by birth, but in point of residence and nativity, of New Brunswick. In her new play, “The Awakening of Helena Ritchie,” Miss Anglin has achieved the triumph of her dramatic career. From being hailed as the suc-
cessor of Clara Morris, with tear-compelling force as her greatest asset, Miss Anglin has risen to far greater heights than even her most devoted admirers dared to prophesy. Of course, she is vastly helped in her field of endeavor by the excellent dramatization that Miss Charlotte Thompson has made of Margaret Deland’s popular story. However it be, woman dramatists have been prone to lose the thread of dramatic entities, and dissection of human impulses and human emotions of the more rugged standard have been amongst the missing quantities that make for a play of ap-
pealing directness and convincing conclusions.
It is, therefore, worthy of note that such a positive success due entirely to three women should signalize the present dramatic season. Miss Anglin’s round-the-world tour has been her salvation. It has broadened her art and widened her dramatic horizon of view to an extent that is only appreciated by those who have seen her earlier efforts and now witness her most recent triumph. Her emotional voice is still potent, but no longer are her tears constantly on tap. She is a new Margaret Anglin, the commedienne, displaying a new volatile grace in her portrayal of this titular heroine. To quote her own words: “My world-beating trip has given me a new view of everything—a bigger view. And I hope it has subdued my acting.” “I don't feel the part for long,” she continued. “If I did I would be dead.”
Speaking of the biggest thing she had seen in her circuit of the world, in a hushed, awed manner, she explained that the vastest thing in all the world, the spectacle that pushes outwards the walls of the soul and grants one the deepest spiritual intake, was the Libyan Desert. “To be lost on the desert, as my sister and I were, is to become acquainted with one’s own self all over again, and to know what a tiny nothing one is. I want to go back. I will go back. I have the same curiosity about that desert that I have about the future— about eternity. It is as big. I think it is good for an actress to leave the stage for a while. She brings back to it something new and unused within her.”
All of which interpolation in a brief dramatic review explains better than any critique can the remarkable success achieved by this brilliant Canadian artist—perhaps the most intelligent actress that Canada has ever produced. And, remember, Miss Margaret Anglin is still young and a prodigious student of the drama.
The intrinsic value of the drama is
well displayed at Maxine Elliott s theatre, where that scholarly actor of distinct personality—Forbes Robertson—is delighting refined audiences with Jerome K. Jerome’s most recent offering, “The Passing of the Third Floor Back.” The beauty and pleasing nature of this play stands unquestioned. There seems some doubt as to the narrowness of its appeal, but there is never a room for doubt as to its dramatic uplift.
And, speaking of dramatic uplift, the present season begins well. The most impressive offering so far has been William Faversham’s production of “Herod,” at the Lyric theatre, a tragedy by Stephen Phillips, and originally produced by Sir Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty’s theatre, London. The generous acclaim that has attended Mr. Faversham precludes his appearance in Canada until next year. It is by far the most ambitious effort that this popular actor has ever undertaken, and at once places him at the top of the heap as an actor-manager and producer.
Continuing on the subject of dramatic uplift, it is well to focus one’s vision upon the New Theatre, which will have been open to the public by the time this is in print. The first offering scheduled for public approval is “Anthony and Cleopatra.” With unlimited capital behind this theatrical enterprise ; with a stock company of unusual excellence and a managerial roster that ought to spell triumph, the first production of the New Theatre is awaited with more than ordinary curiosity. In fact, the conclusion of the whole matter is that never before in the annals of New York theatricals has a season ever begun so auspiciously or so laden with hope and promise of solid dramatic results.
Optimism is the pervading keynote and lends an air of cheerfulness that was perceptibly lacking last year. Since the first of August thirty or more new attractions have been presented. • Only a dozen of them have survived the acid test of popular
merit and are listed amongst the plays that possess life and lasting qualities. “The Bridge,” “The Sins of Society,” “The Dollar Mark,” “The Melting Pot,” “The Fourth Estate,” “The Fortune Hunter,” have all attracted serious attention. Of comedies and farces, “Such a Little Queen,” “Is Matrimony a Failure?” and “Arsene Lupin” have been the best-liked. Of musical productions, “The Love Cure,” “The Chocolate Soldier,” “The Rose of Algeria” and “The Dollar Princess” have been conspicuous for their pop ular appeal.
In his new play, “Inconstant George,”
John Drew has a role fully as congenial and admirable as was Jack Straw of last year. Although well produced and well acted,
“The White Sister” did not serve Viola Allen to lasting value, having been w i t hdrawn after a two months’ run at Daly’s theatre. As an interesting bit of theatrical history, it may be mentioned that “The White Sister” has a record of being one of the few plays ever dramatized by the medium of correspondence. Before his untimely death, Marion Crawford had been approached by his collaborateur, Walter Hackett, a widely-known newspaperman, with a view to a dramatization of his popular story. Preliminary arrangements having been satisfactory, Mr. Hackett began work. As scene after scene and situation and
dialogue became complete, they were sent to Mr. Crawford at his Italian villa, Neither of the co-authors met with a view to personal exchange of ideas. Mr. Crawford died before the completion of the play, and as it stands to-day, it is a remarkable example of playwriting by mail.
In “The Widow’s Might,” Miss Lillian Russell once again demonstrated her ability as a comedienne. It is a far cry from comic opera to straight comedy, but Miss Russell has negotiated the distance with credit to herself and pleasure to her audiences. In her role of a widow with matri monial proclivities and pestered by eligible Wall St. brokers, Miss Russell shone to distinct advantage.
A theatrical incident of moment was the opening of one new theatre, the Comedy, with a brand new drama and a star new to Broadway. “The Melting P o t,” with Walker Wightside as the star, has served to give Israel Zangwill new vogue, and promises to last the whole season without molestation. It deals with a situation that is face to face with the American public, but which is so far foreign to the Canadian public. The race problem may some day be a live topic of issue in Canada, but at present the national crucible wherein all the European nationalities are lodged and frum which emerges the typical Am-
erican, is far away in the vista of possibilities.
A drama that has created much comment of a favorable nature, and that is distinctly sensational is “The Fourth Estate,” a newspaper play by Joseph Medill Patterson, who is also the author of “The Little Brother of the Rich,” which is slated for an early production. “The Fourth Estate” has for its central theme the corruption of the modern judiciary, and the maintenance of the integrity of the press. Since its first production, the ending has been changed and the spectacle of a managing editor of a great daily committing suicide in full view of the audience has been eliminated and the gruesomeness of this scene has been softened. The third act scene, with its insight into the publication of a great daily paper, has never been equalled for realism on any stage.
There is not much of the cynical Bernard Shaw preserved in “The Chocolate Soldier,” but there is very much^ of the Strauss music, and for this there is much joy to all music lovers. The same satirical stab at the military mad girl and the soldier with the chocolate cream backbone is in evidence, but the music of Strauss would carry any libretto of the most mediocre quality. “The Chocolate Soldier” is a positive ear pleasure and as a production is a constant delight. When originally produced as a comedy, with the title “Arms and the Man,” England was military mad, and the derisive manner in which Shaw treated the subject will linger long in memory.
In the same line of entertainment as the above opera bouffe, is “The Dollar Princess,” a new musical comedy direct from London. They do these things better abroad than here. By that is meant that such musical comedies are the combined efforts of a syndicate of creators. One is responsible for the book, another for the lyrics, another for the music, and so on. Each one is a specialist in his own line, and the result is generally a
wholesome, healthy and pleasing diversion. Mr. Charles Frohman has given his usual magnificent scenic investiture to “The Dollar Princess,” and with it a cast that could not well be improved upon.
It can hardly be said with accuracy that Henry W. Savage’s annual offering, “The Love Cure,” wore out its welcome at the New Amsterdam theatre. It is always good for a return date. However, this musical romance of stageland was obliged to make good road contracts here and in Canada, and what is New York’s loss is the corresponding gain of other theatrical localities.
“The Rose of Algeria,” another musical play that served to show Victor Herbert at his best, delighted large audiences until it was called upon to do road duty. Much of its success was due to a well-known Canadian, Eugene Cowles, who had the leading male role. Outside of Mme. Albani, Air. Cowles is probably the most talented singer that Canada has ever sent out. “The Rose of Algeria” ought to live long and attain a mature prosperity. A new musical play by Hartley Alanners and Julian Edwards is always an event of importance in the theatrical world. Add to this the whimsical personality of Sam Bernard, and it becomes a feature, and this is what “The Girl and the Wizard” has proven at the Casino. As Herman Scholz, a lapidary, Air. Bernard is doing the best acting of his whole career. There is but a scant thread of plot upon which to hang so much action, but who ever cares for plot in musical comedy or opera? That is one field of entertainment where the play is not the thing. The titivation of eve and ear and risibilities are the things to be desired.
One of the most virile and wholesome American comedies seen here in vears is “The Fortune Hunter,” by Winchell Smith. It is a play of contemporaneous life and every character in it is a real live one—one that has a personal appeal. The various tvpes are those with which theatre-
goers come in contact every day, the young Wall Street money-getter, the banker's daughter, the drummer, the bank clerk and a number of village characters, all of whom are involved in a display of the lighter emotions and not a few of the more serious ones.
What was announced as a new musical diversion by that versatile writer, John J. McNally, "In Hayti,” served to show that brace of funny comedians, McIntyre and Heath, in theis most humorous vein. It is not too much to say that this team of laugh-makers are alone in the skill and fidelity with which they depict the real Ethiopian character.
A new play by Augustus Thomas is in itself sufficient to command serious attention and this is what his most recent drama is doing. Of late years Mr. Thomas, who is by all odds the most distinguished of native American dramatists, has been delving into psychology, and emerging from his delving with a handful of new and novel ideas. These, with his marvelous knowledge of dramatic technique and comprehensive scope of theatrical experience, he molds into plays that compel intelligent criticism and give the theatre-goer something solid and healthy to think about. Witness "The Witching Hour'’ of last year. Following closely the same lines of hypnotic suggestion and mental telepathy as a theme comes his new play, "The Harvest Moon,” the most widely-discussed drama of the season. Whether Mr. Thomas’s new play will achieve the popular vogue of "The Witching Hour" remains to be seen, but one thing is worthy of record, and that is the fact that "The Harvest Moon" is big with novelty that gives
the intelligent theatrical public something solid to gnaw upon.
Klaw and Erlanger’s annual production has been made and weighed in the theatrical balance and found not wanting in any way. In "The Silver Star,” the incomparable Adele Genee, is made the stellar feature. The lavishness of “The Silver Star,” and the ponder-cast of one hundred that make its success, adds another to the list of good things furnished annually by this firm.
Frederic Thompson has failed to make the public like the new name of Nell, which he has chosen for his talented wife, Mabel Talliaferro, but be has succeeded in giving her the play of her life. “Springtime,” in which she is now happy and successful, is a delightful pastoral play and suggests new mown hay or a field of flowers at sunset. It carries one back to dreamland, sweet thoughts and pure ideas. It is a play of home, sweet home, and higher tribute could not be paid than this.
Much was expected of "Israel,” the Henri Bernstein drama, but beyond the one enormous third act, it fell far short of expectations. In its culmination of theatric sensation, “Israel" scored as no drama has in recent years. But in the devious methods of leading up to this one big climax, the famous French dramatist has led his listeners through a mass of dreary detail, that hardly recompenses for the thrill of the third act.
Altogether, the present theatrical season begins with much that is admirable and is fraught with promises of more good things to follow. The aureole of hope and optimism is in evidence amongst both author-dramatist and manager.
Every man has in him the capacity for running some business—usually some other man’s.—Jean Milne.