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independence tends to dissipate rather than to conserve energy. A consolidating impulse has been sorely needed. But the variety of the points of views from which the subject has been independently approached renders the less disputable the genuine width of public interest in the question.
The argument that it is contrary to public policy, or that it is opposed to the duty of the State or municipality, to provide for the people's enlightened amusement, is not formidable. The State and the municipality have long treated such work as part of their daily functions, whatever the arguments that have been urged against it. The State, in partnership with local authorities, educates the people, whether they like it or no. The municipalities of London and other great towns provide the people, outside the theatre, with almost every opportunity of enlightenment and enlightened amusement. In London there are 150 free libraries, which are mainly occupied in providing the ratepayers with the opportunities of reading fiction-recreation which is not always very enlightened. The County Council of London furnishes bands of music to play in the parks, at an expenditure of some £6000 a year. Most of our great cities supply, in addition, municipal picture galleries, in which the citizens take pride, and to which in their corporate capacity they contribute large sums of money. The municipal theatre is the natural complement of the municipal library, the municipal musical entertainment, and the municipal art gallery
Of the practicability of a municipal theatre ample evidence is at hand. Foreign experience convincingly justifies the municipal mode of theatrical enterprise. Every great town in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland has its municipal theatre. In Paris there are three, in addition to four theatres which are subsidised by the State. It is estimated that there are seventy municipal theatres in the German-speaking countries of Europe, apart from twenty-seven State theatres. At the same time, it should be noted that in the French and German capitals there are, at the side of the State and municipal playhouses, numerous theatres which are run on ordinary commercial lines. The prosperity of these houses is in no way checked by the contiguity of theatrical enterprise of State or municipality.
All municipal theatres on the continent of Europe pursue the same aims. They strive to supply the citizens with true artistic drama continuously, and to reduce the cost of admission to the playhouse to the lowest possible terms. But the working details of the foreign municipal theatres differ widely in individual cases, and a municipality which contemplates a first theatrical experiment is offered a large choice of method. In some places the municipality acts with regal munificence, and directly assumes the largest possible responsibilities. It provides the site, erects the theatre, and allots a substantial subsidy to its maintenance. The manager is a municipal officer, and the municipal theatre fills in the social life of the town as imposing a place as the town-hall, cathedral, or university.
CHOICE OF METHOD
Elsewhere the municipality sets narrower limits to its sphere of operations. It merely provides the site and the building, and then lets the playhouse out at a moderate rental to directors of proved efficiency and public spirit, on assured conditions that they honestly serve the true interests of art, uphold a high standard of production, avoid the frivolity and spectacle of the market, and fix the price of seats on a very low scale. Here no public funds are seriously involved. The municipality pays no subsidy. The rent of the theatre supplies the municipality with normal interest on the capital that is invested in site and building. It is public credit of a moral rather than of a material kind which is pledged to the cause of dramatic art.
In a third class of municipal theatre the public body confines its material aid to the gratuitous provision of a site. Upon that site private enterprise is invited to erect a theatre under adequate guarantee that it shall exclusively respect the purposes of art, and spare to the utmost the pockets of the playgoer. To render dramatic art accessible to the rank and file of mankind, with the smallest possible pressure on the individual citizen's private resources, is of the essence of every form of municipal theatrical enterprise.
The net result of the municipal theatre, especially in German-speaking countries, is that the literary drama, both of the past and present, maintains a grip on the playgoing public which is outside English experience. There is in Germany a very flourishing modern German drama of literary merit. Sudermann and Hauptmann hold the ears of men of letters throughout Europe. Dramas by these authors
are constantly presented in municipal theatres. At the same time, plays by the classical dramatists of all European countries are performed as constantly, and are no less popular. Almost every play of Shakespeare is in the repertory of the chief acting companies on the German municipal stage. At the side of Shakespeare stand Schiller and Goethe and Lessing, the classical dramatists of Germany; Molière, the classical dramatist of France; and Calderon, the classical dramatist of Spain. Public interest is liberally distributed over the whole range of artistic dramatic effort. Indeed, during recent years, Shakespeare's plays have been performed in Germany more often than plays of the modern German school. Schiller, the classical national dramatist of Germany, lives more conspicuously on the modern German stage than any one modern German contemporary writer, eminent and popular as more than one contemporary German dramatist deservedly is. Thus signally has the national or municipal system of theatrical enterprise in Germany served the cause of classical drama. All the beneficial influence and gratification, which are inherent in artistic and literary drama, are, under the national or municipal system, enjoyed in permanence and security by the German people.
Vienna probably offers London the most instructive example of the national or municipal theatre. The three leading Viennese playhousesthe Burg-Theater, the Stadt-Theater, and the VolksTheater-illustrate the three modes in which public credit may be pledged to theatrical enterprise. The palatial Burg-Theater is wholly an institution of the State. The site of the Stadt-Theater, and to a
THE EXAMPLE OF VIENNA
large extent the building, were provided by the municipality, which thereupon leased them out to a private syndicate, under a manager of the syndicate's choosing. The municipality assumes no more direct responsibility for the due devotion of the StadtTheater to dramatic art than is implied in its retention of reversionary rights of ownership. The third theatre, the Volks-Theater, illustrates the minimum share that a municipality may take in promoting theatrical enterprise, while guaranteeing the welfare of artistic drama.
The success of the Volks-Theater is due to the co-operation of a public body with a voluntary society of private citizens who regard the maintenance of the literary drama as a civic duty. The site of the Volks-Theater, which was formerly public property and estimated to be worth £80,000, is in the best part of the city of Vienna. It was a free
a gift from the government to a limited liability company, formed of some four hundred shareholders of moderate means, who formally pledged themselves to erect on the land a theatre with the sole object of serving the purposes of dramatic art. The interest payable to shareholders is strictly limited by the conditions of association. An officially sanctioned constitution renders it obligatory on them and on their officers to produce in the playhouse classical and modern drama of a literary character, though not necessarily of the severest type. Merely frivolous or spectacular pieces are prohibited, and at least twice a week purely classical plays must be presented. No piece may be played more than two nights in immediate succession. The actors, whose engagements are permanent, are substantially paid,