Canada and the Drama
SHIRLEY BURN From The Green Book
BECAUSE it has not a national drama of its own, Canada is dependent for the greater part of its theatrical entertainment upon the
bookings that are made in the offices of the New York theatrical managers.
Of course, the United States is not to blame for this condition of affairs, it is hardly our fault, and we had believed we had been doing the best we could in sending over our amusements. But it seems our estimate is wrong all round, and we have been making unpardonable errors in the matter of attempting to supply entertainment for the Canadians. Our eagle, it seems, behaves very badly over there, and screams so loudly that the patrons have to wear ear-muffs at the theatre to prevent the drums and inner workings from being shattered to splinterines.
This has called down upon us a scathing criticism from a writer in the Toronto Globe. It isn't a bit complimentary, but it is just as well for us occasionally to hear the unvarnished truth, and besides, this is amusing.
Here is what our candid friend has to say :
In a new country, extending over an area of 3,000 miles, between two oceans, and with the cities, though expanding, still comparatively small and widely scattered, Canada can only await the future for the materialization of a national drama.
The fault does not lie in the Canadian people. The trouble is at present geographic. The people of this country have already produced such stars of the footlights as Julia Arthur, Margaret Anglin, Roselle Knott, May and Flo Irwin, James K. Hackett, Henry Miller and many others scarcely less notable.
In the meantime, the Canadian people have to gulp down whatever New York offers, whether it is distasteful or otherwise. A popular Toronto theatre last week presented a play which had interested United States audiences and had won kindly expressions, from the press of that country.
To a Canadian audience, however, the objection to the play was that 'it typified the national characteristics of a people in whom Canadians have no more than a casual interest. A Canadian who follows the lines of a play in which the people of another country, with characteristic bombast, ascribe to themselves the attributes of the gods is apt to become restless and cynical.
Canadians, because of geographical considerations, have had all along to bear the brunt of this objectionable characteristic which knows no self-effacement, modesty, or thought
for others. The Canadian audience sits in silence thru lines such as indicated, where a United States audience would applaud in the rapture of self-glorification.
The Canadian theatre patron knows the American people well. He knows their many admirable characteristics and what they have accomplished as a people. The Canadian theatre patron knows also the weaknesses of the American character, and when he is typified as a tin god, the sentiment is not appreciated.
It is not to be believed that the Canadian drama—when it arrives—• will be free from those characteristics which fire the pride of race, but just now the cities of the United States are, unfortunately, our theatrical headquarters, and from time to time, Canadians will have crammed into their systems a great deal of American sentiment that they cannot relish. As a spectator, the Canadian has sized up the American people and knows them better than they know themselves. They do not estimate the American people at the value they place upon themselves, nor do they underestimate them. They know that on this earth there arc other great peoples who have accomplished more along certain lines in science, art, literature, music and the drama and had less to say about it.
The lesson is this : Canadian
theatre patrons do not want to see a United States national parade in this country more than once in a long time, and then the sten.m calliope had better follow right after the route-marshal, to make it as short as possible. This is Canada, and the people who live here are Canadians, whether some people like it or not. Once in a, while a United States manager has the good taste to remember that he is entertaining a Canadian audience ; that a Canadian’s interest in the United States is casual and in Canada supreme, and his modification of certain lines and flag incidents is appreciated more than lie can know.
There is a good deal of satisfaction, sometimes, in telling a conceited officious person just what he thinks of him, and it is hoped that our splenetic friend, having relieved himself, feels better. Of course, our pride is a bit hurt to learn that so little brotherly love is leaping over the bolder from the Canadian side; but it is just as
well to look truth in the face once in a while. It makes us reflect on things as they are, and not as Billiken would have them. And when we stop to think of it, possibly we have been inconsiderate of Canada's feelings in so persistently shaking our little red (white and blue) flag in the face of John Bull's distant relatives.
In that event we are sorry, and by way of an humble effort at expiation, we take pleasure in laying stress upon the great credit that belongs to Canade for the splendid contribution of histrionic talent that she has given to the modern drama. It is not without a pang of jealousy that we admit Canada's claim upon those who, in the conceit of our affections, we had appropriated as our own. There is May Irwin, for instance, the arch comedienne, whose humor is so distinctly American that it would never occur to the average theatre-goer in the United States that she could belong to any country than ours. Yet Mav Irwin was born in Canada. She and her sister, Flo. first saw the light in the town of \\ hitbv, Ontario, and they grew on Canadian soil until May was thirteen. So that by no pos-
sible juggling of the facts can we claim May Irwin, except by adoption ; and that wonderful sense of humor of which we have been almost nationally proud, is not ours at all, but Canada's. • Miss Irwin was the daughter of Robert E. and Jane Draper Campbell, and the name by which the actress is known was assumed for stage purposes.
During her recent visit to the stage of Australia, Miss Margaret Anglin has been billed as an American actress. Of course, Canada is in North America, but with our customary conceit. we have been in the habit of appropriating the whole continent, so that unless the Canadian portion of it is especially stipulated, we infer that an American is a citizen of the United States. However, in the case of Miss Anglin, this inference is presuming. for as a matter of fact, the actress is a Canadian. She was born in Ottawa, and at the time of her debut to the world, her father was Speaker of the House of Commons. In fact, her birth took place in the Speaker's Chamber of the House of Parliament. So that to Canada, and not to the United States, belongs the honor of producing this talented player.
Miss Julia Arthur, whom we were accustomed to think of in the pride of possession was, after all, not ours at all, but Canada's. Miss Arthur was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and inherited her dramatic talent from her Canadian mother, who was a gifted and accomplished Shakespearean reader. Her father's name, by the way, was Thomas I. Lewis, and she was christened Ida. As a child of eleven years, she made her first appearance in the role of a player at an amateur performance at her own home, at which time she took the part of Zamora in “The Honevmoon.” Miss Arthur has long made the United States her home, however, and in private life is Mrs. Benjamin P. Cheney. Jr.
Would you believe it, too. that our own Rose Stahl is not ours, either?
It’s a wrench, but it's a fact. To those of us who didn’t happen to know it all along, as, of course, our Canadian friends have done, it is something of a shock to realize that the impersonator of Patricia O'Brien could be anything but a daughter of the United States part of America. Rose Stahl has identified herself with the character of the “Chorus Lady’’ to such an astonishingly close impersonation, and the character of Patricia O’Brien is so distinctly a product of American soil, it is difficult to realize that, 102
after all, she is not ours. Miss Stahl was born and educated in Montreal,
Miss Eva Tangua}* too, belongs to Canada, and the sprightly humor of this clever actress did not spring from an American ancestor. Her parents were French-Canadians, and she was born in Marbleton. though she was educated in Holyoke, Mass., and there made her first appearance as an entertainer, when she was ten years old.
Mr. McKee Rankin, who has for so many years been identified with the
stage of the United States, as actor, manager, and producer, is a native of Canada, and was born in Sandwich, The work of this delightful artist has become so familiar to American treatre-goers, that we have long felt that he belonged to us. However, we are just now giving Canada the credit which is hers, and in so doing we must include the honor of having given McKee Rankin to the world of the theatre.
Mr. William Courtleigh, Sr., who has so long been known as a prominent American actor, is nevertheless a
Canadian by birth. Guelph, Ontario, was the first residence of this noted player, though he received the greater part of his education in St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A. Later he studied law at the Washington University, and during this time became prominent in amateur theatricals. He soon came under the notice of a professional manager with the result that lie was induced to adopt the stage as a career. His professional life has been spent in America, but Canada was originally responsible for him, just the same.
Miss Marie Dressier, one of the
cleverest entertainers of whom we have long been proud, has of late been severely criticized for attempting to make the people of London laugh at what was termed an American brand of humor. Miss Dressier, after convulsing audiences in this country, made a complete failure in London, and1 since her return has many times been told that she should have known better than attempt to entertain the Britishers with her particular kind of jokes.
After all, why shouldn’t Miss Dressier feel that the English people could see a humorous situation as it appealed to her? She is not an American, but a Canadian, and was born in Cobourg.
Miss Hope Booth, whom Americans have been in the presumptuous habit of claiming, is a Canadian and was born in Toronto. She is the daughter of Dr. \V. Beresford Hope, M.P., and was educated in Montreal. She made her first stage appearance at the Royalty Theatre, London. This charming actress, is however, the wife of an American, Mr. Renold Wolf, a well known newspaperman and authority on people and things theatrical, and a regular contributor to the pages of The Green Book Album, under the caption, “Chronicles, of Broadway.”
Miss Roselle Knott, another actress well known to the American stage, was not only born in Canada but married a Canadian as well. Hamilton, Ontario, the same city that gave us Julia Arthur, is also responsible for Miss Knott, who, by the way, was christened “Agnes Roselle.” At the age of nineteen she married Mr. Thomas Knott, and her stage name, Roselle Knott, was then assumed. The histrionic ambitions of this player were inspired by seeing the late Madame Modjeska as Rosalind in “As You Like It and one day it happened that a company which was playing in Hamilton became suddenly in need of assistance because of the illness of one of its members. Miss Roselle was asked to take the part,
and she assumed it with so much success that her professional future was assured.
Miss Catherine Proctor is one of the most talented players Canada has produced, and her preparation for the stage was gained largely in her own country. She was born in Ottawa and educated in Toronto. Tier first public appearance was made when she was only about nine years old, and during her school career she made an especial study of elocution in which, from the beginning, she showed great talent. Though she has spent much time playing in the United States where she has been most successful Miss Proctor is still loyal to Canada and gives Toronto as her address.
Air. Frazer Coulter, who has long been associated with the best we have in the drama, is a product of Canada, and was born in Smiths Falls, near Kingston. He is an accomplished actor who has supported many of the most noted players of our time, and we are very much obliged to Canada for producing him.
Air. Arthur Deagon is a Canadian actor who deserves the greatest credit for what he has accomplished in the player’s profession, for there is no one around to boost and educate him—he gained what he knows, himself. He was born in Seaforth, Canada, wherever that is. Anyway, when he was twelve years old, he was working in an iron mine in \\ isconsin, and four years later made his appearance in a Dime Museum in Chicago where he sang baritone solos not only in one performance, but in ten consecutive shows a day. However, with such lusty perserverance. success was bound to come, and Air. Deagon has reflected much credit on his native country.
Air. Molliam Hutchinson Clarke, who has long been prominently associated with the famous opera companies of the country, is a Canadian by birth. He. too, hails from Hamilton, Ontario, and his education was gained at the Galt Collegiate Institute, and at Victoria College. To have been born
in Hamilton, for the histrionically inclined, seems to have spelled success.
Apropos of singers, Madame Albani, the famous grand opera prima donna, was born in Canada, near Montreal. Her father was Joseph lemmesse, a musician, and she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Montreal, before going abroad for study. \lbani now calls London her home, and her full name is Mrs. Marie Louise Lmma Cecile Gve—which, to say the least, must be a handicap at times.
Air. Huge ne Cowles, so long asso106
ciated with the Bostonians, was born in Stanstead, Quebec, Canada. He was the son of a physician, and as a youth went to Chicago to engage in a business career. His magnificent voice, however, soon gained him a choir position, and ultimately led him to the professional stage where he belonged. W e are perfectly willing to acknowledge the debt we owe Canada for the pleasure he has given us.
Mr. J. 11. Gilmour, who made his first appearance on the stage as long ago as 1877. and who has played prominently with such stars as Julia
Marlowe, Maude Adams, Rose Coghlan, and others, was born in Montreal, Canada. Mr. Gilmour once showed his loyalty to the city of his birth by taking a company there for a summer season.
Mr. Eugene Redding, who made his first great success during the long run of “Foxy Grandpa” in New York, is a Canadian for whom Montreal is responsible. He was educated at the Jesuit College and at McGill University and started out to be a chemist.
The well known actor, Mr. Charles J. Ross, is another in the list of considerable length who hailed from Montreal. Air. Ross has been connected with many prominent theatrical companies, and he is highly thought of in the profession. His real name, by the way is, Charles J. Kelly.
We are in the habit of regarding Mr. William Winter, the famous dramatic critic of New York, so entirely ours, that it takes quite a pull on our pride to realize that his son, Percy Winter, the actor and manager, belongs by birth to Canada. The greater part of his professional life has been spent in this country, but he was nevertheless born in Toronto.
lanada, too, claims Henry AIiHer, and though we in some way feel that he belongs to us, the feeling is really selfish and unwarranted. Mr. Miller was born in London, England, but he was brought up and educated in Toronto, Canada, hence the claim of our neighbors over the border. We will not quarrel over Mr. Miller-—we are glad to have him, if only by adoption.
Mr. James K. Hackett is another distinguished actor whom we are accustomed to regard as typically American, and yet Canada says she belongs to him, and there is no use in trying to rob her of her own, even if we would, for Mr. Hackett was born on Wolfe Island, Ontario, which is Canadian ground. In fact, the list of Canadian actors whom we often think of as the product of the United States is astonishingly long. The players that have been named constitute a brilliant assemblage. Canada can cheer up. if she hasn’t a national drama, she can at least congratulate herself on the splendid contribution of talent that she has given to the drama of another country.
HAT people remember is what they are interested in. If, therefore, you are interested in much, you will remember much. \\ iden the range of your interests. It may be asked, 1 low am I to become interested in new subjects? To this the answer is. Learn something about them. The more you know, the more interested you will be in adding to your knowledge.— Claudius Clear.